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Friday, January 23, 2015

This Week in Art: New Things to See, Victoria Haven's Latest, and That Lovable Goofball Miranda July Really Gets Us

Posted by Megan Burbank on Fri, Jan 23, 2015 at 2:14 PM

Tackling Miranda July's debut novel, performance art pigs, and abstract prints, we weren't intimidated by weirdness in the Mercury's arts section this week. Here are our field reports from our strange journeys into the unknown:

Victoria Haven: Jenna Lechner took on Victoria Haven's latest work, Subtitles, up now at PDX Contemporary Art, and points out that while it might seem opaque at first, Haven's long career as a Pacific Northwest artist gives it necessary context, in a review that covers Lawrence Weiner, a chainsaw artist named "Bear in a Box," and Gore-Tex, among other things:

Often, there are more handmade marks in Haven's work. In the case of Subtitles, the pieces look like digital images, but are actually prints made using laser-etched woodblocks. The words come in pairs—"hire / oracle," "toot / vortex," "omen / nope"—and line the wall, stacked above, below, and, to the left and to the right of one another. The words were plucked from Haven's personal text messages, and paired using an algorithm designed by an artist friend. The project was also shown in New York as a projection, where the words "continuously rotated in random order." From that show, some of the words were made into stills, and those freeze-frames are on display at PDX Contemporary.

New theater: I know you're already so ready to dive into Fertile Ground's new and thrilling theatrical offerings, right? I thought so. This is review for most of you, but just in case, I wrote a handy preview of a mere handful of some intriguing new work you can expect to see over the next two weeks. See you in the audience!

YOUVE PROBABLY SEEN THESE PIGS BEFORE But Ill keep putting them up on account of theyre a) so cute, and b) part of performance art!
  • Boom Arts
  • YOU'VE PROBABLY SEEN THESE PIGS BEFORE But I'll keep putting them up on account of they're a) so cute, and b) part of performance art!

Miranda July: Meanwhile, Suzette Smith read Miranda July's first novel, The First Bad Man, and reports that July's tendencies towards all things kooky and oddly emotionally resonant, and her particular brand of SoCal Gothic are alive and well in its pages. Per Suzette's review, it sounds like a raw, strange book that will tell you raw, strange things about yourself:

I read The First Bad Man in one four-hour sitting. I read through the all-caps text messages, the lyrics to the David Bowie song "Kooks," and the extended fight scenes between two women grappling alone in a small house in Los Angeles. I read through the creepy May-December relationship and a female narrator's ejaculation fantasies, in which she imagines herself as multiple men.

Around 2 am, July's anxious first-person narration began to seem normal, even appropriate. Cheryl Glickman—I am unable to separate her from July—is a 40-something LA professional suffering from globus hystericus, an imaginary ball in her throat brought on by stress. Sure, that would happen. Of course.

Haven's work is up through January 31, Fertile Ground goes through February, and Miranda July's prose is just-right for a dreary day—it's gross out, so I thought I'd just let you know. You have options!

Monday, December 29, 2014

New Year, New Performances: Art Dance Parties, The Vibrator Play, and Comedy Shows Named After Natural Disasters

Posted by Megan Burbank on Mon, Dec 29, 2014 at 11:29 AM

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  • Physical Education

Fact: January in the Pacific Northwest is gray, dark time. Luckily, indoor kids have these performances to look forward to in the new year, while we wait for the light to return:

Allie Hankins, who Suzette Smith profiled last week, will launch Physical Education this February, along with Keyon Gaskin, Lucy Lee Yim and Takahiro Yamamoto. The project aims to demystify performance through a series of lectures, reading groups, and, per the group's Facebook page, "straight-up sweat-it-out DANCE PARTIES." From our profile:

Hankins employed plyometrics, continuous high-intensity jumping exercises, every week in an attempt to gain the strength to perform her own rigorous choreography. But during our interview, she seemed comfortable, even excited, at the idea that she might have fallen and failed that day at Conduit—or at any performance—and that if she did, it might all just be part of her work.

"The last night that I performed, everything seemed to come together into this really wonderful moment. There was the wedding happening in the room above me and the 'Chicken Dance' started playing. No one would look at me. It totally failed. The whole fucking thing crumbled! All suspension of disbelief was gone, because everyone was like 'WHOA, we're in the building with this poor girl with the "Chicken Dance" happening.' Right after that—thankfully—was the part where I wrestled 80 pounds of red fabric."

Speaking of profiles, Profile Theater, which just wrapped a season dedicated to the works of Sam Shepard, is switching gears in 2015, to produce a series of plays by Sarah Ruhl, perhaps best known as the playwright behind In the Next Room, or, The Vibrator Play.

Finally, anyone who loves comedy should be paying attention in the new year to the weird, great things coming out of Kickstand Comedy Space, in the basement of Velocult—yes, the bike shop basement comedy space that sounds like a punchline. Go there! Kickstand's soft open included a brilliant, varied safe-space open mic from Lez Stand Up, and Earthquake Hurricane, a weekly show hosted by Bri Pruett, Alex Falcone, Curtis Cook, and Anthony Lopez, which you should show up for if you enjoy laughing. January in the Pacific Northwest is grim as fuck. You should give yourself a present every day to make up for it. And one of those presents should be laughter.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Deep Cuts: Blood, Guts, and Top 40 in The Maids' Tragedy

Posted by Megan Burbank on Thu, Dec 25, 2014 at 1:14 PM

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  • JASON MANICCIA

It seems perverse to call a play where (almost) everyone dies at the end "fun," but oddly enough, that's exactly what Northwest Classical Theatre Company's The Maids' Tragedy is. That's surprising enough for straight-up tragedy, but it's especially weird in this case: The play is an obscure, rarely performed Jacobean tragedy, written—in 1619!—by two of Shakespeare's lesser contemporaries, Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher. It's theater nerd fare of the highest order that, in theory, shouldn't appeal to anyone but the most diehard of Bardheads.

The story's familiar enough: Melantius (Tom Walton) returns home after a war (as Jacobean heroes so often do!), weary and ill disposed to courtly society, only to find his top bro, Amintor (Steve Vanderzee), has broken an engagement to Aspatia (Melissa Whitney) and is getting married to Melantius' sister, Evadne (Brenan Dwyer), at the king's mysterious urging. If you've ever seen a tragedy, the reason's clear—secret affair!—and the outcome, inevitable—much (bloody) revenge!

Northwest Classical Theatre is known for adaptations of classical works that are good, but also play it straight and frill-free, so I was surprised that this production employed so many contemporary references and surprising visual choices. The playbill contains a nod to Quentin Tarantino, the play's bleak material is soundtracked by Kanye West and Pharrell, there's an entire scene that takes place while Aspatia and her handmaidens do sun salutations, and there's a heavily implied BDSM undercurrent to Evadne and the king's not-so-secret relationship. As the grisly events of the play progress, the actors' makeup becomes increasingly pale, with smudged red lips that at the play's opening suggest revelry, but by the end, seem more bloody than anything else.

CONTINUE READING>>>

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Ghosts, Murder, and Sentient Candy: Here Are the Holiday Shows You Still Have Time To See

Posted by Megan Burbank on Tue, Dec 23, 2014 at 12:14 PM

Holiday theater season isn't over yet! Many of this year's best and most imaginative/strange holiday shows have already closed (farewell, Rudolph, and SANTA, Liminal's tale of Christmas and DEATH). You'll have to wait until next year for delightful stop-motion animation acted out by actual people—and maybe until never for Liminal's next holiday play, if their about-yearly production schedule is any indication. But cheer up! Here are some shows you still have time to see:

The Second City's Twist Your Dickens! at Portland Center Stage: Twist Your Dickens' mean-spirited holiday spirit is completely infectious right up until it isn't. From our review: "Roasted throughout: people who have MFAs (fair game), children with rickets (maybe not so much), overzealous audience members hoping for a Dickensian production free from anachronisms (sure), George Bailey (well deserved), the prevalence of orphaned children in literature and pop culture (seriously WHY), and the strange fact that one of the most celebrated Christmas tales of all time is basically about a huge douchebag who's mean to everyone. There are a handful of clunky missteps—attempts at edgy humor that just come off as callow and odd... Still, if your out-of-town relatives demand some iteration of A Christmas Carol—and you're too (understandably) upset by the uncanny valley residents who make up The Muppets Christmas Carol to go that route—there's a lot about Twist Your Dickens that that will make you forget you're watching one. And that's a thing to celebrate." Tues-Sun, 7:30 pm, through Dec. 24, Gerding Theater at the Armory, 128 NW 11th, $36-69

The Nutcracker at Oregon Ballet Theater: Okay, so OBT does the Balanchine production of the Nutcracker, which is the one every ballet company ever does (including tutu enthusiasts to the North the Pacific Northwest Ballet, now that they've retired one of the most innovative non-Balanchine productions after 31 years, making San Francisco Ballet the only major ballet company on the West Coast to produce a nontraditional version of the cloyingly kid-friendly ballet. NOT THAT I'M BITTER OR ANYTHING). Still, it is a Christmas tradition, and it is amazing to watch ballet dancers perform impossible feats of strength, even if you do come home with new cavities from Balanchine's saccharine tale of sentient candy. Tue Dec 23 through Sat Dec 27, Keller Auditorium, 222 SW Clay, $27

Golden Girls: Live! Christmas Special Oh, Golden Girls: Live! The conceit is obvious enough: It's two episodes of Blanche, Rose, Sophian, and Dorothy's misadventures, but the Golden Girls are all played by men in drag, to differing degrees of success. (The good: Honey Bea Hart as Blanche is a treasure.) I have a fondness for strange, scrappy adaptations of loved/hated pop culture (see also: Showgirls the Musical), and if you do too, then you'll probably enjoy this Christmas special. Golden Girls faithful will probably love it too. If either of those don't sound like you, though, stay away. Fri and Sat, 7 pm, through Dec. 27, Funhouse Lounge, 2432 SE 11th, $20

The Maid's Tragedy at Northwest Classical: Technically, this is not a Christmas play. It's a Jacobean tragedy where almost everyone dies at the end. HOWEVER, there is a Christmas tree in it, plus Christmas carols, so if all this good cheer is killing you, here's your alternative holiday show. Thurs-Sat, 7:30 pm and Sun 2 pm, through Jan 4, Shoe Box Theatre, 2110 SE 10th, $20-22

Blithe Spirit at Artists Rep: Artists Rep's impulse to go secular with a ghost story for the holidays was right-on. But did it pay off? From our review: "Blithe Spirit has some fun moments, and Artists Rep's production is well appointed, with a beautifully crafted domestic interior for a set, and some tricky (but thoroughly convincing) lighting and sound effects throughout... The actors, too, pull off Coward's quick-witted dialogue, almost comically clipped accents ("veddy artsy-crafty" is used as an insult at one point), and repressed emotional states... But here's the rub: Blithe Spirit was first produced in 1941—and it shows. There are things about it that haven't aged particularly well. For one, it's hard to feel much sympathy for rich people who spend all their time writing hacky novels and relaxing in jodhpurs, elegant though those jodhpurs may be." Wed-Sat, 7:30 pm and Sundays, 2 pm, through Jan. 4, Artists Repertory Theatre, 1515 SW Morrison, $25-35

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Friday, December 19, 2014

Twist Your Dickens: Getting into the Mean-Spirited Holiday Spirit

Posted by Megan Burbank on Fri, Dec 19, 2014 at 11:14 AM

I have seen so many holiday shows, I feel like my eyes are bleeding melted candy canes and holiday cheer. And I'm seeing another one tonight! (Sidenote: One holiday performance I didn't go to is Liminal's Santa, E.E. Cummings' tale of killing Santa Claus. Jenna Lechner reports on it here.) Today's report is on the Second City's Twist Your Dickens, Portland Center Stage's partly-improvised retelling of A Christmas Carol, with performances through December 24. The results are mixed.

The good? Twist Your Dickens is not a straight-up parody of Dickens' morality play, for which we should all thank PCS. Instead, writers Bobby Mort and Peter Gwinn (previously of The Colbert Report) have concocted a skeletal narrative framework around which the cast improvises, which means every performance of Twist Your Dickens will be slightly different. Its Chicago/Portland-based cast is very funny, and the show's improvised segments are its best. There's even some mild audience participation that, miraculously, works, plus an adorably cartoonish Grim Reaper. (You heard it here first!)

But it turns out that Twist Your Dickens' willingness to make fun of absolutely everything is its best and worst quality, which is to say it's funny right up until it isn't. Roasted throughout: people who have MFAs (fair game), children with rickets (maybe not so much), overzealous audience members hoping for a Dickensian production free from anachronisms (sure), George Bailey (well deserved), the prevalence of orphaned children in literature and pop culture (seriously WHY), and the strange fact that one of the most celebrated Christmas tales of all time is basically about a huge douchebag who's mean to everyone. There are a handful of clunky missteps—attempts at edgy humor that just come off as callow and odd. Perhaps worst of all is "Police Navidad," and those aforementioned rickets "jokes."

Still, if your out-of-town relatives demand some iteration of A Christmas Carol—and you're too (understandably) upset by the uncanny valley residents who make up The Muppets Christmas Carol to go that route—there's a lot about Twist Your Dickens that that will make you forget you're watching one. And that's a thing to celebrate.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Win Tickets to See Rudolph: On Stage!

Posted by Wm.™ Steven Humphrey on Tue, Nov 25, 2014 at 1:59 PM

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LOOK. I would not bother you with this if I didn't think it was 100 percent worth it. But facts are facts: You need a fun holiday show to attend that's hilarious and won't make you blow your brains out. That's why I'm giving away TWO TICKETS to this Saturday night's performance of Rudolph: On Stage (starring Portland's funniest sketch comedians, and MEEEEE)!

In case you weren't a child growing up in America, Rudolph: On Stage is a theatrical adaptation of the classic Rankin/Bass creepy wooden puppet holiday special, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, which tells the story of a reindeer who's marginalized because of his glowing nose, and his elf friend who wants to be a dentist. (METAPHOR ALERT!!) Anyway, instead of using creepy puppets, Bad Reputation Productions—fine makers of Roadhouse: The Play, and Lost Boys: Live—are doing it with verrrry funny humans, including Portland's best improvisers The Liberators. It's jam-crammed full of nostalgia and modern comedic stuff, it co-stars me as the Burl Ives Snowman character and the reviews are very glowing. (Hey, just like Rudolph's nose!)

But guys! This thing sells out super quick, and only runs from this Friday to Dec 20 at the CoHo Theater. SO GET YOUR TICKETS (AND MORE INFO) NOW AND HERE. Or if you feel super lucky, try to win a pair of tickets to this Saturday's performance (Nov 29 at 8 pm). Don't forget, if you tweet or Facebook this contest you get extra entries! Deadline is noon tomorrow! (Also "Abominable Snow Monster.")

GOOD LUCK!

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Monday, November 24, 2014

It's Nomi, Bitch: Showgirls the Musical is Unapologetically Awful, Just as Paul Verhoeven Intended

Posted by Megan Burbank on Mon, Nov 24, 2014 at 1:59 PM

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  • A Touch Too Much

The Hollywood Theatre was a shrine to one of the worst movies ever on Saturday night. Showgirls fans and unwitting theatergoers about to be really uncomfortable clogged the lobby, and over at the merch table, "Versayce" T-shirts were on sale, Nomi prayer candles were the first items to sell out, and yeah, I wanted one.

Halfway through the show, about half of people in the row ahead of me left. I heard a few comments to the effect of, "Let's get out of here while we can!" Fair enough—there were plenty of compelling reasons to bail: technical difficulties with the performers' mics made them occasionally impossible to hear, some of the actors seemed out of their ranges vocally, and at one point, the projection behind the stage accidentally displayed someone's desktop icons and a hovering cursor. It all seemed very slapdash.

Yes, these are bad things to have happen in any live theater production. Yes, all in all, I would call Showgirls the Musical an unqualified mess. But I don't think this means that it was a failure. Showgirls the movie is so unbelievably bad that any respectable adaptation of it should also be kind of awful. After all, you have to hit the levels of high-camp mimicry that made the Lifetime original biopic about Anna Nicole Smith so bad it was perfect (that movie marked perhaps the only time Lifetime's low production values, over-the-top dialogue, and caricature-bad casting have seemed smart and possibly even intentional). As with Anna Nicole Smith, so with Showgirls. You have to be true to your source material, and in the case of Showgirls, that material is a huge, unmitigated mess.

So yes, this one-night-only production was a mess. But it was right to be. If that sounds like the most back-handed compliment ever, well, it probably is. Still, I liked Showgirls the movie (I mean, try not to marvel at its badness; really try) and I enjoyed Showgirls the Musical. So did many of the audience members who stayed through the whole production, the Showgirls faithful in their stilettos and drag makeup, toting bags of chips and beers. The two middle-aged ladies sitting next to me whispered excitedly throughout the show, and at the end, I overheard someone say that it "showed promise."

And I agree. The musical had some funny visual gags (including extra-fake-looking cheeseburgers and a Bayside Lions T-shirt), and some standout moments, as when Josh Edward as Zack Carey did a very convincing Nelly during the infamous pool scene—his rendition of "Hot in Herre" replaced what Courtney Ferguson described as the moment "when Nomi turns into a frenzied, naked shark" in her preview of the musical. Was it good? No. But what else are you gonna do on a Saturday night? Watch TV and eat chips?

Friday, November 21, 2014

This Week in Art: Showgirls & Commercial Fishermen

Posted by Megan Burbank on Fri, Nov 21, 2014 at 3:14 PM

NOMI MALONE Live! In person!
  • A Touch Too Much
  • NOMI MALONE Live! In person!

This week, while I was busy complaining loudly and often about book awards and whether or not they actually mean anything, Courtney Ferguson previewed Showgirls the Musical—it's tomorrow! one night only! the Hollywood! see you there! maybe we can come up with a drinking game!*—and it sounds amazing, not that that should be surprising to anyone, giving its can't-be-unseen source material:

Out of a black-box theater and onto the Hollywood's stage, the strippers of the Cheetah and the showgirls of Goddess will be able to really kick up their heels. Along with casting locals like Kristin Barrett (as Nomi), the production's stocked the prop closet with bags of chips, brought in burlesque dancers to "pump up the sexy," and created projections for the theater's large screen. Plus, "the dancing is a lot bigger this time," with choreography by Jamie Langton, who also stars as Cristal Connors. "I was really adamant about using music people know, so it's a jukebox musical. We do a lot of different eras, but we land pretty heavily in the '80s," Griggs says.

Corey Arnold: Nature photography at its least soothing.
  • Corey Arnold
  • Corey Arnold: Nature photography at its least soothing.

Elsewhere, Jenna Lechner took a look at Corey Arnold's photos, up now at Charles A. Hartman Fine Art. Arnold spends part of the year in Alaska working as a commercial fisherman (even among the crews that you can see on Deadliest Catch!), so you know his wildlife photos aren't going to be generically pretty—instead, they're full of animals who'd like to attack him:

The photos, most shot this year and last year, stand alone in craft as masterful studies in color and light. The photograph "Adak Foam" has the drama, depth, and glow of a Venetian oil painting. The images are large: about four by three feet. They're classic documentary photographs—Arnold's done editorial assignments for the likes of Sunset and National Geographic—but with humor and an edge. In most of them, Arnold's focus is at dead center, which has an unnerving and confrontational effect.

Arnold's photos are only up through the 29th, so hurry up and see 'em! Bald eagles never looked so menacing.

*FALSE. The only snack appropriate to Showgirls viewing is chips, obviously.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Action/Adventure Theatre's Mars One Gets Even More Real Tomorrow

Posted by Megan Burbank on Wed, Oct 29, 2014 at 11:14 AM

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  • Action/Adventure Theatre

Here's a fact I'm not proud of: I have watched so much reality TV. Back when my cable was paid for by institutional capital, Bravo would broadcast marathons of America's Next Top Model, and I would promise myself I would just watch one episode. Spoiler alert: that never happened, and I knew it wasn't going to. Reality TV is alluringly awful. The drama is not real, but it sucks you in anyway, and soon enough you're on Team Ne Ne and don't shower anymore.

Action/Adventure Theatre's new serialized comedy, Mars One, created and directed by Nick Fenster, is not like that. (Although, if we're picking teams, TEAM TABITHA ALL THE WAY).

I can't even really tell you what Mars One is like, because a) it's partially improvised each evening, which means it will be different by the time you go see it!, and b) new episodes are coming this weekend! Trust me, those exclamation points are not gratuitous. Because the cast is remarkably charming and funny, and it's kind of like watching the most unhinged, surreal episode of The Real World: Seattle possible, and because live theater is a whole lot better for your brain than watching starving young women screech "TYRA MAIL!" while you suddenly look up and realize it's 3 in the morning*.

Last we checked in, things weren't looking great for the first colonists on Mars. Their Team Leader is missing, delightfully flustered Mission Control (Jake Michels) is sending cryptic warnings about a sleeper cell, and the mysterious objects coming through the 3-D printer to Tabitha Thompson (Noelle Eaton), "a runner-up on Mars and a runner-up in life" just got really real: there's now a gun in play. The adventure continues tomorrow night!

*NOT THAT THAT'S EVER HAPPENED TO ME.

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Thursday, September 25, 2014

Groovy Vernacular Hippie Spectacular Review

Posted by Courtney Ferguson on Thu, Sep 25, 2014 at 12:29 PM

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The '60s lovefest came down fast after the Manson Family killed Sharon Tate and her friends in the summer of '69. But the psychedelic freakout is still going strong in Matt Stanger's rock musical Groovy Vernacular Hippie Spectacular [I refuse to spell it "hippy"—Eds.], with its oodles of flower children, degenerate didgeridoo playing, and go-go dance-offs... oh, and a pink ape! This is the follow-up to Stanger's extremely fun Bikini Creature Beach Feature, which was a eye-candy romp through early '60s monster movies, beach blanket flicks, and '80s hardbody movies. And much like the jump from the laced-up early '60s to the amped-up end of the decade, the Hippie Spectacular doesn't have Bikini Creature's same wispy popcorn flair—it feels rawer and more frenetic.

The heart of the production is the loveable biker gang from Bikini Creature, the Li'l Stinkers and their amiable ape Randy Bananas. They're a hysterical crew of tough-talking, soft-thinking schemers. The Li'l Stinkers are out to make a quick buck by selling drugs to the hippies at a love-in at Stinkberry Park. Cue the mad didge playing. But throw a DEA narc, an outsized Beach Boys spoof, and the evil Manson Family into the mix, and it's groovy mayhem. Hippie Spectacular—while containing "no social or moral redeeming value whatsoever," according to the program—is full of plenty of pokes at ridiculous hippies and Uncle Charlie, it never bothers with too many historical facts or accuracies. (I loved Manson's Spring Breakers speech. Also, fun fact: Charles Manson was 5' 2"!) They make for pretty easy targets, but entertaining nonetheless. The sheer amount of sweaty rock 'n' roll fun the expansive cast is having as they rip through musical numbers ("You Look Like a Girl" is a real highlight) and Laugh-In asides is as infectious as a real '60s love-in (wear a condom, kids). Got any friends that might be interested in watching an R-rated '60s-era Betty and Veronica digest come to life? Bring 'em—this show would be way more fun in a packed house (the audience was a little thin when I went). And smoke a joint before you go, because day-glo pink Candy Bananas and her rousing gorilla knockdown with Randy will be all the better with a strong retro buzz.

Groovy Vernacular Hippie Spectacular
Analog Cafe, 720 SE Hawthorne, Thurs Sept 25 (hey, that's tonight!)-Sat Sept 27, 8 pm, followed by band performances at 10 pm, $16, tickets, 21+

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

New Theater Ensemble Asks "Who Made This Art"?

Posted by Alison Hallett on Tue, Jul 22, 2014 at 2:44 PM

This is rad. In June, members of a new experimental theater group calling themselves "overunder" stood out front of the Drammys, Portland's annual theater awards, and asked attendees pointed questions about the racial makeup of Portland's theater scene relative to the city as a whole. They're not the first people to raise these questions—hey, I wonder if the upcoming issue of Agenda will tackle the question of diversity in theater? It might!—but I like the way they've framed it in this video. Trigger warning for Reedies, but worth watching.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Actor Fired For Tossing Disruptive Bigot From Theater

Posted by Dan Savage on Tue, Jun 3, 2014 at 10:29 AM

The Wrap:

An actor in a Santa Clarita, Calif. production of “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” was fired Saturday after physically removing a heckler in the audience who lobbed anti-gay slurs at the cast for nearly half of the show. John Lacy, who played Big Daddy in Tennessee Williams’ classic play that tackles homophobia among other themes, was fired after jumping off stage and physically confronting an audience member who repeatedly made noise and yelled “fag” during emotionally tense scenes, according to audience members’ accounts of the incident on Facebook. The show apparently continued following the confrontation and concluded to a standing ovation. Lacy was apparently not let go until after the performance.

One of the show's leads resigned in solidarity with Lacy—but other actors in the Repertory East Playhouse production took to Facebook to defend his firing. One actor stated that Lacy put the entire cast and audience at risk: "What if this guy had a weapon?” Welcome to America, where we must defer to bigoted idiots at all times because our bigoted idiots tend to be armed. Another actor outed herself as something of an idiot:

Fellow actress Emily E. Low, who plays the female lead, agreed that violence should not have been the answer, adding that part of acting is accepting criticism from the audience. “As actors we must take the positive audience responses with the negative. It's not always about cheers and standing ovations,” she wrote in the same Facebook thread. Low added that Troy's character, Brick, is gay, suggesting that the heckler's anti-gay slurs may have been appropriate. “And, the truth is, Brick is, after all, a gay man,” she wrote.

So it's cool to scream "faggot!" during a play if there's a gay character on stage. Good to know.

UPDATE: Actress Emily Low wrote in to debate Dan's interpretation of events. Her letter is after the jump.

Continue reading »

Friday, May 30, 2014

What Are You Doing this Weekend?

Posted by Alison Hallett on Fri, May 30, 2014 at 4:12 PM

CAMERON ESPOSITO Tix are still available for the late show if you forgot to make plans for tonight0
  • CAMERON ESPOSITO Tix are still available for the late show if you forgot to make plans for tonight!

Courtney Ferguson: “I’m going to bang it up at a couple roller derby practices this weekend, where I will undoubtedly acquire some fresh bruises. I’m also headed to Mississippi Studios tonight to see charming-as-get-out Cameron Esposito’s stand-up show, which will be recorded for her upcoming Kill Rock Stars comedy album. Maybe I can talk her into being my friend. Saturday, I’m headed to a fashion show for Red Fox Vintage’s celebration of their one-year anniversary on SE Woodstock. It’ll have gals on roller skates! Then on Sunday, as a super-fan of the Old Gold’s bar-league softball team, I'm going to cheer them on at the season opener for Sunday Softball (6 pm at Westmoreland—come watch sportsball).”

Marjorie Skinner: "Tonight I’m going to the vintage fashion show organized by AlexSandra’s Vintage Emporium, then I’ll be bright eyed and bushy tailed at 9 am tomorrow for the “Prototyping Fashion’s Futures” symposium at the Museum of Contemporary Craft. There are also a slew of engagement/birthday celebrations on the docket, and it feels like the season of outdoor eating might be finally on? There’s always plenty of extra protein at BYO BBQs, so my move is going to be grill-able fresh produce. I’m feeling leeks, mushrooms, and peaches, especially."

Alison Hallett: "Lotta work-related activity this weekend for me: Some Sam Shepard (Buried Child at Profile Theatre), some Martin McDonagh (The Beauty Queen of Leenane at Third Rail). I am currently having my life ruined by Roxane Gay's novel An Untamed State, about a Haitian American woman who's kidnapped and tortured for 13 days while on a family visit to Port-au-Prince—it's so stressful/suspenseful/good, I can't stop reading it. I'll finish that, then cast around for something a little less real, maybe Lauren Owen's massive Victorian horror novel The Quick, which comes blurbed by both Kate Atkinson and Hilary Mantel. (Sold!) Oh, and the Starlight Parade on Saturday. It's the best parade."

Wm. Steven Humphrey: "Saturday is the season ending performance by Portland The Liberators at the Brody, as they perform an improvised western. (Which will be 50,000 billion times more funny that Seth MacFarlane's most recent piece of shit!) And if you like your RAWK mixed with tears don't forget that Portland's beloved Dolorean will be playing for the final time also on Saturday night. I'll also be wishing the Mercury's own Grand Old Dame Marjorie Skinner a happy 67th birthday on Sunday. (Maybe we can combine it with a forced retirement party?)"

Dirk VanderHart: "Turns out you guys are sleeping on Cameron Esposito enough that I was just able to score a (super cheap) ticket to her second show at Mississippi Studios tonight. That's exciting. I'll be using the rest of my weekend trying to acquire a reasonably priced weed wacker. Anyone got a weed wacker they wanna sell? Electric preferred."

Thursday, May 29, 2014

2013/2014 Drammy Nominees Announced

Posted by Alison Hallett on Thu, May 29, 2014 at 12:29 PM

The Drammys are Portland's local theater awards—there's a big ceremony every year at the Crystal Ballroom, and all of Portland's theater community gets dressed up and gets tipsy. This year, for the first time since 1999, nominees have been announced in advance, so we can all place bets ahead of time on whether Allen Nause or Michael Mendelson is gonna snag best actor. (Mendelson, probably, though Nause has been doing terrific work all over town since he stepped down as Artistic Director of Artist's Rep.)

It's not a terrifically surprising list, though it is a bit of a brain-stretch to think all the way back to shows I saw in May of 2013. Of the best-show nominees, I guess I'm pulling for the CoHo's Crooked—but I never made it to Imago's The Caretaker, and heard good things, so I don't want to discount that one. A bit surprised that Badass Theatre Co's Invasion!* didn't get a best show nod, and I also think Bright New Boise at Third Rail should've made the short list—I loved that show. I managed to not see a single show in the devised work category, so I guess I've got no business being surprised that PETE or Hand2Mouth didn't land on that list.

All four best actress nominations come from the same two plays: Crooked and Gidion's Knot. Both of those scripts were written by women; it is not remotely surprising that shows written by women have meaty roles for women. (And I'm pulling for either of the Crooked actresses; the acting in that show was just about perfect.) I'd also like to see Blake Peebles win a best young performer nod for his all-in performance in Oregon Children's Theatre's ridiculously fun Zombie in Love*

The Drammys are June 9 at the Crystal Ballroom, open to the public, and free to attend.

*I admit I'm a bit disappointed to see that Badass is relaunching Invasion! this summer. Yes, it was fun and everybody loved it, but I wanna see what an exciting, brand-new theater company does next.

**full disclosure: my boyfriend works at OCT, though as far as I know he didn't work directly on Zombie.

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Thursday, May 8, 2014

Jesus Christ Superstar, with Johnny Rotten, Is Coming to Our Basketball Arena

Posted by Ned Lannamann on Thu, May 8, 2014 at 10:44 AM

Tim Rice, JC Chasez, Johnny Fucking Rotten, Ben Forster, Michelle Williams, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Brandon Boyd
  • Kevin Mazur/WireImage
  • Tim Rice, JC Chasez, Johnny Fucking Rotten, Ben Forster, Michelle Williams, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Brandon Boyd
Johnny Rotten is coming to the Rose Garden*.
*Moda Center

No matter what you're thinking, it isn't this. Mister John Lydon, punk godfather... is coming to Portland's biggest venue... as part of a touring arena production of Jesus Christ Superstar. He will be playing King Herod.

This bewildering news alone is enough to turn brain into oatmeal, but look at the rest of the cast:

• Michelle Williams of Destiny's Child as Mary Magdalene
• JC Chasez of N*Sync as Pontius Pilate
• Brandon Boyd from Incubus as Judas Iscariot
• Ben Forster (some guy who won some show) as Jesus Christ

This production of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's rock opera from the early '70s (not gonna front, the original double album that preceded the Broadway show still holds up) has been inflated to arena size, and judging by the looks of this video, they've modernized it with lots of pointed, up-to-the-minute social commentary. This looks like it's gonna be the hottest of messes.

The Jesus Christ Superstar Arena Spectacular Starring the Former Lead Singer of the Sex Pistols, the Dude from Incubus, a Destiny's Child, and One of the Other Guys of N*Sync Who Isn't Justin Timberlake hits the Moda Center on Sunday, July 13. Tickets run $39.50-174.50 (plus fees). Info is at the Rose Quarter's site.

Jesus!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Learn to Be Latina's Foul-Mouthed Take on Race and Identity: A Bold Choice, with Mixed Results

Posted by Alison Hallett on Tue, May 6, 2014 at 10:44 AM

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The Miracle Theatre Group is dedicated to celebrating Latino art and culture. Their productions regularly feature Mexican and Central and South American history, myth, and literature—they've done shows about Lorca, Frida Kahlo, life under Castro. But I can say with 98% certainty that until Learn to Be Latina, the word "queef" had never been uttered on that stage.

The Miracle went out on a limb with Learn to Be Latina, and that's always a great thing to see.

Outside of the context of the Miracle's generally conventional programming, though, Learn to Be Latina doesn't seem so bold. Playwright Enrique Urueta's 2010 script promises a challenging, funny investigation of identity, ethnicity, and sexuality, but over the course of a wearying two-and-a-half-hour run time, the show takes on too much and fails to balance its satiric and character-driven elements.

Learn to Be Latina opens with an interview at the offices of FAD Records, where aspiring pop singer Hanan (Nicole Accuardi) is pitching her demo album to a panel of office drones. The interviewers—Bill, Jill, and Will—are a sort of three-headed monster of undifferentiated whiteness: They shuffle papers in hyper-stylized unison, confer behind their hands, and demand to know what ethnicity the non-white Hanan actually is: "Everybody's something... Except for white people. We're not anything."

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Monday, March 17, 2014

Comics Artists Live-Sketch Zombie in Love

Posted by Alison Hallett on Mon, Mar 17, 2014 at 10:44 AM

I was a big fan of the Portland Opera's Comics Night at the Opera program, where they invited local comic book artists to live sketch during a dress rehearsal. It was one of the few social media arts marketing campaigns I've ever felt remotely warmly toward—probably because it was born from a sense of experimentation and fun, rather than being a calculated marketing bid—and I loved that it fostered a sense of community and collaboration between two segments of the local arts world you don't often see in the same room. Plus, some beautiful drawings came out of it.

Portland Opera dropped the program last year, and then Oregon Children's Theatre picked up the idea and ran with it, inviting artists to sketch an afternoon performance. (Full disclosure: My boyfriend works at OCT, and helped organize this.)

OCT's current show, Zombie in Love, is a frankly adorable yet surprisingly gross musical about a zombie trying to get a date for the prom. I saw it last weekend and one of the songs—"The Zombie never gets the girl"—is still stuck in my head. The show is based on a book illustrated by popular cartoonist Scott Campbell, so a live-drawing session was a natural fit—plus, even more than opera patrons, kids *lose their minds* over good drawings. Local artists Lucy Bellwood and Mike Russell, plus Laika's Graham Annabel, joined Campbell himself in sketching the show; the results are currently hanging in the lobby of the Winningstad. OCT's got a blog post up about the experiment, with links to the artists' work.

It's appropriate that they invited Russell; he spearheaded the opera's initial live-drawing experiment, and in fact just released an ebook of his "live comics adaptations" called Opera, Drawn Quickly. I also enjoyed Lucy Bellwood's post about the experience—she was giddy about drawing alongside Scott C., whose work, she writes, she's been reading since middle school.

Zombie in Love runs through March 23; details here.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Alt Weeklies Can Say "Motherfucker"

Posted by Alison Hallett on Tue, Mar 11, 2014 at 11:29 AM

I *loved* Artists Rep's production of The Motherfucker with the Hat. I thought most of the performances were great—in the lead role, John San Nicolas has never been better—and the script, about a recovering addict trying to pull his life together, is funny and beautifully written. And I also loved, as Erik pointed out in his review, that when we arrived at the theater our usher asked if we were there to see "Mother-Hat." (Artists Rep often has two shows running concurrently on their two stages, so it's important that ushers make sure everyone is in the right place.)

And then this comment on Erik's review:

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I love it! I love it all.

Monday, March 10, 2014

A Review of the First Half of Buffy: A Parody Play

Posted by Alison Hallett on Mon, Mar 10, 2014 at 10:59 AM

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Don't worry, they didn't touch your precious television show—Buffy: A Parody Play takes aim at the 1992 movie, a flop that was rebooted for TV five years later. This is the second scripted show produced by the Funhouse Lounge, after a Golden Girls Christmas show that similarly riffed on an existing franchise.

I'd never been to the Funhouse Lounge before, because—based on the name and the carnival-esque exterior—I assumed it was a spiritual sibling to the short-lived Weird Bar, that horrible "wacky" bar that briefly took over the E-Room's old space. (Remember? Ew.) It wasn't really like that, though. Yes, there's a room full of pictures of clowns, but otherwise it's a nice little venue, great for live comedy; I've been hearing good things about the monthly Midnight Mass standup show.

It'll probably help traditional theater fans settle into their seats more comfortably if they think of Buffy as "bar entertainment"—there's a Rocky Horror vibe to the show, heavy on camp, audience participation, clever props, and goofy sight gags. The movie's script has been heavily rewritten to include plenty of references to other teen and vampire movies; "This is not a cheerocracy" landed with a thunk, but a Twilight gag went over like gangbusters. I last saw the movie at a slumber party when I was 11, so I have no idea how closely the plot dovetails; the play follows bitchy teenaged cheerleader Buffy as she learns she's a vampire slayer and confronts the vampire menace ravaging her town. Yes, there is a training montage.

Scene transitions take too long, and a good third of the cast needs to figure out how to project—a certain slapdash quality just adds to the appeal of shows like this, but you can't compromise on pacing and basic audibility. And make sure you're in the mood for goofiness, ideally primed with a drink or three. I wasn't in the mood, on Friday, through absolutely no fault of the production—it was Alaska Airlines' fault, actually, and the previous day's nightmarish funeral travel—so I left at intermission to go drink alone in a corner. Based on what I saw, though, Buffy embraces its own constraints; it's a cheerfully low-budget, low-fi production that knows how silly it is. The show runs Thurs-Sat at 7 pm; tickets are $18, which is about $6 too expensive for this show; it's $16ish if you get 'em in advance,or $10 on Thursdays. Details here.

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Thursday, March 6, 2014

"The Blue Man Has No Ego," and Other Wisdom of the Blue Man Group

Posted by Alex Falcone on Thu, Mar 6, 2014 at 9:59 AM

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The Blue Man Group is coming through Portland this weekend for five performances, March 7-9. Since interviewing a Blue Man is a weird thing to do on a Tuesday afternoon, the Mercury sent me.

I sat down with Russell Rinker, a trained Shakespearean actor and former lumberjack who's been with the company for over 7 years. My only regret is not asking him about Blue Man Groupies.

ALEX: You started out with the Blue Man Group show in Las Vegas. How was that?

A BLUE MAN: It's surreal, you know? It's a weird place to live. But definitely moving out there with something like the Blue Man show is the best way to do it because you have this instant network of friends, you get to meet people in the show community.

You got into the show network? You mean you were hanging out with showgirls and magicians all the time?

Actually, yes. I was the captain of the Blue Man bowling team and we had a midnight league so we would bowl against Cirque du Soleil performers and people from Mama Mia and Avenue Q. It was crazy.

That may be the coolest thing I've ever heard of, the Vegas Entertainers Midnight Bowling League.

It was pretty awesome. You have all these interesting, talented people who are all like "How did I end up in Vegas?" Nobody knows anybody there so you end up getting close to people like that.

You left the Las Vegas show for the glow of Hollywood, right?

I was there for 5 years and I left on good terms. I just wanted to try something else, so I moved to LA for a couple years. I pretty much chose the worst time because right as I got there the writers' strike started and the economy tanked so it was pretty much the hardest time to break in. The opportunity to join the touring show came up and I love to travel, especially to be paid to travel, and I was ready to leave LA so it was a no brainer.

Wait, you mean you showed up in Los Angeles and your time as an anonymous blue drumming monster didn't make you an instant success?

Surprisingly, no. It's a really tough business.

So what were the other skills you needed to get hired with Blue Man Group? You've got an acting background but you've also got a musical background and a lumberjacking background. Which of those skills landed this job?

It's such a weird thing that we get all types of people. We have hard core drumline drummers or rock drummers who have no acting experience and we have actors with no drum experience, and clowns and dancers. I drummed in high school and after school I was doing some musical theater, some light opera. Sometimes the acting background even gets in the way because the show is so different. You've got this framework that you layer over your own character so you need to be a Blue Man, not play a Blue Man. Obviously there are certain rules to a Blue Man, he doesn't talk, he doesn't swing his arms, other than that it's up to your interpretation.

Whoa, don't skimp on that! What are the other rules of what you can't do in make-up, besides talking and swinging his arms?

The Blue Man has no ego, so he's just very innocent and curious. In the training process we go to the dog park and watch dogs interact with each other. Very curious: What's that, what's new, what's next? And just let that affect your personality.

What else did the training involve? Because so far it sounds pretty easy, just watching a bunch of puppies.

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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

On Attracting New Theater Audiences, and Artists Rep's New Season

Posted by Alison Hallett on Wed, Feb 26, 2014 at 12:59 PM

On Twitter this morning, local actor Harold Phillips linked to an article that sharply criticizes the ability of contemporary theater to attract young and diverse audiences. The article critiques‚ rightly, the idea that arts education is somehow the answer to getting young people to care about theater; it isn't. Making theater they care about is the answer.

The writer—playwright Mike Lew—saves some criticism for the pandering efforts that big theaters do make to bring in the kids, calling out Tweetups and free beer nights for the essentially pandering window dressing that they are.

Attempts by major arts organizations to harness the power of social media have been mostly embarrassing; I've unfollowed a lot of people during "tweet nights" at various arts institutions, and I can't imagine I'm alone in that. Here's a social media tip: Just because your hashtag is trending doesn't mean it's working.

(One exception: I always enjoyed seeing sketches from the opera's Comics Night at the Opera, where artists were invited to sketch during a dress rehearsal. Here's another social media tip: Recruit people who can add actual value to what you're producing. Contextless nattering on Twitter doesn't count.)

The key to attracting new audiences isn't tricks, Lew writes. It's more simple than that: If you want to attract a young, diverse audience, "present work that’s reflective of a young, diverse audience."

Which brings us to Artists Rep's new season, and ... damned if it doesn't do a pretty good job with those criteria. Their 2013-2014 season contains four Northwest premieres and an addition two Portland premieres; three of the eight plays are by women; moreover, Lynn Nottage is African American, Carlos Lacamara is Cuban, Ayad Akhtar's family is from Pakistan, and their plays all feature characters beyond the white Americans we usually see onstage. As for the "young" part: Amy Herzog's 4000 Miles, a 2013 Pulitzer finalist, is about a 21-year-old cyclist, which presumably means we'll see some aggressive outreach to the local bike community. I'll post the full lineup after the jump.

And while we're on the subject: Why has no one taken up the fifth item on Brendan Kiley's list of "Ten Things Theaters Need to Do Right Now to Save Themselves"? On-site, theater-themed childcare during performances, Sunday-school style? Is it an insurance thing? Serious question—seems like a no brainer. Has anyone looked into it? Please advise in the comments.

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Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Hand2Mouth's Pep Talk

Posted by Alison Hallett on Tue, Feb 4, 2014 at 8:59 AM

I haven't seen nearly as many Fertile Ground performances as I planned to. I got sick; someone important had an important birthday... I have plenty of excuses, but here's what it boils down to: I don't deserve a smoothie.

On Sunday, though, I finally made it out to one of my most-anticipated shows of the festival: Pep Talk, from experimental company Hand2Mouth.

Pep Talk is about teams and coaches and motivation; it is held, appropriately, in the gym at the Peninsula Park Community Center, which dates to 1913. (There's a great WPA mural in the lobby featuring athletic old-timey guys in onesies tossing a ball around.)

Before the show starts, audience members are asked to fill out a quick survey with answers to questions like "who's your hero?" and "what makes a good coach?" Because this felt like some sort of vetting process, and because I am an asshole, I made sure to note that one of my biggest fears is "audience participation."* Then we slapped on name tags—last-name only—and took our seats on benches in the gym, in front of a sparse set featuring a few video monitors and a foosball table.

This show is led—"performed" seems an insufficient word—by Hand2Mouth ensemble members Julie Hammond, Liz Hayden, Erin Leddy, and Maesie Speer. In customized warmup jackets and sneakers, they introduce themselves as our coaches for the evening; together, they will consider the form and function of motivational speeches by living the form and function of motivational speeches. The audience, seated on backless benches and folding chairs, is part of the show too: We're the raggedy band of misfits just waiting for the right coach to transform us into a team.

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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Football for Theater Kids: Hand2Mouth's "Alt Super Bowl"

Posted by Alison Hallett on Tue, Jan 28, 2014 at 12:14 PM

Oh, look, I don't care about football. I like beer and snacks and halftime shows that involve Beyoncé, but the actual sitting-around-watching-sports part isn't really my thing. Which is why Hand2Mouth Theatre's "Alt Superbowl" on Sunday promises to be lots of fun, for those of us who like everything about Super Bowl parties but the Super Bowl: At both of their Sunday showings of Pep Talk (3 pm & 8 pm), your $15 ticket includes beer, pizza, and chips, as well as halftime entertainment from breakdancers Moon Patrol Crew.

Pep Talk is an experimental theater piece inspired by football—or at least, the version of football most appealing to theater kids, which is that presented by Coach Eric Taylor and the East Dillon Lions. The show examines motivational speeches and coaches, based in part on Friday Night Lights. (Literally everything I know about football comes from that show, and I spent four years in high school marching band listlessly playing "25 or 6 to 4" from the bleachers.) Ticket info lives here.

And now for a moment with Tami Taylor.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Welcome to Night Vale's Live Show Is Way Better than Hearing about Stamps.com

Posted by Joe Streckert on Mon, Jan 20, 2014 at 3:29 PM

I love podcasts, but I don’t think I’d pay for one.

Podcasting, though, is not a zero-cost endeavor. It takes time, of course, as well as equipment, talent, and web hosting. Get enough subscribers, and downloads can slow to a crawl without the support of costly bandwidth. Despite being distributed for free, podcasts, after a certain point, have to make money to stay operational. Most of the time they seem to do that with Audible ads. Dear god. So many Audible ads.

The way that Welcome to Night Vale has monetized its highly successful podcast is far more interesting and fun than constantly being bombarded with ads for Stamps.com or whatever. On top of soliciting donations and selling merchandise, the horror/comedy podcast has embarked on a series of live shows throughout the country. I caught one of their Portland performances this past Saturday night, and while I was expecting to be entertained, I was surprised at how good it was.

More after the jump.

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Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Mormon Playwrights Reading Series Kicks Off with Play About Gay Mormons

Posted by Alison Hallett on Tue, Jan 7, 2014 at 10:44 AM

I got a press release yesterday about the brand-new Mormon Playwrights reading series, created by Mormon Redneck Productions to "explore the stories of mainstream Mormonism through published plays by established Mormon storytellers."

Founded in 1830, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was the first truly American church that now has a worldwide congregation of over 15 million. The last decade has seen tremendous growth and members, often referred to as Mormons, have been in the news all over the world. However, their stories are, for the most part, told by those outside of the church. On stage, Mormon characters are few and far between, despite their central importance in settling the American West. Outside observers have created shows satirizing them and holding them up for criticism. But, what about the stories told by those who are of the faith? What are their stories like?

Yesterday was also, of course, the day that the Supreme Court put a halt to gay marriages in Utah, at the state's request —Utah's population, not coincidentally, is 62% Mormon, and the Church officially opposes gay marriage. So it's particularly interesting that the first show in the Mormon Playwrights series deals directly with the relationship between Mormonism and homosexuality:

"Playwright Carol Lynn Pearson writes from personal experience as a devout Mormon whose equally pious husband left after 12 years to pursue his life as a gay man... Over an open grave in a Salt Lake City cemetery, parents Ruth and Alex struggle internally and against one another to absorb the suicide of their 24-year old son, who had finally come to terms with his sexuality and entered into a seemingly happy relationship. Pearson's personal understanding of spiritual crisis keeps Ruth's hard-line attitude from becoming alienating, while Alex's growing doubts about his strict religiosity never become too lofty. Into a mix of guilt and blame comes Marcus, the partner of the dead son, who provides some long sought answers for the grieving parents."

The second show in the series is a less-timely look at the early days of Mormonism: Hancock County is set in Missouri immediately after OG prophet Joseph Smith was shot to death, and describes how the Mormons came to settle in Utah.

I just finished reading The Lonely Polygamist, Brady Udall's great novel about a well-meaning polygamist trying to juggle the needs of four wives, three houses, and an ungodly number of children. David Ebershoff's novel The 19th Wife effectively uses a modern-day polygamist compound (of the sort the Church of Latter Day Saints officially disavows, as it does all "plural marriage") as a starting point to investigate the roots of Mormonism. Last year, I found much to like about the Portland-made film The Fall: Testament of Love, about two gay Mormon missionaries struggling to navigate their feelings for each other. And, of course, the wonderful Book of Mormon (which will be back in Portland this summer, btw) poked gentle fun at LDS without doing too much damage. The Mormon Church is weird, and there is absolutely no denying that there are plenty of fascinating stories to be told by and about people who grew up in the church. It also, of course, has a history of racism and is currently actively opposing gay marriage in Utah. So it's up to you, I suppose, to decide whether attending Mormon-produced, Mormon-written theater feels like an endorsement of a bigoted institution, or a chance to better understand a hugely influential (and crazy-fascinating) American religious and cultural force.

Facing East runs Feb 12 & 14, Hancock County is Feb 13 & 15, both at 7:30 pm at Ekko Studios at 828 NW 19th.

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