Search Results for 'PDX Playwrights'

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Tim & Samie: A rare partnership

ArtsWatch Weekly: An enduring friendship in art; a new opera leader; Ursula K. Le Guin's stamp of approval; performance & music & more

PORTLAND’S LONG BEEN A MAKERS SORT OF TOWN – a do-it-yourself, homespun, Saturday Market, farmers’ market, craft-centric, street-art, life-as-art kind of place, spinning its populist creativity from handmade craft to handmade food to handmade clothing and jewelry, and reaching its tentacles upward into fine art, whether it’s found in museums or galleries or home studios or among the booths and displays of street fairs. Not unlike the centers of the Arts & Crafts Movement that flourished in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, it’s a place that believes art and artisanship fit together in a heightened, rounded, everyday way. As the city and state slowly waken from the pandemic shutdown, people are beginning to gather again – to see things and maybe buy things, and to rekindle the lost pleasure of being together, shoulder to shoulder (or maybe a little more distanced, and maybe still wearing masks) in a public place, simply celebrating the joy of being alive.

Left: “Arizona #2,” Timothy Wayne Stapleton, acrylic on canvas, 60 x 36 inches. Right: “Harmonic Memories,” Timothy Wayne Stapleton and Samie Jo Pfeifer, acrylic on canvas, 36 x 30 inches.

One of those revived gatherings, the Slabtown Makers Market, will be hosting visitors this weekend, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, July 24-25, at NW Marine Art Works, 2516 N.W. 29th Ave., Portland, a haven of artists studios amid a sprawl of former heavy-industry buildings. More than 40 artists and crafters will be showing and selling their goods, and giving back a little, too: 5 percent of sales will be donated to local nonprofits.

Amid the clayworks and macrame and baked goods and clothing and artworks by the likes of painters Daniel Duford and Chinese American artist Clement Lee, one booth leaps out: the one being operated by Samie Jo Pfeifer, friend and assistant to Tim Stapleton for four years before he died in September 2020 from the effects of ALS, or Lou Gherig’s Disease. Tim was a beloved and multitalented artist in Portland for many years, known in varying circles as a theatrical stage designer of uncommon creativity, a graceful writer whose stories often looped back to his early life in the coal-mining regions of Kentucky, an actor, a teacher at various colleges, and a visual artist whose paintings also regularly took their inspiration from the people and culture of the Coal Belt. You can read much more about Tim and his life in Farewell to the Tangerine Window, Marty Hughley’s heartfelt ArtsWatch memorial to him from last October.


MusicWatch Monthly: What flowers may come

Spring continues with MYS, PYP, FNM, PO

How ironic that I named my previous column after the opening line to T. S. Eliot’s The Wasteland, “April is the cruellest month,” because April turned out to be pretty cruel to me. It was a month overloaded with work, hastily scheduled appointments and random things going wrong, the sorts of things that happen so infrequently they’re rarely worth thinking about until they suddenly become urgent.

Of course I don’t wish to compare my one busy month to the destruction of Europe in 1918; I just found that the line resonates with my current moment, as all great poetry resonantes across time. But now that’s hopefully over and we can move on to the brighter month ahead.

At least April ended on a high note: FearNoMusic’s headliner concert featuring Nancy Ives, Inés Voglar Belgique and Michael Roberts went live on Monday and was a brilliant performance to cap off their season. I had the pleasure of joining in the recording session as a sound engineer/assistant, so I got a bit of a sneak preview of the show. I’ll just say that Ives’ performance of Abraham’s Sons (In Memoriam:Trayvon Martin) by James Lee III is not to be missed. If you’re reading this on Thursday, you have a few more hours to catch it.


Days of Fezziwig past

Fertile Ground 2021: An overlooked character from "A Christmas Carol" gets his close-up in "Fezziwig’s Fortune"

Fezziwig’s Fortune is technically a prequel to A Christmas Carol, but that description is both accurate and inadequate. The play – which was written by Josie Seid and Sara Jean Accuardi and is being featured in Fertile Ground‘s 2021 online festival of new performance – is something more: an intensely moving portrait of a grieving father and the forces (supernatural and otherwise) that reveal the possibilities beyond his pain.


In A Christmas Carol, Fezziwig is Ebenezer Scrooge’s ex-mentor—and a model for him to emulate (Charles Dickens presents him as a man who hasn’t let his cash eclipse his heart). “Say that his power lies in words and looks; in things so slight and insignificant that it is impossible to add and count ’em up: what then?” Scrooge wonders. “The happiness he gives, is quite as great as if it cost a fortune.”

The premise of Fezziwig’s Fortune is perfect and perverse: It asks what agonies might lie behind its protagonist’s ebullient exterior. By the beginning of the play, Fezziwig (James Dixon) has witnessed the death of his daughter Joy (Barbie Wu) and the worsening headaches of his wife, Catherine (Nicole Accuardi). When an apparition named Hope (Andrea White) arrives to prepare Catherine for the next life, the scope of Fezziwig’s tragic existence comes into focus: He will be forced to endure a second loss when he hasn’t even begun to recover from the first.


Strike up the virtual festival band

ArtsWatch Weekly: Online Fertile Ground fest marches on, film fest updates, Hal Holbrook on jackasses & politics, monthly guides

BELLS ARE NOT RINGING AND NO MARCHING BANDS OR HIGH-STEPPING HORSES are sashaying through the center of town, but it’s festival time in Portland. We’re talking, of course, about Fertile Ground, the city’s annual festival of new performance works, which in an ordinary year would see revelers scurrying high, low, and in between across the metropolitan area, into basement and attic spaces and grand theater halls, to be among the first people on the planet to see the beginnings of upwards of a hundred new creative works, in all stages of development, from first readings to workshops to full-blown world premieres. Over its dozen years Fertile Ground has become something like a localized Edinburgh Fringe Festival, with the restriction that shows aren’t imported – they have to be made here, by people who can plausibly claim to live here.

A whirlwind of dance, circus, and aerial action awaits in Petra Delarocha’s “Prismagic Radio Hour,” premiering at 9 p.m. Friday in Fertile Ground.

This year everything’s changed: What had been known and celebrated for its in-the-moment acts of performance has transformed because of Covid restrictions into a virtual festival. As the 2021 festival moves into its final days – it began on Jan. 28 and closes on Saturday, Feb. 7, although projects can be viewed online through Feb. 15 – ArtsWatch’s writers have racked up a lot of screen time. We haven’t seen everything, but we’ve spent hours watching, and we’ll be watching more. One thing that’s stood out has been the ability of some projects to think like hybrids, making the most under the circumstances of the possibilities of both film and live performance. 


Ferocious mothers; a theater split

ArtsWatch Weekly: Abrupt shift at Oregon Children's Theatre, art with an edge, a song that lingers, weekend listening, teaching & art

THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC HAS PUT HUGE STRAINS on cultural organizations and on the people who work at them. Sometimes a strain becomes a surprising break. That happened in mid-November at one of Portland’s biggest performing institutions, Oregon Children’s Theatre, when Managing Director Ross McKeen and the company parted ways. McKeen, in an email, called the sudden shift a firing. Board President Amanda Carter-Jura, citing board confidentiality, said in a phone conversation simply that McKeen no longer was associated with OCT.
The departure of McKeen, one of the city’s most prominent arts leaders, comes as something of a shock. He’d been OCT’s managing director since 2008. Before that he spent several years as a grant writer and fundraising consultant for several Portland arts organizations, served a year as the first manager of the Oregon Cultural Trust, and spent three years as general manager of Portland Center Stage. In tandem with recently retired Artistic Director Stan Foote he had helped OCT become a major national player among children’s theaters, with numerous co-productions and high-profile world premieres.
“There was no warning,” McKeen said of his release, “though my relationship with key board leaders had grown more strained as we struggled to reconcile differences in our views of the budget and OCT’s future. I felt they wanted to make budget cuts that were more draconian than I believed were either needed or healthy for the company’s survival. I thought we’d found a tenable middle ground, but they apparently thought otherwise.”

 Jenna Yokoyama and Ken Yoshikawa in Oregon Children’s Theatre’s production in the Winningstad Theatre of “The Journey of Ben Uchida: Citizen 13559.” Naomi Iizaka’s play, set in a World War II Japanese American internment camp in northern California, was canceled mid-run in March when coronavirus shutdowns began. Photo: Owen Carey

Carter-Jura praised the company’s staff. “I just want to underscore how impressed I am by the dedication of our staff, at all levels,” she said. Separately, McKeen echoed that feeling: “I wish them all well, and certainly bear no animus toward the company.” But Carter-Jura also cited financial concerns as the pandemic has worn on, including uncertainty over when and how OCT, which traditionally has counted on large daytime audiences of school classes bused in on field trips, will be able to resume live productions. “It’s not just the economic realities we face right now, but also the unknown,” she said. “What’s in the future? That’s the reality that we’re facing.”


The Long & Shortz of ArtsWatch’s Puzzlemaster

ArtsWatch Weekly: Brett Campbell solves the riddle, theater discovers radio, books rock, music gets real, dancing 'til the end of time

LET THE RECORD STIPULATE THAT WE ARE LIVING THROUGH ASTONISHING DISRUPTIONS in the Court of Public Opinion. Let the record stipulate that these are trying and uncertain times. And let the record stipulate that although there may be “winners” and “losers,” the Court of Public Opinion, which is at war with itself, does not, will not, rest its case. Now, on to the other news:


ASSEMBLING ANY SORT OF PUBLICATION, ONLINE OR IN PRINT, IS A BIT OF A PUZZLE. Is that story ready to run, or does it still need fact-checking? Do we have photos? Is it timely? Has it covered all the angles? Does it have the beginning, middle, and end where the beginning, middle, and end ought to be? Does it need, in the gleeful words of one old-time Portland editor, “just one more run through the typewriter”? What’s the proper mix of stories for any given time? And how does it all fit together? Creating art of any sort, from playing an instrument to writing a poem to etching a metal plate to make a print, is a puzzle (which isn’t the same as a puzzlement), and so is journalism. Issues arise, and need to be solved.

Fortunately, ArtsWatch has its own resident Puzzlemaster – writer and senior editor Brett Campbell, who knows how things go together. And as of Sunday morning, when he appeared on National Public Radio’s Sunday Puzzle segment of Weekend Edition as the guest of Puzzlemaster Will Shortz, a whole nation of listeners knows that Campbell knows. They know, for one thing, that he’s a dab hand at figuring out the names of American cities if they’re scrambled and hidden behind rhymes. (“Tan Barber, Michigan” threw him a temporary curve, but after an initial whiff he nailed it, no sweat. And, “Wrong Peach, California”? Easy-peasy.) 

ArtsWatch Puzzlemaster Brett Campbell (right) trying (left) to work around a former head of the household, Kucing, who after an adventurous nine lives has passed his story-supervisor duties on to Bowie (stage name C.S. Eliot). How does Brett manage the workaround? It’s a puzzlement.


Theater for the Ears

Stop. Listen. What's that sound? In the pandemic’s wake, Portland theater companies turn to audio drama.

“Radio is something that has to be believed to be seen.”

That line from an old Twilight Zone episode explains the appeal of not just radio drama, but any theater meant to be heard instead of viewed. And now there’s more to believe in.

Since the pandemic shut down live theater, our screens have filled with streaming videos of previous productions or new creations, many created via Zoom, with actors recording parts from their homes. But even though we’ve been said to be living in a visual age for generations now, maybe screen fatigue has finally pushed us to giving our overtaxed eyes a break. Because another form of streaming theater is enjoying a resurgence — audio dramas.

Vin Shambry records his lines in the audio version of Artists
Repertory Theatre’s Magellanica. Photo: Kathleen Kelly.