Pamplin Media Group – The Resilient Artists of Fertile Ground
Portland’s new annual Theater Festival is back online in 2022, but nothing can dampen comedians’ imaginations
The Fertile Ground Festival of New Works in Portland runs from January 27 to February 6, 2022. Like last year, all 37 works are online (to prevent the spread of COVID-19), although some also have performances live. And like every year, it’s a mix of final works, readings and works in progress.
If you ever need an example of pandemic resilience (beyond, say, healthcare workers or supermarket staff), look to Portland’s playwrights and actors. They could have thrown in the towel and produced nothing in the past two years, which have been brighter than the limelight. But they didn’t. They kept going, imagining their audiences when they couldn’t see them, imagining their opening nights when theaters were unavailable.
Note that all shows are available online (some on-demand, some at set times) and a few are also live in theaters. The Portland Tribune listened to three hours of five-minute Zoom presentations and picked out a handful that sounded like must-haves. Everything else is in giant pdf at http://www.fertilegroundpdx2022.org.
No, it’s not weird that you still buy quirky pieces online and watch them from your couch. One day you will look at this and laugh. Enjoy!
“The Misadventures of Missy Black: A Pirate Play”, by Do It For Mead
Since the pirate group Captain Bogg and Salty went missing, the people of Portland have had a hook-shaped hole in their hearts. This film of a musical, which was staged at Cafe Delirium in Gresham, chronicles the life and adventures of a young woman who grows up to become a legendary pirate queen in an alternate New Haven version of the ending. of the 18th century.
Misty Black, the daughter of a couple of common criminals, is forced by her parents to marry Jericho Black, a pirate captain and gentlemen. Hilarity ensues.
“This is a story for anyone who has ever dreamed of becoming a pirate,” director Maddie Nguyen explained. “Kids who grew up on ‘Peter Pan’ and/or ‘Pirates of Penzance,’ according to your parents, girls who wanted to be Keira Knightley or Johnny Depp.”
Do it For Mead was created in the spring of 2020 as a solution to the challenges posed to live performance during the initial COVID-19 lockdown.
“It’s very difficult to get into the acting world right now,” Nguyen said. “Many of our peers have dropped out of acting for very valid reasons, but we are determined to continue to carve out a place for ourselves in an incredibly challenging industry.”
The show is a staged reading around the idea of a group of theater kids breaking into a café and playing pirates. They studied filmed versions of “Hamilton” and “Come From Away” for inspiration. Trigger warning: Contains sea shanties.
“Touch and Go”, by Echo Theater Company
Several of the performers in this package of dance shorts were with the excellent Do Jump! Theater and are good at acrobatics, aerial dancing and group problem solving. One piece is all about the feet. Others defy gravity inside the large space of the Echo Theater. Pay attention to the large puppet, “which is basically someone’s butt stuck in the top of a skirt with shorts on it and eyeballs,” said director Aaron Wheeler-Kay.
“We wanted to retain a live performance element, so we created work that we could do in the world and in film.”
This includes people dancing at crosswalks for anyone stopping at a red light. “You can watch them in any order, they’re for anyone with a short attention span. It’s meant to help us all feel a little more fun,” Wheeler-Kay said.
“Heart of Stone”, by Fools House Art Collective
This 20-minute piece is based on a longer work in progress. A dance-loving, music-loving Uyghur Muslim boy defies both his father and government soldiers when he attempts to rescue a mysterious ancient artifact from a cave, risking his life but finding out who he is.
“At home we call it plastic theatre, which is a mixture of movement and dance, opera singing, spoken word and music,” producer Olga Kravtsova said.
The show will be directed and choreographed by Alisher Khasanov, who is also the director of the Movement Theater “Mim-Orkestr.” Khasanov comes from Moscow via Kazakhstan.
“We try to highlight the stories of people who usually don’t get enough attention everywhere and news on stage and off,” Kravtsova said. “It’s a mixture of physical theater, but with a strong text. We did it in a very Russian way – we went to the sauna, had tea and wrote a play.”
The ensemble is made up of artists from the Russian and Russian-American community in Moscow and Portland.
“We have a very diverse cast of ages, nationalities and genders. Half of the cast is Russian, from Fool House to Portland, who perform parts in Russian,” Khasanov said.
Keep in mind that the players are no strangers to the European vanguard, so this won’t be a walk in the park.
“Cosmogonos”, by Yantra Productions
Ajai Tripathi was the Director of Education for Milagro Theater and he teaches at Northwest Children’s Theater and School. This film of his 30-minute play is in two parts and uses mythology and folklore from his Mexican-American (Amoxtli) and East Indian (Ananta) heritage to tell an origin story of the universe.
It also draws on the work of Joseph Campbell and assumes knowledge of the Codex Mendoza. Unlike the big bang, it only lasts half an hour and takes place through shadow puppets and animation.
“The idea was to use shadow puppets as a way to show it, rather than saying it with a whole bunch of really long names with a bunch of syllables,” Tripathi said.
“Crossroads at Chambersburg”, by Fred Cooprider
This play tells the story of slavery abolitionist John Brown when he raided the Federal Arsenal at Harpers Ferry to free slaves.
Before participating in this raid, he invited his old friend Frederick Douglass to meet him at a stone quarry in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. Douglass was adamantly opposed to the plan, and they debated the merits.
The play imagines their dialogue, even if some are taken from the history books.
“I think the play has special relevance today because of Black Lives Matter and the ongoing problem of racism in America,” writer Fred Cooprider said of the fully staged 50-minute play.
“Earth: This Human Being”, by the Portland Eurythmy Ensemble.
This 13-part tale takes audiences on a journey to what it means to be connected to the Earth.
In eurythmy, the listener can see what he hears.
“Suddenly you see movement, color, flow and shapes of sounds,” said member Amanda Leonard. “The goal of eurythmy is simply to make sounds visible through movement.”
All performers wear silk due to the dynamic quality of the fabric. An actor draped in a cloak oozes onto the stage as if he were mud itself.
“Landscape”, by Sara Jean Accuardi of the Vertigo Theater
Who is still processing 2020? This audio piece has it all: Trump, COVID-19 and Bets, a single mother.
Fertile Land Festival of New Works 2022
January 27 to February 6