Jeff Gorham

Speed-dating at Fertile Ground

As the new-works festival gets ready for its tenth annual run, a horde of writers and performers check out the media (and vice versa)

And lo, on the third day of the New Year, a great clamor fell upon the multitude, and the dread Pealing of the Four Minutes rang out, and the people scurried from line to line, taking their spots in the sun, pitching their pitches, eager to be heard. And a mighty clatter and confusion arose, accompanied by press releases and business cards, and then the next wave burst, and the pieces shuffled yet again. And the creator of it all smiled, and said, “That’s good!”

It’s true. On January 3, in the upstairs lobby of Artists Repertory Theatre, producers, performers, directors, and writers of shows in Portland’s 10th annual Fertile Ground festival of new works met with members of the press, pressing them, as it were, with quick-hit details on their shows and why the media members should really, truly see and publicize them. Once again Fertile Ground director Nicole Lane was stage-managing this frenzy of what she calls “media speed-dating,” cracking the whip – or, more accurately, blowing a harmonica – to keep things moving swiftly along. What sometimes seemed like bedlam actually had a drill-sergeant efficiency: Line up in front of a press member sitting at a table. Take your turn. Make your pitch. You get four minutes. The mouth harp shrieks. You move on to another line, and someone takes your place.

The Fertile Ground speed-dating crowd. ArtsWatch’s contingent is tucked discreetly toward the back, hidden behind more dashing daters. Photo courtesy Fertile Ground

This year, ArtsWatch’s contingency in the hot seats consisted of me and Marty Hughley, our theater editor and chief theater columnist. We made a deal beforehand. Marty would get the lay of the land, find out what’s out there, use his brief talks to help strategize our coverage, including which full productions to review. I would do my best to simply report the evening as it occurred from my table. And Bobby Bermea, who wasn’t at date night (sensible man), would tackle the festival from the inside, talking about the stages of some of the shows, and talking with artists about the process of creation. 

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November surprise at Post5

As "Coyote on a Fence" opens, the company is rocked by resignations and the news that it is losing its Sellwood space. (P.S.: the show is good.)

The true drama of Coyote on a Fence, Post5’s newest show, came after the performance: It’ll be the company’s last production in its Sellwood home. What’s more, ArtsWatch has learned, artistic directors Rusty Tennant, Paul Angelo, and Patrick Walsh tendered their resignations on Nov. 1.

While passing the traditional Post5 giving basket, Coyote  lead actor Jeff Gorham told the audience the company had put on some good productions over the last five years, but this would be it in Sellwood. Board member Stefan Feuerherdt said Monday in an email that the company has found other spaces for the last productions of its current season, and will be exploring options for what’s next with Post5. Oregon ArtsWatch will report more as the story unfolds.

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Farewell, Sellwood: Post5 jumps off the fence.

Farewell, Sellwood: Post5 jumps off the fence.

Almost anticlimactically, Coyote on a Fence has a lot going for it, beginning with a Death Row inmate named John Brennan, who has the sort of sensitive intelligence that we often underestimate in our stereotypes about the South. He carries a torch for the English language and its infinite possibility to tell a story with precision and care. His wardrobe is dictated by the times, doing hard time on Death Row. Post5’s Coyote on a Fence is a well-rounded look into prison and the people in its orbit.

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