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Weekend!Life

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by: ©2006 DEVIN SULLIVAN, <em>Step out of the ring</em> - The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus rolls into town with the requisite trapeze artists and animal acts (left) in tow. Let’s hope they feed the cat first.

Some may say, 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it.' But the directors and choreographers of Ringling Bros. decided to be proactive, and, after 136 years in business, rework the 'greatest show on earth.' Perhaps their motivation is competition from Cirque du Soleil, or the increasing sophistication and expectations of American kids.

Most shocking of all is the dissolution of the iconic three rings. Instead there's a single 130-by-80-foot center stage, with a 24-foot LED video screen bringing the action even closer.

Rather than relying on a traditional ringmaster, this production finds 'American Idol' finalist Jennifer Fuentes guiding the audience through a story in which a typical American family - Mom, Dad and kids Dan and Jan - live out their dream of being circus performers.

Familiar aspects remain: trapeze, clowns and daring motorcycle tricks. Herkules, the 'strongest man in the world,' can not only lift 465 pounds, he doesn't mind being run over by a 2-ton Jeep Wrangler.

A pair of Asian elephants (the circus runs an Asian elephant refuge in Florida) and two zedonks (crosses between a donkey and zebra) join about 70 other domestic and exotic animals.

- Brooke Myers

7:30 p.m. Friday; 11:30 a.m.,

3:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday;

1 p.m. and 5 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 15-17, Rose Garden, 1 Center Court, 503-235-8771, $16-$20 regular admission, $35 VIP, $60 front row, $80 'celebrity' seats; tickets can be purchased at participating Safeway outlets, the Rose Quarter Box Office, at www.rosequarter.com or by calling 877-789-7673, groups of 10 or more call

503-963-4400

FRIDAY

Jerry Quickley

One of the more, um, fun aspects of the war in Iraq has been the number of podders, bloggers and plodders bringing back amateur accounts of what it's like in a war zone.

'Live From the Front' has a guerrilla edge to it, as journalist Jerry Quickley dodges government minders and talks to Iraqis. Quickley is a producer for Pacifica Radio with the added cred of being a bit of a hip-hop guy (he's billed as 'The B-Boy in Baghdad') and is quite handy in front a theater crowd.

This is a Time-Based Art Festival offering.

- Joseph Gallivan

7 p.m. Friday-Sunday, Sept. 15-17, Northwest Neighborhood Cultural Center, 1819 N.W. Everett St., 503-224-7422, $20

'Ragtime: The Musical'

The E.L. Doctorow novel, adapted by Terrence McNally, places three fictional families amid real-life events in turn-of-the-20th-century America. The play makes its Oregon premiere under the direction of Greg Tamblyn.

- Eric Bartels

8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 7 p.m. Sunday, 8 p.m. Thursday, also 2 p.m. Sept. 24 and Oct. 15, 22 and 29, through Oct. 29, Lakewood Center for the Arts, 368 S. State St., Lake Oswego, 503-635-3901, $26-$28

SATURDAY

Deborah Hay

Deborah Hay was a founding member of the Judson Dance Theater (ask a grown-up, it was the '60s), known for its radical collaborations with visual artists.

She then developed her own style of minimalist dance, and prefers to work with soloists. A Time-Based Art Festival favorite, she collaborates with three contemporary Northwest choreographers in 'Mountain,' rooted in her long relationship with the Cascades, and with Vermont, the state for which she exchanged Greenwich Village.

Guess what? Another Buddhist!

- JG

6 p.m. Friday-Sunday, Sept. 15-17,

Portland State University, Lincoln Hall, 1620 S.W. Park Ave, 503-224-7422, $25

SUNDAY

Stan's Cafe

The Brummies are here! Stan's Cafe, an interesting theater group from Birmingham, England (and there aren't many of them), continues its performance installation 'Of All the People in the World.'

Several pieces of white paper are spread around the gallery floor, each with a different-size pile of dry rice. Actors from Stan's Cafe (pronounced 'caff') will make note of statistics presented by the audience, weigh out the requisite quantity, and represent one American per grain of rice.

Come armed. Stan's Cafe founder James Yarker says people get really attached to the idea of the one grain per person thing, getting quite alarmed when one strays from the pile or gets kicked around the room. This Time-Based Art performance is worth a look.

- JG

Noon to 6 p.m. Friday-Sunday Sept. 15-17, Pacific Northwest College of Art, 1241 N.W. Johnson St., 503-224-7422, free

The Cheetah Girls

The poptastic Disney trio that was drawn from a soundtrack to a Disney TV movie that was based on a a book (got that?) comes to Portland at the start of its tour supporting its CD, 'The Cheetah Girls.' Its heroes are the Spice Girls, TLC and Destiny's Child, and the message is girl empowerment, love the body you were given, etc.

Cutely, they each claim to be '17 in Cheetah years,' while their fans range from about 6 to 15,

according to singer Sabrina Bryan. (She's the blonde with her own dance workout DVD, 'Byou.') 'One of the best things is when a Cheetah mom comes up and tells us how happy they are that we're being a positive role model for their daughter,' says Bryan, from Orange County, California.

It's tinny R and B with a heavy corporate hand, but hey, kids won't know the difference.

- JG

4 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 17, Memorial Coliseum,

1 Center Court, 503-235-8771, $28.50-$38.50