From India.Arie to the Carter Family: Tacoma in September

Tacoma Arts Live, which programs the historic theatres in downtown Tacoma, has an abundant season of performances in store. The lineup of musicians this month is particularly rich. See below for a sampling of Tacoma’s cultural landscape (in makers markets, theatre, visual art, film, and sports) this month, too. 



Tacoma Arts Live    

This Friday (9/20)

The season starts off with a big name: India.Arie, the multi-Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter. Her 2006 hit album Testimony: Vol. 1, Life & Relationships placed the personal-as-political (“I Am Not My Hair,” with Akon) alongside love and loss (the gripping “The Heart of the Matter”); and, with many before and in between, her 2019 album Worthy maintains the same mix. The song “What If” explores the lasting reverberations of individual acts; “Rollercoaster” looks at mystifying modernity of fake news, genetically modified foods, and genocide both here and abroad; and “Steady Love” ruminates on domestic bliss. Expect a beautiful show.


Next Week (9/24-25)

Coming to the Pantages Theatre is the 20th anniversary national tour of Rent, and it’s hard to believe the musical that seems timeless is only barely out of its teens. (It’s actually 23 and counting from its 1996 premiere, so the “anniversary tour” might be more akin to certain legends’ year-running “farewell tours.”) In a time and region of soaring property values, priced-out artists, and fast gentrification, it feels particularly timely, too. This tour might be particularly sweet for the northwest: Coleman Cummings, making his national tour debut as lead Roger Davis, hails from Snohomish County and attended Tacoma’s Pacific Lutheran University before heading to New York.


Later This Month 

One of the most intriguing acts in the TAL season announcement was the curiously titled Naturally 7. (Is this a vitamin? A juice blend?) In fact, Naturally 7 is an a capella group from New York who are also celebrating their 20th anniversary. Formed in 1999, the septet uses a style they call “VocalPlay” which means, essentially, that each seeks to “become” the instrument as he performs it — which they do, collectively, in richly layered arrangements. Although they have studio albums, the best way to get a feel for their performance style is to watch them perform; and there are ample videos covering a diverse range of styles, like this one (covering Adele, with singer Seon Scott) and this one (covering Coldplay). They play the Rialto on Saturday (9/28).

Rounding out the variety of this month’s lineup with an exclamation point is Carlene Carter of the first family of country music. The daughter of June Carter Cash, and stepdaughter of Johnny Cash, Carter was steeped in country music throughout her life and amassed a career of classic country hits and albums. (Fun fact: local comic artists Frank Young and David Lasky wrote an award-winning Carter Family biography in graphic novel form; info here.) She plays the Rialto Theater on Friday (9/27).



More in Arts & Culture 


Makers (and shoppers, and eaters)

At this Saturday’s Tacoma Night Market, visitors can shop (or eat) from knitters, potters, chowder makers, pie bakers, and more. Held every third Saturday at Alma Mater in downtown Tacoma, plus third Saturdays in Gig Harbor, and a new one at Tacoma’s Museum of Glass starting in November. Admission is free; info here.

And it might seem odd to lump a magazine into the arts section, but the stunning pages of Grit City Magazine — along with its exceptional coverage of the area — prove the exception. Find out more, and where to get a copy (hint: the aforementioned Night Market is one of such places), here.



There’s frequently a lot of theatre in the Tacoma area to choose from. Among them:

The Changing Scene Theatre Northwest: Summerplay, a festival of short plays. Thru 9/21.

Dukesbay Productions: next show is Proof, 11/1-17.

Tacoma Arts Live (Professional Regional Theater season): next show is Shakespeare in Love, 10/17-11/3.

Tacoma Little Theatre: Calendar Girls. Thru 9/29.

Tacoma Musical Playhouse: The Addams Family. Thru 10/6.

Lakewood Playhouse: Biloxi Blues. Thru 10/6.



Tacoma’s downtown area is home to several key regional museums, including Tacoma Art Museum, Tacoma Museum of Glass, and the Washington State History Museum (all within a stone’s throw of each other), and LeMay: America’s Car Museum (a bit further out, near the Dome).

On September 28, a new exhibit opens at Tacoma Art Museum: Monet, Renoir, Degas, and Their Circle: French Impressionism and the Northwest. It will make an interesting pair with Bart at TAM: Animating America’s Favorite Family, an exhibit dedicated to the hand-drawn animation of the earlier seasons of The Simpsons, on now through year-end.



Akin to Seattle’s Northwest Film Forum, Tacoma boasts The Grand Cinema, which runs everything from big new releases to indie flicks in an arthouse setting. Next week, they show the new documentary Marshawn Lynch: A History (9/23-24), among a full slate of other films this week (see the list here); and in early October they host the Tacoma Film Festival (10/3-10/10, see lineup here).



Did you know several women of the World Cup-winning soccer team (including its MVP) aren’t just international superstars, but play in our backyard as well? Catch the last few games of the Seattle Reign (now of Tacoma) season: this Saturday night, Wednesday night (rescheduled from last week), and a morning game the following Saturday (9/29). Also at Cheney Stadium: the Tacoma Defiance men’s soccer team (with a bring-your-dog game — called Dogs of Defiance — on 9/28), and AAA baseball Tacoma Rainiers (off until April).


Chase D. Anderson is Editor & Producer of NWTheatre.org.