Artfully Edmonds: Watch Tibetan monks at work, plus theater, art, music and more to enjoy



It was a privilege to be present for what was a fascinating opening ceremony conducted by the monks of Drepung Loseling Monastery in the lobby of the Edmonds Center for Arts on a spectacular Tuesday afternoon.

Eight of the monks, dressed in ceremonial garb, with two large brass horns and several percussion instruments unique to their culture, began with a deep, sonorous, monochromatic chant intended to welcome the forces of goodness, invite the deity, seek permission of local authorities and of the space itself — along with any unseen spirits. Their chants also sought to remove any hindrances to the creation of the sacred mandala.

Monks train for years to perform these recitations, memorizing hundreds of pages of text in the course of their training. Over the next several days, the monks will create a stunning, external sand mandala (literally — center or circle). It’s an intricate geometric pattern which, in this case, is part of the process of invoking Aksobhya – one of the five wisdom Buddhas. Akshobhy (pronounced (ak- show’-bee-a) is associated with conflict resolution and with an indestructible, unshakable energy. Five is an important number in Tibetan Buddhism so, in creating the mandala, the monks will use sand in five vivid colors. They will painstakingly lay down grains of sand over the next several days in a process that can be viewed by the public.

In addition to the Mandala creation, their five-day program will include the main event: a Friday evening performance of their sacred dance and music, a free pre-show lecture, and a gathering at the completion of their visit where the mandala will be swept up and distributed to those who would like a little of the sand used. The remainder will be released into a nearby stream after a procession led by the monks and open to the public.

The creation and dissolution of this dazzling work of art is intended to mirror the ephemeral nature of life itself.

Visitors are encouraged to drop in and follow their progress. The ECA lobby will be open Wednesday and Thursday from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Friday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. for just that purpose.

I spoke briefly to Geshe Tenzin Phentsok, the monk who guided us through the ceremony Tuesday. “The Mystical Arts of Tibet” has been on tour now since early February, stopping primarily at colleges and universities, but also at churches, high schools and museums.

He indicated that the monks were touring with a threefold purpose.

First, to promote world peace and harmony, love, wisdom and loving kindness.

Second, to rebuild a priesthood that has been decimated. Before the Chinese invasion, Tibet had in the neighborhood of 10,000 monks; invasion and armed conflict reduced that number to 200 by the early 1960s. Today, there are about 3,500 monks, virtually all of whom live in exile.

The third purpose is to raise awareness of their plight to the international community. The Chinese military continues to oppress Buddhism in Tibet and shows no sign of accepting the Dali Lama’s suggestion that a middle ground might be reached. It has been suggested that China could maintain political control without resorting to what amounts at the very least to cultural extermination, if not actual genocide. China’s immigration policy is drowning Tibet’s comparatively small indigenous population (6 million) with hundreds of thousands of Chinese immigrants.

In Lhasa, the traditional capital of Tibet, the Chinese outnumber actual Tibetans by a ratio of two to one. Phentsok indicated that when he is in conversation with Chinese students studying in the U.S., they are invariably completely unaware of this policy. Since it is fruitless and even dangerous to advocate change in Tibet (Phentsok can’t even text his friends and relatives in Tibet without putting them in danger), reaching out to the international community through cultural exchange seems to be the best course of action.

For a complete listing of events for the The Mystical Arts of Tibet and tickets for Friday’s performance, visit:

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Northwest Junior Pipe Band

Saturday May 12
7 p.m.

A Celtic Celebration! – The Northwest Junior Pipe Band

Edmonds Center for the Arts
410 4th Ave. N.

Come support the Northwest Pipe Band featuring champion pipers, drummers, fiddlers and dancers. Proceeds will help fund their upcoming trip to Scotland 2020. Learn more here.

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Felix Mendelssohn

Saturday, May 12
7 p.m.

The Northwest Chorale Presents:
Mendelssohn’s Elijah

Directed by Lynn Hall

Edmonds United Methodist Church
828 Caspers St.

Elijah is modeled on the oratorios of the Baroque masters Bach and Handel. In fact, Felix Mendelssohn’s deep and abiding appreciation did much to keep Bach’s work from fading into obscurity. But in its lyricism and use of orchestral and choral color, Elijah clearly reflects Mendelssohn’s own genius as an early Romantic composer.

A free-will offering will be taken to benefit Northwest Harvest. More at

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Rufus Wainwright

Wednesday, May 16
7:30 p.m.

ECA Special Engagement:
Rufus Wainwright

I think Rufus Wainwright has one of the most spectacular voices is the business, but you don’t have to take my word for it.

Rolling Stone magazine named Wainwright (not to be confused with father Loudon or sister Martha) Best New Artist back in 1998, and recognized his self-titled debut album as one of the best of the year. He’s released seven albums since then and will be gracing the stage in Edmonds this May. Frankly, I’m very surprised to see tickets still available for this one. Don’t miss it! The word is that his sister, Lucy, will be opening for him. Tickets here.

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Now – May 12

Thursday – Saturday 8 p.m.
Sunday 2 p.m.

Edmonds Driftwood Players Present:

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels – The Musical

Music & Lyrics by David Yazbek
Book by Jeffrey Lane
Directed by Dan Posluns

Wade Jame Theatre
950 Main St.

See my review here.

Lawrence makes his lavish living by talking rich ladies out of their money. Freddy more humbly swindles women by fabricating stories about his grandfather mother‘s failing health. After meeting, they attempt to work together, only to find that this small French town isn’t big enough for the two of them. Hilarity ensues that will keep audiences laughing, and humming to the end.

Dinner and A Show!

Girardi’s in Edmonds is teaming up with Driftwood during the run of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels to offer a special three-course meal to accompany your theatre experience.

Tickets and info here.

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Saturday, May 19
9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Edmonds Jazz Connection

Big Bands — Edmonds Center for the Arts
410 4th Ave N

Chorales – North Sound Center
404 Bell St.

Combos – Edmonds Theater
415 Main St.

Love jazz? The Edmonds Jazz Connection is a local music festival, including a full day of performances from nationally recognized and award-winning High School and Middle School jazz programs from throughout the Pacific Northwest. It highlights numerous student groups that have performed in prestigious competitions nationwide. Jazz Connection is an encore for these accomplished students who perform for the community, and showcase their improvisational talents while playing side-by-side with professional musicians.

Jazz Connection is also a pivotal fundraiser that directly supports school music programs and students.

For more info:

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Now – May 12
Performances – 7 p.m.

The Edmonds Heights K-12 Advanced Musical Theatre Presents:

The Mystery of Edwin Drood

Woodway Campus
23200 100th Ave W.

There’s was just one small problem with this murder mystery; the author died before it was completed! As a result, readers have never known the fate that Charles Dickens intended for his beloved title character… until now! Edmonds Heights Performing Arts Advanced Musical Theatre is thrilled to present Rupert Holmes’ solve-it-yourself musical comedy where the murderer is selected at the end of the night by audience vote. Learn more here.

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Thursday, May 17
5 – 8 p.m.

Edmonds Bookshop Author Event:

This Is The Place: Women Writing About Home

111 5th Ave. S.

The Edmonds Bookshop will welcome Kirsten Lunstrum and Elisabeth Eaves during Art Walk this month. They will share their stories and insights on this thought-provoking collection of personal essays about home.

Described as a “breathtaking, thought-provoking collection, 30 women writers explore the theme in personal essays about neighbors, marriage, kids, sentimental objects, homelessness, domestic violence, solitude, immigration, gentrification, geography, and so much more.” More at

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Artist Danny Pierce – Tom Codding – 1963

Now through – Sunday, July 1

Modern Alaska: Art of the Midnight Sun, 1930–1970

Cascadia Art Museum
190 Sunset Ave. #E

Cascadia Art Museum will present works of art created by mid-century Northwest artists related to their travels to Alaska. Photographer Verna Haffer, painter and printmaker Danny Pierce, Stephen Fuller, and native Alaskan artists Bernard Katexac and Joseph Senungetuk are featured. More at

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May 11 – 19
7:30 p.m.

Shoreline Community College Musical Theater Department Presents:

Stephen Sondheim’s

Dr. Charles Enlow – Producer and Musical Director

Shoreline Community College Theater
16101 Greenwood Ave N
Building #1600

Click for map link.

Stephen Sondheim is perhaps our nation’s most renowned composer of musical theater. Company won of seven Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Best Score, Best Lyrics and Best Book, Company is regarded as a trailblazer of the dark-comedy, modern-musical genre.

It’s a story that follows the journey of the 35-year-old protagonist through various personal relationships encountered while traversing the contemporary dating scene. Fear of commitment, isolation, loneliness, and the process of life are signature topics of this piece.

For tickets:

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Friday, May 25
5:30 p.m.

SIFF Opening Night Benefit Party

Shoreline Community College Theater
16101 Greenwood Ave N
Building #1600

Click for map link.

Join the folks with the northern most Seattle International Film Festival’s venue for an evening of wine tasting, hors d’oeuvres, a meet and greet, and the screening of this year’s opening night film.

Proceeds benefit the Performing Arts and Digital Filmmaking Scholarship awarded to students each year by the Shoreline Community College Foundation.


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Now through May

Oso Anniversary Exhibit

Faith Community Church
10220 238th St. S.W.

Former Edmonds mayor and photographer Gary Haakenson was the county official assigned to oversee the rescue and recovery of the catastrophic Oso landslide of March 2014. Haakenson captured the devastation and damage of the event that resulted in the loss of 43 lives. An estimated 270 million cubic feet of mud descended on the community.

The photographic display will be available for public viewing through May on Sunday mornings, and Monday through Thursday by appointment.

For more information, call 206-542-8883.

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By James Spangler

When not actively scheming about ways to promote the arts in Edmonds, James Spangler can be found (highly caffeinated) behind the counter of his bookstore on 4th Avenue.

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