George Balanchine's The Nutcracker, a Best American Comics Birthday Bash, and More Arts Critics' Picks
Our music critics have already chosen the 23 best music shows this week, but now it's our arts critics' turn to recommend the best events in their areas of expertise. Here are their picks in every genre—from the opening of Lin-Manuel Miranda's In the Heights to the holiday cocktail wonderland Miracle on 2nd, and from Thanksgiving dinners to the first weekend of the Enchant Christmas light spectacular. See them all below, and find even more events on our complete Things To Do calendar.
Losing It: Grief Comedy
The witty Claire Webber will host a night of sets on funny sad things by sad comedians, namely Rachel Larendau, Bobby Higley, Matt Valdispino, Sam Miller, Natalie Holt, Dewa Dorje, Lucy Tollefson, Bernice Je, and Heather Paul. This sounds like the perfect balm for a sore heart. It's presented by the Good Mourning festival.
Michael Franti: 'Stay Human' Documentary Tour
Bay Area rapper/vocalist/guitarist will perform and present the new doc Stay Human, a hopeful look at people around the world battling pollution, illness, poverty, and war through innovation, love, and courage. The film also looks at Franti's personal and musical story. The evening will include a Q&A.
READINGS & TALKS
Damien Echols: High Magick
In a story made famous by the HBO trilogy Paradise Lost in 1994, then-18-year-old Damien Echols, along with other teens, was convicted of murdering three young boys as part of an alleged Satanic ritual in West Memphis, Arkansas. After 18 years in prison and a better-late-than-never examination of DNA evidence, Echols and the others were released, an experience he wrote about in the 2012 book Life After Death. His latest work, High Magick, is a guide to the spiritual practices that helped Echols survive nearly two decades locked up for crimes he didn’t commit. KATIE HERZOG
Beloved humorist David Sedaris returns to Seattle for roughly his 10,000th appearance. This time around, he’ll be reading from his new book of essays, Calypso. As with all of his readings, you’ll find yourself wishing you’d been born a Sedaris, but this time around, don’t be surprised if you shed at least one tear—maybe two. Calypso, as usual, is laugh-out-loud funny, but it’s also a sweet, sad meditation on getting older, on death’s inevitable approach, on lives both gone right and gone wrong. KATIE HERZOG
Jonathan Franzen: The End of the End of the Earth
Megan Burbank, formerly editor of The Stranger's sister paper the Portland Mercury, once called Franzen "the Gwyneth Paltrow of the literary world." His latest book is a collection of essays and speeches mostly from the past five years. They touch on endangered seabirds, his relationship with his uncle, and other diverse topics.
Liane Moriarty: Nine Perfect Strangers
Nine urbanites arrive eager for relaxation at an isolated health retreat, Tranquillum House, but the transformation promised is not quite what they were expecting in this new novel by Australian author Liane Moriarty (Big Little Lies, now an HBO series). Hear her read tonight.
READINGS & TALKS
David Shields: Nobody Hates Trump More Than Trump: An Intervention
The prolific author and UW Milliman Distinguished Writer-in-Residence David Shields offers a "satirical compilation of the 'collected wit and wisdom of Donald Trump,'" an investigation into his psychological state, and a dissection of the politesse that gave rise to and sustains Trump. He'll be joined in conversation by biographer and essayist Neal Thompson.
Kitten N’ Lou Present: Cream
A confession: I've watched Kitten N' Lou's wedding video at least 20 times. They're just so gosh darn intoxicating and lovely. (It's on their website. I didn't, like, steal it or anything.) The burlesque duo exudes a chemistry unrivaled by any other stage pair I've seen, and, luckily for Seattle, this "world's showbusiest couple" are mainstays of the Emerald City. Their show Cream brings Vivacious, Cherdonna, and the Atomic Bombshells along for a Spanksgiving feast of drag and burlesque. Go and prepare to fall in love. CHASE BURNS
Note: Repeating events are likely not occurring on Thanksgiving; double-check before attending
Martha Shade: Observations From the Lost and Found
Shade experiments with sculpture and beautiful, mosaic-like embroidery that reference ancient art and mythology.
A People's History
Mike Daisey is back in town, as he often is, with a pretty simple but brilliant bit. He's going to read you some pages from Good Will Hunting's favorite history book—Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States. Then he's going to read you some pages from his high-school history book. Then we're all going to sit there and have a little reflection session on the difference between history as told by the conquerors and history as told from the perspective of the dispossessed. RICH SMITH
A comedian who’s half white (English) and half black (Jamaican), Jamali Maddix ranks as one of today’s most acute and funny young observers on racism. In his Viceland TV show Hate Thy Neighbor, Maddix boldly saunters into the rotten heart of extremist hate groups, examines their aggro actions, and tries to discern what motivates them. It’s a brilliant concept, and you’ll learn a lot while busting an occasional gut. In his stand-up act, Maddix further explores the many facets of racial issues, but he sometimes roams outside of them, as his “Karl Marx of pussy” bit will attest. DAVE SEGAL
Minority Retort presents: Yogi Paliwal
This Portland-bred comedy night showcasing comics of color is hosted by Jason Lamb, Julia Ramos, and Neeraj Srinivasan. They'll come to Seattle to host headliner Yogi Paliwal (who's from the Pacific Northwest and now lives in Brooklyn), Elliott GB, Alyssa Yeoman, and Silas Lindenstein.
Tod Browning's Freaks with DJ NicFit
You'll get a startling education from Tod Browning's 1932 circus horror Freaks if you think that deeply, entertainingly fucked-up movies didn't exist before John Waters. A tawdry tale of carnival "freaks'" brutal vengeance against two able-bodied lovers who spurn their company, Freaks is not exactly a heartwarming or enlightening portrait of people with genetic anomalies and unusual physiognomies. However, the "freaks" are played by people with disabilities, and they're portrayed with humanity (and filmed with unsettling fascination). Given how few portrayals of folks with unusual bodies can be found in non-medical contexts in classic film, Freaks remains absolutely essential, even if the representation isn't everything it should be. DJ NicFit will provide a live-mixed soundtrack.
The 2nd Annual Circus Tramp Holiday Show
Local music and burlesque queen Caela Bailey will helm this true family affair as her Von Tramp brood, one of the most active groups in the Seattle arts scene, will helm a night of glittering glamour, featuring plenty of high kicks, costume changes, and soulful cabaret tunes.
Note: Repeating events are likely not occurring on Thanksgiving; double-check before attending
Daniel Ursache: Uncanny Figments
Daniel Ursache, a Romanian-born, Montreal-based artist who created the beautifully eerie poster art for the Romanian Film Festival Seattle, will show his stark, detailed, surreally charming pen and ink drawings all month.
Seattle International Comedy Competition
For nearly all of November, a lengthy last-comic-standing battle rages. Thirty-two comedians (split into two batches, each of which performs every night for one week) start the contest, and one will finish a champion. Celebrity judges and audience reactions determine who passes the preliminaries and who becomes a finalist.
Wonderland returns! Can Can will transform its venue into a snowy chalet and populate it with teasing beauties. If you just want to see pretty people dancing and eat short stacks or crab beignets with the fam, there's also a kid-friendly brunch version.
FOOD & DRINK
Thanksgiving: The pinnacle of American colonialism that commemorates a fake story of sharing. While the holiday is built on a lie, it's been adapted into a day to spend with loved ones, list gratitudes, and eat turkey and pie. Find a list of turkey trots and events on our Thanksgiving calendar, or check out our guide to where to eat Thanksgiving dinner.
28th Annual Macy's Holiday Parade
In this festive procession of holiday cheer, bunches of floats, costumed characters, sports teams, and others march the Christmas-light-adorned streets of downtown for the Macy's Holiday Parade.
Macy's 62nd Annual Star Lighting and Fireworks Show
Per its annual tradition, Seattle's downtown Macy's will light up its 3,600-bulb star to greet the holiday season, and they'll celebrate with a grand fireworks display (weather permitting).
FOOD & DRINK
PNW Crab Feast
If the Pacific Northwest is known for one crustacean, it's the Dungeness Crab, whose meat is famously sweet and tender. This class—which includes lunch—will teach you how to choose your crab, how to break it down and clean it, and how to prepare a crab feast.
A Necessary Sadness
Great local poets, storytellers, musicians, comedians, and others—Howie Echo-Hawk, Emmett Montgomery, Ravella Riffenburg, Jade Gee, et al—will join together for Danielle KL Gregoire's second production of A Necessary Sadness, which debuted at the Seattle Fringe Festival. The shows, part of Good Mourning: An Interactive Arts Festival About Grief, are inspired by John Koenig's Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, a compendium of invented words about complex emotions.
Americano will host this themeless drag night where styles can be diverse and out-there. For the first iteration, expect jaw-dropping insanity from "monthly mugz" Christian Brown, Michete, SHE, and Uh Oh (The Stranger's own Chase Burns), plus special guest Hera Diamandis. Recover from Turkey Day excesses with...more excess!
Uncle Mike Ruins Christmas
Mike Murphy (Uncle Mike, on Saturdays), Graham Downing (Cousin Graham, on Fridays), and Jet City cast members re-enact and trample over your fond Christmas memories in a happily vulgar performance. Not necessarily for squeamish types.
The zoo will light up with more than 700,000 (energy-efficient) LED lights that recreate wild scenes and creatures at the annual WildLights display.
This production of the classic musical is being directed by Billie Wildrick (she was the lead in the 5th Avenue’s recent Pajama Game), and she’s joined by an all-female creative team. Two young actors will switch off playing Annie. One of them is a girl of Tongan descent who happened to see 5th Avenue’s production of The Little Mermaid, in which Diana Huey played Ariel, and she turned to her mother and said, “Her skin is brown like me—that means I can do that, too.” Look at her now. Plus, Timothy McCuen Piggee will play Daddy Warbucks, and Cynthia Jones will play Miss Hannigan. CHRISTOPHER FRIZZELLE
Not to knock quaint community Christmas tree displays, but this inaugural event at the Mariners' home base looks like it's going to raise the standards for holiday light spectacles by a lot. Safeco Field will be transformed into a magnificent winter wonderland complete with the "world's largest Christmas light maze" (which you can explore via an ice skating trail), seasonal concessions, live entertainment, and an artisan Christmas market.
A Christmas Carol
ACT Theatre's production of A Christmas Carol is a dependable, simple pleasure, with just enough variation to warrant returning year after year. For the 43rd (!) edition, Kurt Beattie will direct and Ian Bell and David Pichette will alternate as Scrooge.
George Balanchine's 'The Nutcracker'
If you haven't seen this Christmas classic since you were a kid, give it a go this year. In 2014, PNB replaced its beloved Maurice Sendak set with one by Ian Falconer, who did the Olivia the Pig books, and I'm glad that they did. The new set is gorgeous in a Wes Anderson-y way, and it reflects the genuine weirdness and beauty in the story. I mean, the last 45 minutes of this thing is a Katy Perry video starring dancing desserts and a glittery peacock that moves like a sexy broken river. Bring a pot lozenge. RICH SMITH
In the Heights
Every decade, a musical comes around that reminds the general public that musicals can be popular, cool, and mainstream. The ’80s had A Chorus Line, the ’90s had Rent, the early ’00s had Wicked, and the teens had Hamilton. But before Lin-Manuel Miranda became a household name for creating Hamilton, he was snatching up trophies and accolades for his other hugely popular musical, In the Heights. Broadway fans will go and fall in love again, and newbies will get a chance to see Miranda's earlier work for the first time. CHASE BURNS
The Twilight Zone: Live!
In sixth grade, I was in a short school production of “To Serve Man” (“It’s a cookbook!”). I played one of the aliens. That particular Twilight Zone episode is also adapted for the stage in Theater Schmeater’s traditional holiday presentation, which also features adaptations of “The Shelter,” “Death’s Head Revisited,” and “The Changing of the Guard.” Rachel Delmar directs. LEILANI POLK
Best American Comics Birthday Bash!
Celebrate the Best American Comics Series's latest volume with eminent local contributors Max Clotfelder, Simon Hanselmann, Alex Graham, and D.J. Bryant. Also, it's Max's birthday! Have some cake.
You doubtless know her from her film comedies, but stand-up is where she gets real. So real. Remember when she had her come-up in 2007 on Last Comic Standing? She didn’t win, even though her bubbly delivery made the obscene observations about being a woman (that I could totally relate to and that were probably NSF network television) even more hilarious. Her raunchy-ass humor has remained firmly intact as her star has risen, and this stop in Seattle on Thanksgiving weekend will find her preggos and incorporating that into her material, if her viral morning sickness Instagram pic (Schumer in front of the toilet: “Today Markle is in Fiji #same… Milf alert”) and reviews of recent sets are any indication. LEILANI POLK
23rd Annual Magic in the Market
Pike Place is already fairly magical around the holidays, but this annual event amps things up: Kids can meet Santa and decorate cookies, festive musical performances will take place, hot apple cider and hot cocoa will abound, and the holiday tree will light up for the season.
Cats in movies have symbolized everything from elegance to curiosity to evil, but sometimes—like in Paul Schrader's bloody remake of the classic Cat People—a risky choice, and the last in the series.
FOOD & DRINK
Trove and YWE Bake Sale and Brunch Pop-Up
“Bake sale” may conjure connotations of PTA functions and requisite Betty Crocker standards like blondies and cupcakes, but this bake sale and brunch pop-up from Rachel Yang and Seif Chirchi’s Trove promises to be far more exciting, with freshly baked goods like a raspberry-glazed eclair topped with Froot Loops (yes, please), coffee, tiki cocktails, and a hot brunch. Better yet, 100 percent of proceeds from the bake sale will go to Young Women Empowered, an organization that aims to empower young women with mentorship and programs. JULIANNE BELL
FOOD & DRINK
Miracle on 2nd
In 2014, Greg Boehm of New York bar Boilermaker temporarily transformed the space for his bar Mace into a kitschy Christmas wonderland replete with gewgaws and tchotchkes galore. Now the pop-up has expanded to bars in 50 cities worldwide and will be taking up residence in Belltown’s Rob Roy. The specialty cocktails are no ordinary cups of cheer: Beverages are housed in tacky-tastic vessels (a drinking mug resembling Santa’s mug, for example), bedecked with fanciful garnishes like peppers and dried pineapple, and christened with irreverent, pop-culture-referencing names like the “Bad Santa,” the “Yippie Ki Yay Mother F**r,” and the “You’ll Shoot Your Rye Out.” JULIANNE BELL
Gutter Twink Productions presents a new night of performance of various types, including from the wondrously blunt rapper Michete and others to be announced. Bobby Higley, who is like a sad and magical ear of corn come beautifully to life, will host.
Fefu and Her Friends
One of the finest directors in town, Stranger Genius Award winner Valerie Curtis Newton, will direct a play by one of the best American playwrights, María Irene Fornés. Fefu and Her Friends is a play about a group of ladies preparing for a charitable event in Fefu's country house. The women reveal bold characters constrained by antiquated characterizations of feminine nature, and we catch glimpses of their love, loneliness, and internalized oppression.
READINGS & TALKS
Lose One Thing Every Day: Poetry by Wryly Tender McCutchen
This local poet, who's taught at Hugo House and performed at many venues, will tell stories and recite poetry about different types of loss. The organizers write: "No loss too large. No grief too small. All mourning admitted." This is part of the Good Mourning arts festival.