August often means dog days for the Juneau arts scene, with little more than karaoke and the occasional bar band for entertainment. This week is an outstanding exception, with three out-of-town musical acts performing and two stage productions at Perseverance Theatre.
"The Merchant of Venice" plays at 7 tonight, Aug. 8, with a matinee at 2 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 10. I saw the show last week and I was completely entertained. Guest director Nancy Buttenheim produced the show with a cast of talented young actors as part of Perseverance's STAR program.
Most of the cast are teen-agers, with some even younger, but this is not a student recital. Buttenheim has carefully cast, coached and focused the actors, pushing and inspiring them to deliver the best possible performances.
Many of the actors have considerable stage experience, with Buttenheim's past productions of "Midsummer Night's Dream" and "Tempest" under their belts. "Merchant" is a tougher play, certainly not as light as "Midsummer," and the cast has clearly analyzed the language, meaning and nuances of Shakespeare's work.
When the students auditioned to be part of Perseverance's summer arts program, they were given the choice between Shakespeare or creating an original theater piece with Roblin Davis. Half the group opted to work on a project involving more physical theater, comedy, creative writing and mask work. The result is "Entropic Discombobulation."
"Entropic" is a fast-paced collection of scenes that puts performers on stage solo, in small ensembles and as an entire cast. Entropy and energy, as principles of physics and metaphorical springboards, are used loosely as a theme, but I think when the young writers created this they spent more time studying their heads and hearts than science textbooks.
The students wrote virtually the entire script, with Davis helping them cull and focus their writing. Music is prominently used throughout the show. Davis is known for his mask work and a number of scenes are built around masks the students created.
"Entropic" will be performed at 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 9, and Saturday, Aug. 10.
The Damnations, a four-piece band from Austin, Texas, perform at the Alaskan Bar at 8 p.m. Monday and Tuesday, Aug. 12 and 13. The band will showcase original music, which ranges from acoustic Americana to driving rock 'n' roll.
The band includes sisters Amy Boone on bass and Deborah Kelly on guitars, and both sing and harmonize. Rob Bernard plays guitars and does some singing as well, and all three write the band's songs. Former Ministry drummer Rey Washam is a recent addition.
The Damnations' latest CD, "Where it Lands" is a collection of excellent songs. They cover a range of styles and tempos, but all share the Damnations sound. There's acoustic-guitar-driven ballads, danceable, crunchy and jangly rockers and solid, melodic pop tunes. Many of the songs are well-written vignettes that capture moods and characters. I've listened to almost a dozen new CDs in the past couple weeks and this is the best.
For something completely different, instrumental acoustic guitarist Lynn Patrick of Boulder, Colo., is in town for two performances. Patrick is an excellent guitarist, flatpicking and fingerpicking bright, beautiful compositions on the steel string guitar. Public radio listeners probably have heard her music without realizing it. Her guitar work from her last CD, "Winnie's Guitar," has been featured in recent months in the NPR transition breaks for shows such as "All Things Considered" and "Morning Edition."
Patrick is teaming up with Juneau pianist Robert Cohen and violinist Lisa Ibias for her performances here. They play at 8 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 8, at the Hangar on the Wharf, and again in a more concert-like, listener-friendly environment at 7 p.m. Friday at the Northern Light United Church. The concert is $30 and proceeds benefit Jabali, an aid group for orphaned children in Kenya.
Finally, the Danny Godinez Band from Seattle is playing twice in Juneau, at the Alaskan next Wednesday, Aug. 14, and at the Hangar on Thursday, Aug. 15. This four-piece band plays jazzy funk-rock that highlights Godinez on guitar.
He's a fast and flashy versatile lead guitarist and he also sings. The band also includes Joe Raven on keyboards, Farko Dosumov on bass and Todd Johnson on drums and vocals.
Riley Woodford can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.