Portland Center Stage Young Americans Portland Oregon

Linfield Theatre thinks outside the pandemic box

Yamhill County calendar: A "season like no other" on campus, plus a watercolor show and film festival preview.

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The pandemic has forced artists in every discipline to think outside the box, so I’m guessing that’s the analogy Linfield University’s Theatre department had in mind when it plowed into its 101st season Friday with an evening of improvisational sketches titled Out of the Box.

Students performed the live sketch comedy not before a live audience in the auditorium, but before audience members watching the live show on Linfield’s YouTube channel from home, regardless of whether home was a dorm room on the McMinnville campus or not; the show broadcast free to anyone with an internet connection.

They’re calling it “A Season Like No Other,” which it obviously is.

Out of the Box amounted to just more than an hour’s worth of sketches very much bound up with the present political and cultural moment, written and performed by a troupe of student actors and writers on a giant tic-tac-toe-style checkerboard with only a few set pieces constructed with what appeared to be PVC pipe. Graffiti adorned the rear wall: BLACK LIVES MATTER. SAY HER NAME. AMERICA IS BURNING.

Linfield Theatre students (from left) Caroline Calvano, Avery Witty, Sam Hannagan, Brielle Kromer (on ladder in back), Sara Cerda (on floor), Jordan Tate, and Sarah Ornelas perform an improvisational sketch during rehearsal for “Out of the Box.” The show can be seen on Linfield Theatre’s YouTube channel. Photo courtesy: Linfield Theatre
Linfield Theatre students (from left) Caroline Calvano, Avery Witty, Sam Hannagan, Brielle Kromer (on ladder in back), Sara Cerda (on floor), Jordan Tate, and Sarah Ornelas perform an improvisational sketch during rehearsal for “Out of the Box.” Photo courtesy: Linfield Theatre

Pieces were titled Womb to Tomb, We Don’t Need No Distance Education, A La Carte, and BBM in a TLB. Students wore transparent face masks. Student directors Clementine Doresey and Hailee Foster were assisted in putting the evening together by theater professors Derek Lane and Janet Gupton. With no copyright issues involved, the shows remain archived on the channel, available to watch anytime.

So that’s how the season will play out, at least this fall. Democratically Speaking, an interplay of voices and found text compiled by Stanford University professor Rush Rehm, will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 9 and 10. A Night in New Orleans (circa 1917) premieres at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 13. All performances will be livestreamed free and available to the public. We’ll have more on those shows closer to the date.

“To What Future,” by Maria Berg, is among the featured works in the Watercolor Society of Oregon’s show in the Chehalem Cultural Center in Newberg.
“To What Future,” by Maria Berg, is among the work in the Watercolor Society of Oregon show in the Chehalem Cultural Center in Newberg.

THE WATERCOLOR Society of Oregon’s annual exhibit, juried by Kristi Grussendorf, opens Friday in the Chehalem Cultural Center in Newberg and runs through Nov. 28. Alas, the show originally was intended to coincide with the group’s annual convention, but that part of it will not be done on premises. Between the coming explosion of watercolors in the Parrish Gallery and On the Edge: Living in the Anthropocene down the hall, there’s plenty to see in Newberg.

The McMINNVILLE Short Film Festival will screen some of the best of the best of the past nine years at a virtual event Oct. 16-18 to build excitement and raise awareness of the 10th annual festival, scheduled one way or another for February 2021. I haven’t seen all the films yet, but the ones I have seen are excellent. You can sign up for the fun here.

ARTS JOURNAL: Dark times call for dark art. I’m reading Alex Nikolavitch’s H.P. Lovecraft: He Who Wrote in the Darkness (illustrated by Gervasio-Aon-Lee) and Jonathan Maberry’s Pandemica, about a pandemic that makes COVID look quaint (illustrated by Alex Sanchez); selected essays in Dave Hickey’s Air Guitar: Essays on Art & Democracy; and Geoff Dyer’s Zona: A Book About a Film About a Journey to A Room. Also watched David Lynch: The Art Life. On a lighter note, I watched the first hilarious episode of BBC’s The Goes Wrong Show, which features plays that are in fact exquisitely orchestrated train wrecks.

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This story is supported in part by a grant from the Yamhill County Cultural Coalition, Oregon Cultural Trust, and Oregon Community Foundation.

David Bates is an award-winning Oregon journalist with more than 20 years as a newspaper editor and reporter in the Willamette Valley, covering virtually every topic imaginable and with a strong background in arts/culture journalism. He has lived in Yamhill County since 1996 and is currently a freelance writer whose clients have included the McMinnville News-RegisterOregon Wine Press, and Indulge, a food-oriented publication. He has a B.S. degree in journalism from the University of Oregon and a long history of involvement in the theater arts, acting and on occasion directing for Gallery Players of Oregon and other theaters in Oregon.

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