Faces To Watch In '91 -- A Look At Up-And-Comers Who Will Be Helping To Shape The Arts This Year



Susan Silver is the most powerful figure in local rock management. She handles the careers of Seattle's hottest young bands, including Soundgarden, the Screaming Trees and Alice in Chains - all of which have contracts with major labels and albums coming out in 1991.

Silver started in the music business here in the early 1980s as one of the managers of the Metropolis, a club that featured the latest hip rock bands. When the club closed, she continued working with some of the bands that played there, including the U-Men and First Thought, helping them get work and negotiate record contracts. Her management firm grew out of those activities.

Silver moved into the big time when she started working with Soundgarden, the neo-psychedelic grunge band whose first release on A&M Records, ``Louder Than Love,'' was one of the most successful debut albums of 1989. The album was followed by worldwide touring and great reviews for the talented, powerful group. Soundgarden starts recording its next album in February in San Francisco, and it's due in the stores next fall.

Silver not only learned a lot about the music business working with Soundgarden - she says that dealing with high-powered music-business lawyers in negotiating contracts with record labels was the most interesting - but also developed a romance with the band's

sex-symbol lead singer, Chris Cornell. They were married in September.

Silver is currently working on the promotion of the Screaming Trees album on Epic Records, ``Uncle Anesthesia,'' which will be released Jan. 29. A single from the LP, ``Bed of Roses,'' will come out Jan. 15. The Trees' lead singer, Mark Lanegan, will release his second solo album in the fall.

Alice in Chains, whose album for Columbia Records is called ``Facelift,'' starts a European tour next month.

Silver's other clients include First Thought, Kristen Barry and record producer Terry Date. She says she's not interested on taking on others.

``Not right now,'' she said. ``We're too busy with the ones we have.''

- Patrick MacDonald



John Cusack started out as just another teen actor, one of the nerdy frogs in ``Sixteen Candles'' that Molly Ringwald didn't want to kiss. He had his first romantic lead in director Rob Reiner's least-celebrated film, ``The Sure Thing,'' and he's made some clinkers (``Tapeheads,'' ``One Crazy Summer'') that might have flattened a lesser actor.

But there was something both tough and tender about the relationship he developed with a vagabond child of the Depression in Disney's ``The Journey of Natty Gann,'' and he had the most affecting scenes in last year's dismal historical drama, ``Fat Man and Little Boy.''

In Stephen Frears' film of Jim Thompson's ``The Grifters,'' which opens here later this month, he finally gets his first adult role - a con man involved in a romantic triangle that includes a manipulative golddigger (Annette Bening) and his own estranged, gun-toting mother (Anjelica Huston).

Cusack is a revelation. He makes this potentially sleazy character seem both innocent and hardened, and he holds his own with Huston.

Talent seems to run in the family. His sister, Joan, received an Oscar nomination for ``Working Girl,'' and they played brother and sister in ``Say Anything . . .''

- John Hartl



Mayumi Tsutakawa will be a major force in shaping the cultural life of the region, as a leader in keeping county hotel-motel tax money for the arts. It will amount to about $400,000 in 1991. Sports and tourism interests have been angling for a cut of that money, which the 1986 Legislature earmarked for the arts.

Tsutakawa is manager of the King County Cultural Resources Division, heading both the King County Arts Commission and its Landmarks Commission - a job for which she beat 150 contenders in a national search.

Her combination of arts and administrative skills make her uncommonly well-suited for the tasks at hand. She holds a master-of-arts degree in communication from the University of Washington, and worked as deputy manager of the KCAC for four years before being named division manager. Tsutakawa, daughter of internationally recognized sculptor George Tsutakawa, has edited three literary anthologies devoted to the art and writings of Asian-Americans and women of color.

- Deloris Tarzan Ament



Awhile ago it was Polish composer and conductor Kzrysztof Penderecki. This coming spring it is Soviet composer Sofia Gubaidulina whom Robert Priest will lure to Seattle as a focus of the Marzena Spring Festival of new works, an annual fixture on this city's new-music scene.

Composer and producer Priest, 39, operates his performance organization Marzena on the proverbial shoestring, while organizing concert activity that brings together major organizations, universities and groups of all kinds in the presentation of premieres and contemporary pieces. A key element in the coming year's festival will be the performance of a new John Corigliano work by the Seattle Men's Chorus, along with the visit of Gubaidulina - almost unknown in this region, but a revered figure among international connoisseurs of new music.

Priest, it's not surprising, is an impassioned advocate of the new and the visionary. He knows how to assemble a provocative mix of interests; some of his pre-concert discussions have roused fierce arguments and erupted into shouting matches.

He's a respectful but tough questioner; things got very quiet at the pre-concert discussion in which Penderecki revealed what it is really like to live in Poland today.

You may hear a few, but not many, Priest works on the Marzena programs. He didn't start Marzena to advertise his own music: Priest is that rarity, a genuine defender of what's new - and a genuine advocate for others.

- Melinda Bargreen



You won't see her on the conductor's podium, or behind a violin, or warbling beneath a winged helmet.

But for many of this region's arts lovers, Virginia Anderson is high on the Very Important Person list, and she's expected to be one of the key figures in the coming year.

As Seattle Center director, Anderson, 42, is the guiding force of the Seattle Center redevelopment project, which most arts watchers are hoping will come before King County voters on a May ballot. Aside from updating the Center and providing better spaces for resident as well as tourist uses, the project calls for the building of a new concert hall on a Mercer Street site donated by the Kreielsheimer Foundation.

Eagerly desired not only by the Seattle Symphony, its primary user, but also by the Seattle Opera and Pacific Northwest Ballet - who are also jockeying for space in the overbooked Opera House - the new concert hall promises to be a key issue of 1991 for the performing arts.

Anderson has been kept busy, not only by organizing a task force assessing the need for a new hall, but also by the lengthy process of explaining the issue to key people, such as members of the King County Council. Anderson also is among those who must satisfy Kreielsheimer Foundation co-trustee Charles Osborn that reasonable progress is being made on the issue, negotiating to extend the deadline by which the city must commit to the facility or let the property revert to the foundation's control.

Charming, direct and utterly determined, Anderson keeps a schedule that starts very early in the a.m. and ends very late in the p.m., often at a community meeting or an arts-commission hearing. She's known for fairness, fearlessness and hard work.

The coming year will be Anderson's testing ground, the proof of her efficacy in proving to the movers and shakers of this region that the Center, and the Northwest's arts groups, deserve voter support.

- Melinda Bargreen



Abel Ferrara's career is at a crossroads. The 39-year-old director is the darling of some critics, he's been taking his work to film festivals lately, and he's been working with an Oscar-winning actor for the first time.

His latest picture, ``The King of New York,'' starring Christopher Walken as a drug lord who returns from prison to attack the hoods who have taken over his cocaine trade, was selected to be shown at last fall's Telluride and New York festivals. It opens Jan. 13 at the Neptune.

Yet many still regard him as an exploitation filmmaker. In the words of Ferrara, the New York festival audience was so offended by the violence that they ``left in droves.'' He made his mark nearly a decade ago with a feminist vigilante thriller, ``Ms. 45,'' and his most persistent critics don't see that he's changed.

In fact, neither do his fans. They admire ``Ms. 45,'' as well as such mid-1980s Ferrara movies as ``China Girl'' and ``Fear City,'' as modern equivalents of those stylish film-noir thrillers that were ignored by high-brow critics in the 1940s and rediscovered decades later.

He's at a crossroads because his work is apparently too gruesome for the art-house crowd, and too ambitious for the fans of standard action movies (his 1988 film, ``Cat Chaser,'' has never been released). But few critics would deny that he has talent and a consistent point of view.

In a recent Los Angeles Times interview, Ferrara explained his philosophy: ``The world isn't some (expletive) Disneyland where everything turns out great all the time. It's a bad place where all sorts of bad stuff happens. That's the reality, and if you want to make great movies, that's what you've got to capture.''

- John Hartl