Talking About Horrible Things with Portland's Foremost Tonya Harding Expert
A few weeks ago, the theater community found out that long-time Southeast arts venue Theater! Theatre! would be closing at the end of the season, leaving resident companies Profile Theatre and Theatre Vertigo without a home. Profile quickly announced they'd be moving across the river to take up residence at Artists Repertory Theater; and now we've got word on Vertigo's plans.
Last night at their annual auction at Southeast Belmont bar the Blue Monk*, Vertigo announced they'll be moving to Southeast's tiny Shoebox Theatre (2110 SE 10th) for the short-term, with the long-term goal of establishing a new Southeast arts space in partnership with the Northwest Classical Theatre Company, who currently occupies the Shoebox.
Couple thoughts on that:
• The Shoebox is tiny. TINY. 38 seats tiny, compared to Theater! Theatre!'s 100+ seat Arena Stage. To account for the loss in capacity, Vertigo will be adding Sunday matinees to their runs, and company member Kerry Ryan promises that Vertigo's designers will find interesting ways to use the space: “Audiences can expect a set that is not only in front of them, but completely around them,” she says in the press release.
• NWCTC and Vertigo are an odd pairing. Both do good work, but they couldn't be more different: NWCTC does fine, straight-ahead productions of classic plays, and Vertigo tends toward newer, more experimental and audacious works. It doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me from an audience-building standpoint—other than the people who go to everything, I don't know that there's a natural overlap between someone who wants to see a futuristic comedy about sex (Craig Jessen's The End of Sex, premiering at Vertigo next season) and someone's who's excited to see Shakespeare's Pericles at NWCTC. Maybe it's more sensible to attract two totally different audience groups than to try to build a shared audience, but at least on paper Hand2Mouth or defunkt or Action/Adventure seem like more logical partners—although none of them has a space as well-established as the Shoebox.
Tangentially related: There's a great article this week in the Oakland Bay Express about how a new influx of tech money is shaping the culture of the Bay area. The section that most interested me was about arts funding: How young tech kajillionaires don't share the philanthropic values of the "old money" patrons who support the area's major arts organizations. The piece quotes the director of Berkeley Rep:
"This shift toward a more transactional relationship in philanthropy [read: Kickstater], where you give something and expect to get something concrete back, has continued to escalate. The entrepreneurial infatuation we have now — and I don't mean that in a loaded way — comes with a notion that the things we're investing in should have a potential to [make] returns. It's antithetical to the kind of philanthropy that has built institutions in this country."
(This raises the question, of course, of whether arts organizations deserve to get funded if they've utterly failed to convince a younger generation of their relevance and value. As a relatively young fan of theater, I wonder all the time what Portland's theater landscape will look like once the current crop of subscribers dies off.)
And on the subject of arts patronage, the Willamette Week has a fascinating cover story this week about how the patron model is alive and well at the Falcon Arts community.
*any bets on how long the Blue Monk lasts once Theater! Theatre! closes?
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