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Monday, November 5, 2012

The Rise of the "Indie Rock Musical"

Posted by Alison Hallett on Mon, Nov 5, 2012 at 11:59 AM

Canadian paper The Globe and Mail has an article about recent collaborations between musicians and theater artists, titled "Can indie rock save musical theatre?" The headline seems to suggest that musical theater is in need of saving—is it?—but the article itself makes the more balanced case that musicians and theater artists have much to learn from and offer one another, both financially and from a performance standpoint. The piece offers a handful of high-profile examples of these sorts of collaborations, including the New Pornographers' Dan Bejar's adaptation of a Sheila Heti novel. The article got me thinking about similar collaborations in Portland, of which there really haven't been that many. The only things that come to mind immediately are Oregon Children's Theatre's recent musical The Storm in the Barn, which had great music by Black Prairie; and Storm Large's one-woman show at Portland Center Stage, which came out of Large's experience fronting a bar band. In a somewhat similar vein, Action/Adventure's so-far sold out run of Fall of the Band invites a different musical guest to perform each weekend, though that's less a collaboration than a guest appearance. (I feel like I'm forgetting something.)

I have long been slightly desperate to see more collaborations between Portland's theater community and other parts of the arts community. Things do come up now and then—the Portland Opera has forged bonds with the comics scene, which is odd but great; comics artist Joelle Jones recently drew the backgrounds for The Lost Boys - Live!; the Oregon Ballet's spring program earlier this year featured costumes by local designer Adam Arnold, and OBT has also branched out to pair dancers with local musicians like Weinland and Laura Gibson. But while Portland's got plenty going on both musically and theater-wise, it's rare that it happens on the same stage.

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