Portland virtual theater

The Wonders of Wonderland

Portland Playhouse closes the curtains on 2020 with an epic virtual theater festival. We talk with the people who created it.

Ashley Mellinger scripted a witty conversation between two webcam models. Fyndi Jermany crafted a category-defying musical experience. Kailey Rhodes unleashed a meditation on the role of blame in myth and life. Francisco Garcia told a tale of two sisters who are casualties of the Trump Administration’s barbarous family separations.

Mellinger, Jermany, Rhodes and Garcia are the creators of the four new plays that form Wonderland, a virtual theater festival from Portland Playhouse that runs through January 19. Each work mirrors our damaged and divided world (Mellinger says the artists were asked for reflections of “our sociopolitical landscape”). Yet the ways that the plays boldly leap across space, time and genre remind you that while COVID-19 has shaken Portland’s theatre community, it hasn’t shattered it.

Wonderland was born of an army of innovators led by producer Charles Grant and populated by multitudes, including the main creators of the festival’s selections. I spoke to all four of them about the art of creating brazen and beautiful theater in 2020.


The title 545 refers to the number of migrant children separated from their families by the Trump Administration as of October (by December, it had risen to 666). With actors Lulu Kashiwabara and Mila Kashiwabara (who are sisters), Francisco Garcia fought to convey the human toll behind that statistic with a tale of two siblings who are imprisoned and taken from their mother.

Lulu Kashiwabara (lef and Mila Kashiwabara in Francisco Garcia’s “545.” Photo: Kirk Johnson

How long did you have to write the play?

I think I did about three drafts. When I found out [that Lulu Kashiwabara and Mila Kashiwabara] could do the show, I started building the show around them. I sent them questionnaires to fill out so we could build upon their relationship and so I could find out about their backgrounds more, and a lot of that stuff was incorporated into the show.