JoAnn Johnson

Farewell to the Tangerine Window

In his final days, the beloved set designer and artist Tim Stapleton hosted a steady flow of friends. Now, his final artwork is on display.

“To get to the Tangerine Window you had to go on a bit of a spirit journey,” as Mary McDonald Lewis puts it.

The window in question was at West Hills Health & Rehabilitation, a nursing facility in Portland’s Multnomah Village, with low-slung yellow-brick buildings and well-manicured lawns. “You’d walk down the narrow side of the building, through a gate and into a little courtyard of small lawns, park benches, little gardens,” McDonald Lewis continues. The anodyne surroundings are scrupulously, pleasantly plain — except for one section. There, little bursts of color catch the eye — flowers in sky-blue planter pots, a yellow rubber duck in a rusted iron bird feeder, large ceramic carp glazed in brilliant cobalt blue, seeming to swim along a dry stream of stones. And then, instead of the standard-issue white curtains of the other rooms, a flash of bright orange appears like a welcome.
“It’s like a window that you’d expect to see on ‘Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.’ A window that glowed like monarch butterfly wings. But then, inside, is a very ill man. And yet, within moments you’re caught up in his eyes, and in his stories, and then it’s just Tim. You’re with Tim.”


Photographer Owen Carey, who shot this portrait of Tim Stapleton in 2013, joined forces with Stapleton on many a play and many a cocktail. Carey says that in one of his last text exchanges he asked if he should bring anything on his next visit. “He asked for ‘some Pirate’s Booty, your booty, and a Negroni in a sippy cup.’”

Timothy Wayne Stapleton, an accomplished and beloved figure in the Portland arts scene, died on Sept. 7, at age 71, from the effects of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, the motor neuron condition commonly known as “Lou Gehrig’s disease.” For the last several months of his life, pushing against the isolating effects of both the COVID-19 pandemic and his progressively debilitating illness, many of his many friends made pilgrimages to what everyone called the Tangerine Window.

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I & You and the unexpected twist

Boy meets girl and both meet Walt Whitman in Artists Rep's newest. But what about that surprise jolt before it ends?

I and You, the Laura Gunderson play on the boards at Artists Repertory Theatre, is about a couple of teenagers meeting cute and doing their homework. It also is about life and love and death, the transcendent beauty of poetry, and the grand mysteries of existence and connection. I and You is a play with next to nothing in terms of action. It is also a play in which events of the utmost consequence take place. I and You feels wonderfully charming yet slight. It also feels profound yet more than a little irritating.

That this one-act play can have such a dual nature — and such a contradictory one, at that — is due in large part to a surprise narrative twist, very late in its 90-minute run time, that radically alters our understanding of what’s come before it.

But first, there’s a project due for American lit class.

Emily Eisele, Blake Stone, and Walt Whitman in the bedroom. Photo: Russell J Young

Anthony shows up out of the blue, through the bedroom doorway of Caroline. They’re high school classmates but don’t know each other, in part because Caroline has been increasingly ill and is studying (somewhat half-heartedly) from home while she awaits an organ transplant. Anthony arrives unannounced to collaborate on an assignment Caroline hasn’t even bothered to notice, a presentation on the use of pronouns in the poetry of Walt Whitman.

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Spotlight on: Eisele & Stone

The two young stars of Lauren Gunderson's "I and You" at Artists Rep have talent to burn, and nothing to fall back on but each other onstage

Emily Eisele and Blake Stone are making their move. When you meet these bright and talented young actors the energy coming off them is palpable: youth, excitement, the new epiphany of their own creative power. Together, they comprise the entire cast of Artist Repertory Theatre’s final show of this season, Lauren Gunderson’s I and You, which opened Saturday.

After a season of fire and brimstone, epics and politics, illusion and disillusion, I and You is something entirely different – and yet, of a piece. It’s a quiet play, but its victories and connections are no less profound for that. Gunderson, “the most produced playwright in the country,” writes in her program notes that Anthony is African-American and Caroline is white but then says, “The race of each character can be altered. The only essentiality is that the characters not be the same race.” It’s a quiet statement, fully in keeping with the rest of Artist Rep’s season but not as in your face. Eisele and Stone are the perfect vessels for such a message, laden as they are with talent, charm, and charisma in abundance.

Emily Eisele and Blake Stone in “I and You.” Photo: Russell J Young

Eisele (pronounced eye-slee), a native of Fort Collins, Colorado, lived in Portland for about five years. Though she hasn’t had a lot of formal training, she’s been learning her trade on the boards since she was a kid. When she arrived in the Rose City she knocked around for a couple of years, not really making any headway until she became an apprentice at Third Rail Repertory. Her year at Third Rail proved a game-changer. “It was a great way to meet other young passionate artists that wanted to collaborate,” she says. “I was really lucky my year because the majority of us were really dedicated and really wanted to be there and created a lot of our own opportunities together and that’s built a lot of lasting relationships for me.” Along the way, and since then, Eisele has starred in Band Geeks at Broadway Rose and made her Artists Rep debut in last season’s American Hero. Since that production, Eisele has chosen to take her talents to Chicago and make a name for herself there.

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DramaWatch Weekly: Left Hook

Rich Rubin's Portland boxing tale, part of Vanport Mosaic, takes a jab at the city's woozy racial history. Plus the week's openings and closings.

“Let me tell you somethin’, boy. You never know what’s comin’ … and the sooner you learn that, the better off you be!”

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A few years ago, when playwright Rich Rubin approached Damaris Webb about directing some of his work, she chose the play Cottonwood in the Flood because it told a piece of history unfamiliar to her, the fascinating story of the 1948 Vanport flood. Left Hook, another Rubin play that Webb is directing, in a production that opens Thursday night at the Interstate Firehouse Cultural Center, gets closer to a history she knows. Extending the story of the repeated displacement faced by Portland’s black community, Left Hook is set in the 1970s, as urban renewal roils the Albina neighborhood that had absorbed the black Vanport diaspora a quarter century earlier.

Damaris Webb directs Rich Rubin’s play “Left Hook,” running May 24-June 10, as part of Vanport Mosaic. The cast includes Anthony Armstrong, Kenneth Dembo, Jasper Howard, Shareen Jacobs, Tonea Lolin, and James Savannah. Photo: Shawte Sims

Webb, who has chronicled her bi-racial background in a solo show called The Box Marked Black, grew up in the Irvington neighborhood and none of her family was forced to relocate for the major construction projects of the era – Memorial Coliseum, the I-5 freeway, and an abortive expansion plan for Emanuel Hospital. But she recalls that during the development of Left Hook she was shown a photo of the Black Panthers Portland headquarters when it was in the midst of being shut down by city officials. She recognized someone in the photo: her father, who worked for the Portland Development Commission.

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