Washougal Art & Music Festival

DramaWatch: Blonde on a Bum Trip

Fuse's 14th OUTwright Theatre Festival opens with Mikki Gillette's backstage comedy. Also: Boom Arts' "History of Empires," a spot of Sondheim, a waggish "Go, Dog. Go!"


Mikki Gillette's "Blonde on a Bum Trip," premiering at the OUTwright Theatre Festival. Photo courtesy Fuse Theatre Ensemble.
Mikki Gillette’s “Blonde on a Bum Trip,” premiering at the OUTwright Theatre Festival. Photo courtesy Fuse Theatre Ensemble.

This week’s theater spotlight falls on the opening of Fuse Theatre Ensemble‘s 14th annual OUTwright Theatre Festival and its main production, the premiere of Mikki Gillette’s Blonde on a Bum Trip — a backstage comedy that, in Fuse’s words, “delves into the lives of pioneering trans actresses Candy Darling, Holly Woodlawn, and Jackie Curtis as they claw their way from off-off-Broadway theatre to the underground film stardom of Andy Warhol’s Factory scene.”

With her recent American Girl and others, Gillette is a playwright on the rise, in and out of the queer theater world. Fuse and the OUTwright Festival concentrate on LGBTQ+ theater, and making sure they have their theatrical chops down. Rusty Newton Tennant, Fuse’s artistic director and the creator of the OUTwright Festival, is enthusiastic about both the festival and Blonde on a Bum Trip, and has been taking his message to social media.

“This show is the best of what OUTwright can be,” he writes. “We unearth queer ephemera, provide new narratives for our collective history, educate younger generations about their queer predecessors, and provide visibility for some of the most marginalized amongst us.

“Y’all dont want to miss Blonde on a Bum Trip. … It is truly joyous. You will learn a bit about our collective history, art history, and yes, queer history. But just because this tells a story about queer and trans people, featuring queer and trans actors, designers, and technicians, and written by a trans woman, it isn’t a story only for queer and trans people. … The acting is high camp comedy and then increasingly heart-wrenchingly real as the play progresses. I have likened this play numerous times to Shakespeare because its structure in terms of character development is so similar to the Bard’s. That is high praise coming from me. And it is funny. OMG, the reads, the camp … Mikki has jokes, folks.”

Of course, you can expect Tennant to be enthusiastic about the festival and Gillette’s new play. But history suggests the enthusiasm might be spot-on.

OUTwright also will feature a workshop production of Bets Swadis’s The Mighty Marching Meerkats (great title), and, speaking of nifty titles, a quintet of readings: Daniel Singer Rover’s Get a Room, Howard Skora’s Freud on Cocaine, MJ Halberstadt’s The Usual Unusual, Ernie Lijoi’s musical Bring Back the Swing, and Magnetic Electric, by Gillette and Ash, based on a concept developed with Katherine Goforth.

The OUTwright Festival, which is playing at Reed College’s Performing Arts Building rather than at Fuse’s usual home in The Back Door Theatre, opens Thursday, May 16, and continues through June 16. For schedule and ticket information, look here.


Oregon Cultural Trust

Also Opening

From Boom Arts, Marcus McGregor in "The History of Empires (New York)." Photo: Steven Pisano
From Boom Arts, Marcus McGregor in “The History of Empires (New York).” Photo: Steven Pisano

As Jamuna Chiarini writes in her May DanceWatch column, Boom Arts’ presentation of The History of Empires “is a dance theater production by New York-based theater company Witness Relocation that uses dance, projections, and text to portray the rise and fall of various empires throughout history. Described as “cheerfully nihilistic,” the show comprises a solo directed and co-choreographed by Dan Safer, performed and co-choreographed by Marcus McGregor, and a duet with Daniel Pettrow and McGregor. The show marks McGregor’s return to performance after a 15-year hiatus, following a long and distinguished career as a dancer with Dance Theater of Harlem and Feld Ballet.”

The show plays a short run Thursday, May 16, through Sunday, May 19, in Portland Center Stage’s Ellyn Bye Studio at The Armory. Ticket and schedule information here.


Cast member Asher Smith (Yellow Dog) holds up a copy of"Go, Dog. Go!," the book the show is based on. Photo courtesy Northwest Children's Theater and School.
Cast member Asher Smith (Yellow Dog) holds up a copy of the book the show is based on. Photo courtesy Northwest Children’s Theater and School.

It’s enough to give one paws: Getting behind the wheel at Northwest Children’s Theater and School beginning Saturday are several young actors in dog costume, racing around the stage in all sorts of comical adventures and shenanigans. Go, Dog. Go! is a stage adaptation of the immensely popular P.D. Eastman illustrated kids’ book, a dog-eared copy of which is a staple in many a household. It plays at 11 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, May 19-June 9, in the company’s downtown Portland home, The Judy, and is recommended for ages 3 and up. Information here.


Graphic of Bridgport's show "Sondheim Tribute Revue."

Also onstage for a short run is Sondheim Tribute Revue, a show of songs by the musical-theater master. From Bridgeport Conservatory of Musical Theatre it runs Friday-Sunday, May 17-19, and features the conservatory’s pre-college and pre-professional students. Ticket and schedule information here.


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Bridgeport, a longtime Portland fixture led by musical-theater veteran Rick Lewis, has recently expanded downvalley to Salem, taking over The Verona Studio at the Historic Reed Opera House. It’ll hold an open house at its new second home from noon to 3 p.m. Sunday, June 2.

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Photo Joe Cantrell

Bob Hicks has been covering arts and culture in the Pacific Northwest since 1978, including 25 years at The Oregonian. Among his art books are Kazuyuki Ohtsu; James B. Thompson: Fragments in Time; and Beth Van Hoesen: Fauna and Flora. His work has appeared in American Theatre, Biblio, Professional Artist, Northwest Passage, Art Scatter, and elsewhere. He also writes the daily art-history series "Today I Am."


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