Monday, April 28, 2008

Marc Acito Attacks!

This Tuesday, the 29th, my pal and colleague Marc Acito is having a book signing slash extravaganza at the Bagdad Theatre to celebrate the publication of his second novel, Attack of the Theater People. And I will be missing it, but for a very good reason; I'll be attending Visions & Voices, performances of outstanding new work from several Portland high schools, at the fab Gerding Theater.

I wish that you and I could at both events, but here is Marc himself to stump for his affair:

Monday, April 21, 2008

Letts is more

By now I’m sure you don’t need this blog to inform you that Tracy Letts has won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for drama for his astonishing play, August: Osage County. But I've been making mixtapes instead of blogging, so here is the news post-belatedly.

Part of what makes August so astonishing is that on the surface it seems to be a throwback to a once-prevalent form of American drama – the portrait of a family in trouble, presented wholly as a piece of kitchen sink realism (and yeah, there really is a kitchen sink). Reading the play, you sense a shadow falling over the pages; the ghosts of Williams and Miller and even O’Neill bear witness to work of this nature, and remind you that at its best that work was compelling, even visceral.

Letts breaks all the rules here by returning to a dramatic form that some of us relegated to a footnote of 20th century history. A:OC is three acts long, lasts for more than three hours of playing time, and has a gargantuan cast by modern standards -- 13 characters, all of them vivid and significant to the story.

If I got a query letter from a writer listing the above aspects of his play, I could not have asked to see his script in good conscience. How could my company afford to produce it? But fortunately for American theater, Tracy Letts did not have to depend on the query system to get his play read. It was nurtured from conception to production through Steppenwolf’s outstanding New Plays Initiative,whose philosophy is espoused here:

… [A:OC’s] development process reflected our philosophy that new play development must be tailored to the individual playwright’s needs and geared toward production. At each step along the way — from the first reading to the production now running on Broadway — August gained vitality through the participation of an ensemble of artists with a long history of collaboration.

I want to acknowledge that the Pulitzer Committee awarded August this distinction in a very strong year; the other nominated finalists in this category were: David Henry Hwang’s Yellow Face, and Dying City by Chris Shinn.

Mr. Letts comes to Portland early in 2009 with a world premiere in tow for us: his adaptation of The Three Sisters, which will open at Artists Repertory Theatre as one of the linchpins of inaugural New Work Festival.

Thursday, April 17, 2008


Portland Center Stage’s


invites you to a concert reading of

The Bullet Round

by Steven Drukman

Featuring the talents of Paul Glazier, Kelsey Tyler, Tom Moorman, Chris Murray, Nasir Najieb, Amy Newman & Michael Fisher Welsh

April 19, 2008
Noon to approximately 2 pm
@ Portland Center Stage
128 NW Eleventh Avenue (between Couch & Davis)
on the Main Stage

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


“If you put a gun onstage in Act I, it must go off by Act III.” - Anton Chekhov

Karma’s a bitch, as the hapless inhabitants of this knockabout comedy are about to find out. In the course of a La Ronde chain reaction,an aspiring white rapper gains and loses a gun that continues to change hands, scene by scene, on its way to fulfilling an un-anticipated destiny.

About the Author

Steven Drukman’s play IN THIS CORNER (about legendary boxer Joe Louis) opened in January at San Diego’s Old Globe Theatre. Other produced plays include GOING NATIVE (Long Wharf Theatre), FLATTERY WILL GET YOU (Connecticut Rep), COLLATERAL DAMAGE (Illusion Theatre, Minneapolis), THE SNOWMAIDEN (Bob Hope Theatre, Dallas) and ANOTHER FINE MESS (Portland Center Stage), which was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. He has been developed and/or commissioned by the MarkTaper Forum, the Intiman Theatre, South Coast Rep, New York Theatre Workshop, Playwrights Horizons, Sundance Theatre Lab and the Williamstown Theatre Festival. Awards: Paul Green Award, Alfred P. Sloan Award, Heinemann finalist, others. He wrote for many years for The New York Times, was an Associate Editor of American Theatre Magazine, and he just released his book of the edited screenplays of Craig Lucas. He teaches playwriting at NYU.

Now Hear This and Portland Center Stage gratefully acknowledge the support of the Oregon Cultural Trust.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

My Productive Evening

I had all evening to develop program copy for PCS's upcoming Gala, our biggest benefit of the year, and I could just not get started. Or rather I'm getting started now. Could not be sorrier, Kavita! Tomorrow, I promise!
Here's what I did instead. Shame! Shame! Shame!

Monday, April 14, 2008

The Age of Nefarious

Last weekend provided a series of wild, woolly and dangerous nights out for the theatergoers of Portland, Ore. On one end of town, at Northwest Classical Theatre Company, the woman playing the lead role in Timon of Athens hurled a plate at an exiting actor and caught an audience member full in the face. While across the Willamette River in the southwest quarter – what are the odds? – at ART’s opening night of A Streetcar Named Desire, Stanley Kowalski hurled a plate into the audience that struck a Just Out reviewer in the face.

But wait there’s more. Reportedly the same night at Cirque du Soleil ’s show, as performer hanging from a chandelier fell about 15 feet and had to be carted off for repairs.

In each instance, there was an awkward, flustered pause, and then the show went on.

What fell alignment of the stars could be bringing about all this mayhem? Or perhaps – perhaps the fault is not in our stars, but in our very own…… Mike Daisey.

Sunday, April 13, 2008


If you’re going to attempt being at all au courant in the teeny tiny universe of live theater, there are certain blogs you’d best keep up with: Parabasis, for ex, and Histriomastix, for a very different ex. And of course there’s that raving blogophiliac Jason Grote, whose portrait (by Neil Numberman) graces this post. There is also the indispensable Bamboo Nation, whose evil (but darling) creator has trained me to check every single day, lest I miss his latest contest giveaway or Diablo Cody quip or new Pork Chop video.

Below is recent comment from Herr Grote'g blog that I appreciated.

Like many of us, I have a love/hate relationship with theater. It's like a bad romance that is occasionally pretty great, but usually frustrating and annoying. I've been thinking a lot about quitting lately, but every time I start to think seriously about it, some experience draws me back in - most recently, Woolly Mammoth's production of David Adjmi's Stunning, directed by Annie Kauffman, a phenomenal piece of work that I got to see last weekend.

I think, were I to quit (switching to screenwriting, comedy, and prose full-time), I'd miss the sense of instant gratification and collaboration that one gets from doing theater, but not much else. There is one place, however, that I would always come back to from whatever greener pastures call me, any time, and that place is Soho Rep. Last night I gave a speech to introduce the Writer/Director Lab reading of Mike Daisey's The Moon Is a Dead World.

If you’d like to read the full text of his appreciation of Soho Rep, here ‘tis.

Part of what I like about the above quote is that it mentions three of my favorite writers in just a few centimeters.

Even if I am miffed at Mike Daisey right now.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Sometimes a great commotion!

To each their own: The Stamper family rests a moment, each in their private world. Vivian Stamper (Sarah Grace Wilson, left) samples from Wallace Stevens' poetry while patriarch Henry (Tobias Andersen, right) does some reading of his own. Leland (Karl Miller, middle), awakes to visions of older brother Hank (P.J. Sosko, standing) and cousin Joe Ben (Andy Paterson, seated) on the slopes amid the timber. Sometimes a Great Notion, the world premiere adaptation of Ken Kesey’s essential Northwest novel, plays through April 27 at Portland Center Stage. Information, behind the scenes blogs, and tickets available online at


Already it’s a week since Sometimes a Great Notion opened at PCS. Why am I just now getting round to registering it here? Probably I’ve been in recovery since the opening.

Don’t get me wrong – the opening was a colossal success, tickets are flying out of the box office as fast as the staff can print them, and the rehearsal process was a joy from the meet & greet to the dress. But the project has occupied my consciousness to greater or lesser degrees ever since Aaron Posner brought his adaptation to us three years ago, across three workshops, many looooooooooooong conversations, and innumerable emails.

Since opening, the audiences have been amazing. For many, their sense of ownership with the Kesey novel is profound. At almost every Prologue (short talks we give prior to performance about the play), someone will declare that the book is the quintessential Oregon story. Which amuses me, because while Kesey does indeed celebrate Oregon – and Oregonians – he’s also critical, maintaining a wry detachment at all times. The story is a study of people divided against themselves, actually, so it seems about right that our patrons accept all of it, the scabrous with the glabrous.

With fewer than six years of Oregon residency behind me, I can’t claim to have webbed feet yet. But the wet, dankly verdant gloom of the story’s setting is certainly dear to my heart, and when I left L.A. for Portland I exulted at that thought I’d be returning to it. Oregon’s climate and topography impinge upon the action to such a degree (in both Kesey’s novel and Aaron’s adaptation) as to be an uncredited character. And we love it for that.

By the by, in case you missed it, here’s the link to Marty Hughley’s A&E preview piece about the show that ran in The Oregonian, as well as his post-opening review.

The show has also been plugged and/or reviewed in a few literary blogs as well, including Powells (scroll down a bit to find it), Julie in the Pearl, PDX Writer Daily, Describe the Ruckus, and Literary Kicks (a New York based lit blog -- check out the “can’t wait to see it when it comes to New York” reference.

Not that I’m, like, proud of the production or anything…….

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Saturday, April 5, 2008

No Degrees of Separation

Something I love about life in a small town is that you get to enjoy small and frequent coincidences. Often you've heard all about someone prior to your actually encountering each other in person.

Case in point: my fabulous cousin, who is a frequent contributor to this blog, pointed out to me today that there's a cool web site created by artist Scott Wayne Indiana that documents a local phenomenom I described way, way back in the earliest day of this blog (which would be 11 months ago). Whilst trolling through 39 Forks, I discovered Scott is married to a terrific writer, Harvest Henderson, who I heard speak when she won an Oregon Literary Fellowship Award recently. Her acceptance was hilarious and effervescent and oddly moving, too. I'm always moved when someone says that recognition of their work validated who they already were anyway -- it always feels like a real "You've always had the power to go back to Kansas" moment.

You know......all those years I lived in Los Angeles, I don't think I ever once ran into someone I knew. Except when I went to theater, which doesn't count because the same 400 or so people always went to everything.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Did You Know 2.0

Complaints are racking up about my inattention to this blog of late.....I assure you, it's not for lack of things to say, but rather workomania at PCS lately as we prepare to open Sometimes a Great Notion -- tomorrow! I'll be back soon, but in the meantime, take a gander at a video bouncing around the blogosphere (and elsewhere in the galaxy) right now. Some find it scary, but I was strangely moved by it.