Luisa Sermol

Belling Shakespeare’s cat

Fertile Ground 2021: Sue Mach's "Madonna of the Cat" imaginatively fills in the 16-year gap in Shakespeare's romance "The Winter's Tale"

According to a common rule of thumb about Elizabethan plays, tragedies end in deaths, comedies end in weddings. Romances, those fanciful neither-fish-nor-fowl creatures that became Shakespeare’s late-career specialty, find their happy endings often at the altar as well, but festooned with symbolic blooms of reunion, reconciliation and restoration.

So it is in Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale, which finds a pair of royal families ruptured by  irrational passions until, first, divine intervention, and then, human agency can set things right. 


ONLINE FESTIVAL: FERTILE GROUND 2021


Adapted from a 1588 novel called Pandosto, by Robert Greene, The Winter’s Tale concerns  two longtime friends, King Leontes of Sicilia and King Polixenes of Bohemia. The trouble starts in Sicilia when Leontes comes to the mistaken belief that his wife, Hermione, is cheating with his friend. Polixenes slips back to Bohemia, and Leontes puts Hermione on trial, where amid the shock of it all she collapses and is pronounced dead. The complicated path to a resolution of this mess takes 16 years, a change of scenery to the sea coast of Bohemia (never mind that the region is actually quite landlocked), a shepherd girl of mysterious origin, young love, Leontes’ grieving repentance, Polixenes having a snit of his own, and much plotting by various parties. 

Augustus Leopold Egg (1816-1863), “Scene from ‘The Winter’s Tale’ (Act IV, Scene 4),” Guildhall Art Gallery. Photo: City of London Corporation

And of course, there’s that bear. But more on him later.

Proper order is restored at last when Paulina, the wife of a Sicilian lord, reveals that she has kept Hermione alive and hidden all this time, awaiting the proper moment for love and forgiveness.

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Antonio Sonera’s Badass Hospitality

As the city's new theater season swings into action, Portland's maverick director speaks out about why it's done, and who should have access

Antonio Sonera is the maverick of the Portland theater scene: a wild card, an enigma, complicated and controversial, undoubtedly gifted, knowledgeable and hard-working. He’s been a vital part of the Portland theater scene for 30-odd years, yet in many ways, he’s on the outside looking in. He hasn’t worked at Artists Rep in years. He’s never directed at Portland Center Stage. He’s never worked at Portland Playhouse or Profile or Defunkt. He’s on the Drammy Committee, yet, in those same three decades of doing good — and oftentimes great — work in this town, he’s yet to win a Drammy himself. If you look back over his career his record holds up against any local director you can name. El Paso Blue, References to Salvador Dali Make Me Hot, El Grito Del Bronx, Boleros for the Disenchanted, Invasion!, Sans Merci, God of Carnage and his most recent piece World Builders all were among the most memorable productions of the seasons in which they appeared. A lot of accolades and awards are sprinkled throughout that small sampling of Sonera’s work — as well as a lot of risks being taken and buttons being pushed. When Sonera works these days, it’s primarily on projects he’s developed or produced.

Recently, I had a chance to sit down and talk with him about that hiatus; about his company, Badass Theatre; and about the state of theater in Portland. Anyone who knows Sonera already knows he had a lot to say. He’s a man of strong opinions and he’s not afraid to speak them. He’s also a thoughtful man, smart, experienced and perhaps most importantly, he gives a damn. You can agree with him or not, but you can’t deny his passion or commitment.

Antonio Sonera, up close and personal. Photo: Tim Krause

When World Builders rolled around this June Portland hadn’t heard from Badass in four years, which was too bad. Because when Badass had spoken, people had listened. Invasion!, Jonas Hassen Khamiri’s perception-shattering tornado of a play, was easily the most talked-about theater piece of its season. Sans Merci, Johnna Adams’ brutal exploration of love and grief, contained a trio of outstanding performances, headed by the amazing Luisa Sermol, ripping her soul to tatters and leaving it there on the stage for everybody to see. (Sermol won an award for her work, not her first by any means, and not her first under Sonera’s direction. She’d taken home another Drammy for her work in Boleros for the Disenchanted at Milagro in 2012.)

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