performance festival

Fertile Ground: Let the fest begin

ArtsWatch's writers "speed-dated" the producers, writers, and performers of Portland's sprawling new-works festival. Here's what they discovered.


If you host it, they will come. And come they did, from east, south, west, and north: dozens of playwrights, producers, choreographers, clowns, actors, dancers, acrobats, and other show folk, each intent on one thing: to serially date as many members of the press as they possibly could in one brief evening.

The press, let it be noted, does not ordinarily do this sort of thing. But this first Thursday of the new year was the Fertile Ground new-works festival’s speed-dating-with-the-media night, and for everyone involved (including three of us from ArtsWatch – Brett Campbell, Christa Morletti McIntyre, and Bob Hicks), getting a lot of information out there in a very short time seemed like an excellent idea.

It was also a little like a drive-by clipping by a fleet of eighteen-wheelers. Or a massacre in the making. “Why is that woman coming at us with a hatchet in her hand?” we found ourselves wondering nervously at one point.

Festival director Nicole Lane, calling the speed-dating shots. Photo: Christine Toohey

Festival director Nicole Lane, calling the speed-dating shots. Photo: Christine Toohey

As reporters and editors sat at long schoolhouse-style tables in the upper lobby at Artists Repertory Theatre, or set up their cameras and mics in any spare corner they could find, supplicants lined up chin-deep for their five-minute shots at making an impression. At the end of five, a clang sounded above the clatter and din, and the next in line moved up. “Give ’em your elevator speech,” festival director Nicole Lane instructed helpfully, although no elevator was in a sight.