Category Archives: Portland theatre

Playwrights West Presents a World Premiere: Claire Willett’s “Dear Galileo”

Dear Galileo thumbnail

On a beautiful August night, come explore the stars with….

Playwrights West—Portland’s professional theatre company composed of nine distinguished local playwrights—in association with CoHo Productions, proudly presents the World Premiere of Dear Galileo, written by Playwrights West’s Claire Willett and directed by Stephanie Mulligan. Dear Galileo opens Saturday, August 8, with a special VIP preview performance on Friday, August 7.

As Claire says, Dear Galileo is “a play about science, religion, fathers and daughters, sex, creationism, and the Vatican Advanced Technology Telescope.”

What’s It All About?

Dear Galileo opens with a young girl asking big questions about the universe as she writes letters in her diary to one of history’s greatest scientists, Galileo Galilei. So begins a dialogue that bridges faith and science, wonder and doubt, and present and past, as three very different women in three different eras grapple with the legacies of their famous fathers:

  • In a small town in Texas, creationist author and TV pundit Robert Snow is at a loss when ten-year-old Haley’s newfound passion for science begins to pull her from the Biblical teachings of her upbringing.
  • In Swift Trail Junction, Arizona, home of the Vatican Observatory’s U.S. outpost, pregnant New York sculptor Cassie Willows arrives to find her estranged father, world-renowned astrophysicist Jasper Willows, is missing.
  • And in Renaissance Italy, Celeste Galilei lives under house arrest with her elderly father Galileo—the disgraced astronomer imprisoned for defying the Pope…and facing down the Inquisition by publishing one last book.

As the three stories weave towards convergence, each family’s destiny becomes inextricably bound with the others, linked across time by love, loss, faith, the search for identity, and the mysteries of the stars.

How Do We Get There?

Dear Galileo opens Saturday, August 8, at CoHo Theatre (2257 NW Raleigh St), and plays Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings at 7:30, and Sunday afternoons at 2:00, through August 29. Friday through Sunday tickets are $25 for adults and $20 for students/educators/seniors. All tickets on “Thrifty Thursdays” are $15, and Thursday performances include post-show talkbacks, featuring some of Portland’s most innovative theatre artists.

When Do We Really Begin?

Playwrights West invites you to join us on Friday, August 7, for Dear Galileo’s VIP Preview Performance/Gala, where a $40 ticket offers a you-are-there seat to Portland theatre history and includes a post-show talkback, a gracious reception, and some terrific company.

Where Do We Find the Answers?

For more information and tickets, go to Playwrights West or contact CoHo Productions Box Office: 503-220-2646).

You Have More Questions? Keep Reading

Who Are We?

Dear Galileo features actors Nathan Dunkin, Kate Mura, Agatha Olson, Walter Petryk, Chris Porter, Gary Powell, and Nena Salazar. The production team includes Sarah Kindler (Scenic & Properties Designer), JD Sandifer (Lighting Designer), Ashton Grace Hull (Costume Designer), Annalise Albright Woods (Sound Designer), and Nicole Gladwin (Stage Manager).

Who Are The Creators?

Claire Willett is a proud member of Playwrights West and a founding artist of the Fertile Ground Festival. She was a finalist for the 2015 Jerome Fellowship at The Playwrights’ Center in Minneapolis and was the 2011 Oregon Literary Fellow for Drama. Her other works include: Carter Hall (in development with Nashville songwriter Sarah Hart, thanks to a grant from the Regional Arts & Culture Council); Upon Waking; How the Light Gets In; That Was the River, This Is the Sea (co-written with Gilberto Martin del Campo); The Witch of the Iron Wood (co-written with local composer Evan Lewis); an original adaptation of W.H. Auden’s 1942 poetic oratorio For the Time Being; and The Demons Down Under the Sea, an adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe’s poem “Annabel Lee,” produced in October 2014 as part of Shaking the Tree’s production of The Masque of the Red Death (a collection of Poe shorts by the writers of Playwrights West).

Ms. Willett her first novel, The Rewind Files—a time-travel, science fiction adventure about Watergate, has just been released by Retrofit Publishing in Los Angeles. Ms. Willett is also a popular, widely read blogger at: It’s Kind of a Long Story. Like Dear Galileo, her blog is the voice of a fiercely intelligent, compassionate, and spiritually attuned writer, unafraid to take on big ideas.

Stephanie Mulligan is a stage director in both the professional and educational arenas. Her favorite recent shows include The Seven Wonders of Ballyknock, Almost Home, The Outgoing Tide, Jesus Saves, The Guys, Little Women: the Broadway Musical, The Music Man, Nickel and Dimed, The Wizard of Oz, Murder Is My Business, Love’s Labor’s Lost, The Laramie Project, and The Comedy of Errors. Stephanie has worked with (and learned from) such notable American directors as James Edmondson, Penny Metropulos, John Dillon, Aaron Posner, and Nancy Keystone. She has participated in international programming, collaborating with India’s Mahesh Dattani and Lillette Dubey, Vietnam’s Do Doan Chau and Dang Tu Mai, and Australia’s Cate Blanchette, Robyn Nevin, and Andrew Upton. Ms. Mulligan’s work with many fine local companies includes Portland Center Stage, Lakewood Theatre, triangle productions!, Coho Productions, Artists Rep, Broadway Rose, and Portland Civic Theatre Guild.

Playwrights West, a professional theatre company founded in 2009 and composed of nine Portland playwrights known for the high quality of their work, focuses on presenting top-level productions of its members’ plays and supports the development of original work in Portland. The nine member playwrights are: Karin Magaldi, Ellen Margolis, Aleks Merilo, Steve Patterson, Andrea Stolowitz, Andrew Wardenaar, Claire Willett, Patrick Wohlmut, and Matthew B. Zrebski. Drawing upon a growing national movement of playwrights taking the reins for productions of their work, Playwrights West introduces Portland audiences to compelling, innovative theatrical experiences, presenting vital new plays by gifted local authors.

Why Are We Here?

  • In 2011, Dear Galileo was a finalist for the Fox Valley Collider Project, a Chicago-area initiative to support original works of theatre about math and science, and was developed with the support of a 2011 Career Opportunity Grant from the Oregon Arts Commission, a 2011 Oregon Literary Fellowship from Literary Arts, and a month-long artists residency at I-Park Artists’ Colony in East Haddam, CT.
  • In 2012, the play was produced as a staged reading in the Fertile Ground Festival by Artists Repertory Theatre, directed by Stephanie Mulligan, where the cast included Chris Porter (who returns in the role of Galileo).
  • In March 2013, Dear Galileo received a staged reading at Pasadena Playhouse in California as part of the Hothouse New Play Development Workshop Series, directed by Literary Manager Courtney Harper, with a cast that featured noted actors Robert Picardo (Star Trek: Voyager) as Jasper Willows and Lawrence Pressman (Doogie Howser M.D., American Pie, Transparent) as Galileo.
  • In Summer 2014, Willamette University in Salem—launching its new on-campus company, Theatre 33, with a summer of readings by Portland playwrights—selected Dear Galileo as their inaugural project.

Has Anything Like This Ever Happened Before?

Dear Galileo marks Playwrights West fourth full production in association with CoHo Productions, a premier supporter of new plays and original work.

Can Any One Person Explain It All?

No. But if you have questions, contact Steve Patterson.

 

 

 

 


Photographica: Late Afternoon and into the Past

Late Afternoon, Modish Building, Portland, Oregon

Late Afternoon, Modish Building, Portland, Oregon

A late winter afternoon–after a stretch of rain, the air still thick. Winter in the Pacific Northwest often limits you to shooting detail, given the long overcast stretches. But, when it clears, it gives you this full, rich light and color more akin to the semi-tropics, plus long shadows. Maybe the moisture content in the air; it somehow bends the light.

Here we have the golden hour plus: the warm light tinged with winter blues. The photo’s seem some post-production work, mostly to render it the way I saw it. Or at least how I remembered it. There’s no telling how far that can stray. Memory’s it’s own kind of filter.

The site–the Modish Building in downtown Portland–holds a special meaning for me. My first play–Controlled Burn–was produced on the fourth floor, in a sort of underground art gallery, with the artists squatting on site…not us, we came in as guests. Very punk, man! Kind of. They did throw some great parties. They also had limited gear available. The sound system was fantastic, and there must have been 50 cues, but our lights consisted of slide projectors and flashlights with colored gels over the lenses (and a silver plastic balloon that served to create a very cool watery effect). We took our set up in a rickety industrial elevator than ran so slow that you could reach out and touch the wall as it passed. We called if the David Lynch Memorial Elevator. We had to bring audiences up to the fourth floor in batches of ten. Luckily, the fire inspector never visited us.

With time, you learn. Back then, I had no idea. I remember Kyle Evans (who helped found Pavement Productions) and I attended PATA auditions when looking for actors. We knew nobody in the theatre community, nobody knew us, but they treated us as equals, and we ended up working with some very cool people like Sherilyn Lawson, Marty Ryan, and Catherine Egan (as a shamanistic dancer).

That’ll be 25 years ago this coming September. First play. Birth of Pavement Productions (I certainly had no idea that would last for 18 years). And my first review–the Oregonian compared me to a young Sam Shepard. They also said the play was kind of a mess–really, it was more performance art–and dubbed it “Uncontrolled Burn.” And thus the pattern: the critic give, and critic taketh away. Still, they couldn’t have made me happier unless they’d compared me to Beckett or Ionesco.

Funny that the piece really was a series of interconnected monologues, and I’m currently playing with a series of interconnected narrative poems–which could be performed as a series of monologues. I don’t know whether that means the circle comes round or I just have a limited number of ideas.

(Shot with a Canon 70D, 18-55mm zoom lens, processed in Adobe Lightroom.)

P.S.: This marks my blog’s 500th post.


The Sweatermakers Weaves a Sly, Subversive Spell

Andrew Wardenaar: Playwright

Andrew Wardenaar: Playwright

The Sweatermakers by playwright Andrew Wardenaar is a strange play. I think Andrew would freely admit that. But it’s strange because of its innovation: it refuses to be a comedy or drama—in a big way—by essentially being both. When it’s funny, it’s wildly funny, really going for it, and when it’s dramatic, it’s as serious as…. Well, that would be giving things away.

The play takes the audience on a ride, and, if one thinks of that as strange, it’s because it honestly does something that we see too little on stage: it takes chances. Big chances. And the script, director, cast, and designers rock it. You can see it in the audience when the lights come up. Their faces wear that bemused, slightly stunned smile that says: that was…a trip. And you know they’re going to be carrying those words and images with them for quite some time. Those words not only entertain: they pose questions about the society we’ve been woven into.

Since 2011, Andrew has been a member of Playwrights West (a Portland theatre company created and operated by playwrights, serving as a collective to the produce its members’ work). Andrew’s play Live, From Douglas was featured in Portland Theatre Works’ 2009 LabWorks workshop. Another of his plays, Spokes, premiered in 2008 as part of a compilation of short works entitled Me, Me, Me and Ewe. His other works include The Next Smith, Anachronous, The Attendant and Good One, God. Mr. Wardenaar is also a director and recently graduated with an MFA at the University of Portland.

Director Matthew B. Zrebski helms the show. He’s a multi-award winning playwright, composer, script consultant, teaching artist, and producer-director whose career has been defined by new play development. He has served as the Artistic Director for Youth Could Know Theatre, Theatre Atlantis, and Stark Raving Theatre—all companies specializing in new work—and, since 1995, has mounted over 40 world premieres. He holds a BFA in Theatre from the Meadows School of the Arts at Southern Methodist University and is a proud member of the Dramatists Guild of America.

The Sweatermakers’ cast includes: Jen Rowe, JR Wickman, Ben Buckley, and Sharon Mann. Designers include: scenic design by Tal Sanders, lighting design by J.D. Sandifer, sound design by Em Gustason, and costume design by Ashton Grace Hull.

Though Andrew’s a thoroughly seasoned theatre professional, with The Sweatermakers, he’s experiencing something playwrights never forget: his first fully staged production. We talked, and here’s what he says about his own journey.

 

SW ADD 1How did the play change from the beginning of the production process to opening night?

I have been working on this play for several years now, and it has seen numerous changes over the course of its development, but when it was just me and my laptop, most of the revisions altered the plot, or planted character seeds. Going into the production process brought several practical issues to the forefront, however. The Sweatermakers had always been a very presentational piece of theatre and aspects of it were thoroughly cinematic. That becomes a problem in a space as intimate as CoHo Theatre. Originally, the play hinged on the ability to hide things, but with audience on three sides, mere feet from the actors, such a thing would have proven impossible.

In lieu of hiding, we featured. The blackouts, a convention introduced to disguise the movement of the actors and the placement of the props, became an essential part of the play’s rhythmic language, and the sudden darkness became an essential part of the audience’s experience. Split scenes, which in earlier drafts were supposed to show what was going in different locations, necessarily bled into one another and began to interact. Everything became more organic, as was the case when the playing of the clarinet was replaced by the human sound of whistling. The play became about the actor in a simple space, which I believe is what makes the medium of theatre so deeply compelling. The embracing of simplicity doesn’t just address pragmatic concerns, it betters the storytelling.

Through the production process/rehearsals, did your ideas or feelings about the play changeSW ADD 5?

Absolutely! One of the most rewarding things about being a writer is getting to hear what others take away from your material. I’ve had tastes of this throughout my career, but usually in the form of questions at readings, or comments from colleagues that have looked at my work. To be exposed to the interpretation of a roomful of thoughtful artists night after night, though, drove home the fact that the ideas we playwrights touch on are just the beginning of the discussion with our collaborators and our audiences. In earlier drafts, I was hyper-focused on what I was trying to say with the piece. In the rehearsal room, and in performance, I am solely interested in what others are hearing.

Was there a point where you felt like: “wow…this is really happening”?

Yup. I’m still there. Mind = perpetually blown.

How did opening night feel?

Opening night is always terrifying for me as a director or designer, but to experience as a playwright, to be the artist that has created the foundation that the show is built upon, raises the anxiety even higher. It was exhilarating and mortifying, a trip that I’m still coming down from. But there sure is a grin on my face.

Did the other artists show you things about the play that you hadn’t seen before?SW ADD 7

I learned more about the play in the past four months, collaborating, than I did over the course of the past four years of writing in solitude. Every design meeting, rehearsal, and performance has been a rich learning experience.

Did the experience change you? If so, how?

Yes. Irrevocably. But I’m honestly not sure how to articulate it. To simply say that it improved my writing skills and producing knowledge is insufficient. There’s been a spiritual shift. One that I have not yet grasped.

 

Portland, Oregon, theatregoers have but three more chances to see the world premiere of The Sweatermakers: it closes Saturday, August 30th. The Sweatermakers plays at CoHo Theatre (2257 NW Raleigh St, Portland, Oregon) at 7:30 PM on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. Friday and Saturday tickets are $25, or $20 for students and seniors. This Thursday’s show (August 28th) are at a special $10 for both online sales and walk-ups, in an effort to make new work accessible to all audiences. Tickets can be purchased through CoHo Productions, at www.cohoproductions.org (503-220-2646). For more information see Playwrights West: http://www.playwrightswest.org/sweatermakers/

 


An Open Letter on Playwrights West’s “The Sweatermakers”

Sweathermakers - BenA number of years ago, I banded together with other professional playwrights in Portland to launch a theatre company: Playwrights West. We operate using a unique model—over a ten-year period, we fully produce a play by each playwright member, one play per year. And we feature some of Portland’s best talent, striving to create plays that rise to the playwright’s expectations—basically, giving that writer a chance to fully realize their vision. (We also do some cool group projects that incorporate all the writers’ work…watch for some stuff coming up Fall 2014.) Staging all world premieres, we present original work that Portlanders will see first and can’t see elsewhere (that is, until other theatre company snap up the plays…because they will).

We’ve produced fine plays by Patrick Wohlmut (“Continuum”) and Ellen Margolis (“Licking Batteries”), and this year we embark on our third production: “The Sweatermakers” by Andrew Wardenaar (opening Friday, August 8, 2014).

And here’s where that “original” part comes in. You can’t call “The Sweatermakers” a comedy—though parts of it are very funny—and you can’t call it a straight, typical drama, given its slightly skewed, absurdist feel that’s both grounded and somewhat…magical. It plays its own individual tune.

In brief, the story goes: a brother and sister make beautiful sweaters that mysteriously arrive to comfort the recently bereaved. The two live in their own, sheltered world, and though it’s comforting, it can also be confining. When especially beautiful material arrives for an obviously special sweater, Brin—the sister—can’t help herself and ventures out to find its recipient. And things…get…weird.

It’s a thoughtful, beautifully calibrated story, with a fine cast, designers, and director (Matthew B. Zrebski), and it feels like one of those shows that haunt you for years. The ones that you suddenly find yourself thinking of, out of nowhere. Plays that won’t leave you alone.

Obviously, I urge you to check it out (formal show information follows below). All of Playwrights West’s shows have been excellent (and all entirely different from one another). But this one feels like it’s got a little bit of special…mojo. It’s quirky, but it has gravitas. In Portland, we know quirky. And memorable.

With Playwrights West, Portland Center Stage’s JAW Festival, the Fertile Ground Festival, and the many gifted (and adventuresome) writers in town, along with a highly literate audience and a great talent pool that loves working on new shows, Portland feels more and more like a home for developing new plays. Sure, we’ve become famous for gourmet roasted coffee, microbrews, farm-to-table food, and great independent stores, like Powell’s Books, Music Millennium, and Portland Nursery. But what could be more unique and artisanal that cooking new original plays? In our own little laboratory. One of these days, we’re going to open up the Sunday New York Times to see an article on Portland’s original theatre scene. It’s happened with our indie music. It’s coming with new theatre work.

I invite you to be there first and check out “The Sweatermakers.” Plus it’ll be Andrew’s first full production, and, man, there’s nothing as wild as that. If you’re not from Portland, keep an eye on this guy. He’s got chops.

(And, yes, I have a show coming up. On Saturday, September 6, Willamette University will present a reading of my play “Immaterial Matters,” which won a new play contest at CoHo Theatre a couple of years ago and was a finalist for the Oregon Book Award. It’s damned quirky. http://www.statesmanjournal.com/story/life/2014/06/14/new-theater-enters-summer-three-free-staged-readings/10455975/)

Best,

Steve

—————————–

The Sweatermakers

A World Premiere Production Written by Playwrights West’s Andrew Wardenaar

Playwrights West in association with CoHo Productions presents The Sweatermakers, a world premiere drama by Andrew Wardenaar. The Sweatermakers marks the third year in Playwrights West’s ten-year mission to present quality, professional productions of its members’ works.

The Play

It’s one of the worst days of your life. A package arrives. It contains a beautiful, handmade sweater, perfect for you. And maybe, for a moment, you find solace. But where did it come from? Who made it? Confined to their own secluded world, Brin and Henry—a remarkably close sister and brother—craft beautiful sweaters, designed to comfort those in need. One day, exquisite material arrives. It’s so striking that Brin can’t help but wonder whom it’s destined for. The question haunts her until she breaks the rules and ventures out to find its recipient. And the siblings’ perfect, self-contained but restrictive world, begins to unravel….

Part mystery, part coming-of-age story, The Sweatermakers—woven with humor, psychological insight, and magic realism—affectionately explores our need for human connections, the change those connections bring, and their sometimes painful consequences.

The world premiere of The Sweatermakers marks Mr. Wardenaar’s first full-length production. In 2012, the play won the Portland Civic Theatre Guild’s playwriting contest, and they subsequently presented it as a staged reading during the 2013 Fertile Ground Festival.

The Details

The Sweatermakers opens August 8, 2014, and runs through August 30 at CoHo Theatre (2257 NW Raleigh St, Portland, Oregon). It plays 7:30 PM on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, with Sunday matinees at 2:00 PM. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday tickets are $25, or $20 for students and seniors. All seats on Thrifty Thursdays are $15. Tickets can be purchased through CoHo Productions, at www.cohoproductions.org (503-220-2646). For more information see Playwrights West: http://www.playwrightswest.org/sweatermakers/

The Artists

Playwright Andrew Wardenaar has been a member of Playwrights West since 2011. His play Live, From Douglas was featured in Portland Theatre Works’ 2009 LabWorks workshop. Another of his plays, Spokes, premiered in 2008 as part of a compilation of short works entitled Me, Me, Me and Ewe. His other works include The Next Smith, Anachronous, The Attendant and Good One, God. Mr. Wardenaar is also a director and recently graduated with an MFA at the University of Portland.

Director Matthew B. Zrebski is a multi-award winning playwright, composer, script consultant, teaching artist, and producer-director whose career has been defined by new play development. He has served as the Artistic Director for Youth Could Know Theatre, Theatre Atlantis, and Stark Raving Theatre—all companies specializing in new work—and, since 1995, has mounted over 40 world premieres. He holds a BFA in Theatre from the Meadows School of the Arts at Southern Methodist University and is a proud member of the Dramatists Guild of America.

The Sweatermakers’ cast includes: Jen Rowe, JR Wickman, Ben Buckley, and Sharon Mann. Designers include: scenic design by Tal Sanders, lighting design by J.D. Sandifer, sound design by Em Gustason, and costume design by Ashton Grace Hull.


Samples from the Other Side

The Splatterverse now includes excerpts from some of my plays, in case anyone wants to do some casual reading.

Rather than pick the most dramatic points in the works, I thought it more interesting to find moments that caught the flavor or spirit of the play, the characters, or the situation. If nothing else, I hope they’re vaguely entertaining:

 


Bombardment, Episode 10: Orange Dust Obscures the Sun

Splattworks continues its presentation of Bombardment, a two-act drama by Steve Patterson. The author will attempt to post an installment each day, but, if events intercede, installments may occur a day or so apart. So please be patient.

[EPISODE 10]

ARETHA: Well! I must look a horror, playing tag with death, and then tangled up with the like of you. Draw my bath. And not so hot this time! Nearly scorched my skin loose last time. Can’t have loose…. It isn’t is it? Do you see loose skin, Carmelita? Can you see my skin’s on tight?
CARMELITA: I can’t see, ma’am, that a thing has changed.
ARETHA: Relief! Change is so disquieting. Must gather oneself. So much to do, you couldn’t possibly imagine.

ARETHA tries to rise, but she’s too weak.

ARETHA: Carmelita. My legs. There’s something wrong with them. Are they supposed to bend this way? I can’t stand. Carmelita, I can’t stand! Help! Help me! I’m so. . .alone! Mr. Corno–
CARMELITA: Corno sleeps.
ARETHA: You. Of all people. Could be cruel to me.
CARMELITA: I have been taught so well.
ARETHA: You don’t under…. I can’t…trust. Everything’s a cross, double, triple-cross. Was it always thus? Why? What happened? This can’t be what we…. I don’t understand. I’m so small.

CARMELITA hesitates, helps her to her feet. ARETHA clings to her. CARMELITA brushes her hair back.

CARMELITA: Once, this face was kind.
ARETHA: Was it? I can’t…. It seems like a nice thing. To be way. But, too, it feel dangerous.
CARMELITA: Right now, face to face? This seems like danger?
ARETHA: Well, no. Of course. Yes. A little. Perhaps much. I’m getting littler, Carmelita.
CARMELITA: It’s as safe–or dangerous–as you choose to make it.

Pause, and then ARETHA melts into her. They hug, rocking back and forth, and, in a burst of exuberance, genuine joy, spin around until they trip over CORNO.

ARETHA: Corno!

ARETHA drops to her knees. As CARMELITA narrates, ARETHA reacts to her words.

CARMELITA: First is disbelief. Refusal to accept. As if doing so prohibits tragedy. “I can’t believe it.” “You must be joking.” “Tell me you’re joking.” This stage can last the rest of your life. Second is numbness. Stupefaction. Your arms are stupid. Your legs are stupid. Your toes and fingers forget how to work in concert. Your skin dries, cracks like burnt paper. Your chest shrinks, a buckskin drum rattling rice. Scent of oysters in the wind. On the horizon, orange dust obscures the sun. Third, there is anger.

ARETHA rises.

ARETHA: You did this!

[To be continued]


Oh dear…

…this ought to be interesting:

Snubbed at the Drammy Awards, playwrights feel wronged


The Enigma that is Followspot


Here in Portland, we have a blog/website dedicated to theatre known as followspot

It’s a cool thing. Theatre companies send in their info, get listed, snag a bit of PR, and followspot (or one of the followspot minions) reviews their shows with about 50 words. It’s a great way to both get the word out on a production and keep track of the bewildering number of shows Portland produces. Though we only have two full Equity houses–Portland Center Stage and Artists Repertory Theatre, and a couple more Equity-waiver theatres, there’s a ton of small companies–theatre troupes, community theatre, weird gypsies that come and go…and despite the economy, there seem to be more every day. I think the last count I heard, through the Portland Area Theatre Alliance, was something like 100+ companies, and, though they’re not all producing at once, it’s not unusual to have a dozen plays open in a single weekend.

Anyway, followspot is interesting and fun. And then…there’s the comments.

That is, unlike, say, this blog (which is run as a benign dictatorship), anyone can post anonymously on followspot. And they do. Boy, do they. At times with amazing vitriol.

Which is funny because the theatre people I’ve had the pleasure to work with in Portland are some of the nicest folks I’ve ever met. They really care about the work, and I’ve seen them go so far above and beyond the call of duty that it’s blown me away. A number of them I’ve worked with years and have become my best friends…and the years have a way of adding up. Recently, I was talking with an actor about a show we did in the middle 90s, and I realized it’d been 13 years ago. How the hell did that happen? A couple of them go all the way back to 1991, when I started Third Tuesday Theatre, a monthly new play reading series, and I’m happy to say that I gave early gigs to folks like Lorraine Bahr, David Meyers, Scott Coopwood, Denise Wallace, Rebecca Becker, and Michael Fetters. Obviously, I’ve been lucky.

So I just have to wonder who the heck these anonymous furies are. They usually gang up on Northwest Children’s Theatre or Blue Monkey–both theatre for youth, but they also sometimes kick Lakewood Theatre around, and, of course, delight it slinging stones at PCS and ART, our Goliaths. Once in awhile they make a point, but much of the time they end up making themselves small rather than their targets, which is a drag.

I sometimes wonder if they’re young and full of piss and vinegar (and, like me when I was fresh out of college, absolutely convinced I was right and the world was wrong), but I think that sells short the many fine, dedicated young artists that have made Portland their home, and who often jump show to show, working impossible hours, making new, cratively crazy work because, in addition to having energy, they carry a passion for the art. And I note that the people who do comment on followspot with their actual names tend to be gracious. Which says something.

Who knows? Maybe they’re people I know who, behind the mask of the Internet, reveal the Hyde that lurks behind their Jeckyl. But I doubt it. Because, of course, my friends are all handsome, witty, and brave, and have far too much integrity to cower behind false faces.

Whatever. It makes for lively reading, even if sometimes it’s unnecessarily waspish and cruel. But I still can’t help but wonder if, when I go to the Drammies in a couple weeks (kind of our local Tony awards), I’ll look out on that sea of happy, slightly sloshed faces, and think: could it be…that one?

I know one thing: they probably won’t say it to my face. Which is just as well–I prefer to think of my colleagues as enlightened beings, until they prove otherwise.

S

Disclaimer: I have absolutely nothing to do with the followspot Web site, but they did do an extensive interview with me last year, which was very flattering indeed.


Let’s Get Plowed

Warning: serious fun ahead.

Portland is about to launch an inaugration of its own: the Fertile Ground City-Wide Festival of New Work. From January 23rd to February 1st, theatres all over Portland have committed to staging new plays, from full productions to concert readings. It’s kind of like a South-by-Southwest music festival but for theatre, where you can buy a pass and theatre-hop for a couple weeks. Or you can by a button and get into shows at a discount. (You can also just buy tickets regularly, of course.) It’s a grand experiment, and the Portland theatre community, especially playwrights, hope it’s a smashing success that becomes an ongoing, annual event. No matter how it turns out, it’s great to see theatre companies take a chance on something new. For more info, go to Fertile Ground. Special thanks to Tricia Pancio (there’s imp herself, above right) for being the little-engine-that-could get this thing going. She’s worked her ass off, and Portland theatre community (and the whole city) owe her a big round of applause.

And…yes: I’ll have something in the festival. PlayGroup, the writers group I belong to at Portland Center Stage will present….

Open City by Althea Hukari, Shelly Lipkin, Ellen Margolis, Steve Patterson, Andrea Stolowitz, Patrick Wohlmut, Nick Zagone, and Matthew B. Zrebski
Portland Center Stage Playgroup

Festival Dates: Feb 2 at 7:30 pm

For this group show created by PlayGroup (whose previous escapades include The Clearing, Frenching the Bones and Ten Tiny Playlets) and directed by Matt Zrebski, each playwright pulled a Portland location and a cast size out of hat, then went to work on a short play inspired by those circumstances. The result, presented in rehearsed concert form, is a kaleidoscopic vision of the Rose City that adds up to a town we all recognize.

Venue: Main Stage, Gerding Theater at the Armory (128 NW 11th Ave)

And the fabulous Gary Garrison, Executive Director of Creative Affairs for the Dramatists Guild, will be visiting our fair city on Saturday 31, 2008, speaking at at Portland Center Stage’s Ellen Bye Studio Theater from 1:30-3:00 PM about all things playwright, followed by a town hall discussion about playwriting in Portland and Oregon in general.

More to come on that as well, but it’s a sign that (a) the Fertile Ground Festival is going to be one hell of a special event; and (b) Portland’s playwriting community is beginning to be recognized beyond the borders of Multnomah County.

As Hunter Thompson would say: good craziness.


Portland Theatre Opportunity

I received the following from the inimitable Sha Sha Sassone of The Bluestockings….

Portland Dramatists Workshop is returning!

You’re invited to come enjoy and participate in the inaugural meeting of

What: The Bluestockings’ Portland Dramatists Workshop

When: On-going Saturday afternoons, beginning May 10, 2008

Time: 2:00 p.m.

Where: Robie’s Deli & More
6504 SE Foster Road
Portland, OR 97206
503) 788-7704

How: Every Saturday afternoon, whomever is interested will meet at Robie’s at
2:00 p.m. for a reading of a previously-chosen local playwright’s play-in-progress. After the play has been read once, everyone there will be asked for feedback. The playwright then has the option to make some changes, tweak this and that, and ask the actors to read it again. More discussion can then ensue. This is a workshopping format, very informal, and, hopefully, creative and fun.

Who’s up first? PDW’s Artistic Director Sha Sha has first dibsies. Her one-act play, “Kama Sutra Sundays” will be workshopped May 10th.

Interested in participating as a playwright, actor, or director? Come on out and talk to us on Saturday. We are looking forward to seeing former PDW friends again as well as meeting new dramatists!!!
The fabulous Bluestockings….