By Diane Urbani de la Paz
Peninsula Daily News
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PORT ANGELES — The Raymond Carver Festival, a celebration of Carver’s legacy on the 75th anniversary of his birth, brings together readings, movies, a keynote lecture and more this week through next Saturday, May 25. For information, see co-sponsor Peninsula College’s website, www.PenCol.edu or contact organizer Bruce Hattendorf at 360-417-6238 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here’s a sampling of the public events honoring Carver, who spent the last 10 years of his life in Port Angeles.
■ Today: “Short Cuts,” Robert Altman’s 1993 movie starring Tim Robbins, Julianne Moore, Lily Tomlin, Jack Lemmon, Robert Downey Jr., Tom Waits and Andie MacDowell, screens at 7 p.m. in Maier Hall at Peninsula College, 1502 E. Lauridsen Blvd. Producer-director Mike Kaplan will host a post-film question-and-answer session. Admission is $5 for the public and free for students with identification.
■ Monday: A galaxy of Northwest poets will gather to read from Carver’s All of Us: The Collected Poems, at the Port Angeles Library, 2210 S. Peabody St. Admission is free to the 7 p.m. event featuring Tess Gallagher, Alice Derry, Kate Reavey, Charlotte Warren and others.
■ Tuesday: Alfredo Arreguín and Susan Lytle, internationally known artists and friends of Carver and Gallagher, host an illustrated talk in Peninsula College’s Little Theater. The painters, along with Gallagher, will discuss the Raymond Carver Festival art show currently at the PUB Gallery right outside the Little Theater. Admission is free to the 3 p.m. program.
■ Saturday, May 25: On the day that would have been Carver’s 75th birthday, Gallagher and other poets will host “A Rouse for Ray,” a traveling reading to Port Angeles sites inspirational to Carver poems. The reading will run from 11 a.m. till 3 p.m. and conclude at Carver’s Ocean View Cemetery grave site.
Tonight brings a showing of “Short Cuts,” the Robert Altman movie inspired by nine Carver stories, at Maier Hall at Peninsula College.
There’s the gathering of Pacific Northwest poets to read from All of Us, the last Carver poetry collection, in the Raymond Carver Room at the Port Angeles Library on Monday night.
And then there’s his leather jacket.
Carver’s iconic coat, loaned by his widow Tess Gallagher, will watch over two events this weekend in Maier Hall. Four Carver stories, from early to late in his career, will arrive on stage in a pair of Raymond Carver Readers Theater performances: at 7 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday.
As with most Carver Festival events, admission is free at Maier Hall, which is on the college’s main campus at 1502 E. Lauridsen Blvd.
Journalist and thespian Jim Guthrie is directing “Fat,” “Distance,” “One More Thing” and “Elephant,” for these events midway through the Carver Festival. Guthrie, who has lived in Port Angeles since 1979, might have crossed paths with Carver. The internationally renowned writer lived with Gallagher in Port Angeles for the last 10 years of his life; he died, at age 50, in August 1988.
Guthrie admired Carver. The knife-blade humor and precision were inspirational.
But the two men never met.
He jokes that he was “too shy,” and that he coveted that leather jacket.
“The jacket will be there” this weekend, Guthrie said. So will Carver’s singular voice.
Guthrie — retired from the PDN and editor emeritus of the newspaper’s entertainment and arts weekly, Peninsula Spotlight — and Gallagher have been friends for years. And Gallagher, a poet, writer, professor and Port Angeles native, has been the caretaker of Carver’s legacy, publishing his short stories and poetry in A New Path to the Waterfall; Beginners: Collected Stories; and All of Us: The Collected Poems.
Guthrie wanted to present a cross-section of short stories, a quartet that would show Carver’s dialogue in all its tragic comedy. He chose “Fat,” a story about a waitress, her customer, her boyfriend and an epiphany, and “Distance,” which was Carver’s original title for a story that appeared in his collection What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.
Guthrie is using Carver’s original version of “Distance,” as well as the one edited by Gordon Lish, titled “Everything Sticks to Him.” The stories have different endings, and Guthrie will have his actors perform both versions, so the audience can discuss their preferences during intermission.
The final story, Guthrie believes, is Carver at his best. In “Elephant,” a man struggles to cope as his brother, mother, son, daughter and former wife are all demanding money from him.
“It builds and builds,” said Guthrie, toward a classic Carver moment of clarity.
The Readers Theater ensemble is made up of hip-hop artist and actor Leif Ellis, Peninsula College professor Janet Lucas, Carver fan and retired journalist John Marrs, actor-director-musician John Manno, actress Sherie Maddox and Peninsula College Student Body President Emma Sackett.
“They’re an amazing group of actors. We’re lucky to have them,” Guthrie said.
The production’s soundtrack will mix modern jazz with some Tom Waits, the growler-songwriter who also appears in “Short Cuts.”
“If you’ve never read any of Carver’s stories, this is a great introduction,” said Guthrie, adding that Maier Hall’s acoustics make every performance aurally delectable.
Humor runs like electrical current through these short tales, the director said.
“When you hear them like this, they come alive.”