Portland Center Stage Portland Oregon Theatre

DramaWatch: Remembering Stan Foote

Celebrating the Oregon Children's Theatre leader's life; "tick, tick ... BOOM!" blows the lid off the season at Portland Center Stage; Ashland openings; more.

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Stan Foote, whose life will be celebrated Monday, Aug. 29. Photo: Rebekah Johnson

Stan Foote was a great artist and a wonderful human being.

The former artistic director of Oregon Children’s Theatre helped build that company into a nationally recognized model of consistent quality, adventurous-yet-appropriate programming and – especially – top-notch new-play development. He was a stage director fully equipped in craft and heart and vision. Through his work, he treated audiences of all ages with evident care and respect, and did especially fruitful work in the often-neglected area of plays for teens, recognizing that that age group wanted not just to be entertained but also to be engaged deeply and even challenged emotionally. In 2019 he was honored with the Harold Oaks Award for Sustained Excellence at the Theatre for Young Audiences/USA national festival and conference. 

Over decades in Portland, he served as teacher, mentor and friend to many, and it wasn’t so much that the personal energy radiated out from the artistic or vice-versa; both seemed to flow naturally from the warmth and vitality that was Stan Foote.

He had retired from OCT in 2019 and moved to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, but seemed no less a part of Portland’s theater community when he died of cancer three months ago.

A Celebration of Life for Foote will take place at 4 p.m. Monday, Aug. 29 – what would have been his 70th birthday – in the Dolores Winningstad Theatre, where much of his finest work was staged. It’ll be casual, everyone’s welcome, and masks are strongly recommended. And, a Facebook post adds, “with the Art Bar opening prior for anyone who wishes to gather early.”

The flattened stage

Opening

IT’S ABOUT THAT TIME! To my mind, the most natural calendar system for Portland theater is one based on the season-opener for the city’s largest company, Portland Center Stage. This time around that puts us at…August 26. Hey – Happy New Year!!

From left: Lauren Steele as Susan, Jesse Weil as Jon, Tyler Andrew Jones as Michael in “tick, tick … BOOM!” Photo: Shawnte Sims/Courtesy of Portland Center Stage.

Customarily the autumn blooms at PCS with a stage spectacle of a musical, but these days you can’t ignore the varied advantages of something a bit scaled-down. Hence tick, tick…BOOM!, by Jonathan Larson, the late composer better known for Rent. A musical about a young artist amid the fraught process of creating a musical, it’s a semi-autobiographical piece that Larson first performed as a solo show. After Larson’s death in 1996, and the huge success of Rent, playwright David Auburn (credited as “script consultant”) retooled Larson’s show for a trio of actors. 

For the PCS production, directed by Marissa Wolf, Jesse Weil takes the Larson-equivalent role of “Jonathan,” with two of Portland’s brightest young talents, Lauren Steele and Tyler Andrew Jones, as multi-character support.

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MEANWHILE, IN ASHLAND, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival calendar rolls on, with two new productions opening this weekend. 

King John, one of the Bard’s less-frequently produced plays, gets a treatment directed by Rosa Josi of Seattle’s upstart crow collective (whose adaptation of Henry VI, called Bring Down the House, was slated for the ill-fated 2020 season), using a cast of female and non-gender-binary performers to cast the play’s power politics into higher relief. Take out the men, leave the mendacity. 

Confederates, by the Detroit playwright Dominique Morisseau, originally was to have its world premiere at OSF in April, 2020, then was tentatively scheduled for last fall. Here’s hoping third time is the scheduling charm. What’s now just the West Coast premiere, directed by Nataki Garrett, is set for Saturday. The play explores gender bias through the stories of two black women in different eras – a formerly enslaved woman turned Union spy amid the Civil War,  and a professor in the wilds of 21st-century academia.

Weekender

DON’T THROW AWAY those empty halves of coconuts. Bend’s Theater in the Park is presenting Monty Python’s Spamalot, the gleefully absurd musical that riffs on the classic film comedy about King Arthur and his silly English “k-niggits.”

Closing

THE WINDS OF SHAKESPEARE’S The Tempest have blown the Bag & Baggage production from Rood Bridge Park, where the show started a few weeks ago, to Shute Park this weekend. Friday and Saturday performances have sold out, and after Sunday its spirit will be released.

Sponsor
Profile Theatre Chad Deity at Imago Theatre Portland Oregon

Second-hand news

CALLING THE OREGON SHAKESPEARE FESTIVAL “patient zero,” an article in The New York Times reported on the effects of climate change on theaters that stage outdoor performances in summer.  As in many places, wildfire smoke has been the main problem bedeviling the Ashland operation. But other disruptors have included excessive heat, flooding, and hail storms.

“We’re in a world that we have never been in as a species,” the Times quotes Kim Cobb, the director of the environment and society institute at Brown University, “and we’re going into a world that is completely foreign and new and will be challenging us in ways we can only dimly see right now.”  

The best line I read this week

“I don’t have direct access to experience, I always have to put it into words. I’m not saying that’s bad. It’s my reason for being, it’s why I’m here, and I’m not complaining, I’m terrifically lucky to have what’s known as a vocation. But all the same, how good it would be, how restful it would be, what a huge step forward it would be, if I could make fewer sentences and see a little more.”

– Emmanuel Carrère, French novelist/memoirist/journalist, quoted in a profile in The New Yorker.

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That’s all I have for now. I’ll try to do better the next time.

Editor

Marty Hughley is a Portland journalist who writes about theater, dance, music and culture. His honors have included a National Arts Journalism Program fellowship at the University of Georgia, a fellowship at the NEA Arts Journalism Institute in Theater and Musical Theater at the University of Southern California, and first-place awards for arts reporting in the Society of Professional Journalists Pacific Northwest Excellence in Journalism Competitions. In 2013 he was inducted into the Oregon Music Hall of Fame for his contributions to the industry. A Portland native, Hughley studied history at Portland State University, worked at the alternative newsweekly Willamette Week in the late 1980s as pop music critic and arts editor, then spent nearly a quarter century at The Oregonian as a reporter, feature writer and critic. His recent freelance work has appeared in Oregon ArtsWatch, Artslandia and the Oregon Humanities magazine. He lives with his cat, and dies a little with each new setback to the Trail Blazers.

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