From the Seattle International Film Festival to Fisherman’s Village Music Festival, our Seattle Times arts writers dish on next month’s most buzzworthy arts and entertainment events.



Seattle International Film Festival

A Seattle institution turns 45 this year: SIFF, encompassing hundreds of films spread out over nearly a dozen venues in and around town, kicks off May 16 with a gala McCaw Hall screening of Lynn Shelton’s comedy “Sword of Trust,” centering on an inherited Civil War sword and set in a small Southern town. The fest concludes three-and-a-half weeks later on June 9, at which time everyone involved (particularly those passholders who regularly see 100 films or more) will be in need of a good long nap. The full schedule will be announced May 1; watch

May 16-June 9; various locations and ticket/pass prices; 206-324-9996,

Moira Macdonald


Fisherman’s Village Music Festival

Now in its sixth year, this scrappy Everett fest is taking it back to the streets. After a more club-hopping setup the past few years, the local/regionally focused festival is utilizing an outdoor mainstage near Scuttlebutt Brewing’s taproom, which also serves as one of the three venues for the three-day event now concentrated in two blocks. Burien’s first major-label rapper (we’re pretty sure) Travis Thompson and Wolf Parade headline a lineup featuring the Coathangers, Laura Veirs, Death Valley Girls and Seattle favorites Pickwick, Wimps, Parisalexa and more.

May 16-18; downtown Everett at 33rd and Cedar streets; $15-$40 single day, $79 weekend passes;

Michael Rietmulder


Erin Markey: “Singlet”

The New York Times once described Erin Markey as a performer who “veers from scary intensity to a strange plastic prettiness that makes her seem like a character out of a lost Disney cartoon that the company decided not to release to the public.” In “Singlet,” brought to Seattle by Washington Ensemble Theatre, Markey and collaborator Emily Davis explore the intensity between twos (father and daughter, friend and friend, student and teacher, more) with tough performances, their influences ranging from Jean Genet to Precious Moments collectible dolls and actual wrestling.


April 25-May 5; Washington Ensemble Theatre at 12th Avenue Arts, 1620 12th Ave., Seattle; $15-$25;

Brendan Kiley


Ian McEwan

It’s rare for McEwan, the Man Booker Prize-winning author of numerous elegant, acclaimed novels (“Amsterdam,” “Atonement,” “Saturday,” “On Chesil Beach” and many more) to go on a book tour — but here he is, so lucky us. He’ll chat with former Seattle Times book editor Mary Ann Gwinn about his latest novel, “Machines Like Me,” set in an alternative 1980s London where synthetic humans can be purchased.

7 p.m. Monday, May 6; The Summit on Pike, 420 E. Pike St., Seattle; $32 (includes copy of book); 206-624-6600,

Moira Macdonald


Akio Takamori: To Be Human

Beloved artist Takamori passed away in 2017, but his deep, reflective, compassionate inquiry into human beings continues to coax viewers into his many prints and sculptures. Takamori’s figures can be innocent or vaguely grumpy, highly sexual or totally enigmatic. At his best, whether he’s making images of babies, figures who look like they’re trying to sleep or anonymous people you might see waiting for a bus, Takamori gives his characters undercurrents — perhaps conflicting undercurrents — of psychic life that aren’t easy to identify as simply “sad” or “bored” or “wary.” They’re lots of things at once. How very human.

May 2-June 1; James Harris Gallery, 604 Second Ave.; free; 206-903-6220,

Brendan Kiley


Seattle Opera presents “Carmen”

Possibly the most-recognized opera on the planet, the ever-popular “Carmen” returns in a Seattle Opera production directed by Paul Curran, with conductor Giacomo Sagripanti. There’s love, death and obsession, with lavish sets and costumes; two Carmens and Don Josés (Ginger Costa-Jackson and Zanda Švede alternate in the title role, opposite Scott Quinn and Adam Smith); and the Bizet score that delivers one hit after another: “Toreador Song,” anybody?

May 4-19; Marion Oliver McCaw Hall, 321 Mercer St., Seattle; $59-$335; 206-389-7676;

Melinda Bargreen




Mary Norris

Grammar nerds, get in line: The Comma Queen is in our midst. Norris, a longtime copy editor at The New Yorker magazine and author of “Between You & Me,” will speak about her latest book: “Greek to me: Adventures of the Comma Queen,” about her travels — linguistic and otherwise — through Greece.


7:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 1; Town Hall, 1119 Eighth Ave., Seattle; $5; 206-652-4255,

Min Jin Lee 

Lee’s 2017 novel “Pachinko,” a gloriously immersing tale of several generations of a Korean family, took her 25 years to write. Here, as part of Hugo House’s “Word Works” series, she’ll discuss the concept of faith — the faith she had in her project even over all those years, and how faith affected the lives of the characters she imagined.

7 p.m. Thursday, May 2; Hugo House, 1634 11th Ave., Seattle; $15; 206-322-7030,

Bill McKibben

Thirty years ago, McKibben’s “The End of Nature” was one of the early warnings about climate change; now, he revisits the fate of our planet in “Falter: Has the Human Game Begun To Play Itself Out?”

7:30 p.m. Thursday, May 2; Kane Hall, Room 120, University of Washington campus; free; 206-624-6600,

Charles Johnson

A Seattle treasure and National Book Award winner (“Middle Passage”), Johnson will be celebrating the paperback release of his latest short-story collection, “Night Hawks,” whose contents range from science fiction to historical settings to contemporary slice-of-life. Its crown jewel: the title story of the volume, which blends fiction and real life as two men who have devoted their lives to art (Johnson and his friend, playwright August Wilson) talk late into the night in Seattle cafes.


7 p.m. Monday, May 6; Northwest African American Museum, 2300 S. Massachusetts St., Seattle; free; 206-624-6600,

Brad Holden

Holden, a local historian, will speak about his first book: “Seattle Prohibition: Bootleggers, Rumrunners & Graft in the Queen City,” in which he examines Seattle’s colorful (and nearly 20-year) history of booze-banning in the early 20th century.

7 p.m. Thursday, May 9; Third Place Books at Lake Forest Park, 17171 Bothell Way N.E., Lake Forest Park; free; 206-366-3333, Also at 7 p.m. Thursday, May 23; Third Place Books at Seward Park, 5041 Wilson Ave. S., Seattle; free; 206-474-2200,

Tayari Jones

A beautifully written novel about love, race, injustice, youth, and what we owe to our loved ones and our past, “An American Marriage” is the story of a complex love triangle: a husband and wife, separated when the husband is jailed for a crime he didn’t commit, and an old friend who steps into the void to give comfort. A best-seller and an Oprah’s Book Club selection, the book is newly out in paperback.

7:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 14; Benaroya Hall, 200 University St., Seattle; $20-$80;, 206-621-2230

Tess Gallagher 

The acclaimed poet, essayist and short-story writer first read at Elliott Bay back in 1985, with Raymond Carver; she returns with her 11th collection of poetry, “Is, Is Not.”


7 p.m. Thursday, May 16, Elliott Bay Book Co., 1521 10th Ave., Seattle; 206-624-6600,

Chia-Chia Lin

Lin’s much-anticipated debut, “The Unpassing,” is the saga of an immigrant family from Taiwan making a new life in Anchorage, Alaska; she’ll speak in conversation with local writer and Hugo House teacher Alex Madison.

7 p.m. Thursday, May 23; Elliott Bay Book Co., 1521 10th Ave., Seattle; free; 206-624-6600,

Pico Iyer

A citizen of the world, travel writer Iyer — born in England to parents from India — has long been based in rural Japan, with yearly visits to a Benedictine hermitage in California. He’s visiting Seattle with his latest book about the place he calls home: “Autumn Light: Season of Fire and Farewells.”


3 p.m. Saturday, May 25; Seattle Art Museum, 1300 First Ave., Seattle; free, but RSVP requested; 206-442-8480,

Moira Macdonald



Yekwon Sunwoo, pianist

Didn’t make it to the 2017 Van Cliburn Piano Competition? Neither did we, but now we can hear the gold medalist, South Korean-born Sunwoo, in recital. Recent performances have won high accolades for Sunwoo’s “total command over the instrument and its expressiveness.” Here, he’ll play a delectable program of Liszt, Schumann and Schubert — catnip for keyboard fans.

7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 4; Katharyn Alvord Gerlich Theater in Meany Hall, University of Washington; $41-$49, youth 5-17 free with paid adult (two per adult); 206-543-4880,

Seattle Symphony’s Brahms Concerto Festival

If you love the romantic music of Brahms, you’re in luck: a Seattle Symphony two-day Brahms Concerto Festival will bring you both the thundering Piano Concertos, the arch-romantic Violin Concerto and the virtuosic Double Concerto (violin plus cello). The soloists include violinists Tessa Lark and Blake Pouliot, cellist Jay Campbell, and pianists Yury Favorin and Zee Zee (formerly Zhang Zuo), in two different programs. SSO associate conductor Pablo Rus Broseta will preside on the podium.

7:30 p.m. Thursday, May 9; 8 p.m. Friday, May 10; Benaroya Hall, 200 University St., Seattle; $22-$122; 206-215-4747,

Choral Arts Northwest: The Big Blue Marble

Subtitled “Music, Nature, & the Environment,” this program by one of the region’s top choruses also includes the Seattle Girls’ Choir in a wide-ranging program of songs about nature — including world premieres by John David Earnest and Rick Asher. You’ll also hear Antonin Dvořák’s lovely “Songs of Nature.” Artistic director Robert Bode conducts.

8 p.m. Saturday, May 11; Plymouth Congregational Church, 1217 Sixth Ave., Seattle. Also 3 p.m. Sunday, May 12; Trinity Episcopal Church, 609 Eighth Ave., Seattle. $28 ($24 senior/military, students free);


Piffaro, “The Month of May” (“Ce moys de May”)

The celebrated Philadelphia-based Renaissance band, founded in 1980, joins the vocal Ensemble Eos in performing lively and charming early works celebrating romance in the month of May. The program includes Dufay’s three-part “Ce moys de May,” Morley’s “It was a Lover and his Lass” (from Shakespeare’s “As You Like It”), and selected songs and dances. Presented by Early Music Seattle.

7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 18; Bastyr University Chapel, 14500 Juanita Drive N.E., Kenmore; $20-$45;

Melinda Bargreen



Neve Mazique-Bianco: “Lover of Low Creatures”

A new dance work by Seattle artist Mazique-Bianco — a self-described “Black (specifically Sudanese, even more specifically Nubian) punk disabled queer fairy beast” — about a mixed-race disabled child named Snow who grows up in a happy forest home but has to confront some mysterious thing. The work draws from punk, ballet, voguing and zar, a trance-dance form with roots in the Horn of Africa.

May 9-12; Velocity Dance Center, 1621 12th Ave., Seattle; $15-$25; 206-325-8773,

Ligia Lewis: “Sorrow Swag” and “minor matter”

Born in the Dominican Republic and based in Berlin, dancer-choreographer Lewis brings two pieces of her “BLUE, RED, WHITE” triptych to On the Boards. “Sorrow Swag” takes blue as its cue, examining race, grief and gender with theatrical texts from Samuel Beckett and Jean Anouilh; “minor matter” is the “red” chapter, studying love, rage and a mysterious black box. In written descriptions of the work, Lewis has asked: “Can the black box be host to a black experience that goes beyond identity politics?” Siobhan Burke of The New York Times called “minor matter” “vital,” “beautiful” and “blistering.”


May 16-19; On the Boards, 100 W. Roy St., Seattle; $12-$25 each, both performances for $45; 206-217-9886,

Brendan Kiley

“Themes & Variations”

Pacific Northwest Ballet’s final rep of the season promises to be an elegant grab bag: company member Price Suddarth’s haunting contemporary ballet “Signature“; George Balanchine’s joyous, tambourine-slapping pas de deux “Tarantella”; Jose Limon’s 1949 re-imagining of Shakespeare’s “Othello,” “The Moor’s Pavane”; and an appropriately grand finale: the tutus-and-chandeliers splendor of Balanchine’s gorgeous “Theme & Variations.” Fingers crossed for final appearances from principals Jonathan Porretta and Rachel Foster, who are retiring at the end of the season.

May 31-June 9; Marion Oliver McCaw Hall, 321 Mercer St., Seattle; $37-$187; 206-441-2424,

Moira Macdonald



Helado Negro

Florida songwriter Roberto Lange, aka Helado Negro, is earning some of the highest marks of his career with his impressive sixth album, “This is How You Smile.” And it’s no wonder. The son of Ecuadorian immigrants delivers his introspective sonnets, sung in Spanish and English, over folky, synth-brushed pop songs that beautifully flicker like a distant campfire. Lange’s hushed and lush tracks are perfectly suited for the intimate Columbia City Theater’s low-key regality.

8 p.m. Sunday, May 5; Columbia City Theater, 4619 Rainier Ave. S., Seattle; sold out, 21-plus;

Beach House

It might be impossible to top the sublime sunset performance the Sub Pop vets delivered on Alki Beach (outside an actual beach house, no less) at the label’s 30th-anniversary bonanza last year. Still, the Moore’s acoustics should treat the dream-pop heavyweights’ spectral opuses well during this two-night stand, which comes as the group continues to tour on last year’s immaculate “7” LP. Comedian Ben O’Brien opens.

8 p.m. May 8-9; Moore Theatre, 1932 Second Ave. S., Seattle; $32.50-$45.50; 800-982-2727,


Death Cab for Cutie and ODESZA: Double Major

Two of our region’s most prominent acts team up for a massive benefit show to give back to the institution where it all began. Both the Ben Gibbard-led indie-rock giants and the booming electronic duo formed while attending Western Washington University and proceeds from this off-campus blowout in Bellingham help fund the alumni association’s scholarship endowment. Rising local indie-electronic producer Chong the Nomad (who also plays Fisherman’s), Robotaki and LipStitch open.

5 p.m. Saturday, May 18; Civic Stadium, 1445 Puget. St., Bellingham; sold out;

Jorja Smith and Kali Uchis

Following breakout years in 2018, these ascending R&B/pop stars make formidable tour mates on a coheadlining run supporting their debut albums. Uchis — who perked ears with guest spots on Gorillaz’s 2017 album “Humanz” — saw her “Isolation” LP land on many a year-end list, while Smith earned a best-new-artist nomination at this year’s Grammys on the strength of her soulful “Lost & Found.”

8 p.m. Monday, May 20; WaMu Theater, 800 Occidental Ave. S., Seattle; $36.50-$100;

Northwest Folklife Festival

Sasquatch is no more, but another Memorial Day weekend tradition marches on at Seattle Center, despite ongoing construction at KeyArena. While the renovations have limited the number of stages at the 48th annual festival, expect the usual globally flavored mix of music, dance, art and more across 20-plus stages and more than 100 vendors. Though the schedule had yet to be revealed at press time, this year’s cultural focus is “Youth Rising,” aiming to amplify the voices of young artists and community leaders.

May 24-27; Seattle Center, 305 Harrison Ave., Seattle; $10 suggested donation, $20 per family;

Michael Rietmulder



“Urinetown: The Musical”

In a coproduction between ACT and the 5th Avenue Theatre, director Bill Berry (“West Side Story,” “Wonderful Town,” “Cabaret”) takes on the award-winning 2001 comedy about a 20-year drought, draconian pee laws and social-contract failures from corporate malfeasance to governmental bureaucracy.


Through June 2; ACT Theatre, 700 Union St., Seattle; $32-$107; 206-292-7676,

Pop-Up Magazine

Pop-Up’s popular “live magazine” phenomenon comes to Seattle with new stories (about politics, tech, science, food, whatever), featuring photos, animation and illustration, and a live score by Magik*Magik Orchestra. Performances aren’t recorded: If you want to hear/see the story, you have to show up. The Seattle edition features Laurel Braitman (The New York Times, “Animal Madness”), Jon Mooallem (The New York Times Magazine), Xyza Cruz Bacani (photographer, Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia), Denise Zmekhol (filmmaker, “Children of the Amazon”), Mohanad Elshieky (comedian) and others.

May 15; Benaroya Hall, 200 University St., Seattle; $32-$42; 206-215-4747,

Dani Tirrell: “FagGod”

Seattle choreographer Dani Tirrell (“Black Bois” at On the Boards) brings a new work about the intersection of queer life and places of sanctuary in the early days of the HIV/AIDS crisis. “The discos, bathhouses, and churches where many people,” Tirrell writes, “were able to be themselves.” “FagGod” is a solo-ish performance by Tirrell, with accompanying spoken-word performance by Naa Akua and Anastasia Renee.


May 16-18; Central District Forum for Arts and Ideas at Langston Hughes Performing Arts Center, 104 17th Ave. S., Seattle; $15-$20; 800-8383-3006,

“The Arsonists”

Last spring, The Horse in Motion took over Stimson-Green Mansion for an energetic, immersive production of “Hamlet” — it totally worked, with the audience dashing up and down wooden stairs to follow the action, standing in real-life drizzle for the gravedigger scene and overhearing snatches of conversation happening elsewhere in the “castle.” This spring, THIM occupies a Pioneer Square gallery to stage “The Arsonists,” Max Frisch’s 1953 play (often read as an anti-fascist cautionary tale) about “normal” people being seduced to join the ranks of dangerous arsonists. Directed by Bobbin Ramsey.

May 17-June 3; The Horse in Motion at Gallery Erato, 309 First Ave., Seattle; $17-$28; 800-838-3006,

“Tiny Beautiful Things”

Based on the best-seller by Cheryl Strayed, Nia Vardalos’ adaptation of “Tiny Beautiful Things” sounds like a canned weepie (anonymous online advice columnist teaches letter-writers to love themselves), but this cast looks promising: Julie Briskman, Charles Leggett, Justin Huertas and Chantal DeGroat.

May 17-June 23; Seattle Repertory Theatre, 155 Mercer St., Seattle; $16-$53; 206443-2222

Brendan Kiley



Cecilia Vicuña: About to Happen

In her 1966 work “Purity and Danger,” anthropologist Mary Douglas wrote her most famous six words: “Dirt is matter out of place.” Chilean-born artist Vicuña is particularly interested in matter out of place: fishing line, driftwood, found feathers, detritus left when floodwaters recede, even words like “we the people” that have washed up in a new context (say, drawn and sewn onto fraying canvas). This is her first major U.S. solo exhibition.


April 27-Sept. 15; Henry Art Gallery, 15th Avenue Northeast and Northeast 41st Street, University of Washington campus, Seattle; $6-$10; 206-543-2280,

Mount Analogue

Mount Analogue, one of Pioneer Square’s least-conventional galleries (which could be a big installation, a mayfly art fair where all work cost $30, a performance space for a BDSM chamber opera) is closing up physical shop and becoming an art magazine. Everybody look forward to that. (Knowing Mount Analogue’s reputation for melting expectations, whatever you might imagine it will be, it won’t.) For its final month, Mount Analogue is turning its space over to FORGE., a Los Angeles-based art magazine, which will curate a show featuring Molly Soda, Jordan Jackson, Leesh Adamerovich and a pack of other people.

May 2-31; Mount Analogue, 300 S. Washington St., Seattle; free;

Kurt Solmssen

This show features new oil works by plein-air painter Solmssen, who does strange things with light. Though he mostly paints close to home on Puget Sound, where trees and waves and clouds can make light look brushy, curlicued and soft, Solmssen sees angles and saturation — almost as if he were painting somewhere near Palm Springs or Joshua Tree. His subjects are quiet (a house and a tree, the shadow of a chair, the yellow rowboat that keeps appearing like a phantom in his work), but their treatment is immediate and visceral.

May 2-June 1; Linda Hodges Gallery, 316 First Ave. S.; free; 206-624-3034,

Brendan Kiley

Freelance writer Melinda Bargreen ( contributed to this report.