Alta Picks

Alta Picks the Best of the West for Fall

Elise Hueffed, as Clara, in a scene from George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker. Pacific Northwest Ballet’s production features sets and costumes designed by Ian Falconer and runs November 29–December 28, 2019.
LINDSAY THOMAS
Elise Hueffed, as Clara, in a scene from George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker. Pacific Northwest Ballet’s production features sets and costumes designed by Ian Falconer and runs November 29–December 28, 2019.
Balanchine, female shutterbugs, haunted houses, and true believers: Alta editors pick the best of the West.

Pacific Northwest Ballet’s production of George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker never loses sight of the transformative story at its heart. Not only does the spectacle carry a strong personal connection to the holiday standard—it’s also one of the more traditional versions of a much-altered and -adapted tale. PNB artistic director Peter Boal began dancing at age nine in the Balanchine-founded School of American Ballet and two years later was performing as the Nutcracker Prince with the New York City Ballet. Since then, he has professionally danced every major male role in Balanchine’s version of the work. Boal retired from performing in 2005 and took over the leadership of PNB the same year. He puts his intimate knowledge of The Nutcracker to work at McCaw Hall, the company’s home in Seattle, adding innovative set and costume designs and creative staging. The production also boasts a dazzling Winter Star by glass artist Dale Chihuly, but imagination and the dancers’ artistry are what shine brightest. November 29–December 28, pnb.org/nutcracker

Wendy Red Star, Indian Summer, 2006, is one of the photos on exhibit at the Portland Art Museum's Toughened to Wind and Sun.COURTESY OF THE PORTLAND ART MUSEUM
Wendy Red Star, Indian Summer, 2006, is one of the photos on exhibit at the Portland Art Museum’s Toughened to Wind and Sun.
PORTLAND ART MUSEUM

Toughened to Wind and Sun shows that from photography’s earliest days, it wasn’t only men who were using the medium to shape our understanding of nature. The exhibit of more than a century’s worth of images from some 30 women features arresting shots and reveals a common passion for exploring new frontiers. Anne W. Brigman’s 1915 photograph Infinitude revels in a physical exploration of the Sierra Nevada. In unpublished writing, Brigman describes the artistic growth she experienced in the rugged mountains: “I slowly found my power with the camera among the junipers and tamarack pines of the high, storm-swept altitudes.” Wendy Red Star’s Indian Summer, from the 2006 series Four Seasons, explores a frontier of a different sort, taking a contemporary, ironic look at wilderness. Her work incorporates her perspective as a half–Native American, half-Irish woman dealing with colonialist ideologies. Through March 8, 2020, portlandartmuseum.org

A tour of Meek Mansion is the perfect way to celebrate Halloween.DANA HAMILTON
A tour of Meek Mansion is the perfect way to celebrate Halloween.
MEEK MANSION PARANORMAL TOUR

What could be scarier than a midnight visit to a historic California house with a group of paranormal investigators? Well, how about if they’ve concluded that the property is haunted? Summon your Halloween courage and head to the Meek Mansion and the McConaghy House, two 19th-century estates restored and operated by the Hayward Area Historical Society. Both houses are reportedly haunted by members of the families that once corporeally inhabited them. Several times a year, the HAHS offers a six-hour spectral stakeout at one of the houses. Restricted to 20 guests, the Meek Mansion tour begins with a local-history lesson, followed by ghost tales and hands-on instruction in operating the equipment used to detect the presence of spirits. The $75 admission fee includes refreshments and—most likely—shrieks and goose bumps. Next paranormal investigation October 19, haywardareahistory.org

The Believer's new cover design
The Believer‘s new cover design
THE BELIEVER

“I would hope to urge readers—and, by extension, writers—to reach beyond their usual notions of what is accessible or possible,” wrote Heidi Julavits in the debut issue of the Believer. Nearly 20 years later, her rallying cry against snark and cynicism still feels fresh, and the magazine she cofounded remains literate, smart, and downright original. The University of Nevada, Las Vegas’s Black Mountain Institute bought the publication in 2017, but little has changed. Issues contain essays, book reviews, interviews, poetry, lists, comics, and commentary. The magazine underwent a redesign for its August/September edition, adding new sections like Conversations with Contributors and microreviews. The refreshed look is so good that regular readers may not notice. believermag.com