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  • jonw2009


Updated: Mar 28, 2022

Tolstoy in the tropics

April 3,10: Anna in the Tropics, By Nilo Cruz; Tacoma Arts Live, 3 to 5 p.m.; $12 to $39;

Theater on the Square, 915 Broadway, Tacoma; check the website show dates, times and tickets:

In the play “Anna in the Tropics,” a handsome lector arrives at a family-owned Florida cigar factory in 1929 and proceeds to read “Anna Karenina” to the workers. The tropical heat suddenly turns Saint Petersburg cold as characters from the 1878 Tolstoy classic begin to affect the women in the factory. Like the book, the play takes themes of faith, family, marriage and betrayal and rolls them into one big, fat stogie. Things get lit. Things get smoky. Then tragic. (So, leave the kids at home.) The play reflects two eras: A period of imperial Russian society and the time before complete industrialization in America, when cigars were rolled by hand and lectors were hired to bring entertainment and culture to workers who toiled in factories. Think about this while you’re sitting in your cubical at work. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a lector, a trained voice — say, Jimmy Smits, who played the part on Broadway — sitting in the office reading classic literature aloud? OK, that was Depression-era stuff. But, have things really gotten better? It’s something to ponder. Things have gotten better, though, for Cuban-American playwright Nilo Cruz, who won the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for “Anna in the Tropics.” Cruz was working in Florida as a physical therapist when on a lark he went to the theater and saw a play. It changed his life. He knew he had to get involved in the theater, but he wasn’t sure how — so he wrote a play. Less than 10 years later he became the first Latino to win a Pulitzer Prize for drama. La vida es buena.

Metal mettle

April 9: 6 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.; $15; Real Art Tacoma Presents a benefit show for Jordan, featuring Blunt Force, Hilltop Rats, Heiress, Lo There, Nurser, Galactic Black; Real Art Tacoma, 5412 S. Tacoma Way; info:

Jordan Guerrero has great friends. In October, Guerrero was paralyzed in car accident and is unlikely to ever feel anything from his mid-chest down. To accommodate his new lifestyle, his home needs to be outfitted. That’s expensive. Amid all the tragedy, Guerrero has benefitted from a solid support network in the Tacoma heavy metal scene. His friends have helped by holding benefit concerts. Among the bands performing April 9 is Tacoma’s Hilltop Rats, whose 2020 video release of their song “Divided State” really nails our current divided political and social situation. The Rats’ mission statement about the video puts it succinctly: “… if we don’t start setting aside our differences and coming together as one human race, the powers that be will always keep us divided to keep us oppressed. It’s time to take a stand.” It’s also time to come together to support Jordan Guerrero.

Wabbit season

April 24: 7:30 p.m.: The Queen’s Cartoonists, Pantages Theater, $19 to $59; info:

When Franz Liszt wrote “Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2,” he likely didn’t know that it would be used in Tom and Jerry cartoons. He probably didn’t think that his rock-star-like virtuosity and and composing oeuvre would be preserved for future generations via goofy animation. But, let’s face it, most of us were introduced to the classics by watching cartoons on Saturday mornings. So rest easy, Franz. This is really a good thing. Your music lives on, as does Richard Wagner’s “Ring Cycle” and Johann Strauss’ “Die Fledermaus” because of cartoons. Cartoons were also our first introduction to the jazz thanks to Max Fleischer. Who can forget his amazing animated tribute to Cab Calloway’s “St. James Infirmary?” If you think Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd when you hear snippets from Gioachino Rossini’s “Barber of Seville” you may want to grab a quick bowl of Sugar Pops and head the Pantages Theater to catch The Queen’s Cartoonists, a jazz band that specializes in playing cartoon music sync’d to video projections. You’ll hear classics from Warner Brothers and early Disney. They feature more modern composures such as Danny Elfman and John Williams.

Museum movement

April 14: 6:30 to 7:30 p.m., TUPAC Dance in the Museum, Tacoma Art Museum, 1701 Pacific Ave.; info; or call TUPAC at (253) 327-1873

In this monthly event, Tacoma Urban Performing Arts Center (TUPAC) Artistic Director Kara O’Toole, along with her contemporary dance students, will “guide participants through modern dance phrases and relate movement expression to works of art on view at TAM.” In other words, every second Thursday you can dance to your art’s content at the museum. TUPAC suggests that you wear comfortable clothes and shoes and can move in. Because, well, you’ll be movin’. All ages and all moving and shaking experience levels are welcome.

Third-time charmer

April 24: 3 to 5 p.m., Olympia Symphony Music Director Finalist Concert No. 3: Zoe Zeniodi, Washington Center for the Performing Arts, 512 Washington St. SE, Olympia; Info:

The Olympia Symphony is searching for a new music director and this is the third concert in their series highlighting guest conductors. This time Zoe Zeniodi will wave the baton and give new life to pieces by Beethoven, Tabakova and Rimsky-Korsakov. Zeniodi is from Greece, and has worked extensively there, but she has also had gigs in Florida and Texas. She will lead guest cellist Nathan Chan in Dobrinka Tabakova’s “Concert for Cello and Strings.”

— Calendar and doodles of Nilo Cruz and Franz Listz by Jon Williams

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