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Poet ‘Mighty’ Mike McGee returns to the Green Frog April 7

Janet Oakley reads from her recently published novel, “The Jøssing Affair,” at 7 p.m. April 9 at Village Books.
Janet Oakley reads from her recently published novel, “The Jøssing Affair,” at 7 p.m. April 9 at Village Books. The Bellingham Herald

Poet “Mighty” Mike McGee moved to Bellingham in January 5, 2013 to be closer to his poet-friend and mentor Jack McCarthy, who was ill; McCarthy died later that month.

McGee, who makes his living as a poet, had visited Bellingham a few dozen times, spending a good chunk of time getting to know Bellingham well before he moved here. He thinks his first poetry performance here was at Poetry Night at Fantasia in the summer of 2006.

He’ll return to Bellingham for a performance of his poetry at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 7, at The Green Frog, 1015 N. State St. Tickets are $10.

McGee has performed along the West coast with San José, Portland, Bellingham and Vancouver, B.C. being his most frequent stops.

In June 2014 McGee moved back to his hometown, San José to help foster the storytelling and poetry scene there, where he did a lot of theater and stage work as a kid.

“In 1998,” he says, “I began performing stand-up comedy and performance poetry. I entered many local poetry slam competitions in the San Francisco Bay Area and sort of smashed my passions together into ‘stand-up’ poetry.”

He’s performed at many universities and colleges, as well as open mics. Spoken word is on the rise in Europe, he says, and he’s toured a number of countries there several times.

In 2003, he won the coveted National Poetry Slam Individual Grand Championship, and he’s been touring ever since. He subsequently won Poetry Slam, Inc.’s Individual World Poetry Slam Grand Championship in 2006.

“This upcoming show on April 7 is something I want to become a seasonal event. It’s an excuse to come up and hang out every three months or so,” McGee says.

McGee is also one of the featured performers at Every Frame Tells A Story, a Film is Truth Fundraiser at 8:30 p.m. Friday, April 8, at Honey Moon Mead, 1053 N. State St.

Details: MikeMcGee.net and MightyMikeMcGee.com.

Janet Oakley’s novel 25 years in the making

Bellingham historian and author Janet Oakley’s latest book is “The Jøssing Affair,” which she says, came about nearly 25 years ago after she had a dream about a man being left in the snow.

“It was an old idea of an agent with the Allies pretending to be something else,” she says. But a declassified book for spies bound for Norway that Oakley found at Western Washington University’s Wilson Library that brought the novel to life.

Set in the last year of World War II, British-trained Norwegian intelligence agent Tore Haugland is a jøssing — a patriot — sent to a fishing village on Norway’s west coast to set up a line to receive weapons and agents from England via the “Shetland Bus.” Posing as a deaf fisherman, his mission is complicated when he falls in love with a German widow with secrets of her own.

She shares the book at 7 p.m. Saturday, April 9, at Bellingham’s Village Books. She chose the 9th of April because it is the 76th anniversary of the German invasion of Norway.

The novel was a Pacific Northwest Writers Association finalist 2003 and won a first place for the 2014 Chaucer Historical Fiction at Chanticleer Book Reviews.

Oakley dedicates the book to the people she interviewed; they were all connected to Bellingham’s Norwegian Men’s Choir who were local survivors of the occupation of Norway. All were were Whatcom County except a couple of men from Bergen, she says, as well as one from Skagit County. Most of them have died. She acknowledges Martine Kalhovtd, who explained fishing and fishing boats during the German occupation; Jens Olaussen, who told Oakley about rationing and how the wood-burning funaces worked on their cars; Per Sorum who shared his life in occupied Trondheim; John and Lillian Froyen for their stories of life in Bergen, including the restaurant above the bowling alley used by the Nazis.

Details: historyweaver.wordpress.com

Skagit Opera presents tragic opera, “Norma”

Skagit Opera presents Vincenzo Bellini’s 1831 “Norma,” sung in Italian with projected English surtitles, at 7:30 p.m. April 8 and 15; 3 p.m. April 10 and 17 at Skagit Valley College’s McIntyre Hall in Mount Vernon.

Opening night features a “Druids and Romans” gala dinner at 5:30 p.m., with pasta alla Norma, a famous Roman pasta dish with eggplant and mead-glazed salmon.

“Norma” is about two women, one powerful and the other her devoted acolyte and friend, who discover they are in love with the same man.

The production was designed by general director Mitchell Kahn and is based on the Stonehenge monuments used by the Druids and Celts.

Norma, says Kahn, is one of the most difficult roles in opera, requiring immense range, technical virtuosity and enough stamina to appear in almost every scene, but he says, Skagit Opera favorite Christina Kowalski is up to the task.

“Kowalski was spectacular in a number of Skagit Opera productions, including ‘Tosca,’ ‘Madame Butterfly’and ‘Cosi Fan Tutte,”’ says Kahn.

In the lead tenor role, and making his Skagit Opera debut, is Todd Wilander, who has sung 11 roles at the Metropolitan Opera.

Another Skagit Opera newcomer for “Norma” is stage director Tanya Kane-Parry, the first woman to stage an opera for the company.

Kahn said he wanted a woman to direct Norma because the title character represents the archetypical struggle for women; balancing the roles of mother, lover, friend and high priestess. Kane-Parry has worked on productions at the Los Angeles Opera, Barcelona Opera, Houston Grand Opera, L’Opera National de Bordeaux and Washington National Opera, as both a director and choreographer.

Returning to conduct will be Clinton Smith who led the “Hansel and Gretel” production in November. Smith also has conducted at Santa Fe Opera, Minnesota Opera, Juilliard Center for Opera and is currently the music director of Orchestra Seattle.

A free pre-performance lecture takes place 45 minutes prior to the show.

Details: http://skagitopera.org, mcintyrehall.org, 360-416-7727.

Margaret Bikman: 360-715-2273, mbikman@bhamherald.com, @bhamentertainme

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