DanceWatch Monthly: TBA gets it going

This year's Time-Based Art Festival is loaded with dance events, and the rest of the month is brimming with dance, too

It’s September and it’s time to celebrate because Portland’s 2019-2020 dance season is here, and it’s tremendous! Listed below are September’s performances as well as all of the dance related performances that I am aware of in Oregon from now until next summer. The list will of course grow as new performances pop up, so check back often. Spend time with the list, ogle its greatness, click the links, and research at will. There is a lot to choose from and you don’t want to miss a thing!

The incredible amount of Portland dance offerings this year span American modern dance history, show breadth in style and approach, represent different cultures/counter cultures and countries, offer many ways to interact with them, and will be performed by local, national, and international dance companies and artists.

This week? It’s TBA time! TBA stands for Time-Based Art, and it’s the Portland Institute For Contemporary Art’s annual 10-day festival (September 5-15) of performance, music, visual art, film, workshops, lectures, and after-hours parties. The festival is inherently interdisciplinary and champions local, national and international artists who reflect and respond to our times. It’s a mind-altering, opinion-changing, heart-opening extravaganza of the senses. 

This year, the work of legendary, slow-motion Japanese performance artist Eiko Otake opens the festival and her work is woven throughout, an homage to Eiko and her dance partner Koma. During TBA’s inaugural Festival in 2003, Eiko and Koma performed “Offering,” a meditation on sorrow, in Portland’s Jamison Square fountains.

Below I have highlighted the dance-centric TBA events along with other September dance performances, because that’s what we do here at DanceWatch. For the full schedule of TBA events go to PICA’s website. Enjoy!

September Performances by week

Week 1: September 2-8

Members of the cast of In the Heights. Photo courtesy of Michael Brosilow/Milwaukee Repertory Theater.

In The Heights
Music and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda, book by Quiara Alegría Hudes, directed by May Andrales
August 31-October 13
Portland Center Stage at The Armory, 128 NW Eleventh Ave

In a Dominican-American community in the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan, life is bubbling on a hot summer day in this tale of a neighborhood’s struggles and sacrifices in search of identity and place, by Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda. Premiering in 1999, this Tony and Grammy Award-winning musical directed by May Adrales (she also directed Chinglish or Portland Center Stage), with choreography by William Carlos Angulo, brings hip-hop and the sounds of salsa, merengue, soul, and rhythm and blues, to center stage. 

Renowned Japanese dancer Eiko Otake, in her solo work, A Body in Places. Photo courtesy of the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art.

A Body in Places (TBA:19)
Eiko Otake 
Portland Institute for Contemporary Art
6 -8 pm September 5 (Opening Reception) 
September 5 – October 24, Center for Contemporary Art & Culture at PNCA, 511 NW Broadway, Free

Inaugurating the opening of TBA’s 19th festival, Eiko Otake, one half of the renowned Japanese dance duo, Eiko and Koma, will perform her 2014 solo, A Body in Places, in and around the Pacific Northwest College of Art’s exhibition gallery. The work has been performed in 40 sites around the world, and it responds to the architectural elements of the gallery, the audience, nature, time and space, death, family, politics, and Eiko’s experience revisiting the nuclear disaster site of Fukushima. 


PHAME and friends rock out

PHAME Academy and Portland Opera collaborate on original rock opera

Photos by Friderike Heuer

Two summers ago, Portland Opera Manager of Education and Outreach Alexis Hamilton attended an original musical performed by artists from Portland’s PHAME Academy, which serves adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. She hoped the 35-year-old organization might help her make the Portland Opera To Go program more accessible to people with disabilities. But she was so impressed by PHAME’s 2017 production that she imagined a bigger project.

“After I saw that,” Hamilton recalled, “I was really on fire” to collaborate with PHAME.

PHAME dancers in rehearsal.
PHAME “movers” in rehearsal.

That production coincided with the arrival of PHAME’s new executive director, Jenny Stadler, who was looking for ways “to overcome the invisibility” that separated many people with disabilities from the rest of society. One method: give PHAME students opportunities to tell their own stories to the larger public. After Hamilton approached her about collaborating, Stadler woke up with a “middle-of-the-night epiphany: we help them become inclusive, and they teach our students how to create an opera.” 

This weekend and next, 18 months of groundbreaking work by PHAME and Portland Opera staff — and above all the students themselves — culminate in what Stadler calls ‘the biggest project we’ve ever done.” PHAME’s original new rock opera, The Poet’s Shadow, runs for seven performances this weekend and next at Portland Opera’s Hampton Opera Center. 


Beloved Festival: decolonizing music

Oregon music festival includes music from many cultures, addresses issues ranging from terminology to privilege

For eleven years, Oregon’s Beloved Festival has embraced multicultural musical diversity, environmental sustainability, a peace-and-love vibe. In a sylvan setting on private forestland in the Coast Range, about 3,000 attendees could dance, meditate, practice yoga, eat vegan, and celebrate secular spirituality in a “spontaneous village.” But while many of its invited performers were musicians of color, its audiences were overwhelmingly white.

It’s an issue common to blues, jazz concerts and so-called “world music” concerts. (Oregon has other events that feature music from many cultures, most notably the Salem World Beat Festival.) Beloved founder/director Elliott Rasenick decided to do something about it — “to really ask why is it mostly white people here? And to take responsibility. The lazy way is to say ‘we’re in Oregon.’” Last year, he led a discussion from the main stage and promised changes. This year’s festival, which runs August 9-12, shows the festival beginning to respond. 

The reform effort got off to a rough start. “Last year I really wanted to start to talk about racism and white supremacy,” Rasenick recalled, envisioning an on-stage discussion between him and an activist of color. “I started asking black women who did anti racist work and kept getting these subtle ‘I’m not comfortable with that’ vibes.” Finally, Portland activist Teressa Raiford “made me understand how difficult that is — to ask a black person to teach white people about white supremacy, and to ask someone I haven’t worked with to build trust to work with me. That showed me that I need to show up and demonstrate I’m worthy of trust before I ask for things that require trust.”

Photo by Jess Stewart Maize.
Trust demonstrated at Beloved Festival 2018. Photo by Jess Stewart Maize.


DanceWatch: August feast of fests

From Native American to Indian dance styles, bachata to bhangra to bellydance and obon to Art in the Dark, it's a month to see and do

If you thought you were going to catch your breath this month before the crush of fall performances, forget about it. August is busier than ever, and the many dance genres it promises is a good thing. From Native American to Indian dance styles, bachata to bhangra to bellydance, there’s enough to keep us occupied throughout the month. Better still? Much of it is free. We’ll sleep when we’re dead, right?


Painted Sky Northstar Native Dance Company plays the Washington Park Summer Festival. Photo courtesy Mary Hager.

Painted Sky Northstar Native Dance Company with Evening Star Painted Ponies
6 p.m. Aug. 2
Washington Park Rose Garden Amphitheatre, 410 SW Kingston Ave.

As Jamuna Chiarini wrote her in March DanceWatch column, the Portland-based Painted Sky Northstar Dance Company has been hard at work since 2005, breaking down stereotypes and myths about Native American people, and building bridges through education and performance. Its repertoire, performed nationally and internationally by a dozen or so dancers, includes traditional dance forms as well as blended contemporary styles. Washington Park’s amphitheater will provide a beautiful backdrop for this summer evening show.


JamBallah 2018 Instructor Showcase. Photo by Casey Campbell Photography.

JamBallah Northwest
Aug. 2-4
Lewis & Clark College, 0615 Palatine Road

The bellydance diaspora congregates on the Lewis & Clark campus this month for the three-day Jamballah Northwest. Practitioners from all over will take part in classes and performances focused on Middle Eastern dance and its American Fusion versions. Two Portlanders—Sharon Kihara and Bevin Victoria—are among the featured artists, as are Amel Tafsout (Algeria/California), Aziza (Quebec), Ozgen (Turkey/England) and Rin Ajna (Washington, D.C.). There will be a vendor fair and three days of workshops with such titles as “Zoe’s Book of Shimmies,” “Flexibility: Jaw-Dropping Trickster” and the “The Soul of Cairo.” The fun begins with a meet-and-greet and Donna Mejia’s lecture “Courageous Conversations in the Midst of Cultural Collusion” on Aug. 1, followed by two nights of mixed-level, all-ages public performance showcases demonstrate the breadth of bellydance technique and style.


Iñaki & Deblin represent Portland at this year’s Bachata en la Calle fest. Photo: Iñaki & Deblin.

Bachata en la Calle
Aug. 3
Vitalidad Movement Arts & Events Center, 116 S.E. Yamhill St.

The Dominican Republic gave us bachata, and Bachata en la Calle gives us a full day to celebrate it, not counting the pre-party held Aug. 2 on the Portland Spirit (it’s billed as “three floors of fun: salsa room, bachata room, and rooftop deck party,” and excuse us for a minute while we go cancel whatever we were planning to do that evening). Saturday is a Latin dance lovers’ paradise, with classes from 1-5 p.m., led by instructors who are headed our way from Miami, New York, and Chicago, although Portland will be well represented by local instructors Iñaki & Deblin. This is the place to learn what bachata is—it’s derived from Cuban bolero, for starters—and how it’s rightly done. On the musical end, looks for DJs and live music from outfits including the supercharged Portland collective Dina y Los Rumberos.


The Japanese Garden hosts one of two local Bon festivals. Photo: Japanese Garden.

Obon Fest
Aug. 3
Oregon Buddhist Temple

O-bon: Sapporo Cultural Festival
10 a.m.-7 p.m. Aug. 17-18
Portland Japanese Garden
Free with garden admission

Japan will celebrate this year’s Bon Festival Aug. 13-15; here in Portland, we’ll have our own parties before and after that. Obon is meant to honor one’s ancestors, and bon odori (bon dance) is a part of that: It’s a dance to receive the spirits of the departed, then send them on their way. The Oregon Buddhist Temple’s Obon Fest is a multicultural version of Obon, with bon odori as well as performances by the White Lotus Dragon & Lion Dancers and live music from the Minidoka Swing Band and the mightily percussive Portland Taiko. It wouldn’t be a festival without children’s activities and vendors; you can expect to find good things to eat and interesting items for sale, including kimonos. The story is much the same at the O-Bon Sapporo Cultural Festival, with the setting—Portland’s scenic and tranquil Japanese Garden—as additional incentive. Here, too, you’ll find bon odori, as well as food, crafts, and children’s activities. Both events are family-friendly and open to the public.


Multiple dance groups perform at the India Festival in Pioneer Courthouse Square. Photo: Pioneer Courthouse Square.

India Festival
Pioneer Courthouse Square
10 a.m.-8 p.m. Aug. 11

With at least eight classical dance forms to its credit (not to mention popular dance forms), India has a rich movement legacy. That will quickly become apparent at the India Festival, which celebrates India’s Independence Day with dance performances, live music, and other entertainment. (And, we’re happy to report, food.) India Festival is hosted by the India Cultural Association, a nonprofit dedicated to enhancing Indian cultural awareness.


DJ Prashant (left) and the Jai Ho! Dance Troupe celebrate Indian Independence Day. Photo: DJ Prashant.

DJ Prashant & Jai Ho! Dance Troupe

6:30 p.m. Aug. 15
Laurehurst Park, SE 37th Ave.


Celebrating Indian Independence Day with DJ Prashant and his Jai Ho! Dance Troupe is becoming something of a Portland summer tradition. This interactive evening of Bollywood and Bhangra dance unfolds outdoors: The company performs (likely the reprise of a dance sequence from a well-known Bollywood film), then invites viewers to join them for a basic dance lesson and impromptu group performance up front. Wear comfortable clothing, including shoes you can shed easily, and be ready to bounce. A screening of Danny Boyle’s Oscar-winning feature film Slumdog Millionaire will follow at dusk.


Art in the Dark, 2016. Photo: A-WOL Dance Collective.

Art in the Dark
A-WOL Dance Collective
Aug. 1-4
Mary S. Young Park, West Linn

If you’ve never seen dancers suspended from old-growth trees, you clearly haven’t seen A-WOL Dance Collective. A-WOL doesn’t mean what you think it does, by the way: it’s an acronym for Aerial Without Limits, which should give you some insight into the kind of dance you’ll see. The Portland-based collective specializes in aerial, acrobatic and contemporary dance, and runs a school that teaches the same.  The company’s Art in the Dark outdoor performances have become a family-friendly summer tradition. Shows are done in the round, illuminated, and clock in at a manageable hour and a half. This year’s show, Frost and Fur, concerns itself with a snow leopard and other denizens of the natural world. Musician Chet Lyster provides a live original soundtrack blending traditional and electronic instruments. Seating opens at 7:30 p.m. for concessions and shows start at 8:45 p.m.


Galaxy Dance Festival, hosted by Polaris Dance Theatre, returns for a ninth year of classes and performance. Photo: Polaris Dance Theatre.

Galaxy Dance Festival
Aug. 3-4
Director Park

Watching is only half the fun at the Polaris Dance Theatre Galaxy Dance Festival: The other half is taking advantage of all the outdoor dance classes. Now in its ninth year, the downtown festival offers free performances and classes from local, regional and national choreographers, companies and organizations. Starting 11 a.m. Aug. 3 with an Open Argentine Tango Class led by Glykeria Manis, the festival fills two days with dance genres including swing, salsa, hip-hop and contemporary. You don’t need to be an expert dancer, you just need comfortable clothes and an enthusiasm for movement. Tango fans, take note: Friday evening has a tango theme, with a class, a milonga deejayed by Derrick Del Pilar, and performances.


New Vision Dance Company
5:30 p.m. Aug. 15
AmberGlen Park, Hillsboro

Dance and sculpture go waaaay back (think Degas, then keep thinking); at the dedication of a new public artwork at Hillsboro’s AmberGlen Park, that collaboration continues. Youth ensemble the New Vision Dance Company stages a lyrical/contemporary work inspired by Illinois artist Dann Nardi’s Elemental Sequence. Envision a concrete sculpture that pairs curving upright columns evoking trees with low curving benches recalling the graceful bends in a river, and you have some idea of what you’re in for. A dance party follows with live music.


PHAME Academy stages the rock opera “The Poet’s Shadow.” Photo: Friderike Heuer.

The Poet’s Shadow

PHAME Academy
Aug. 23-31
Hampton Opera Center, 211 SE Caruthers St.

PHAME, a Portland-based performing arts academy serving adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, has gone all in on its newest venture, rock opera The Poet’s Shadow. Eight PHAME students wrote it (in collaboration with the Portland Opera’s manager of education and outreach, Alexis Hamilton); more than 30 adults with developmental disabilities have been cast in leading and supporting roles, and the music will come from a choir and musicians playing iPads alongside Metropolitan Youth Symphony members playing their instruments. On the dance front, Erik Ferguson and Yulia Arakelyan—of the multidisciplinary, butoh-influenced performance company Wobbly Dance—have contributed choreography.

Sound like a big deal? It is: This is the first fully staged PHAME production written, staged, and performed by people with developmental disabilities (down to the musical composition and costume and set design), and marks the culmination of an 18-month collaboration between PHAME and the Portland Opera, which provided vocal coaching to the show’s lead actors.

And if you’re wondering what it’s all about, The Poet’s Shadow tells the story of Elizabeth, a young poet who, in despair following a breakup, writes a series of poems that take on a life of their own, sending her on a personal quest that challenges what she thought she knew.


Muddy Feet Contemporary Dance’s film “Unfolding” is among the selections at this year’s Northwest Screendance Exposition. Photo: Muddy Feet Contemporary Dance.

Northwest Screendance Exposition
7:30 p.m. Aug. 6-7
Broadway Metro, 43 West Broadway, Eugene

The Eugene Film Society spearheads the Northwest Screendance Exposition, which is now in its fourth year of soliciting and compiling collections of dance films by local and international artists. The best kinesthetic-cinematographic collaborations make the cut in an evening of dance on film, and a $500 Jury Award and $250 Audience Award only sweeten the deal for creators.  This year’s selections, which cover styles spanning swing to ballet, include Portland’s Muddy Feet Contemporary Dance in Unfolding, its second dance film together; In the House of Mantegna, by Michele Manzini of Verona, Italy, an ensemble movement piece gaining a worldwide following on the festival circuit; and two films by Cara Hagan, a filmmaker, dance professor, and choreographer from Appalachian State University of Boone, North Carolina. Cygnus, created with Portland filmmaker Robert Uehlin, celebrates a quiet morning sunrise, while Sound and Sole is a short documentary about the only professionally working African-American buck dancer in Boone.


Viewers suggest movement at #Instaballet. Photo: #Instaballet.

5:30 p.m. Aug. 2
Oregon Contemporary Theatre, 222 Southwest Columbia St., Eugene

Test your dancemaking skills at #Instaballet, a recurring feature of the Lane Arts Council’s First Friday ArtWalks. Eugene Ballet veterans Suzanne Haag and Antonio Anacan devised this simple but intriguing concept: create a new piece in real time, based on movement suggestions from viewers. The dance takes shape as onlookers add their input. The final work, performed at the end of the session, is a truly collective effort. All ages are welcome to contribute, and dance experience isn’t required—neophytes just might have the freshest ideas. (For more on the genesis of #Instaballet, see Gary Ferrington’s feature on its creators:


Broadway Rose Theatre Company gets “Footloose.” Photo: Broadway Rose Theatre Company.

Broadway Rose Theatre Company, 12850 SW Grant Avenue, Tigard
Aug. 1-Sept. 1

This musical isn’t six degrees of Kevin Bacon: It’s just one—plus one degree of Kenny Loggins, and if you have the title track stuck in your head for the next 24 hours, we feel your pain. Actually, that reminds us that that Footloose—best known in its original 1984 film incarnation—also brought us “Holding Out for a Hero” and “Let’s Hear it for the Boy.” Even Sammy Hagar was involved. But never mind all that. What’s important here is the story: it’s about a city boy who moves to a small town where dancing is outlawed and runs afoul of the local preacher who pushed for the ban after attracting the attention of his rebellious daughter. It’s dance as cultural protest, and in its way, fitting for the times we live in now



Sept. 5-15: Time-Based Art Festival
Sept. 26-28: NW Dance Project
Sept. 26-29: Union PDX Festival of Contemporary Dance

Oct. 3-5: Momix
Oct. 5-12: OBT Roar(s)
Oct. 10-12: Sasha Waltz
Oct. 17-19: Caleb Teicher and Company

November 21-23

Nov. 7-9: Reggie Wilson/Fist and Heel Performance Group
Nov. 21-23: CNDC-Angers/Robert Swinston

Dance preview: The essence of love in Indian dance

Viraja Mandhre and Shyamjith Kiran focus on the rasa of love in their bharatanatyam concert Sunday night

Across genres of Indian art, rasas—the juice or essence that classifies the aesthetic of the work—play a key role in transporting the audience to a realm of wonder parallel to the one we live in. Though the ancient form of Indian dance, bharatanatyam, may seem mysterious and other-worldly at first, the emotional content that serves the style is recognizable, even without the benefit of extensive cultural education.

When I asked visiting bharatanatyam dance couple Viraja Mandhre and Shyamjith Kiran of Chennai, India, what their favorite rasa was, Viraja replied simply, “The king of the rasas: shringara (love). A love for what you do, a love for the art, and our love for each other.”

 Sunday, in a one-night only performance at Portland’s New Expressive Works, the duo will perform an hour’s worth of traditional Indian dance, followed by a special audience talk-back that will help answer questions that may arise.

Viraja Mandhre and Shyamjith Kiran will perform Sunday night at New Expressive Works. Photo by Sibu Kutty

Bharatanatyam is a beautiful and rich dance form laced in tradition traced back in  Sanskrit texts from the 2nd century CE. “There’s a lot of misconceptions around bharatanatyam because it’s an ancient art form; a carrier of tradition, of ways of the past. There are many ways to demystify it,” says Subashini Ganesan, founder and director of N.E.W. 

Viraja and Shyamjith are a dynamic dance couple trained from the illustrious Kalakshetra Foundation, based in Chennai. Kalakshetra is an intensive university program founded in 1936 that has received international attention for its perfectionism and clean, geometric approach to the preservation of classical Indian dance. Reflecting on their  Kalakshetra training, Viraja noted that it’s rewarding now as professional dancers to be asked if they are from Kalakshetra, based on their performance qualities alone. That reputation seeps through Viraja and Shyamjith’s work as creators and performers, further validating the level of training that informs their movements.

Kalakshetra’s program emphasizes that there is more to learning the artform than just the movements, however. The idea that the dance progresses as the dancer’s life experience becomes more full and mature is equally important. While chatting with Ganesan, she also cited that principle, recalling her early teachers explaining that “you won’t perfect bharatanatyam until you’ve felt the emotions of it in your real life.” 

Shyamjith noted that the school “gave us an eye for beauty, and a system to follow when creating.” Later in our conversation, he explained that he likes to push the boundaries of the tradition as the choreographer of their performances. For him, that might mean using music with a more modern feel to it, which you’ll have a chance to hear in the final dance of the Portland program, which uses the melodies of composer Sri. Balamurali Krishna.

Viraja Mandhre and Shyamjith Kiran/Photo by Paresh Gandhi

Sometimes, this type of innovation receives pushback from more traditional practitioners of the ancient form, while others welcome the new ideas. “We try to improve ourselves and change based on the feedback we get about out work,” says Shyamjith. 

Viraja and Shyamjith’s Portland program includes a blend of the rasas, the Indian term that refers to the feelings evoked in Indian artistic practice. The nine rasas are shringara (love), haasya (comedy), raudra (fury), karuna (compassion), bheebhatsya (aversion), bhayaanaka (terror), veera (herosim), adhbuta (wonder), and shanta (peace). Given that the dancing duo is also a couple in real life, I wondered how the rasa theory played out in their artistry, and how it relates to the idea that your understanding of the practice increases as your life experience broadens.

“The whole reason we are dancing together is because we believe in each other. As artists, we strive toward the same thing, to strike a chord. That is rasa,” said Viraja. Their work’s foundation is “to be honest, to be sincere, and to bring the best of our energies together. We try to live up to each other’s strengths.”

The experience of the performers’ intimate bond as partners should be enhanced in the cozy performance studio at N.E.W. Similar to western ballets, bharatanatyam is typically performed in large theatres with proscenium stages. The grandeur of the theatre reflects the breadth of the dance form as it narrates mythical legends and spiritual ideas of sacred Hindu texts. I asked them how they felt bringing their work to a smaller space than what they are used to. Audience members will be able to see each facial expression and have a close view of the intricate footwork that denotes the form.

“Personally, I feel cautious. You have to be very clear and not be distracted by the audience. But we are human,” says Shyamjith.

Viraja sees these potential distracting moments as just that, moments, and then you are still in your performance.  Shyamjith shared that some of the rasa expression comes more naturally to a woman, and that he’s sometimes hesitant to try them. But, in a similar way to how he pushes boundaries as a choreographer, Shyamjith uses this challenge as an opportunity to push himself and his ways of storytelling.

For the pair, the talk back will serve as an important exchange of understanding. Without it, “the stage becomes a divide between the audience and the art,” Viraja says.

 Viiraja and Shyamjit will perform Sunday, July 28, at 5 pm. Limited tickets are available through New Expressive Works.

July: Dancing after dark

Oregon's summer dance season takes to the open air and starry nights with salsa, silent disco, and even a few indoor shows

The international Silent Disco movement: Next stop Tillikum Bridge on July 4.

We’re heading outside this month for much of our dance intake, enjoying performances under the stars—although in some cases, we are the performers; you might find us dancing under the fireworks along the Tilikum Bridge as part of the July 4th HeatBeat Silent Disco. We’ll be drinking in new and veteran talent, too, some of it homegrown, the rest of it from well beyond our city limits. Isn’t this time of year delicious?

International and cultural dance styles

Dancing on the roof with Son Latino, June 2018. Next stop: Gateway Discovery Park Plaza.

Salsa in the Park
Son Latino/Portland Parks and Recreation
6 to 8 p.m., July 20
Gateway Discovery Park Plaza, 10520 N.E. Halsey St.

You may have met up with Son Latino around town, maybe at a Norse Hall Salsa Sunday or one of those Rooftop Salsa nights: the Latin dance and event company stages performances and hosts weekly and monthly dance socials as well as classes and workshops. If you’re not yet a confirmed salsero, however, this evening should be a friendly, low-pressure introduction to Latin dance. Founders Rosi and Leo, veterans of salsa congresses up and down the West Coast, perform first, to show us how it’s done, then teach introductory salsa, bachata and merengue lessons in the park, accompanied by a DJ. A community dance follows: two-left-footers are welcome, and you don’t need to bring a partner. Pack a picnic and make a night of it.


‘Romeo and Juliet’ kicks off summer theater in wine country

Penguin Productions brings Shakespeare's tragedy to the outdoor stage, plus more Bard outdoors in Beaverton, and World Beat Festival in Salem

Penguin Productions was the new kid on Yamhill County’s theater scene just a couple of years ago, mounting productions of Macbeth and As You Like It right out of the gate. Last year, they forged ahead with Hamlet and Oscar Wilde’s An Ideal Husband. On Friday, the company opens its third season with more Shakespeare: Romeo and Juliet.

Cambria Herrera will direct "Romeo and Juliet" at Penguin Productions.
Cambria Herrera will direct “Romeo and Juliet” at Penguin Productions. Photo by: Piper Tuor Photography

These are professionals, many of whom have been seasoned on Portland stages in recent years, and for season three we have a couple of George Fox University alums who are doing some heavy lifting for one of Shakespeare’s oft-performed tragedies.

Director Cambria Herrera earned a BA in acting and directing from the Newberg-based Christian college. Recent credits include: Peter/Wendy at Bag&Baggage, The Little Mermaids Project at Enso Theatre Ensemble, Proof at Valley Repertory Theatre, and Balkan Women and Twelfth Night at George Fox. Herrera is also a facilitator/co-founder of the AGE Women of Color in PDX Theatre Collective and serves on the leadership committee for PDX Latinx Pride.

Also from George Fox is Olivia Anderson, who spent a year at the university as an adjunct director for University Players, a traveling, student storytelling-ensemble that tours original shows around the region. She will play Juliet across from Brandon Vilanova’s Romeo. Vilanova hails from the Pacific Conservatory Theatre Professional Acting Training Program and has worked at San Diego Repertory Theatre, San Diego Old Globe Theatre, Santa Maria Pacific Conservatory Theatre, and Bag&Baggage. Stephanie Spencer, who played Ophelia in last year’s Hamlet and Mabel in An Ideal Husband, takes on the coveted role of Mercutio.