comedy

Deep End Theater: funny without trying

Domeka Parker's new improv company teaches performers to enjoy every moment and to act authentically, not just race to the next punchline.

The improv begins before the teacher even gives the go-ahead, and it seems to happen by accident. The students are standing in a circle, taking turns saying their name and when and whether they’ve tried improv before. When one student says “Never,” the teacher exclaims, “Oooh,” wagging her hips in a little happy-dance.

“Oo-oooh!” echoes the group, mimicking the hip-waggle. For the next student, they take it further: “OOOOoooo–ooh!” Eventually, each introduction is followed by a long, enthusiastic chorus of “OOOOOOOOoooo–oooooh!” and a veritable dance party. Hence, introductions take forever, but incorporate a warmup.

A beep from the kitchenette breaks the spell. “The coffee is done!” chirps the teacher. “The coffee is done!” sing her new acolytes.

Deep End ensemble members Malcolm McClinton, Talon Bigelow, and Elena Afanasiev, in “Level Up” class. Photo: Ken Bryan

Spontaneous and loose as this scene may seem, improv instructor Domeka Parker knows exactly what she’s doing. She was born and raised into theater by parents (Scott Parker and Victoria Parker-Pohl) who started some of Portland’s first comedy troupes, Savoir Affair and Waggie and Friends, and she’s has been performing since 1986, teaching since 2008, and touring internationally since 2013. And now, Parker has a theater company of her own, offering beginner and advanced improv training as well as hosting events and shows.

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This filly doesn’t flinch

After the runaway success of 'Asking for It,' Adrienne Truscott's 'One Trick Pony' is a return to her performance-artist roots.

You’ve probably heard this said of zoos: When you think you’re watching the animals, they are also watching you. Watching performance artists can be like that, too—particularly, watching Adrienne Truscott.

In her one-woman show A One Trick Pony, Truscott—who starts off dressed as a bare-buttocked horse and proceeds to admit one of her performance goals is to be present “like a dog”—is certainly the sort of animal who doesn’t mind putting her watchers as well as herself on the spot.

Adrienne Truscott – One Trick Pony

The U.S. premiere of Pony, presented by Boom Arts, was part of Truscott’s gradual and voluntary comedown following a meteoric rise to comedy fame—an odd detour, she admits, for an already seasoned performance artist. Her 2013 creation Asking For It, “a rape about comedy” in which she played a pantsless comedian character telling rape jokes, and won some performing arts prizes before vaulting from fringe festivals onto mainstream comedy stages—pantsless, no less. There, she got a mixed reception, earning raves from the likes of Chris Rock and The Guardian, but balking under a new level of public scrutiny (the kind comedians, not performance artists, typically get) and often feeling the need to defend her performance choices—including showing her “much maligned vagina.”

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Spectravagasm ‘Holidaze’: Come one, come all

The reliably great comedy series is finally accessible in more ways than one

Can this be the year that Spectravagasm stops feeling like a secret? Because I’m tired of having to explain how funny it is. Everyone should just go see it.

If the tight-knit crowd who’ve already followed this show for years can don their earmuffs for a moment, we’ll review: Spectravagasm is a series of original sketch comedy shows that each address one of life’s broadest topics. So far, they’ve skewered religion, death, drugs, gender, art, love, camp—and now, finally, holidays. Armed with a bouncy, sarcastic ensemble cast, a barrage of kitschy video segments, a Spectravagasm theme song that changes lyrics to support each show’s theme, and at least one all-new musical number every time, Spectravagasm is one of the most complete packages available in Portland-artisan-crafted theater entertainment. Why doesn’t everybody know?

L to R: Keith Cable, Jessica Tidd, Jim Vadala, Sam Dinkowitz, Jessi Walters, Phillip Berns

L to R: Keith Cable, Jessica Tidd, Jim Vadala, Sam Dinkowitz, Diane Kondrat, Jessi Walters, Phillip Berns. Photo: Kathleen Kelly

I can see a couple reasons for this. Up ’til now, Spectravagasm has always been a Post5 Theatre property, holding down that house’s late-night spot after whatever play they were officially billing as part of their season. Post5, up through its closure last week, had always occupied the city’s geographic fringes, starting on 82nd Avenue and finishing in Sellwood. Furthermore, there’s seemed to be an unfortunate inverse correlation between the buzz ‘gasm has generated over the years and the time that’s been put in. Why? Because the show’s producer and mastermind, Sam Dinkowitz, performs in many other shows around town—perhaps most relevantly committing his last three Christmases to Twist Your Dickens at Portland Center Stage. While that role raised his profile, it also limited the time he could pour into his pet project; hence, the ‘gasms that finally garnered the most public buzz—”drugs” and “art”—also least demonstrated the scope of the troupe’s talents.

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