A cryptic press release was sent out in early December for Down Low: The Musical, a performance of an unnamed musical with proceeds benefiting something called the "Arabella Collective." It read:

"Should intellectual property belong to the artist or to the distributor? The author and composer of this tiny musical would love to see this show up in lights all over the country... but the wily corporate mega-giant that owns the rights feels differently. So we can't tell you the name of this show. We can however tell you that it's full of vampires. And it's a musical. And it's a little bit gay.  We can tell you that a small group of local artists are laughing in the face of the corporate mega-giant, and well, if it means anything to you, '...you can sing along.'"

It didn't take much guessing, or much Googling, to establish that the show in question is "Once More with Feeling," the musical episode of Joss Whedon's Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The popular episode was shown as a singalong at theaters around the country (including locally at Cinema 21) until Fox rescinded the rights for the episode in 2007, barring future showings.

It's not as simple as "Fox equals evil," however. As Whedon superfan (and Can't Stop the Serenity founder) the One True b!X pointed out on the collective's Facebook page, "This isn't 'the wily corporate mega-giant' crushing creativity. A union filed a complaint against said mega-giant because the actors were not receiving residuals from public screenings of something not designed for public screenings."

So much for artistic freedom fighting.... But for what it's worth, the Arabella Collective is not actually screening the episode—their singalong is an entirely live production that features performances from folkster Malcolm Rollick and singer Beth Willis (who earlier this year played Tonya Harding in the rock opera Tonya and Nancy). The show is a fundraiser for the Arabella Performance Art show, scheduled at Holocene at the end of January. (Fez Ballroom, 316 SW 11th, Sun Jan 11, 7:30 pm, $10-20 sliding scale.)

The current recession is taking its toll on local businesses, and bookstores are no exception. The Associated Press reported Thursday, December 11, that Powell's has asked its employees to voluntarily cut back on hours or take unpaid sabbaticals, due to December revenues that were lower than projected. Meanwhile, In Other Words bookstore—the sole surviving nonprofit feminist bookstore in the country—has also seen revenues drop, and the situation is dire: In order to continue operations in the new year, they need to raise $11,000 by yearend, plus an additional $10,000 by March to pay off an expiring line of credit. As of Monday, December 15, they'd raised $8,100—you can donate at inotherwords.org, attend their dance party/fundraiser at Zaytoon's on Sunday, December 21 (2236 NE Alberta, 7-11 pm), and support either business with your Christmas shopping dollars.

And finally, the arts community lost two of its own this week. Portland Art Museum photography curator Terry Toedtemeier passed away in Hood River on Wednesday, December 10, at a reading for his recent book Wild Beauty, a collection of photographs of the Columbia River Gorge. Portland Center Stage electrician and spotlight operator Josh Westhaver died on December 11 from a major asthma attack that led to cardiac arrest.

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