Hot Mess musical

A ‘Hot Mess’ of a zombie jamboree

Fertile Ground 2021: Mark LaPierre and Ian Anderson-Priddy create a zombie comic-book musical to make your pulse rush. If you have one.

Sex! Music! Zombies! Comics! 

Do I have your attention? If I don’t, you might not have a pulse. But don’t fret: Hot Mess—a comic-book musical by Mark LaPierre (music, lyrics, and book) and Ian Anderson-Priddy (art and animation)—is the province of the undead. A combination of Scooby Doo and EDM, Hot Mess – A Zombie Musical is almost certainly unlike anything you’ve seen before. “It’s shamelessly attention-seeking,” LaPierre says with a laugh. Hot Mess premieres at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 4, as a part of Fertile Ground’s online festival of new works. Festival projects remain available to stream for free through Feb. 15 on Fertile Ground’s Facebook and YouTube channels.


ONLINE FESTIVAL: FERTILE GROUND 2021


The musical opens on Tiffany (voiced by Erin Tamblyn) and her hair-raisingly crass boyfriend “Playya” (voiced by LaPierre) wandering a graveyard at 4 a.m. The couple are supposed to be attending a joint funeral for three of Tiffany’s friends (who died under mysterious circumstances), but it turns out Tiffany got the time wrong. In the graveyard there are unexpected run-ins with old friends, a hilarious ode-to-sex sung by Playya, and a chorus of the walking dead (who also dance). The comic-book musical feels like something that would air on Adult Swim (Aqua Teen Hunger Force comes to mind); it’s kind of alienating to watch, but nevertheless it’s campy, catchy, and downright funny. 

Comic-book zombies and a “Hot Mess.” image by Bowan Hampton and Ian Anderson-Priddy.

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Fertile Ground 2021: Digital seedlings sprout

The annual PDX festival of new works, which ordinarily sprawls across spaces large and small throughout the metro area, has become a garden of virtual theater

As the pandemic raged through Portland last year, Nicole Lane wondered what to do about Fertile Ground. For 11 years, the festival had been a sweeping showcase for new works (it’s best known for theater, but has also incorporated dance and film). Yet with a tradition of cramming crowds into venues across the city, it was ill-suited to a post-COVID 19 world.

That’s why Lane, who has been festival director since 2010, began to envision a virtual version of Fertile Ground. “I don’t know what bee was in my bonnet, but I saw it,” she says. “I saw the possibilities.”


ONLINE FESTIVAL: FERTILE GROUND 2021


On January 28, those possibilities will become realities. By offering a zany mix of free, prerecorded performances through February 7 (the festival features everything from an interactive baking show to a spinoff of A Christmas Carol titled Fezziwig’s Fortune) Fertile Ground 2021 seeks to sustain the festival’s rambunctious spirit—and shake up its status quo with a lineup with works from BIPOC and LBGTQ visionaries.

Myhraliza Aala’s audacious tale of the horrors of the dating game, “Oh My Dating Hell,” premieres at 9 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 28, Fertile Ground’s opening night. It’s produced by Aala Is Possible.

Fertile Ground has long been renowned for its restless rhythm. It typically spans an epic range of stories (the Fertile Ground plays that I’ve written about include a multigenerational airport drama and a screwball comedy about an alligator-ravaged hotel) and beckons audiences into performance spaces both expected (Artists Rep) and eccentric (Mother Foucault’s Bookshop). 

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