Mike's adventures in art: 'Solaris,' 'Formation,' 'Fantasy A'
If you're looking for tips on how to experience art in the Seattle area, you're in the right place. In this weekly post, KUOW arts reporter Mike Davis has suggestions for what to do around Seattle over the weekend so you can have your own adventures in arts and culture.
"Solaris," is showing at Book It Repertory Theatre, and this is my pick of the week. I wish I could launch into how much I enjoyed this production, but sadly, I must first inform you that this will be Book It’s last production. Earlier this week it was announced that due to diminished ticket sales, financial hardships in philanthropy, and turnovers in leadership, Book It will shut down after 33 years.
This is a huge blow to Seattle’s theater community and for folks like me, who genuinely love theatrical story-telling, we’ve lost one of Seattle’s gems. The idea of taking books and spinning them into plays has contributed to three decades of excellent theater, so please join me in bidding Book It farewell by enjoying this final production.
I must admit, I had my doubts coming into "Solaris." This is a novel that has been converted to film a few times, most recently in a 2002 flick starring George Clooney. I wasn’t sure how well science fiction would translate to the live stage. But this production pulled it off seamlessly.
The set design put the audience on board a spaceship and as soon as I saw the design, my doubt melted away. The set design, the costumes, even the actors movements and close-quarter fight choreography, all worked together to whisk the audience into outer space for a journey that ended up being way more human than extraterrestrial.
While a space station hovers above the ocean of a distant planet, the characters on board, who are scientists, discover “visitors” that are crafted by the planet's ocean who take on the form of people in the scientists' lives. These alien people are all dead in the real world, so these visits lead to intense emotional reactions and introspections of past love. I’m trying not to spoil the whole plot here, but I will say, this production leads to questions of what it means to be human and whether or not we are even ready to encounter life on distant planets.
The depth of this production only makes it harder to accept the fact that Book It won’t be around to bring any more novels to life. But this is a great send off to a theater that has done so much work to bring arts to our community.
Solaris, showing at Book It Rep Theater until July 9
"Kelly Akashi: Formations," is showing at Frye Art Museum. I had the opportunity to take a tour led by Akashi where she talked about the works in this collection. So, I could share her words on the meaning of this art, but I won’t. Instead, I’ll give you my own interpretation, which starts with how stunned I was by the detail in her sculptures.
She crafts hands that are so real. Every crease, every fold, every lifeline, even fingernails are immaculately crafted to the point where the nails are at different lengths depending on their size when the piece was crafted.
For me, the recurring theme was connectivity, from the use of dirt and tree branches from former Japanese internment camps, to a place where two sculptures hang from a single rope, with each piece in a different room and different gallery, but remaining connected to each other through the single rope. One of the galleries incorporates the use of fossils, which connects us to the past.
As I walked through and viewed Akashi’s work, seeing single sculptures crafted from multiple materials, I felt like there was a connection. Everything connected, even me as a viewer, I felt that my experience was intertwined in the story of Akashi’s art.
Kelly Akashi: Formations, showing at Frye Art Museum until Sept. 3
"Fantasy A Gets a Mattress," is showing at the Beacon. This film has been making rounds through Seattle, selling out venues all over the city. It won best narrative feature at the Seattle Black Film Festival, and became an official selection at the NW Folklife Film Forum and the West Sound Film Festival.
As a bonus, this is super local. You will see scenes from the real Seattle, not just the Space Needle, and the characters are local artists who the filmmakers wanted to put in front of larger audiences.
The story follows Fantasy A, who is an autistic rapper in real life, as he is kicked out of his group home and onto the streets of Seattle. He encounters an ensemble of characters as he tries to find fame in the music world and a decent mattress to sleep on.
"Fantasy A Gets a Mattress," showing at the Beacon July 9-11