Fall Arts… or How To Cope With The Coming Rains

Last week The Seattle Times published its Fall Arts insert, a quarterly listing of “Critics’ Picks And Calendars To Help You Plan The Season.” – a compilation of book and author readings, classical music, comedy, dance, pop music, theater, and visual arts events coming to town in the next three months. The most surprising thing about it for Surviving Seattle readers is the incredible number of things going on as winter approaches. With the weather closing in there are plenty of ways to “survive” the darkening skies.

Years ago I wrote a short story about a bachelor San Francisco attorney who lived near the turn of the 20th century. A solitary and serious writer, he loved books but thought there was no point in adding to the immense inventory that lined the shelves of bookstores and libraries. For years he wrote steadily and stealthily never attempting to publish. When he finished one book he placed it on a shelf in the closet and started another. After his death his work was discovered and he was celebrated as a literary genius of the James Joyce caliber.

I understand how my  fictional alter-ego felt, and I’m reminded of those feelings whenever I visit Elliott Bay, Powell’s, or Third Place Books. Last weekend, after reading Fall Arts the feeling was refreshed as I counted over 200 author readings between September 9 and November 16. Yes, some of the writers are reading more than once, but the mind boggles at the thought that there could be that many published writers hawking their work locally. Not only was the list long but I was surprised to find that I only recognized a handful of the names. There are some big ones headed our way – Jonathan Franzen, Elizabeth Gilbert, Erica Jong, Richard Blanco (poet laureate), Colum McCann, Robert Reich, and Gloria Steinem – but there were close to 200 writers, poets, and playwrights I’d never heard of. It’s well known that the literary life is alive and well in Seattle but so are the other arts.

I counted 61 classical music and 15 ballet and modern dance venues. Seattle Opera, Seattle Symphony, Northwest Sinfonietta, the Tacoma, Federal Way, Auburn, Bremerton and Edmonds symphonies, Pacific Northwest Ballet, UW World Dance Series, Velocity Dance Center and On The Boards offer loads of opportunities for serious music, and dance aficionados. If that isn’t enough, Seattle is home to one of the most creative and original theater scenes in the country. There is something for every taste from Shakespeare to Book of Mormon. The 5th Avenue Theater has found a niche for musicals that aspire to Broadway runs and in the last few years it has hosted the world premieres of Light on the Piazza, Memphis, and Something Rotten, Broadway hits all. Seattle Rep and ACT Theater have showcased works by August Wilson, Tom Stoppard, David Hare, and Tracy Letts plus countless new works by lesser known playwrights. Bartlett Sher, the former Artistic Director of Intiman Theater, has moved on to Broadway where he won Tony Awards for South Pacific and Light in the Piazza and earned a 2015 nomination for his revival of The King and I.  He moved on to bigger things but left a legacy of artistic innovation and integrity that keeps us all on the edges of our seats.

So, with Fall Arts as a guide, I’m starting to check the Weekend section of The Seattle Times for what’s new for the coming week. Many times I’ve gone to Elliot Bay Book Company or Third Place Books to hear a writer I’ve never heard of read from his or her new book just because the blurb in the paper sounded interesting. I plan to keep it up. It’s rarely a disappointment. New books and other arts experiences freshen the mind – and besides, it’s dry inside..

Elliott Bay Books

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