Fertile Ground Review: PDX Playwrights Shorts

'Show Us Your Shorts, Again': the year of nosy narrators, bawdy humor and imaginary friends

Last year during Fertile Ground, ArtsWatch caught almost all of the shows that PDX Playwrights staged, and wrote two articles full of summary thoughts. This year we saw more shows across the board, but managed to catch only Playwrights’ sampler of six vignettes, Show Us Your Shorts, Again. Correspondingly short, but nevertheless appreciative, the reviews are in:

Last year's photo, same faces: actors Garland Lyons, Katie Watkins and Rosalind Fell.

Last year’s photo, same faces: actors Garland Lyons, Katie Watkins and Rosalind Fell.

The Flimflam Shamble and Irrespective Perspective
by Brad Bolchunos
Between last year’s Cranial Camaraderie and Wears Fishnets and this year’s pieces, I’m starting to spot Bolchunos’s pet conceits: absurd humor, linguistic twists, gangster noir, cockeyed impossible romance, and ruptures of a particular wall—not the fourth one that separates the audience from the cast, but an adjacent one that separates a play’s narrator from its characters. This season, Bolchunos’ narrators don’t know their place; they interject and overbear and try to steal the story.

In FlimFlam, a character of the same name (Curt Hanson) hits on a young woman (Katie Watkins) at a train station, attempting to charm her with high-stakes mobster tales from his alleged past. But a spectral naysayer named Heceta (Rosalind Fell) and the nosy narrator (Nevan Richard) both talk-block his efforts, contradicting him at many turns. With Heceta as his conscience and the narrator as his memory both trying to keep him honest, FlimFlam finds it harder to editorialize his story. Nevertheless, “Nothing flimsy in my whimsy; no shame in my sham,” claims FlimFlam, defending his right to enrich life (and even prolong it?) with colorful storytelling. The train will take us all sooner or later; might as well make the most of the moment.

Bolchunos’s Irrespective Perspective sets several potential romances in a bookstore, gives a couple of the characters relatable dispositions and a couple of others bizarre idiosyncrasies, and then stirs the pot. Rosalind Fell’s contrary character Alexandra has the odd habit of saying the exact opposite of what she means. She tries to flirt with Clyde (Garland Lyons) while claiming that she hates his suit and she wouldn’t like to meet up sometime. Fiona (Watkins), a Hot Topic goth in the midst of rebuffing normal guy Edward (Andrew Garretson) and bizarre “hip” grandpa George (Hanson), finds herself drawn to the dashing but oblivious Danvers (Nevan Richard). This show’s intrusive narrator, just like the other, breaches the boundary, though it takes us a minute to realize that the bookstore patrons can actually hear him. Danvers loudly announces his thoughts about Fiona, broadcasting his attempt to discreetly peek at her and his plan to approach. Amazingly, she responds in kind.

They Are Afraid of You, Shawn
by Kate Belden
If Bolchunos has a specialty, Belden does as well: brain maladies, and familial coping. Last year’s staged reading of the full-length March showed us a neuroscientist recovering from a brain hemorrhage. This year the much shorter They Are Afraid of You, Shawn shows a couple observing their son and discussing what’s to be done about his ADD. Father Sam (David Loftus) is ridden with guilt that he may be the source of the genetic curse. Mother Claire (Katie Mortenmore) has her own source of self-loathing: she’s afraid she’s become “boring,” somewhat in reaction to her husband’s habits, but somewhat of her own accord. After trading blame and going over their treatment options, they eventually draw strength from each other’s resolve to make the situation work, folding into a hug as they gaze offstage at the son they’ll have to handle.

As in March, Belden’s material here seems well-researched and realistic. Unlike March, the short format confines the best aspects of her craft. There’s no room here for her to weave in metaphor or gradually unfold complex interpersonal dynamics, and these are skills at which she excels. Here, there’s only time for a few sympathetic musings. Here’s hoping Belden can either reprise March as a fully staged show or dig into another more immersive full-length story soon.

Replacing Jack
by John A. Donnelly
Thank goodness this one is written by a man; it explains the sardonic, delusional picture it paints of a single adult woman. In John A. Donnelly’s Replacing Jack, the seemingly unsatisfiable and mentally disturbed Marcie (Kathleen Barnebey) has chosen to envision imaginary boyfriends, loosely basing her longest-term spectral swain one on Jack Nicholson because, as we learn in their dialogue, she incessantly rewatches his movies on video, alone, at home (presumably while the Red Baron cooks her boxed pasta?). David Loftus plays him, as well as the jealous, macho (also imaginary) Spike and the latest addition: a sensitive self-improver from her gym named Brad who may actually be real…but we’re given cause to doubt it. “I’m so confused,” exclaims the addled woman, adding that she may be better off without boyfriends at all.

This piece isn’t portrayal, it’s commentary from an unseen narrator: a man who’s dissatisfied with dissatisfied women. Falling short of absurdism or satire, it’s sketch comedy with single women as its general brunt.

NOTE: The writer had to duck out of producing duties for health reasons, so what we describe is a hands-off delivery of his work. Perhaps the piece would have come across differently had he been able to give notes? Of course ArtsWatch wishes him a speedy recovery.

Two Starches
by John Servilio
Mother Mary (Kathleen Barneby) and father Lou (Kevin Newland Scott) sit down to a home-cooked Italian supper with their grown son Joseph (Rob Harris). But when he requests bread with his stuffed shell pasta, his mother refuses him with the evasive excuse that he can’t have “two starches.” But his father can. He’s “experienced.” She refuses to explain further but urges him to enjoy and “explore” his pasta shell. To the playwright’s credit, we only gradually realize that this is an explicit sex-ed lesson that a well-meaning but meddlesome Italian mother has sprung on her unsuspecting son. Her demonstrations of how to lick the shell and innuendos about how “a thin noodle only goes so far” are hardly highbrow, but they get the whole audience howling.

Cue
by Michael Cooper
A boldly Beckett-esque scene pits three Hamlets against each other and forces them to wait together in a breezeway and knock on locked doors. Hippie Hamlet (Lawrence Siulagi) has the best luck, managing to gain entry and exit while the other tortured heroes remain locked out. Classic Hamlet (David Loftus) pontificates and postures, but can’t get a break. Female Hamlet (Rebecca Tolund) answers every overture with a chip on her shoulder about cross-gendered casting, and German Hamlet (Nick Walden Poublon) spouts bizarre mentions of using farm animals in past shows, but gradually breaks this character and loses his accent as the tedious waiting wears on. Ultimately, the piece delivers exactly what absurdism has come to promise: a wacky premise, unpredictable lines, uneventful action and an intentionally dissatisfying conclusion.

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A. L. Adams also writes the monthly column Art Walkin’  for  The Portland Mercury, and is  former arts editor of Portland Monthly Magazine. Read more from Adams: Oregon ArtsWatch | The Portland Mercury
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FG Review: PDX Playwrights, Week II

The second weekend of PDX Playwright workshops was... crazy

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Sally Sunbear’s “Hail!” was one of 19 titles featured in PDX Playwrights’ series of staged readings at Fertile Ground Festival.

Prolific and all-inclusive writing collective PDX Playwrights, which meets twice a month to help budding playwrights workshop new scripts, brought a slew of new titles to Fertile Ground. In Week I, ArtsWatch caught everything from heartwrenching medical drama to uproarious coffeeshop slapstick. This week, we were able to see the complete performance of some previewed pieces, as well as a few works that, while entertaining, are ripe for further refinements. A demonstration of the necessity of come-one-come-all forums for creative development, PDX Playwrights is percolating some great new plays.

 “Umbrella for Three” by Brad Bolchunos

This smorgasbord of humor, jaded romance and power struggles is well-paced, thoughtful and amusing; beyond that there’s no compelling reason to see the works as a set. The three separate narratives each hold their own.

“Cranial Camaraderie”: (Previewed last week in PDX Playwrights Part I) A witty and unpredictable coffeeshop vignette pits a crisp British woman against her critical and snarky ex. A dumbfounded barista looks on as both parties reveal their respective clairvoyant powers and instigate the ultimate head-game: psychic warfare.

“Liquid Rock”: In a couples’ therapy sesh, young, inexperienced counselor “Ez” struggles to pin down her older, resistant clients’ marital woes. Allegations of cheating that ultimately prove false, and oblique hope for relationship redemption comes in the form of two innocuous objects: a bottle and a pen.

“Wears Fishnets”: A noirishly-narrating private investigator, a chippy newsman and a femme fatale play through the same scene several times, Groundhog Day style, revealing more angles with each redux.

“Good Ones” by David Wester

Does mundanity equal realism? That question might be asked of this seeming word-for-word recreation of a modern-day stoner dialogue, so rife with “like,” “stuff,” and, “you know,” that it probably triples the stage time. Semi-single dudes James and Ed spend what seems like forever chewing over the play-by-play of a recent house party while they noodle with an unplugged electric guitar and pass a bag of potato chips. The tone of the dialogue and acting here is comparable to slacker-lifestyle-affirming TV series “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.” The storytelling definitely paints a realistic picture, but the punchline—however gratifying—comes achingly late. If Wester can pare off a few hundred hems and haws from this dialogue, he’ll have a winning short.

“Going On” by Kristin Olson-Huddle

Olson-Huddle makes her audience believe, root for, and love her—and in this context, that’s no small feat. Confessional one-person shows like this one are an especially tough act to pull off—and, as demonstrated a few days ago by the tragically tone-deaf “A Virgin in Paradise,” the onstage auteur’s true motives will shine through any intended spin. Fortunately, Olson-Huddle is a pro storyteller, balancing detail with momentum and mixing her self-affirmation with an all-important pinch of humility. This kind of theatrical catharsis (in her particular case, public grieving for the untimely loss of parents and a brother) tends to serve the individual as much or more than the audience—unless it’s capped with a call to action. Fortunately, Olson-Huddle’s volunteer position with Portland’s Dougie Center (a foundation that supports Portland-area grieving children) gives her testimonial a sense of greater purpose and leaves her audience with a direct and practical outlet for their newfound empathy.

“Hail!” by Sally Sunbear

This is a mashup of Greek mythology, sentimental wedding-style song, pseudo-Shakespearean speech and wry postmodern office microdrama—and if that combination doesn’t give you whiplash, you are a better theater viewer than I. Sunbear’s best strength (and a rare gift in its own right) is her faithful re-creation of Elizabethan linguistic conceits, so if the whole script were to fully go “old school” where it currently flirts with adult-contemporary, so much the better.

“Crosswords Morning” by Maggie McOmie

An elderly couple discusses daily trifling concerns over a kitchen table full of newspapers—and as in “Good Ones,” this script is realistic to the brink of boredom. A seeming mere exercise in character development, this chitchat seems to await a storyline of any kind. Hopefully more notes from PDX Playwrights will yield new epiphanies.

“An Island” by Jenni GreenMiller

Artswatch regrettably missed this reading, and hence can offer no comment.

“Night Breezes and the Ballerina” by Heath Hyun Houghton

I still can’t decide whether this play was hypnotic, soporific or cryptic. Revealing detailed information in seemingly randomized order, only truly elucidating its characters’ dilemma mid-play, name-dropping many characters never seen onstage, the storytelling dipped frequently into the territory of hypnotic induction, underpinning poetic impressionism with interpretive dance. At any rate, as far as I could tell, this was a tale of several adult friends and one teen experiencing blowback from a mutual acquaintance’s ill-fated scientific excursion into a guerilla war zone. Where am I?

“Whipping Cream and Freudian Dreams” by Kate Knab-Horn

Officially establishing “coffeeshop” as the single-most-popular dramatic setting for PDX Playwrights’ works, this witty and irreverent vignette submits Freudian analysis of the coffeeshop climate, namely the “male’s” oedipal attraction to “comely baristas.” Puncturing the fourth wall seemed an unnecessary overstep for a sketch that was already delivering hilarity and unexpected insight without going there.

“Oh F*ck! Oh Sh*t! it’s Love! The Musical” By Sam Dinkowitz

Well, this one won the popularity contest, selling out Hipbone Studio and spilling spare audience members into the aisles. With some crossover personnel from Action/Adventure Theatre and a similarly jocular vibe, this hipster romance tragi-comedy brought the house down. A four-person cast depicts a hipster leading man and lady, plus their respective foils: a bimbo and a meathead. (Guess who lives happily ever after.) At showtime, the musical numbers paled in comparison to A/A’s…but hopefully more rehearsal will strengthen them in time for the show’s upcoming run at Milepost 5.

FG reviews: PDX Playwrights Week 1

The consortium hits Fertile Ground running with 17 shows in process

Antoine Watteau, "Actors from the Comedie Francaise" (1720)/Metropolitan Museum of Art

Antoine Watteau, “Actors from the Comedie Francaise” (1720)/Metropolitan Museum of Art

By A.L. ADAMS

PDX Playwrights, a writers and actors consortium, gets an A+ for participation in Fertile Ground. Presenting staged readings of 17 19 titles by almost as many writers, the group uses the forum to both show off and refine its craft. ArtsWatch caught most of this week’s offerings, which—predictably—evoked mixed feelings. Here are some initial impressions of the fledgling works’ transition from page to stage:

“Hail”

Sally Sunbear’s script starts out strong, with the arrogant Aries and the aloof Aphrodite verbally sparring about the relative merits of love and war in a twisting Elizabethan tongue rich with poetic metaphor. Within a few bars, the dialogue dissolves into unmemorable song and markedly plainer speech. Is this because we’re now hearing from the gods’ servants, or simply because the play opens stronger than it proceeds? We’ll only know once the rest of the piece premieres on February 3.

“Just Add Love”

In Debbie Lamedman’s modern dating scene, a man and woman’s first meeting in a coffee shop exposes the peril of playing it TOO cool. A casual rejection, a cell phone interruption and an offhanded goodbye usher out what might otherwise have become true love. Great comic timing transforms what could’ve been mundane into nuanced theatrics.

6727812097_c97a2f222e“Think About It”

Kate Belden’s absurdist romance-novel parody presents us with a throbbing, swooning, preening, posing pair of lovers apparently ripped from a Harlequin cover and aptly and romantically named Paulo and Viviana. At odds with their steamy antics is the narrator who, despite wishing to identify with the carefree and passionate Viviana, can’t help but voice her doubts about the hackneyed details of the lovers’ story. In the ensuing volleys of back-sass between romantic heroine and pragmatic narrator, many relevant questions are raised, but the conclusion rings less satisfyingly than the dilemmas (literally) posed.

“Cranial Camaraderie”

Part of Brad Bolchunos’ “Umbrella for Three,” this witty and unpredictable coffeeshop vignette pits a crisp British woman against her critical and snarky ex. A dumbfounded barista looks on as both parties reveal their respective clairvoyant powers and instigate the ultimate head-game: psychic warfare. This script is a standout: the novelty and slapstick amazingly never upstage its astute observation of human nature.

“March”

In sharp contrast to her whimsical romance-novel sketch, Kate Belden presented a heavy two-hour drama that follows a respected neuroscience professor through an ironically fitting crisis: a stroke accompanied by a cerebral hematoma. Resentful, restless and embittered by what she DOES know about her diminished capabilities, the workaholic prof is forced for the first time in her life to reach out for help. Enter three men: a current university colleague, her physician and former lover, and the spectre of her “Papa,” a wise grandfather who reminds her of a long-forgotten lesson from children’s allegory “The Velveteen Rabbit”: to become “real” and receive love, you may have to soften up and let go of a little dignity. Though Belden is still actively woodshedding the script, soliciting audience feedback both positive and negative to make her final refinements, her ambitious play is extremely promising, comparable to the Pulitzer-winning “Wit” in its ability to humanize the complex considerations of illness and career identity in middle-age.

“Lying in Judgment” and “The Exes”

Playwright Gary Corbin presented two works back-to-back—the first a long jury-room drama, the second a short romantic comedy. “They have a common thread: trust and fidelity,” he explained to some audience members. But this reviewer observed a different point of comparison: both tales revealed their surprises to the audience early on, then put characters through their paces to “get it” much later. In the rom-com format, this process was fun! We knew something that the characters didn’t know, and their witty-but-believable quips only deepened the embarrassment that we, the audience, gigglingly sensed was in store for them when they finally put it all together.

However. In the jury drama, the device of early-breaking revelation became a cumbersome burden. Right away, one juror hipped us to a case-cracking secret. Like this crooked juror, we knew too much from the start. Even so, we were stuck in a room with these jerks for what seemed like forever, listening to their petty personal sniping and their ornately detailed and completely misguided impressions of the case. There’s a reason people hate jury duty, and this play recreated it: You walk into the room with an opinion, you usually maintain it, but you still have to go through the motions and humor a bunch of strangers’ biased and broad wishy-washing before you finally get to conclude. Furthermore, the script failed (at least in this juror’s opinion) to fully establish motive for its lead character’s behavior—in fact, he seemed to act counter to his interests by oversharing.

“Ladies Room” and “Where Are We Going?”

Susan Faust’s linguistically and environmentally disorienting works ask the big existential questions in seemingly innocuous circumstances. In “Where Are We Going?” a dialogue between a depressed man and an (ahem) “retired” sailing coach takes place in a seeming purgatory, where a single dangling rope is the main mutual point of conversation. The piece has an unfinished feeling—but to be fair, that’s in keeping with its theme.

“Ladies Room”—more satisfying thanks to its humor and its more starkly-drawn dichotomy—takes place in a women’s restroom at a performing arts center. As a bevy of well-meaning women cycle through and do their business, one voice on the fringes testifies to her faltering belief in God, her crippling loneliness and her blinding, numbing physical and social desperation. Try as she might, this poor soul can’t crack the sugar surface of the other ladies’ social brulee. She’s met by raised eyebrows, casual concern and plucky attempts to change the subject back to superficial chit-chat.

“Fortune Cookies”

Donna Barrow-Green and her actors really “get” office romance, from the slowly-dawning camaraderie to the paralyzing suppression of sexual impulse in favor of casual professionalism. Alexander and Gretchen are both perched on the edge of their seats, trying to play it cool and wait for a sign. Are they just imagining it? Will somebody please break the ice? What does the horoscope or the fortune cookie say? Though it flirts heavily with romcom cliché and holds few surprises, this short is undeniably engaging, lighthearted and universal.

“Oh Heritage Tree”

Did Heather Thiel watch “Portlandia” while dropping acid? This intentionally absurd neighborhood comedy satirizes tropes that are Portland-er than Portland: midwifery, heritage houses, alterna-learning, homosexual nesting, chicken coops, free boxes and pirate bands. Perhaps there are more characters and plot points than necessary. Like homemade shade canopies at Pickathon, this short stretches haphazardly over many moments of amusement and is loosely tethered to a tree.

ArtsWatch plans to catch Brad Bolchunos’ “Umbrella for Three” at its second showing next week, during the second weekend of PDX Playwrights shows. “The Godmother” by Sandra de Helen is a show we unfortunately missed. Interested parties, please alert us the next time it resurfaces.

Fertile Ground 4: The one-act itch

In his final look back on Portland's new-works festival, Jae Carlsson scratches an "Itch" and dives into one-acts and other rabbit holes

(In Fertile Ground 2020, Portland’s 11th annual festival of new performance, Jae Carlsson witnessed four standout productions: “Vortex 1,” “Dorothy’s Dictionary,” “How to Really, Really? Really! Love a Woman,” and “Itch.” In four parts Carlsson has discussed each of these four theater pieces at length, as well as other works in the Festival dealing with similar issues.)

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One-act plays are the bastard child of serious theater. All playwrights write them.

But these tend to be throwaway, one-idea plays – usually comedies – which no one is expected to take all that seriously. Least of all their playwright.

At Fertile Ground 2020, this is clearly the case with The Portland Mini-Musical Festival, which you discuss in Part 1 of this series. Lots of entertaining song and dance, but each one-act is built upon a single thin idea through which to maintain audience attention – plus maybe a little ah-ha twist at denouement, good for a slightly more self-aware laugh from you just before applause at curtain.

But you are a fan of one-acts, when they are done right. Accomplished either by finding a means to very quickly give them depth and force. Or accomplished by stringing several one-acts together – connecting them thematically as in Itch or in Osho Returns, or as a discontinuous narrative as in Hannah and Other Stories or Dearly Departed. But what is it that permits such one-acts to work so well? And to work, sometimes, more effectively than even very good full-length plays? . . .

On the Cusp of the Absurd

When you try to stretch the single idea of a one-idea play to 90 minutes, people often whisper that the author should have whittled it down and made a one-act play out of it.

At pre-festival press “speed-dating” night, Fertile Ground director Nicole Lane keeps her mouth on the harmonica and her eye on the clock: Four minutes, and the mouth harp sounds. Photo courtesy Fertile Ground

The Ghost of David Balasco, written and directed by Cynthia Whitcomb, is a case in point. This festival piece is a mostly-staged full-length play performed at Lakewood Theatre, and it turns on one very clever idea. Four characters enter an old, rundown theater, speaking in period and foreign accents. They wish to do a seance, in order to exorcise a ghost from the theater, so they can clean up the space and produce a new play here – without all the freaky “mishaps” that closed up the theater years before, after a death in the building.

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Fertile Ground 2: ‘Dorothy’s Dictionary,’ etc.

In E.M. Lewis's newest play and several others at Portland's new-works festival, the key question is "talking it thru."

(In Fertile Ground 2020, Portland’s 11th annual festival of new performance, Jae Carlsson witnessed four standout productions: “Vortex 1,” “Dorothy’s Dictionary,” “How to Really, Really? Really! Love a Woman,” and “Itch.” In four parts Carlsson will discuss each theater piece at length, as well as other works in the Festival dealing with similar issues.)

Talking it Thru

Is there anything unique and compelling about the Portland theater scene? Or is it just a colonial outpost of the New York or London or Chicago or Los Angeles theater scene?

Are the stageworks sprouting from Portland stages invasive, non-native species? Foreign species of theater, transplanted to Oregon soil but emotionally native to some faraway physical and social ecology? Evidencing a very different affective ecology from how most Oregonians actually feel about things?

Or is it just the case that . . . things today are so entirely globalized that no emotionally unique ecosystems any longer exist? That “an Oregon voice” is 100-percent irrelevant?

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E.M. Lewis’s “Dorothy’s Dictionary,” from LineStorm Playwrights. Design: Holly Richards

Dorothy’s Dictionary by E.M. Lewis (directed by Dan Kitrosser) is a remarkably tight and precise two-person play. You’ve seen it read at Lakewood Center in Lake Oswego last May, and now again during LineStorm’s noon readings at Fertile Ground.

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A neoclassical stage? Or a theater off-kilter?

Will Paula Vogel’s "Indecent" do justice to Sholem Asch’s "God of Vengeance"?

Shakespeare’s Hamlet is an artistic failure.

What?

Yeah. This is what T.S. Eliot says in his infamous essay “Hamlet and His Problems,” claiming that Coriolanus is instead Shakespeare’s most artistically solid piece of theater.

This perhaps says more about T.S. Eliot’s neoclassical leanings, his love of Roman “revenge tragedies,” than it does about the actual esthetics of theater.

Hamlet: a too, too solid self-obsession? Edwin Booth in the title role, ca. 1870. Photo: J. Gurney & Son, N.Y. /Wikimedia Commons

But maybe we should give his theory a test-drive first, before dismissing it outright.

Maybe it is actually a mirror we’d prefer to not look too deeply into . . .

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Fertile Ground: the scramble begins

Portland's eleventh annual festival of new works is a citywide blur of hopeful creativity. Media night gives just a hint of the pandemonium.

There are a million stories in the naked city, and I figure on a recent Monday evening I heard about 683,427 of ’em. Tall tales, sad tales, hopeful tales, adventure tales. Stories spun by puppets and sexologists and Suffragettes. Roundabout rambles. Elevator speeches. Solos and duets. A surge of stories, a flood of fables. Soft sells, hard sells, stories spun with urgency or jazz-hands pizzazz.

It was media night for Portland’s eleventh annual Fertile Ground festival of new works – what festival director Nicole Lane likes to call “speed-dating the media” – and there I sat at my little assigned corner café table on the mezzanine of The Armory, other little tables splayed out in a semicircle on either side as an invading cast of producers, directors, playwrights, actors, and assorted backstage types pressed forward, slapping press releases and postcards and business cards on the tabletop and launching into their three-minute schpiels before moving on to the next line at the next table to do it all again.

Festival director Nicole Lane, clanging the bell: time to switch partners and start again. Photo courtesy Fertile Ground

Fertile Ground – which runs officially January 30-February 9 in spaces scattered across the Portland metro area, although some shows have already begun and some will run longer – has, as Lane noted before unleashing the horde, “seventy-five shows, a hundred-twenty or more acts of creation.” That’s because some programs have multiple short works: a half-dozen each for the promising Portland’s Mini Musical Festival, PDX Playwrights’ Crazy Dukes Instant Play Festival, and the Groovin’ Greenhouse dance showcase, for instance; eight for Daisy Dukes Shorts Night. Linestorm Playwright’s Lunchtime Reading Series (a couple are actually in the early evening) at the Chapel Theatre in Milwaukie includes free readings of ten new scripts, by the likes of such familiar names as Rich Rubin, Josie Seid, E.M. Lewis, and Sara Jean Accuardi. Like a set of Russian Matryoshka nesting dolls, there are festivals within festivals.

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