Do you like to watch?

I like to watch. Don’t misunderstand – I’m not lurking in thebushes with a pair of binoculars and a masturbatory rage. No. Myurges are satisfied by observing artists in performance. This issoft voyeurism, or voyeurism lite, if you will.

I must explain to you that I use the terms “artist” and”performance” quite loosely here. Where there is a warm, breathinghuman entertaining another warm human, I call that “performance.”When said human is engaging in a performance I call that human an”artist.”

Luckily, Portland is full to brimming with individuals who wantnothing more than to put themselves in front of the hot lights ofpublic inspection and emote. They perform in the lovely darkplaces, the stages, the shacks, the palaces and the basements.These are the venues we will be exploring to find the angelic, theprofane, the sublime and the devastating in the milieu ofperformance in Portland.

West Side
PSU’s Lincoln Performance Hall is not only home to the odd andlovely music and theatre students, it also offers a performancespace for local and national theatre, music and dance. Here you canhear world-class chamber music, see nationally renowned dancecompanies lured from around the world by White Bird Dance andexperience wonderful student produced theatre and opera. At timesduring the year, the space is host to free lunch hour concerts.Pastrami on Bach? Why thank you!

The open-air stage in the commons area, outside of Smith, is thesite of many musical performances throughout the year, weatherpermitting. This is also the place to watch epic spiritualperformances by the invasive fundamentalist Christians who visitour campus from time to time. They are rarely seen in the wet falland winter months, giving you plenty of time to construct yourargument in support of sodomy and smoking blunts. Speaking ofsmoking blunts, let’s head downtown.

The Fez Ballroom (316 S.W. 11th) is a pseudo-Moroccan oasis inthe madness of downtown dance clubs. Here you can lounge in thecomfort of overstuffed pillows or move on the ample dance floor tothe beats of local and nationally renowned DJ’s and rhythm-centeredbands. An excellent place to lose yourself in bass and booze.

Mary’s Club (129 S.W. Broadway) is the oldest strip club inOregon. Stop in during the break between your ethics and sociologyclasses to enjoy the fluid movements of some of the most lovely anddaring exotic dancers in the Portland area. You may even run into aprofessor or two. Bribery = easy A. By the way, don’t forget totip.

An incredible dive bar and an all-purpose performance venue, theAsh Street Saloon offers diverse performance every night of theweek. The Ash Street (225 S.W. Ash) has been home to PortlandOrganic Wrestling, local rock and punk bands and currently offers alive late-night talk show called the Famous Mysterious Actor Show.Here at the Ash Street, I have personally witnessed young women inshort skirts drunkenly attempting cartwheels on a shaving creamcoated dance floor and failing beautifully. Needless to say, I lovethe place.

The Crystal Ballroom (1332 West Burnside) offers music from bigname alternative artists almost every night of the year. The olddance floor at the crystal was built with suspension, to soften theimpact of ballroom dancing. This causes modern concertgoers whopack the floor to literally bounce to the music. Prone to motionsickness?

The Roseland Theater (8 NW 6th) offers the same performance fareas the Crystal Ballroom but a slightly different atmosphere. Threelevels, with two bars and a balcony. Make sure you watch out forthose stairs after a few drinks.

The Portland Center for the Performing Arts (1111 SWBroadway) occupies about three quarters of the 1100 block of SWBroadway. The compound includes two high tech theaters, the NewmarkTheater and the intimate, 292-seat Winnigstad Theater. It alsoencompasses the 2,799-seat Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall (aka “TheSchnitz”), boasting breathtaking Italian Rococo Revivalarchitecture and an intensely phallic 65-foot sign above theBroadway marquee that reads “Portland.” This compound is home toPortland Center stage, Oregon Symphony, various lecture series andBroadway road shows, not to mention national and internationalmusic acts from rock and roll to reggae.

Also under the auspices of PCPA, the Keller Auditorium (222 S.W.Clay) houses what the Schnitz cannot; often a grab bag of music,theatre and dance. The venue itself is not very inspiring and theacoustics are a bit flawed. Luckily, if the performance is good,you can be transported.

East Side
The east bank of the Willamette is home to a wide diversity ofethnic cultures, hipsters, hippies, punks and thelow-brow-avant-underground. Thus, the performance that is foundhere often reflects that energy.

The Rabbit Hole (203 S.E. Grand) is, in fact, a hole. Sunk belowstreet level this basement performance space and drinkingestablishment is home to the Neo Beat Revival, one of the mostenergetic spoken word open mics to ever grace the city. On anySunday night around 9pm, the questionably sane and hard drinkingpoets who frequent the reading scream, whisper, and speak their waythrough poems about life on their side of the tracks. Not for thesqueamish or easily insulted. Also, catch the KPSU DJs on Wednesdaynights.

El Centro Milagro (425 S.E. 6th) houses a stage and threeseparate performance companies. The companies are rooted inHispanic culture and present the Latino voice through beautiful andchallenging productions. You don’t need to be taking a Spanishlanguage course to enjoy the work here, but it wouldn’t hurt. Ifyour only understanding of Hispanic culture is the drive-thruwindow of a Taco Bell, you desperately need to come El CentroMilagro.

Holocene (1001 SE Morrison) is, for style consciousPortland hipsters, what a pond is for Koi: a life-sustainingenvironment. Gaily they swim in the currents of fashion-rock andelectro, occasionally enjoying an art happening or two whilesoaking up the atmosphere and attitude. Stage, dance, happeningsand art, all in one renovated garage.

Northeast Portland has been experiencing a rapid growth. Newbusinesses and venues seem to pop up every day like dandelions.Some people love their color; some people think the new businesseswill choke out the native grasses. Among the growth there areplaces where people with little capital and much imaginationthrive. The Know (2022 N.E. Alberta) is exactly such a place. Thefolks at The Know have created a space for everything. The oldgarage may not look like much, but it offers film, improv, music,theatre, gallery space, Internet access and community.

Alberta Street itself is possibly one of the longest performancevenues in Portland. On the last Thursday of every month a two-milesection of Alberta Street, from Martin Luther King Boulevard to39th Avenue, can’t contain itself. You will find a street musicianon every corner, flanked by art cars, fire dancers, poets andvarious other artists who congregate along the sidewalk to selltheir work. You may never find a place to park, you may wait for anhour to get a table in a restaurant, you may get physically illfrom the body odor, but you will have a kick ass time doing it.

By far the most well known performance venue on the east side ofthe river is the Rose Garden Arena (1 Center Court, Suite 100). Youcan’t miss it. Now, I’ve never been to an arena concert, but if Iwanted to watch insanely famous, internationally known pop starsslog through their greatest hits for the umpteenth time on theirworld tour, this is the place I’d go to see it. I’d rather go thereto watch the Monster Trucks.

Unfortunately, I’d have to write a book (my editor might argue Ialready have) in order to show you every venue in which I pursuedthe soft voyeurism I like to call “being an audience.” I encourageyou to explore the city for yourself. Portland is littered withtheaters and bars, restaurants and convenience stores that are fullof creative and/or deranged individuals just waiting to put on ashow for you. Who knows, maybe we’ll sit next to one another in awhispering pre-show theater. I’ll be the one in the red cashmerejacket who turns to you and asks, “Do you like to watch too?”