Sharath Patel

Charles Grant’s Matter at Hand

The Portland actor-writer brings a vivid sense of movement to his play about the ever-present danger of violence that Black Americans face

Matter, conceived, written, and performed by Charles Grant and directed by James Dixon, is a deeply personal portrayal of a young Black man’s quest to find a way to save Black lives by examining police brutality and gun violence. Co-produced by Portland Playhouse and Many Hats Collaboration, the one man, 20-minute, filmed theater piece methodically examines the facts amidst opposing viewpoints, social division, and the constant barrage of news. Grant, frustrated and grieving over the many Black lives that have been lost, becomes aware of his vulnerability as a Black man and the possibility of his death at the hands of the police. While not strictly a dance work, Matter includes a lot of movement, as life should, and includes sections that could be called dances, with movement direction by Many Hats Collaboration’s artistic director, Jessica Wallenfels. Through a combination of camera angles, lighting, sound, text, movement, and the cast’s lived experiences, real emotions and trauma are expressed in the work, framing the complex Black experience. 

Charles Grant in the 2017 version of “Matter.” Photo: Tamera Lyn

“From early conversations with Jessica [Wallenfels], I knew that I wanted to incorporate more dance and movement into this piece,” Grant told me in an email. Grant originally conceived of Matter in 2017 as part of his apprenticeship at Portland Playhouse and is unofficially calling it Matter 2.0 this time around. Sadly, it is still part of our larger cultural conversation because of the disproportionate amount of violence toward Black bodies. He hopes he doesn’t have to keep bringing it back over and over again. 

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Adventures in inner & outer space

As self-employed Portland theater workers throw a party to help them buy a house, Tigard's Broadway Rose launches a $3 million expansion

In the gig economy, most artists are independent contractors, an economic reality that can shut them out of such basic civil interactions as the housing market: Without a steady paycheck, how does a painter or actor or musician – or anyone else in a temporary-contract or piecework job – persuade a bank to approve a loan so she can buy a house? It’s a problem accentuated in Portland and cities like it by a white-hot real-estate market that can leave even modest spaces for living and work out of economic reach.

Portland Playhouse will play host Monday night to a “house-raising party” for self-employed theater workers.

ARTSWATCH FOCUS: ARTS & SPACES


Are there creative ways for creative people to solve one of the basic challenges of urban living? Two Portland theater professionals – the talented sound designer Shareth Patel and his wife, marketer/administrator/stage manager Corinne Lowenthal Patel – have come up with a plan to buy the Southeast Portland house they’re living in. It involves a relatively little-known process called a bank statement loan, which is particularly structured for self-employed borrowers. Tonight – Monday, Aug. 19 – they’re throwing a modern-day version of a rent party to help them raise the $60,000 they need in their next bank statement to ensure the loan goes through. And they’re doing it with a little help from a lot of their friends.

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