It started, as so many things do, with a casual conversation. “You know what this town needs?” “What if?” “What we really ought to do is …”
The very first Fertile Ground festival of new performance works, in January 2009, featured singer McKinley’s musical Gracie and the Atom; the Algonquin Round Table play Vitriol and Violets, with music by jazz wit Dave Frishberg; and new plays by the likes of William S. Gregory, Sandra De Helen, Eleanor O’Brien, Steve Patterson, Matt Zrebski, and others.
This week the eighth annual Fertile Ground opens for an eleven-day run, Thursday through January 31. And it’s not fooling around. This year’s festival will include more than 160 performances on more than 30 stages across the metropolitan area. What began mostly as a theater showcase has expanded to embrace dance, performance art, aerial and acrobatic acts, new-vaudeville, clowning, even film animation, which has a lively presence in Oregon. Offerings range from the biggest theaters in town to pop-up projects, and cover just about every step in the process, from readings to full-blown world premieres.
A couple of weeks ago three ArtsWatch writers joined the mob at Artists Repertory Theatre for Fertile Ground’s big media kickoff, a “speed-dating” evening in which producers, performers, and playwrights lined up to spend five minutes with a writer or reporter, pitching their project. What we gathered in these assembly-line interviews, we compiled in Fertile Ground: Let the fest begin. Among the things we learned: When a woman comes after you with a hatchet, she’s not after your scalp, she just wants to tell you about her play Grimm Northwest. Faith Helma hates positive thinking so much that she wrote a solo show about it. And playwright Patterson, who was in the original Fertile Ground, is back with another, a play he describes as “kinda like a feminist Huck Finn on acid.” We’re pretty much sold on that.
Solid Gold Cadillac. All right, not a Cadillac. Brett Campbell’s talking about serious contemporary music. “We may be entering a golden age for Oregon contemporary classical music, he writes for ArtsWatch. “This past fall might have brought Oregon music lovers more new music by Oregon classical composers than any season in history.” That includes, among many other projects, a fresh performance of Portland pianist and composer Darrell Grant’s The Territory. Of Grant, who teaches at Portland State University and is a leading figure on the city’s jazz scene, Campbell says that if Oregon had a most-valuable player award for musicians, “I’d nominate Darrell Grant.”
A few things to consider on this week’s calendar:
- Celestial Carnaval. As Portland’s suburbs and surrounding communities grow bigger, the art scene expands, too. Out west, the Valley Art Association‘s been at it a long time. This party and fundraiser Saturday night celebrates fifty years for the association, which operates a gallery in Forest Grove and presents events including an annual sidewalk chalk festival. Saturday night in downtown Forest Grove, with the ever-excellent 3 Leg Torso providing the tunes.
- Great Expectations. After a week of previews, Portland Center Stage’s adaptation of the Dickens classic opens Friday night, with Stephen Stocking as Pip, Dana Green as Miss Havisham, and a solid supporting cast. It anticipates yet another adaptation opening in late February at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland.
- Beethoven-Bartok Festival. The admirable Jerusalem Quartet returns to town to show some classical flexibility at Friends of Chamber Music in four concerts at Lincoln Performance Hall, Thursday, Saturday, Sunday, and next Tuesday.
- Dido and Aeneas. Baroque opera doesn’t get performed much in Portland, but The Ensemble is on hand to help correct the oversight with performances Saturday in Eugene and Sunday in Portland of Henry Purcell’s lovely first opera, along with excerpts from John Blow’s even earlier version.
Upstart: Lakewood’s Golden Boy. Christa Morletti McIntyre considers Ty Boice’s knockout performance in Clifford Odets’s heavyweight role, and the links between Odets’s conflicted boxer and his own career.
In search of the great white .. leg. Barry Johnson follows Portland Experimental Theatre Company’s next stop in its quest to deconstruct Moby-Dick, this one called [or, the whale]. Sometimes what isn’t there is what’s there.
Engaging ears, eyes, minds. Gary Ferrington previews the creative Cascade Composers’ upcoming show in Eugene, citing concert organizer Daniel Brugh: “There’s gonna be a few lights of a variety of colors, video, some sound-induced visuals and lots and lots of darkness! This is music experienced in an alternative way.”
Golden cage, broken promises. Broken Promises, Olga Sanchez’s new play at Milagro about the child sex-trade corridor in Oregon and along the West Coast, “straddles cultural, social, and age divides,” Christa Morltti McIntyre writes.
Woman, trapped. Sue Mach’s new stage adaptation at CoHo of the classic story The Yellow Wallpaper, Christa Morletti McIntyre writes, feels “like the pit of your stomach was ripped out and lost down a hole.”
About ArtsWatch Weekly
We send a letter like this every Tuesday to a select group of email subscribers, and also post it weekly on the ArtsWatch home page. In ArtsWatch Weekly, we take a look at stories we’ve covered in the previous week, give early warning of events coming up, and sometimes head off on little arts rambles we don’t include anywhere else. You can read this report here. Or, you can get it delivered weekly to your email inbox, and get a quick look at all the stories you might have missed (we have links galore) and the events you want to add to your calendar. It’s easy to sign up. Just click here, and leave us your name and e-address.
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