From Elton John’s farewell tour to the “Downton Abbey” movie, our Seattle Times arts writers dish on next month’s most buzzworthy arts and entertainment events.
TOP 5 EVENTS IN SEPTEMBER
The glamorously bespectacled superstar is hanging up his touring boots, bidding adieu with a massive 200-some-date trek running through 2020. Not that the endearing and enduring piano knight needed the signal boost, but this year’s hit biopic “Rocketman,” starring Taron Egerton as Sir Elton, re-amplified the legendary showman’s quintessential body of work. At press time, limited remaining tickets for the purportedly last-chance concerts started around $330.
8 p.m. Sept. 17-18; Tacoma Dome, 2727 E. D St., Tacoma; remaining tickets start at $332; tacomadome.org
“People of the Book”
Jason is an Iraq war veteran who met Madeeha, his wife-to-be, during a house-to-house raid in a combat zone. He came home, became a celebrity after writing a bestseller about his experiences and is now getting together with his old friends Amir and Lynn. “People of the Book” is a world premiere by Seattle treasure Yussef El Guindi — and if it’s anything like his other work (“Threesome,” “Pilgrims Musa and Sheri in the New World,” “Language Rooms”), expect nuanced, subtly psychological dialogue where people start by trying to smile and smooth over their differences, then hit stormy seas when one (or some) of them start to talk honestly about realities they refuse to euphemize. At its best, El Guindi’s dialogue can be as surprising and as thrilling as an action sequence in a summer blockbuster.
Sept. 6-29; ACT Theatre, 700 Union St., Seattle; $27-$47; 206-292-7676, acttheatre.org
I believe I was on record, a few years ago, as saying this movie would never happen. Well, knock me over with a tea biscuit: The Crawleys are back, and nobody’s more excited to see them (and their glorious home, Highclere Castle) on the big screen than me. Pretty much the entire cast of the popular six-season TV series has been reassembled — including, thank goodness, Maggie Smith as the hatpin-sharp Dowager Countess — and the costumes alone should be worth the ticket price. You can hear the theme music already, can’t you? It’s been a rough year; we all deserve some hats, fainting couches and Dame Maggie.
Opens Sept. 20 in multiple theaters; advance tickets at fandango.com
Seattle Symphony Orchestra Opening Night
Thomas Dausgaard, Seattle Symphony’s new music director, leads his first opening-night concert in that role — a festive affair that starts with the “Maskerade” Overture by the maestro’s fellow Dane, Carl Nielsen. Russian virtuoso Daniil Trifonov joins the festivities for Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 4, and there’s also Strauss’ powerful “Also sprach Zarathustra.” Music lovers who opt for the opening-night gala package will follow the concert with dinner and dancing in celebration of the new Dausgaard era.
5 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 14; Benaroya Hall, 200 University St., Seattle; tickets from $58; 206-215-4747 (gala package reservations: 206-215-4868), seattlesymphony.org
“Girlfriends of the Guerrilla Girls”
In the 1980s, the anonymous Guerrilla Girls started agitating and culture jamming to shine a light on sexism and racism in the art world. Their most iconic image: A poster of a female nude (“La Grande Odalisque” by Ingres, 1814) with a gorilla mask and the text: “Do women have to be naked to get into the Met. Museum? Less than 5% of the artists in the Modern Art Sections are women, but 85% of the nudes are female.” “Girlfriends of the Guerrilla Girls,” now at CoCA, is a packed, powerful group show with a spectrum of moods: wry, amused, outraged, exhausted. Hanako O’Leary’s ceramics feature undulating vulvas and gleeful middle fingers; C. Davida Ingram’s photographs of people holding birds of prey are a striking study in beauty and captivity; and “The Evolution of Agent Yu,” a stop-motion animation by Deborah F. Lawrence and Rachel Siegel, is a cutting satire that challenges one’s face to grin and frown at the same time.
Through Sept. 21; Center on Contemporary Art, 113 Third Ave., Seattle; $2 suggested donation; 206-728-1980, cocaseattle.org
Sister Helen Prejean
Prejean, who many of us met through the movie “Dead Man Walking” (in which she was played by Susan Sarandon), is here with her new memoir, “River of Fire: My Spiritual Journey,” in which she writes of her childhood, her spirituality and her lifelong work as a social justice activist.
7 p.m. Monday, Sept. 9; Seattle University’s Campion Ballroom, 914 E. Jefferson St., Seattle; $35 (includes copy of book); 206-624-6600, elliottbaybook.com
The Seattle native and Bainbridge Island resident won the PEN/Faulkner Award in 1995 for his debut novel, “Snow Falling on Cedars,” set in a 1950s Puget Sound region haunted by World War II. Though he’s published several novels and story collections since then, he’s recently turned to poetry, and will read from his newest work, “Turn Around Time: A Walking Poem of the Pacific Northwest,” joined by illustrator Justin Gibbens.
7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 10; Seattle Public Library’s Central Library, 1000 Fourth Ave., Seattle; free; 206-386-4636, spl.org
A longtime indigenous human-rights activist, Dunbar-Ortiz is the author of “An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States,” a landmark academic text recently adapted by Debbie Reese and Jean Mendoza for middle-grade and young-adult readers. Dunbar-Ortiz is here with that book, “An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States for Young People,” which is just out in paperback, speaking with educator and activist Nikkita Oliver on Sept. 11 and with Mendoza on Sept. 12.
7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 11; Town Hall, 1119 Eighth Ave.; $5, free for youths 22 and under; townhallseattle.org. Also 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 12; Third Place Books at Seward Park, 5041 Wilson Ave. S., Seattle; free, but ticket required for reserved seating (request in store; no purchase necessary); 206-474-2200, thirdplacebooks.com
It’s a joy when great fiction writers open up their minds to us in nonfiction essays, and Robinson — a Pulitzer Prize and two-time National Book Critics Circle Award winner (“Gilead,” “Lila,” “Housekeeping”) — does so in the collection “What Are We Doing Here?” in which she ponders the current political climate and the mysteries of faith.
7:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 13; Town Hall, 1119 Eighth Ave., Seattle; $5; 206-652-4255, townhallseattle.org
The Pulitzer Prize-winning author (“A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide”) and former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations discusses her life and work in her new memoir, “The Education of an Idealist.”
7:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 16; Town Hall, 1119 Eighth Ave., Seattle; $5; 206-652-4255, townhallseattle.org
Rescheduled from an earlier summer date, the retired general and former U.S. secretary of defense — a native of Pullman and a graduate of Central Washington University — will speak about his new book, “Call Sign Chaos: Learning to Lead,” in which he recounts his leadership roles in three wars.
7 p.m. Monday, Sept. 16; Temple de Hirsch Sinai, 1441 16th Ave., Seattle; $35 one person/$40 two people (each includes one copy of book); 206-624-6600, elliottbaybook.com
A lot of us know Chevalier’s name from “Girl with a Pearl Earring,” her mega-bestseller from 1999 (translated into 38 languages!), which was later adapted for the screen with Scarlett Johansson in the title role. Chevalier, an American who lives in Great Britain, has since written a number of other works of historical fiction; her latest, “A Single Thread,” takes place in Winchester, England, before World War II.
7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 19; Third Place Books at Lake Forest Park, 17171 Bothell Way N.E., Lake Forest Park; free (ticket required for signing line, available with prepurchase of book); 206-366-3333, thirdplacebooks.com
The podcast host (“Revisionist History,” “Broken Record”) and bestselling author (“The Tipping Point,” “Blink,” “Outliers”) kicks off Seattle Arts & Lectures 2019-20 Literary Arts Series. Individual tickets are sold out but subscriptions to the season — which also includes Amor Towles, Jodi Kantor/Megan Twohey, Min Jin Lee, Carol Anderson and Luis Alberto Urrea — are still available.
7:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 23; Benaroya Hall, 200 University, Seattle; subscriptions begin at $149; 206-621-2230, lectures.org
Seattle homicide detective J.P. Beaumont — who’s technically in retirement — returns to the game in “Sins of the Fathers,” the latest novel from bestselling author Jance.
7 p.m. Monday, Sept. 23; Third Place Books at Lake Forest Park, 17171 Bothell Way N.E., Lake Forest Park; free; 206-366-3333, thirdplacebooks.com
The acclaimed author of numerous books for young people (and currently the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature), Woodson thrilled adult readers with her bestselling novel “Another Brooklyn,” a finalist for the National Book Award. She returns to adult fiction with her latest book, “Red at the Bone,” in which two families from different social classes are joined by an unexpected pregnancy.
7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 24; Seattle Public Library’s Central Library, 1000 Fourth Ave., Seattle; free; 206-386-4636, spl.org
Jonathan Safran Foer
Best known for his fiction, particularly “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close,” Safran Foer’s latest book is a nonfiction examination of the reality of human-caused climate change, called “We Are the Weather: Saving the Planet Begins at Breakfast.” He’ll discuss the topic with local radio/podcast journalist Steve Scher.
7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 25; Town Hall, 1119 Eighth Ave., Seattle; $5; 206-652-4255, townhallseattle.org
Becker, the Seattle-based local historian and author of the biography “Looking for Betty MacDonald,” here turns to memoir: “A House on Stilts: Mothering in the Age of Opioid Addiction,” about her son’s 10-year struggle with addiction.
7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 26; Third Place Books at Lake Forest Park, 17171 Bothell Way N.E., Lake Forest Park; free; 206-366-3333, thirdplacebooks.com
Jayne Anne Phillips, Mira Jacob, Ruth Joffre
Writers Phillips (“Machine Dreams,” “Quiet Dell”), Jacob (“Good Talk: A Memoir in Conversations”) and Joffre (“Night Beast”), with musician Sarah Paul Ocampo, kick off the Hugo Literary Series with a freewheeling conversation on the topic of “The Great Divide.”
7:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 27; Hugo House, 1634 11th Ave., Seattle; $25; 206-322-7030, hugohouse.org
Seattle Symphony: Dausgaard conducts Mahler
Mahler’s mighty Symphony No. 1 is a major orchestral milestone, and we’ll hear the interpretation of new Seattle Symphony Music Director Thomas Dausgaard in three performances that also offer Brahms’ mighty Piano Concerto No. 2 (with powerhouse Yefim Bronfman at the keyboard). This program marks the first “Masterworks” concert of the Dausgaard era.
7:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 19; noon on Friday, Sept. 20; 8 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 21; Benaroya Hall, 200 University St., Seattle; tickets from $24; 206-215-4747, seattlesymphony.org
Olympic Music Festival
The summer’s not quite over yet, and over on the Olympic Peninsula, their music festival is still going strong this month. Artists include violinists Andrew Wan and Ray Chen, violist Yura Lee, cellist Matthew Zalkind, and pianists Julio Elizalde and Robert McDonald; the repertoire extends from Schumann’s “Davidsbündlertänze” to the Brahms Piano Quartet No. 3.
2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 1, and Saturday, Sept. 7; Wheeler Theater at Fort Worden State Park, 200 Battery Way, Port Townsend; $20-$40 (age 7-12 free with RSVP), olympicmusicfestival.org
The Esoterics present “Kvandal & Bäck: A Double Centennial”
You can always count on the Esoterics to “boldly go where no chorus has gone before,” and this time they’re performing works of two obscure but worthy Scandinavian composers upon the centennial of their respective births: Norwegian composer Johan Kvandal and the Swedish composer Sven-Erik Bäck. What do they sound like? Go and find out, when Eric Banks leads his group (now in their 26th season) in motets and other works of these two contemporary choral masters.
8 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 14; St. James Cathedral, 804 Ninth Ave., Seattle; $15-$22, theesoterics.org
Ligia Lewis: “Water Will (in Melody)”
Earlier this year, Lewis brought “Sorrow Swag” and “minor matter,” the first parts of her BLUE, RED, WHITE triptych to On the Boards. Now she caps it off with the last and latest, “Water Will,” for four performers who “enact a gothic tale set in a wet, cavernous landscape.” Expect strange, dystopic beauty.
Sept. 19-22; On the Boards, 100 W. Roy St., Seattle; $12-$75 (advance adult tickets are $28); 206-217-9886, ontheboards.org
“Carmina Burana” & “Agon”
Pacific Northwest Ballet kicks off its 2019-20 season with a study in contrasts: Kent Stowell’s more-is-more spectacle “Carmina Burana,” complete with singers and wandering monks and a massive golden wheel, and George Balanchine’s minimalist classic “Agon.” Of the two, the latter is worth the ticket price all by itself: Another of Balanchine’s brilliant collaborations with composer Igor Stravinsky (which began with 1928’s “Apollo”), “Agon” is alluringly spiky, with every move from its leotard-and-tights-clad dancers utterly unexpected. (In the breathtaking pas de deux, the woman goes into a supported arabesque — and the man drops to the floor, while still holding her hand.) The ballet premiered at Balanchine’s New York City Ballet in 1957, and still looks completely modern; it’s a ballet forever young.
Sept. 27-Oct. 6; Marion Oliver McCaw Hall, 321 Mercer St., Seattle; $37-$190; 206-441-2424, pnb.org
Tickets are already on sale for:
Abbas Kiarostami retrospective
Four of Seattle’s independent arthouse theaters — SIFF, Northwest Film Forum, Grand Illusion and the brand-new Beacon — are joining forces to present a treat: eight different programs featuring the work of the legendary Iranian filmmaker Kiarostami. The programs include his 1974 debut feature, “The Traveler”; his 1997 Palme d’Or-winning “Taste of Cherry”; his acclaimed Koker Trilogy (“Where is the Friend’s House?,” “And Life Goes On,” “Through the Olive Trees”); and a collective of his little-seen early short films.
Sept. 14-Oct. 6 at SIFF Film Center (Seattle Center campus, near corner of Warren and Republican, Seattle), Northwest Film Forum (1515 12th Ave., Seattle), Grand Illusion (1403 N.E. 50th St., Seattle), The Beacon (4405 Rainier Ave. S., Seattle); $10-14 depending on venue; 206-329-2629; nwfilmforum.org
Death Cab for Cutie and Car Seat Headrest
It’s been a year of Seattle superbills for Death Cab, coming off 2018’s re-energizing “Thank You for Today” LP. After pairing with ODESZA up in Bellingham this spring, the indie-rock giants link up with fellow Seattle stars Car Seat Headrest — which released their “Commit Yourself Completely” live album this summer — for this two-night summer send-off at one of the metro area’s most scenic, laid-back venues. After making a cameo on Chance the Rapper’s new album, Ben Gibbard and crew unveil “The Blue EP” on Sept. 6.
6:30 p.m. Sept. 7-8; Marymoor Park, 6046 W. Lake Sammamish Parkway N.E., Redmond; $45-$59.50; marymoorconcerts.com
Gary Clark Jr.
The modern Texas bluesman rides into Chateau Ste. Michelle’s amphitheatre, poised to unleash his trademark solos and fusionist swagger from his politically charged new album. Clark pulls no punches while melding blues, rock, soul and even reggae across “This Land,” detailing the racism he faces as a wealthy black man in America on the searing title track. A welcome addition to the Woodinville winery’s summer lineup.
7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 11; Chateau Ste. Michelle, 14111 N.E. 145th St., Woodinville; $55.50-$69.50; ste-michelle.com
Following some family tension that led to a multiyear hiatus, the Wilson sisters reunited this year for their first tour together in three years. During their time apart, the Seattle rock greats worked on independent projects — Ann Wilson cutting a solo record, Nancy Wilson forming her Roadcase Royale band with former Prince protégé Liv Warfield and several recent members of Heart. Heart is joined by fellow Rock & Roll Hall of Famers Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, plus pop-rocker Elle King, in kicking off a busy month at Tacoma Dome with shows from Iron Maiden (Sept. 5), Post Malone (Sept. 14), Sir Elton (Sept. 17-18), a make-up Bob Seger date (Sept. 21) and Pepe Aguilar (Sept. 27).
7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 4; Tacoma Dome, 2727 E. D St., Tacoma; tickets start at $34.50, tacomadome.org
Huichica Walla Walla
Launched by Sonoma Valley winemaker Jeff Bundschu and Fruit Bats’ Eric D. Johnson a decade ago, the California-born mini festival pairing music and vino gets a Walla Walla edition, partnering with Washington’s Sleight of Hand Cellars. The small but strong two-day lineup features two sets apiece from Yo La Tengo, Robyn Hitchcock and Fruit Bats (solo), plus single sets from indie-rock fave Waxahatchee, garage rockers Allah-Las, Destroyer (solo), Titus Andronicus, Northwest vets the Minus 5 and more.
Sept. 13-14; Stella’s Homestead, 2194 S. Fork Coppei Road, Waitsburg; two-day passes $150, single-day $75-$100, basic camping $35-$50, wallawalla.huichica.com
Alice in Chains
Fittingly, the grunge lords are winding down their touring in support of last year’s Northwest-imbued album “Rainier Fog” with a hometown gig. Last summer, Alice in Chains celebrated the new record with a release-weekend Seattle takeover, including an intimate show at the Crocodile, which counts drummer Sean Kinney as a part owner. “Rainier Fog” was one of the last albums recorded at Seattle’s fabled Studio X and earned the band its ninth Grammy nomination.
8 p.m. Friday, Sept. 20; WaMu Theater, 800 Occidental Ave. S., Seattle; $62, centurylinkfield.com
This 2007 Pulitzer Prize finalist by Eisa Davis concerns a foundling who was floated on a river in a basket (sound familiar?) and landed in Boonville, north of San Francisco. By 1955, she’s a teenager and an outsider: a clairvoyant and multiracial orphan in a largely white town — then a young black woman from Alabama shows up, bringing the reality of the Jim Crow South with her, and sets some things in motion. Davis wrote the play with a heavy dose of Boontling, a real-life vocabulary specific to that place, where “bahl” means good; “taigey” means manic; and grapevines are known as “fratty shams.” Directed by local great Valerie Curtis-Newton, recently of “Nina Simone: Four Women” and “The Agitators.”
Through Sept. 14; Intiman Theatre at Jones Playhouse, 4045 University Way N.E., Seattle; free walk-up tickets (guaranteed availability at every performance), $15-$40 advance reserved tickets; intiman.org
“Is God Is”
In her script notes, Aleshea Harris describes “Is God Is,” about two twins on a patricidal road trip, as a revenge epic that “takes its cues from the ancient, the modern, the tragic, the Spaghetti Western, hip-hop and Afropunk.” It also won the American Playwriting Foundation’s Relentless Award, established in honor of Philip Seymour Hoffman and the fattest cash prize ($45,000!) in American theater. “There’re hints of the ‘Oresteia’ in there,” Vulture critic Sara Holdren wrote in a 2018 review, “right alongside ‘Kill Bill.'” Directed by Portland-based Lava Alapai.
Sept. 6-23; Washington Ensemble Theatre and The Hansberry Project at 12th Avenue Arts, 1620 12th Ave., Seattle; $15-$25; washingtonensemble.org
In 2015, after 40 drafts in seven years, playwright Paula Vogel (“How I Learned to Drive,” teacher of Lynn Nottage and Sarah Ruhl) finally finished “Indecent,” her telling of the story behind the 1906 play “God of Vengeance” by Yiddish writer Sholem Asch. Asch’s controversial play was about the daughter of a brothel owner and how she fell in love with one of her father’s prostitutes. Vogel’s award-winning play follows “Vengeance” from its first salon reading (where the audience is concerned about the throwing of a Torah and whether its prostitution themes bolster anti-Semitism) to a 1923 Broadway production, with legal rockiness and a plot-perverting English translation. Directed by local great Sheila Daniels, known for delving into a work to build nuanced symphonies of onstage emotion.
Sept. 20-Oct. 26; Seattle Repertory Theatre, 155 Mercer St., Seattle; $36-$80; 206-443-2222, seattlerep.org
Xenobia Bailey, Marita Dingus, Henry Jackson-Spieker, Nastassja Swift
Sculpture and installation work by four artists at Wa Na Wari, which artist and curator Elisheba Johnson describes as “a Black arts space in a gentrified neighborhood.” Featured: human-ish sculptures made of found materials by Guggenheim fellow Dingus; large, wool heads of black women by fiber artist/soft sculptor Swift; a room covered in buzzing magenta with portrait photos by “cosmic-funk” artist and ethnomusicologist Bailey; and more.
Through Sept. 22; Wa Na Wari, 911 24th Ave., Seattle; free; wanawari.org
Jed Dunkerly, Cable Griffith
According to the old formula “comedy is tragedy plus time,” Dunkerly’s paintings were funnier a decade ago: tower cranes planting old-growth fir for a “vintage” forest, engineers shaping clouds for a “rain grid” in Nebraska. The humor lived in his cheerfully matter-of-fact visions of people “taming” their environment like a strong virus “tames” a mammal. Time has passed, the word “anthropocene” has taken off, and his newer work still has jokes (an eagle hunting in the lumber section of a Home Depot, titled “Woodland Creatures”) but is also queasy-making (a flooded city, with just the tips of skyscrapers shining in the moonlight, titled “The Glass Archipelago”). Some jokes are jarring because they’re “too soon.” Dunkerly’s are too near. Also up: Griffith’s lightly abstracted, gently glitchy landscapes (deserts, forests, big flowers radiating in the undergrowth), which look softly computerized, or like human pictographs of the nonhuman realm.
Sept. 5-28; Linda Hodges Gallery, 316 First Ave. S., Seattle; free; 206-624-3034, lindahodgesgallery.com
Freelance writer Melinda Bargreen (firstname.lastname@example.org) contributed to this report.
Correction: This post has been updated to reflect that Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz was not part of the adapting process for “An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States for Young People.”