Thursday, June 26, 2008

Bots Never Sleep

AbraPalabra just bit the big one. That's right, my tag board is history. For those of you who used it regularly, my apologies; it was a fun utility, but I was tired of constantly deleting the spam that cluttered it. Today alone I had to de-slime the board NINE different times -- it just wasn't worth it. There's no keeping up with those pesky little bots. God, they're gross. Ick.

Also today, I've switched the blog to comment moderation. So from now on you'll have to reproduce a code word to get your text published (evidently bots can't read yet) AND I have to tell the system to go ahead and let your comment appear. I hate having such a buffer, actually, but I am assured that it's only a matter of time before the bots start infesting my comment boxes, unless I thwart them in this way.

I'm only thinking of youse!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Micro Fest!

With JAW still weeks away, Portland is already a hotbed of startling new work, and has been for months. To mention just a few recent hijinks: Hand2Mouth’s deliriously hallucinatory collaboration with Polish company Teatr Stacja Szamocin, From a Dream to a Dream; Fever Theater’s experiential The New Believers; and my latest addiction, the End of the Pavement Micro New Works Festival.

Yes, that’s right. So this is how we relax when not working for PCS, you think reproachfully.

Guilty as charged. Even though it's that time of year when my every waking moment of consciousness seems to be oriented toward JAW, I have been indulging in the busman's holiday of attending the Micro Fest. It’s an extra-special occasion, since it marks the end of Pavement Production's EIGHTEEN fabulous years of producing theater. Not for lack of spirit or funding or creative juice, either, but because .... “it's time to move on,” sez co-founder Steve Patterson.

Mr. P, always one to go out with a bang, is gracing us with Pavement's final foray, the above-mentioned celebration of original work. It's readings, and ambitious ones, with Nick Zagone and Matt Zrebski having treated us on the past two weekends. All the work, from the writing to the acting to the -- let's just acknowledge it -- the producing has been superb.

That's what good producing is, you know: when a sense of integrity suffuses all aspects of a creative effort. Steve's a class act, and it shows everywhere in the Micro Fest.

Next up is a new piece by Steve himself, and the final showing on the Fifth of July is a romp called Ubu Lives! -- eight short plays inspired by Jarry's manic monster. With titles such as ubu's last krapp (that one's by james moore), the Micro Fest's climax promises to be a total roaratorio.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Why you want to care about net neutrality

Thank you Anthony Clarvoe for sharing this video with me and hence with us. Click below to find out what “net neutrality” is, and why without it, blogs like this would eventually cease to exist.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

last chance to STEP IT UP & GET OVER HERE

Portland Center Stage’s

invites you to a semi-staged reading of


a new play by Lisa Leaverton

Saturday, June 28, 2008 * Noon to approximately 1:30 pm
@ Portland Center Stage (128 NW Eleventh Avenue (between Couch & Davis) in the Rehearsal Room

Our outstanding cast includes:
Lava Alapai, Mario Calcagno, Drew Danhorn, Amy Palomino & Cecily Overman

Admission is free, but space is limited; email Megan Ward at to reserve your seat


At a loss for words? Then come down to Lee’s Expressive! He’s the best! Lee and his team of mechanics help clients whose speech patterns are clogged with words that are too ornate, or have the wrong shade of meaning, or just plain don’t communicate. But only Deep Mystery (that’s you, our audience) can unlock the most problematic phrases.

Please join us for our final reading of the season, which promises to be unlike any other reading we’ve had this year: it’s semi-staged; the audience can affect the play’s plot; AND the playwright herself will be here, all the way from Brooklyn, to celebrate the first fun season of NOW HEAR THIS.


Lisa Leaverton, of Brooklyn, NY, runs (inquire within) with Director John Kaufmann, a collective devoted to audience-dependent, ephemeral theater. Her one-act PERHAPS (2008) was read in Outward Bound Series, at CSPS, Cedar Rapids. WHY LOVE DOESN’T RECOGNIZE ITS NAME, for which she received a Richard Maibaum Scholarship, was featured at Iowa New Play Festival, 2008. Theatre of the Body (2001), a series of lecture demonstrations created in collaboration with choreographer Katharine Livingston, has been performed numerous times since it sold out at Philadelphia Fringe. A Blue We All Know (2008) will be featured in a Gallery production at University of Iowa, Oct. 2008. Other plays include Who Are These They (2007), read in Primary Stages Playwrights Workshop, The LONG Night (2008), and The Countess of Misery (2005), full-length play in verse. Since graduating from Peabody Music Conservatory, Lisa has costumed theater and dance companies including Headlong Dance and Pig Iron Theatre Co. Lisa participated in Goat Island Performance workshops, and KCCTF, 2007. Recipient of a Felton award, Lisa is completing her MFA in playwriting at University of Iowa.

Monday, June 16, 2008

But wait, there’s more.

Indeed. There are directors behind each of the Made in Oregon readings, of course, but we ask them to be terribly self-effacing in JAW. O they’re credited for their work, but they don’t get bios in the programs; nobody does, actually, except for the playwrights. It’s another way of many that we put the emphasis where its belong in this Festival – on the writers.


For The Cloud-Bangers, Matthew B. Zrebski will direct his own work – a practice I ordinarily disapprove of (what’s a reading for if not to give the writer perspective? which is hard to maintain when directing others), but Matt is such an experienced and nuanced director and this script is in such good shape that I…caved. However, Matt will be nimbly assisted by the golden Karin Magaldi, on board as his dramaturg, so I need not lose sleep.

Karin returns to MIO the following evening as director for Ginny Foster’s Starvation Heights. And too-cool-to-live Andrew Golla will direct Hunt Holman’s hilarious, eight-character train wreck, Willow Jade.

Bonus! You’ll remember that Ginny based her play on the historical crime novel of the same name by Gregg Olsen, with Gregg’s kind permission. Turns out Gregg is coming to Portland to see Ginny’s reading, to see how she’s shaped the story. His book, which one reviewer described as “investigative reporting at its best,” is a fascinating and compelling study, and it will be fun to meet the man who spent so much time researching the conflicted “doctor” at the story’s center.

If you’d like to fall under the story’s spell right now, check out the web site all about it. And then follow the links to Gregg’s own site and personal blog – chilling!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Local Heroes

Heavens to Murgatroyd and all right already, I swear to Archangel Michael and all the saints that we will have the full JAW copy on the PCS website before this Monday’s out. To tide you over, though, I’d like to announce the three plays of the “Made in Oregon” series, which form a mini-fest of plays in advance of the Festival proper. Feast your eyes on this fab line-up:

JAW: Made in Oregon
Script-in-hand readings by three of Oregon’s own. All MIO readings begin promptly at 7:30pm in the Ellyn Bye Studio Theater.

The Cloud-Bangers
by Matthew B. Zrebski
July 8
All the clouds are cumulonimbus in this heady mix of meteorology, migraines and steamy romance. Only an air-clearing storm will reveal who’s zoomin’ whom.

Starvation Heights
by Ginny Foster
July 9
In this adaptation of the true-crime novel by New York Times best-selling author Gregg Olsen, lady doctor Linda Hazzard opens a sanitarium with some unorthodox treatments. When her clients start leaving her care feet first, a mysterious figure known as Nanny appears, determined to save two patients in particular.

Willow Jade
by Hunt Holman
July 10
Nowheresville, Southwest Washingon. Meet four aging chums with a good idea: stave off middle age by reviving their high school rock band. Bad idea: coming to terms with their past during a disastrous game of D&D – in costume.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Kudos to us

Last night The Drammy Awards reverted to a format I hadn't seen in a few years: semi-controlled chaos, a healthy mix of the outrageous and the emotional, and a delicious sense that anything could happen at any moment.

In other words, it was like Thanksgiving dinner with your entire extended family.

The O'Briens, mother and daughter, were terrific hosts -- genial and easygoing and off-the-cuff, clearing having a ball -- and though no turkey got served, Mother O'Brien did bring her home-baked brownies, which were dispensed to the award winners along with their trophies.

Of course I knew in advance which artists were getting awards, but during the actual ceremony, I felt keenly certain nominations that didn't quite make it to the award stage -- Storm Large's Sally Bowles, for example, and Rick Lewis' extraordinary musical direction for Cabaret. But it happens....a large majority of Committee members (80%) have to ratify each nomination, which sometimes means that worthy nominations just miss the cut. On the other hand, though, this system makes it almost impossible to pass any noms that are quixotic or misguided.

ANYHOW. I don't mean to complain, because PCS did every well, with 11 wins. And I was especially gladdened at the chorus of approval over Sojourn Theatre's win of Outstanding Production for its footloose adaptation of Brecht, entitled Good, which was among the most memorable and affecting plays I've see EVER.

Favorite moment of the evening: Chris Murray's Poem to the Anonymous Followspot Poster. It was en garde and touche all in one fell poop.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Monday @ The Crystal

“Mead, what are you doing this Monday evening,” you ask. To which I say DUH, of course I’m going to be at the Drammy Awards, but of course.

The Drammy Committee’s mysterious website acknowledges that there will indeed be an awards ceremony, but to get the local buzz on it, you must visit followspot, the local blog for theater folk. There you’ll find the snide, the sniggly, the proud and the hopeful sparring off on the astral plane.

Sp FYI: The 2008 Drammy Awards are Monday, June 9, beginning at 6:00pm, at the Crystal Ballroom, 1332 W. Burnside. That’s Portland ORE.

Emcees for this year's ceremony are the legendary Vana and equally yet differently fabulous Eleanor O'Brien, a mother and daughter team whose combined behind-the-scenes knowledge of Portland theater will have some of us on tenterhooks all night. That's them in the above photo as they appeared in Collected Stories at Coho Productions.

The Drammy Award Ceremony is sponsored by PDX Magazine, The Portland Civic Theatre Guild, the Regional Arts and Culture Council and Bardy Trophy Company -- our heroes.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

The Certainty of Doubt

The current post on the PCS blog is an ingeniously entertaining construct devised by the entertainingly ingenious Trisha Pancio. Because Doubt is now running in the upstairs theater, Trisha poses ten different questions about matters we all “know” to be true. The stealthy fun of the quiz, though, is that you’ll get a different response debunking your beliefs no matter what you answer.

Take the plunge, if you dare…..

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

For Oregon artists only


In last year's round of fellowships awarded to writers by Literary Arts, playwrights did mighty fine. Of the 14 awards bestowed on an array of genres, an unprecedented THREE went to people writing for live performance: William Sam Gregory (a member emeritus of PlayGroup); Sue Mach, who is participating in JAW’s wild Commission! Commission! event this year; and John Frohnmayer, whose musical Spin uses his years as the head of the NEA as dramatic fodder.

So playwrights walked away with > 21% of the Oregon Literary Fellowships -- “not too shabby,” as my mother-in-law likes to say.

If you’re an Oregon resident and you’ve got a finished script, why not submit it to Literary Arts? There’s no application fee, and the application itself is E-Z. You might walk away with some fresh funds, and better yet, you gain the approbation of your peers and the attention of potential producers.

The deadline is coming up: June 27. (NB that's not a postmark deadline.) Apply here.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

My kind o'town

Visiting Chicago is always a jolt of pure adrenaline for me. The city is loud, brassy and fearlessly intrusive in a way that’s actually refreshing, after Portland’s quaintly genteel vibe. Chicago feels quintessentially American to me, encompassing all the best and the worst that comes to mind about us. It’s got a confidence about itself that is simultaneously attractive and comical, much like the stock Yankee character of 19th-Century theater. I love it.

On this busy trip, I got to see only two shows. One was a Lookingglass production, Around the World in 80 Days, written and directed by the fabulous Laura Eason.
This was my first chance to see the company’s new location, in the city’s historic Water Works. This location is nothing less than theatrical in its own right; from the outside you see a fortress-like fantasy castle cut from white stone, and inside, while you wait in the Will Call line, you look over a brass railing at the oversized gears, cogs and pipes of the works themselves.

The play was a charmer. The company clearly enjoyed bringing Jules Verne’s episodic yarn to life, yoking singing, dancing and some terrific fight scenes into service. There were also great moments of aleatory stagecraft, including a mechanical elephant that the adventurers ride out of India, and a “sledge” (picture at left) that glides over the snow-covered American prairie.

Also during this trip I got to see a Silk Road Theatre Project production for the first time, and luckily Julia Cho’s wonderful play Durango was playing. Directed by Carlos Murillo (who will be coming to JAW this July for our anniversary project, more about that soon), this was a sweetly sorrowful play about a Korean father with a past and his two American sons who know little of the way history repeats itself in families.

Silk Road produced Durango in the gorgeous Chicago Temple Building downtown, which has an intimate yet dazzling lobby. Covering from floor to ceiling with elaborate carvings, to stand still in the lobby is to feel you’re set in a Byzantine nave, like a plaster saint.

So both my theater experiences happened within architectural wonders, fittingly enough for a Chicago sojourn.