Friday Fish Wrap 6.21.19

Five things worth knowing this week

1 – Tommy can you hear me?

In case you’ve somehow missed the eye catching poster boards all over town, the rock opera / cultural touchstone Tommy, is coming to VCA, courtesy of the cool kids over at Drama Dock.

Any list of the top albums of 1969 puts the big concept album Tommy by Pete Townshend comfortably in the top 10.

(Interesting aside, Jesus Christ Superstar, the other obvious high-concept album from that era broke a year later, in 1970. Hair, the off-then-on Broadway monster hit show won Best Score from an Original Cast Show Album, also in 1969)

The album spawned a Ken Russell film fantasy (starring Elton John, Ann-Margaret, Roger Daltry, Eric Clapton, Tina Turner, Keith Moon, John Enwistle, and, and, and), a London Symphony Orchestra version, and a wildly successful Broadway production that won five Tony Awards.

The Tommy storyline centers on a pinball-playing, deaf, dumb and blind boy who triumphs over his adversities . . . truly a journey of home, healing, and the triumph of the human spirit. That, and the music is freakin great.

I’ve been watching the set load in and gain size and shape, and I can tell you it LOOKS epic. The casting is equally brilliant, and together with Director Elise Morrill, Musical Director Christopher Overstreet and Choreographer Hallie Aldrich, they are pointing towards a show for the ages.

I caught up with Drama Dock’s Marjon McDermott and Pamela McMahan about the production. Here’s what they had to say.

Me: What was the inspiration behind choosing Tommy for the spring production? 

DD: This show was one we selected from a larger group of musicals we considered for our 2019 season. Tommy was particularly championed by our Board President, Elise Morrill, who felt that the themes of reinvention and healing that are central to this show would especially resonate with Vashon audiences.

We also were excited by the prospect of challenging ourselves to bring to life this amazing story with its iconic rock music score. Drama Dock’s Tommy has knit together a cast with a wide range of ages – we are particularly proud of recruiting and engaging performers from all parts of our community.

Me: Say some things about the breadth of Drama Dock’s vision and how musical theater fits in?

Drama Dock is a 43-year-old non-profit community theatre organization governed by an all-volunteer Board of Directors. We are proud of our history in celebrating and cultivating the performing arts here on Vashon.

Since 1976, Drama Dock has produced an average of three shows every year!  If you take a look at the “History” page on our website,, you will see that we have varied our seasons between “old chestnuts” and more edgy, experimental theatre works.

We aim to engage and inspire Vashon audiences to truly enjoy and appreciate the wonders of live theatre. Musicals have also played a big role in our programming, and we have produced such shows as Fiddler, Man of la Mancha, Cabaret, Pirates of Penzance, Guys and Dolls, The King and I, Pump Boys & Dinettes, Anything Goes, Sound of Music, Oliver, Urinetown, Oklahoma, Rocky Horror, Chicago, Red Ranger Came Calling, and more.

Several generations of Islanders have participated on-stage or behind the scenes in bringing all these shows to life. It is a true labor of love. 

Me: Are there any fun details you want people to know about the production?

DD: We will be selling some fabulous Elton John-style “light-up glasses” that will capture the “Rock Star” vibe of TOMMY and add to the fun of the show!

These awesome glasses will get everyone psyched up to celebrate this most classic of rock opera extravaganzas. And they will do double-duty as they come in spectacular 4th of July colors! You can sport them on the 4th and for other celebratory red-white-and-blue occasions! So, pick up a pair in the VCA lobby before the show and be a part of the fun on stage!

Buy lots of tickets before they’re all gone by clicking here.

Thursday, Friday, Saturday, June 27-29, at 7 pm
Sunday, June 30, 2 pm
Friday and Saturday, July 5 and 6, at 7 pm
Sunday, July 7 at 2 pm

Tickets $25 general; $22 seniors, students, VCA and Drama Dock members

2 – Art walking with Jim Demetre

TREE continues to be the gallery show that keeps on giving.  This Saturday, longtime Seattle art critic, editor, and writer Jim Demetre will be in our gallery leading a series of “artist walks,” looking at and talking about some of the works and artists on display in this amazing show.

If you don’t know Jim, he has been a fixture in the Seattle arts scene for some years now.  He covered dance for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and served as Seattle Magazine‘s arts editor. He was the publication manager at the non-profit Northwest arts journal Reflex Magazine and the publisher and editor of Artdish: one of the first websites devoted exclusively to art criticism.

Jim has written piles of essays and reviews that have appeared in the Stranger, City Arts, Seattle Weekly, Crosscut, and numerous artist’s catalogs. He is also an accomplished gardener who has worked for City of Seattle Parks Department.

His personally guided gallery tour of the Vashon Center for the Arts’ exhibition TREE will provide a neat opportunity for him to combine his passion for art and gardens to your benefit if you come on by to hear him (details below).

I caught up with Jim the other day.  Here’s what he had to say.

Me: Jim, I’ve followed you a bit over the years. You’re one of the very few dedicated arts writers and “art critics” in the area.  Say some things about your history and how you got there?

Jim: Considering all the artists who have resided in this region, there have been few individuals who have taken the time to write about their work. You really must enjoy it, for there are few monetary or social rewards.

Today, more people are producing significant work in the Seattle area than ever before, but there are fewer writers to cover their exhibitions and performances. I had always enjoyed the dialog that would follow the viewing of a work of art, so taking on the public role of a critic and reviewer – offering the reader description, analysis, and judgment – seemed like a natural fit for me.

In the late 80s and early 90s, there was a Seattle-based non-profit arts journal called Reflex that employed a number of local freelancers to cover the local art scene. It was great reading and led me to seek out shows at galleries, where I met many people who would become my friends and acquaintances. When an administrative position opened up there, I applied for it, was hired, and soon began writing about art on its pages. It ceased publication in 1996, but for eight years it had kept people informed and talking about the art here. I wish there were still something like it today.

Me: I know you’ve spent some time looking at the TREE show.  What caught your attention?  Is there a piece that surprised you?

Jim: I’ve followed some of these artists for many years, and others I was introduced to for the first time during my visit to the gallery last week.

You always learn a great deal about an artist when they are asked to engage a particular subject and present the work alongside others doing the same. The tree is an object so integral to our understanding of the world, and so loaded with meaning, each artist’s contribution gets to the essence of their vision.

The range exhibited here – from the intensity of Gillian Theobald‘s deeply saturated colors and Sarah Nordsworthy‘s tactile exuberance to the ascetic minimalism of Brian Beck‘s wooden forms – reveals a surprising variety of ideas and experiences.

Me: You’re going to be doing “art walks” in our gallery this weekend.  What can people look forward to?  What will that be like?

Jim: Studio E owner and TREE curator Dawna Holloway asked me to do what I often do when I stop into her Georgetown gallery: walk around and talk about the work. Instead of just the two of us, we will be welcoming the public to join in. I’m planning to read a few well-known poems about trees, and hope that visitors will weigh in with their thoughts.

Me: You’ve been watching and commenting on the local art scene for some time now.  What’s interesting and/or exciting to you about what you’re seeing these days?

Jim: The world evolves in unpredictable ways, and the changes – both local and national – can leave us feeling confused and dislocated. For me, contemporary art has always been the best way to gauge what is happening, as it offers a variety of complex, intuitive, and even unconscious responses to it. This excites me today, just as it excited me ten or twenty years ago.

Me: We have a lot of visual artists here on Vashon.  If you were to give two pieces of advice, what would you say?

Jim: For artists on Vashon, as with artists anywhere, there are two rules.

First, you must be willing to observe and absorb the world you inhabit. Its dimensions should include your natural and human-built surroundings, the human social order and its psychological underpinnings, history (including art history), and the work and vernacular of your artist peers, wherever they might reside.

Second, you must be just as attentive to the impulses that are driving you in the studio and be willing to carry them where they take you. Follow these two steps and you will likely produce some compelling works of art.

 . . . . .

Jim will be in our gallery on Saturday, June 22 from 12:00 pm to 2:00 pm.  There is no charge.  You will love him.

3 – Get a great deal on Seattle Art Fair tickets through VCA

The Seattle Art Fair has matured in just three years into a truly unique and important destination for the best in modern and contemporary art and a showcase for the vibrant arts community of the Pacific Northwest.

Paul Allen was the motivating force behind the fair, and it’s a testimony to his vision that it lives on past him.  It’s a grand mash-up of collectors, museums, innovative programing, and local, national, and international galleries. If London, New York, or Tokyo aren’t in your travel plans this year, the Seattle Art Fair, August 1-4 at CenturyLink Field Event Center, is the ticket.

And speaking of tickets, VCA is a proud Cultural Partner of the 2019 Seattle Art Fair. Presenting this year by AIG, the fair this year features over 90 local, regional, and international art galleries presenting modern and contemporary art.

Through our partnership, we are excited to extend discounted tickets to the fifth edition of the Seattle Art Fair to our supporters!  To take advantage of our special pricing, click here.

4 – Monster Summer coming up

It seems like every week we add more texture to what was already going to be a great summer at VCA.

I’ve already told you about Seattle Dance Collective . . . the summer stock dance amazement coming to our theater July 12 – 14th. This is the creative brainchild of PNB prima dancers Noe Pantastico and James Yoichi Moore.  They were out this past weekend and they are super excited to present a really amazing premier performance. As the day is long, these dancers are the real deal, and this is as big a deal as we’ve ever presented at VCA.

In our gallery will be our second annual Vashon Summer Arts Fest.  More to come on that starting next week. All I can say is keep your Friday’s open because you’re going to want to stop in every week to see what’s new.

On Sunday, July 21st, Uber landscape architect Kathryn Gustafson will give us a peak at the project she just won in Paris to reimagine the landscape of the Eiffel Tower (one of the most significant commissions anywhere in the world). Read more and buy tickets here.

We are over the moon that Debra Heesch has arranged for Shawn Mullins to play the Kay on August 16th.  Read more about him, and buy lots of tickets, here.

On August 31, the amazing Moody Little Sister will be celebrating their Great Big Mama album-release party at the Kay, again, thanks to Debra Heesch.  More here.

And you can only see all of this (and more) live this summer AT THE KAY!

5 – Mountains of gratitude for our volunteers

Organizations like VCA are truly powered by the generosity and energy of a whole lotta volunteers.

Surely you know this is Garden Tour weekend . . . a celebration of island flora and the hard work of a spajillion volunteers who have helped prep the gardens (go, go Garden Angels), man the booths, direct the parking, point people in the right direction and more.

In the lead up, volunteers are making signs, laminating things, loading things into trucks, unloading them at the other end . . . you get the idea. (Get your tickets here, at VCA, or at any of the garden tour locations).

When all that isn’t happening, there are more volunteers helping at the front desk, managing mailings, and making new “A-Boards.”  Others are helping establish a new docent program, ushering at our performances, and helping hang shows (could use some more help this summer to do this!).

Still more volunteers have pitched in to get our meadow into the best shape it’s ever been. And more still have been working this past week in the Blue Heron installing sound absorption panels in the dance studio and building a wall in the downstairs studio.

At the risk of missing someone, let me thank the people I’ve seen just this week at VCA . . . thank you Chris O’Brien, Martin Feveyear, Gabe DawsonKelly Robinson, Janet Bishop, the entire board, Charles Welch, Jon-Eric Schafer, Tucker Burback, Dennis Bryant, Tom Langland, Todd Pearson, JR Crawford, and more, and more.

We love you, appreciate you, and want you to know we know we can’t do it without you.

If you want to get in on the fun and the love, please reach out directly to Maria Glanz at, our volunteer coordinator. I know we can benefit from your super powers.

6 – Finally, and this is a sixth thing

All this talk about Tommy and the best albums of 1969 got me down memory lane.  I think the best site for doping out “best” music lists based on actual data is called TSORT.  Here’s the full 1969 list.  Betraying my age and biases, I think it’s a monster list.

Here’s your top 10:

  1. The Beatles: Abbey Road (surely you know all the songs)
  2. Led Zeppelin: Led Zeppelin II (Whole Lotta Love)
  3. The Rolling Stones: Let it Bleed (Gimme Shelter, Midnight Rambler, You Can’t Always Get What You Want)
  4. Original Cast: Hair
  5. Led Zeppelin: Led Zeppelin (Good Times Bad Times)
  6. Blood, Sweat & Tears: Blood, Sweat & Tears (And When I Die, God Bless the Child, Spinning Wheel, You Made me So Very Happy)
  7. The Who: Tommy (come hear the show!)
  8. Johnny Cash: Johnny Cash at San Quentin (Nothing original, but a great album)
  9. The Band: The Band (Across the Great Divide, Rag Mama Rag, The Night They Drove Ole Dixie Down, Up on Cripple Creek)
  10. Blind Faith: Blind Faith (Ginger Baker, Eric Clapton, Steve Winwood, Ric Grech, maybe the first “Super Group”)

The next 10 aren’t so bad either

  1. Chicago: Chicago Transit Authority (Does Anybody Really Know . . ., Beginnings, Question 67 . . .)
  2. Crosby Stills & Nash: Crosby Stills & Nash (Suite: Judy Blue Eyes, Marrakesh Express, Woodstock)
  3. Iron Butterfly: In-a-gadda-da-vida (bit of a one hit wonder if you ask me)
  4. Creedence Clearwater Revival: Green River (Green River, Bad Moon Rising, Lodi . . . the band actually released three albums in 1969)
  5. The Beatles: Yellow Submarine (keep in mind the White Album topped the charts at the beginning of the year having debuted in 1968. So that was three number one albums)
  6. Sly & The Family Stone: Stand! (Stand, Sing a Simple Song, Everyday People, You Can Make it If You Try)
  7. Bob Dylan: Nashville Skyline (Lay Lady Lay, Tonight I’ll be Staying Here with You)
  8. Elvis Presley: From Elvis in Memphis (Only the Strong Survive, In the Ghetto)
  9. Wendy Carlos: Switched-on Bach (released in 1969 and chart topping from 1969 through 1972)
  10. Captain Beefheart: Trout Mask Replica (what?)

Further down the list are great albums by Cream, Barbara Streisand (Funny Girl), The Bee Gees (Best of), Tom Jones, The Moody Blues, The Supremes, Dusty Springfield, Jethro Tull, Jefferson Airplane (Volunteers), King Crimson, Joe Cocker . . .and more, more more

There’s a lifetime of listening right there.  I want to come back to Wendy (Walter) Carlos in a later FishWrap as I think her (his) story is important. In the meantime, here are some personal favorites from that list. Get your bell bottoms and Pea Coats on!


Why “Fish Wrap”? Years ago, living in San Francisco, I became a devotee of a legendary journalists named Herb Caen. While he may not have been the first to use the phrase in connection with “yesterday’s news,” he is the one I remember. Today’s news is tomorrow’s fish wrap. Maybe it’s a generational thing. At any rate, we call our Friday wrap up, The Friday Fish Wrap . . . Five things worth knowing about VCA this Friday.

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