Standup comedian and actress Cameron Esposito can play a live set light or devastating, depending on what the evening demands. You recently saw her as the wisecracking helicopter pilot in Army of the Dead, but she also produced and starred in the 2016 Seeso show Take My Wife, Please with her then-wife, comedian Rhea Butcher. Esposito doesn’t consider any subject matter off-limits so it’s hard to say what you can expect, but with a style that is part perfectly timed, incisive social commentary and part wry role model, you can rest assured you’re in good hands. Mississippi Studios, 3939 N Mississippi Ave., 503-288-3895, mississippistudios.com. 8 pm Wednesday, Sept. 15. $35.
Mid-Autumn Festival at Lan Su Chinese Garden
Second only to the Lunar New Year, the Mid-Autumn Festival is considered one of the most important Chinese holidays. The Lan Su Chinese Garden marks the occasion with three nights of paper lantern viewing along with illuminated performances by the Portland Lee’s Association Dragon & Lion Dance Team. Daytime activities are also scheduled, including lantern making and a mobile scavenger hunt. And perhaps the best part about the whole event is that it’s a COVID-safe way to get out of the house. Masks required. Lan Su Chinese Garden, 239 NW Everett St., 503-228-8131, lansugarden.org. Friday-Sunday, Sept. 17-19. $12.95-$45.
Sean Brown, an off-Broadway playwright who also co-ran the beloved food cart No Fish! Go Fish! before it closed in 2013, has spent the past decade busily compiling a sharply disparate and defiantly underground filmography. Despite negligible budgets and minimal crew, the indie auteur won awards at festivals across the globe for a succession of uncompromising and achingly raw cinematic fever dreams. His latest, Christmas Freak, is a gently whimsical fable about a 43-year-old boy who loves too well the most wonderful time of the year. The feature doesn’t shy away from the paternal abandonment and emotional trauma fueling the Yuletide fixation that has kept our titular elf-on-the-spectrum Rudy’s chestnuts unroasted despite the best attempts of adoring co-worker Clarice. Hardly a fit for the Hallmark Channel, in other words, but it is a candy-colored, effervescent romp. McMenamins Kennedy School, 5736 NE 33rd Ave., 503-249-3983, mcmenamins.com. 7 pm Friday, Sept. 17. $3-$5.
While Artists Repertory Theatre is still in “tour” mode—it started the process of demolishing and renovating its building on Southwest Morrison in 2019—we all benefit from ART’s different stages of collaborative molting, as it works with various local performance organizations. For instance, this turn at the Old Moody Building with live storytellers BackFence PDX seems like a really power-packed pair of evenings. Headlined by two local personality giants, Eden Dawn and Shelley McLendon, the Campfire Stories format promises campout-appropriate exaggerations of true tales, ripped from the fascinating lives of names like comedian Katie Nguyen, intuitive healer Monica Choy, and many others. Old Moody Building, 3121 S Moody Ave., artistsrep.org. 7:30 and 10 pm Friday-Saturday, Sept. 17-18. $20-$50.
SomeBODY once told me the ultimate fairy-tale satire is screening this weekend! This critical and box office hit that every animation studio has unsuccessfully tried to copy for the past two decades follows a reclusive ogre and his talkative donkey sidekick as they embark on a mission to rescue a princess. OMSI Open-Air Cinema, 1945 SE Water Ave., 503-797-4000, nwfilm.org/film-series/cinema-unbound-summer-movies-open-air-experiences. 8 pm Saturday, Sept. 18. $20-$30.
Kevin Gates has had quite a trajectory. We’ve seen him work tirelessly, releasing mixtape after mixtape, and we’ve seen him incarcerated for weapon possession and assault. We’ve also seen him earn a master’s in psychology while imprisoned. Now rocketing past the modern kings of rap introspection, the Baton Rouge MC still whips out that addictive, booming bass flow on his February 2021 mixtape. Only the Generals, Part II, and drops musings like “relationships get torn/in case you’ve been misinformed/once upon a time, my self-esteem wasn’t on.” Gates’ rhymes were always a cut above, but now we stan the work of a man who truly seems to be searching for himself. Roseland Theater, 8 NW 6th Ave., 971-230-0033, roselandpdx.com. 8 pm Tuesday, Sept. 21. $40. All ages.
Beloved author, satirical memoirist and regular guest on This American Life—the perpetually publishing, indefatigably touring David Sedaris holds court once more, reading from his 2020 best-of collection, The Best of Me. There’s something earnest, unique and patiently checked in about Sedaris’ live readings. And if you can stomach the wait, he’s known for writing charming quips in the books he signs. Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, 1037 SW Broadway, 503-248-4335, portland5.com. 7:30 pm Friday, Sept. 17. $32.50-$57.50.