MYS Oregon to Iberia

Thanks a million: Portland Center Stage gets a big national grant

News & Notes: Portland's biggest theater company is one of three nationally to win $1 million grants from the Mellon Foundation. Plus: Center Stage's new season; new faces at the Oregon Arts Commission and Oregon Cultural Trust.

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"Quixote Nuevo," Oregon playwright Octavio Solis's contemporary spin on Cervantes' "Don Quixote," closes Sunday, March 31, at Portland Center Stage. The Portland theater company is one of three nationally to be awarded $1 million by the Mellon Foundation. Photo: Jingzi Zhao/courtesy of Portland Center Stage.
“Quixote Nuevo,” Oregon playwright Octavio Solis’s contemporary spin on Cervantes’ “Don Quixote,” closes Sunday, March 31, at Portland Center Stage. The Portland theater company is one of three nationally to be awarded $1 million by the Mellon Foundation. Photo: Jingzi Zhao/courtesy of Portland Center Stage.

Portland Center Stage is one of three national theater companies to be awarded $1 million each by the Mellon Foundation, joining Kentucky’s Actors Theatre of Louisville and the Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven, Conn. National Public Radio announced the gifts on Wednesday, March 27.

NPR’s Elizabeth Blair, quoting Stephanie Ybarra, program officer for arts and culture at the Mellon Foundation, reported that the grants were made primarily because of the people running the theater companies. PCS’s Marissa Wolf, Louisville’s Robert Barry Fleming, and the Long Wharf’s Jacon Padrón, Ybarra said, have proven track records “in the ways that they advocate for their theaters, their communities, and the ways that they use their platforms for local artists and the national conversation.”

Marissa Wolf, artistic director of Portland Center Stage. Photo: Gary Norman
Marissa Wolf, artistic director of Portland Center Stage. Photo: Gary Norman

Blair further quoted Ybarra that individual theaters must have a “wholesale reimagining of the relationship … to their immediate communities.” Portland Center Stage, the city’s largest theater company, was praised as “a new play powerhouse; they’ve developed 29 world premieres and focus on bringing diverse perspectives to the stage.” Wolf, PCS’s artistic director, is quoted as saying that the new funds are essential – not only for supporting transformational change, but also for “inspiring long-term investment from our whole community.”

The grants come at a time when theater companies and other arts groups in Oregon and across the nation are struggling financially as they attempt to reestablish themselves coming out of the pandemic years.

Center Stage’s new season

Portland Center Stage has also announced its 2024-25 season, kicking things off Sept. 29-Nov. 3 with the great Stephen Sondheim/Hugh Wheeler musical Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street on the Main Stage. Following Sweeney:

  • Liberace & Liza: Holiday at the Mansion (A Tribute). The talented David Saffert and Julia Snow slip back into their Liberace and Liza Minnelli personalities for a holiday musical go-round. Ellyn Bye Studio, Nov. 10-Dec. 22.
  • Twelfth Night, or What You Will. Wolf directs one of Shakespeare’s finest comedies. Main Stage, Nov. 24-Dec. 22.
  • Jaja’s African Hair Braiding. Jocelyn Bioh’s recent Broadway comedy about “the bustling world of a Harlem braiding shop.” Main Stage, Jan. 19-Feb. 16,2025.
  • The Light. Chip Miller directs Loy A. Webb’s political/personal play, a 2018 Outer Critics Circle nominee for best new Off-Broadway play, about “a rollercoaster ride of romance and reckoning” set during the Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court hearings. Ellyn Bye Studio, March 9-April 20, 2025.
  • The Brothers Size. Miller directs Tarrell Alvin McCraney’s play about two very different brothers, set in “the Louisiana Bayou [and] showing us a world of poetry, African mythology, and music.” Main Stage, April 20-May 18, 2025.
  • Chris Grace: As Scarlett Johansson. Asian American actor and comedian Grace “explores the bounds of an artist’s identity” in this one-actor farce, replete with wigs and character switches. A winner of the 2023 Hollywood Encore Producers Award. Ellyn Bye Studio, May 11-June 22, 2025.
  • The Importance of Being Earnest. The world premiere of Kamilah Bush’s adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s comedy of manners and identity. Main Stage, June 1-29, 2025.

A new board chair for Oregon Cultural Trust

Sean Andries is the new board chair of the Oregon Cultural Trust. Photo courtesy Oregon Cultural Trust.
Sean Andries is the new board chair of the Oregon Cultural Trust. Photo courtesy Oregon Cultural Trust.

Sean Andries, executive director of the Chehalem Cultural Center in Newberg, has been elected chair of the state-operated Oregon Cultural Trust’s board of directors. He succeeds Niki Price, executive director of the Lincoln City Cultural Center, who had been chair since 2021. Andries was elected unanimously by the Trust’s board.

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Andries, who grew up in the Rogue Valley and ” first fell in love with art through the theater” attending shows at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, is also a member of the board of Portland Center Stage and president of the Yamhill County Cultural Coalition. A graduate of the University of Oregon in Theatre and Arts Administration, he also has a professional training certificate from Northern California’s celebrated Dell’Arte International School of Physical Theatre and is a trained clown who for a time ran a circus school. Over the years, he says, he has “worked for arts organizations of all shapes and sizes in just about every role imaginable.”

Two join Oregon Arts Commission

Left: Jason Holland. Right: Jenny R. Stadler. Photos courtesy Oregon Arts Commission.

Gov. Tina Kotek has appointed Jason Holland and Jenny R. Stadler as the newest members of the Oregon Arts Commission. Holland — executive director of the Oregon Coast Council for the Arts — and Stadler — executive director of Portland’s PHAME Academy — will begin their four-year terms immediately.

“Jenny and Jason are community-centered arts advocates who tirelessly work to elevate the arts in Oregon,” Commission Chair Subashini Ganesan-Forbes said in a prepared statement. “The Arts Commission will gain tremendously from these two remarkable organizational leaders because they are also deeply committed to their own individual artistic practices. As the Commission continues to fine tune how we serve artists, arts organizations and all Oregonians, having artists at the leadership table is vital.”

Holland, who has a background in instrumental and vocal music and theater, also sits on the boards of the Economic Development Alliance of Lincoln County, Pride Newport and the Lincoln County Cultural Coalition. Stadler, a longtime choral singer and theater fan, has a Ph.D. in psychology and left academia to work with nonprofit groups. She’s led PHAME Academy, which creates arts opportunities for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities through its school, performances, and outreach programs, since 2017.

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Photo Joe Cantrell

Bob Hicks has been covering arts and culture in the Pacific Northwest since 1978, including 25 years at The Oregonian. Among his art books are Kazuyuki Ohtsu; James B. Thompson: Fragments in Time; and Beth Van Hoesen: Fauna and Flora. His work has appeared in American Theatre, Biblio, Professional Artist, Northwest Passage, Art Scatter, and elsewhere. He also writes the daily art-history series "Today I Am."

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