Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Evildoers arrive in Portland!

Portland Center Stage's

proudly presents a concert reading of

A new play by David Adjmi

performed by
Ted deChatelet, Stephanie Gaslin, Val Landrum, Tom Moorman & Leif Norby

March 29, 2008
Noon to approximately 2 pm

@ Portland Center Stage
128 NW Eleventh Avenue (between Couch & Davis)
in the Studio Theater

Admission is free, but RSVPs are appreciated
Please call Megan Ward at (503) 445-3845 or e-mail
to reserve your seat


Described by one critic as “a culmination of the last four centuries of theater,” The Evildoers runs the gamut of theatrical forms from Jacobean tragedy to drawing-room comedy. Not for the faint of heart, Adjmi’s Carol and Jerry and Martin and Judy make Albee’s George and Martha look like Sunday School teachers. Be forewarned: the only thing nastier than their tart tongues and their violent actions is their politics.

DAVID ADJMI’s plays include Strange Attractors, The Evildoers, Elective Affinities, Marie Antoinette and Caligula. David’s work has been developed and produced at the Sundance Theatre Lab, Manhattan Theatre Club, NYTW, Lincoln Center and Portland Center Stage’s JAW Festival, among others. He is the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships including a McKnight Fellowship, the Marian Seldes-Garson Kanin Award, a Jerome Fellowship, a Helen Merrill Award, an Ovid Grant for New Writing, a Lecomte du Nouy Award, a Cherry Lane Theatre Fellowship, as well as multiple fellowships from The MacDowell Colony and Ucross Foundation.

Monday, March 24, 2008

What Portland Oregon Doesn’t Want You To Know

Since two different colleagues have recently accused me of civic boosterism, it’s time I confessed that there is one thing about my adopted home town that drives me barking mad. And that is – well, driving. Portland has the worst drivers of any town I’ve ever lived in. And I developed motorist survival skills in Manhattan, Los Angeles and San Francisco (where I learned to drive a stick, can you imagine?). Three notorious snake pits of automobile dystopia. Driving L.A.’s freeways always reminded me of being tossed into a pinball machine. But you know what? People in those places all knew how to drive. They had to.

Not so in Portland, where you can tell from the plethora narrow streets that the town anticipated the town having heavy traffic. Many residential streets are barely wide enough for two lanes, and a ten-mile drive here is often considered too far to travel. This is part of Portland’s charm, I admit it; but its corollary is a gobsmackingly high percentage of motorists who can barely manage to keep their cars on the road.

The Evidences:

People just plain drive slower here – which wouldn’t be a bad thing, necessarily, except that the slowness pervades more than just driving speed. You see it frequently at stop lights, where some people go into a trance of sorts while waiting for green light to turn to red. Here is the sequence:

1. Realize that the light must have changed to green since the cross-traffic has ceased to move.
2. Look left to see if anyone’s coming.
3. Look right to see if anyone’s coming.
4. Make a decision to move forward and prepare to act on this.
5. Ease out into the intersection, blissfully unaware of how few people made it through that light because of your inattention.

Many Portlanders (not all, but I do mean many) have no concept of right of way. Perhaps Driver’s Ed isn’t taught in high schools here, I don’t know, but confusion reigns in just about any situation where a right-of-way protocol should exist. The most hilarious exemplar of this is the four-way stop. Here are a few reactions to it that I see every single day:

The person on the right has the right away if s/he’s anywhere in sight. Never mind that s/he’s nowhere near the intersection yet.
Opposing traffic is supposed to wait till you’re nearly across the intersection and then go, thus doubling the wait for the people on the left and right.
Every driver should examine the faces of the others to see if they feel strongly about going first.
Once you’ve determined that it’s your turn, look for oncoming traffic and wait till it has come to a full stop, just in case it doesn’t understand that it has a stop sign.

Things really go to hell when someone needs to turn left at a four-way stop. In L.A., the accepted custom was that if you’re turning left, you ease into the intersection while the opposing traffic goes by, then make your turn. Try that in Portland and panic ensues; people will think you intend to hit them.

In fact, stop signs in general flummox Portlanders. God help you in pedestrian-heavy districts like the Pearl, because – no exaggeration here – about a third of drivers there sail thoughtlessly through stop signs. Another third of them come to a dead stop at intersections where there is no stop sign; then they sit there blankly wondering why pedestrians are staring at them. Thankfully the remaining 1/3 of drivers actually look to see whether there’s a sign or not and act accordingly.

The comedy goes on and on. Many drivers here do not know they can right on a red light, and will sit blankly at a light with no other drivers in sight. And then, yes, as aforesaid, when the light finally changes these same people will usually look both ways and then consider making the turn before finally up and actually executing it.

Finally – this is not an irritation, more like a mere quirk. But apparently there’s an unwritten law in Portland that states you’re supposed to use your windshield wipers as seldom as possible. Here we are in a wet climate, but unless the rain is blindingly torrential, there’s this reluctance to use the wipers more than intermittently. How come? Maybe they’re afraid to wear them out? I don’t know.

And I’m just getting warmed up. I could go on and on and on….but I’ll spare you. Just remember if you come to visit and you’re renting a car, be prepared to take your time getting into town. I assure you everybody else is!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Coming Attractions: Murder & Mayhem!

At PCS ’s urging, I posted an entry on its blog about an upcoming class I’m teaching soon. Whereupon it occurred to me I serve up the same here on the ole pupu platter. I mean, what does I have a bloggling for, right? Right?? So forgive me if you navigated here from this very announcement at PCS, but as long as you’re at it, why not go ahead and register for the course? Because -- needless to say -- there’s nothing quite like a Jacobean tragedy to make you feel that spring is really here.

Here’s the original post:


You know that PCS boasts a theater school, called GreenHouse, right? I’m proud to say I’ve taught for it twice through our popular “Dialogue” series, in which participants read and discuss masterpieces of dramatic literature. We inaugurated GreenHouse with my “Greatest Hits” class, where we read some of history’s most popular plays (Doctor Faustus and Uncle Tom’s Cabin, for example), and last fall I taught a course on Shakespeare’s romances.

Up for the spring semester: “Murder & Mayhem: Three Macabre Masterpieces of the English Renaissance.” This new course explores something we have in common with Shakespeare’s audiences – our love of scary stories involving vengeful ghosts, damp dungeons, secret passageways and grisly undoings, all served up with a ghoulish sense of fun. These influential dramas prefigure the Gothic romances of the 18th Century as well as the horror movies of our own time.

In this six-session theater appreciation course, we’ll delve into three of the genre’s greatest hits, all of which are still frequently performed today: Hamlet, by William Shakespeare; The Revenger’s Tragedy, by Cyril Tourneur; and The Changeling, by Middleton & Rowley.

I still have room for a few more participants – if you’d like to register, contact Kelsey Tyler soon at For more information about the class and its subject, feel free to phone me at (503) 445-3792.

Course dates: Wednesdays, Apr. 2 – May 21, 7-9 pm
Tuition: $150

I would love to discuss these astonishing plays, with their strangely modern mixtures of suspense and humor, with you.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

My latest addiction

Call it FreeRice2: The Next Generation. Yes, it’s yet another highly addictive way to murder all your free time. But if you took the bait when a man named Tom responded to my previous post about FreeRice, then you know what I mean. You too wound up at Answer4Earth and found you were unable to tear yourself away from this new quiz game.

The cause, this time, is environmentalism, and while the questions still include vocabulary puzzlers, they also include general knowledge. Every right answer nets you virtual leaves, which add up to branches and eventually to trees – which leads to actual trees getting planted, all as a result of your pastiming. Nifty, eh? Near as I can tell this is legitimate; I scoured the web for demurring opinions about the hosting organization and so far the only complaints refer to how quickly you can drop a half hour or more whilst playing the game.

What’s not to like? You learn some things (who knew that the courting ritual of the Madagascar hissing cockroach involves mutual antennae stroking?); you contribute to reforestation; and you get to compete with your archnemesis (that would be yourself, toots).

Plus the site’s creators evince a droll sense of humor. Just today, a question about which body Washington crossed for the Battle of Trenton included among the possible responses……Lake Oswego.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Free Rice Forever

No no, not Connie. I’m referring to the remarkable website, FreeRice, that manages to serves as a philanthropic endeavor, word quiz, mind stimulant (since you can deduce many of the correct answers) and stress reducer all at the same time.

Okay, so Marissa reported on FreeRice all the way last November (see “Put Your Overducation to Good Use”). But even though I quickly became addicted to the philanthropic website, I remained dubious about it -- as I would be of any new denizen of the blogosphere. And at first it seemed I was right to do so, as scandals mounted about bogus net charities.

So imagine my delight to find FreeRice ratified today by none other than Rob Walker in The New York Times. According to Mr. Walker (in an opinion echoed by the venerable hoax-busting site Snopes), FreeRice is the real deal. It has donated more than two billion grains of rice since October 7, using the UN's World Food Program as its distributor. Its founder is John Breen, a computer programmer with a history of using the net to make a difference; he also created just 14 months ago.

Sweet, eh? Now you can take a break from work productively by building your vocabulary (or reviving those obscure terms you picked up in grad school) and saving the planet at the same time. But when you visit, be sure to check the user settings so the site remembers your vocabulary level next time. If you appreciate a challenge, know that there are 50 levels in all -- but reportedly few make it past 48…

Monday, March 3, 2008

The Boys & Girls Guide to the Pacific Northwest

You know Jeff Foxworthy as the guy with the “redneck repartee” who's always joking about life in the Southern U.S. Turns out he's able to appreciate the wet & wonkey world of the Northwest, too.

My favorite comment is #25.


1. You know the state flower (Mildew).

2. You feel guilty throwing aluminum cans or paper in the trash.

3. You use the phrase '=:sun break” and know what it means.

4. You know more than 10 ways to order coffee.

5 You know more people who own boats than air conditioners.

6. You feel overdressed wearing a suit to a nice restaurant.

7. You stand on a deserted corner in the rain waiting for the WALK signal.

8. You consider that if it has no snow or has not recently erupted, it's not a real mountain.

9. You can taste the difference between Starbucks, Seattle's Best, and Veneto's, & nbsp.

10. You know the difference between Chinook, Coho and Sockeye salmon.

11. You know how to pronounce Sequim, Puyallup, Issaquah, Oregon, Yakima and Willamette.... (and Chautauqua, right?)

12. You consider swimming an indoor sport.

13. You can tell the difference between Japanese, Chinese and Thai food.

14. In winter, you go to work in the dark and come home in the dark while only working eight-hour days.

15. You never go camping without waterproof matches and a poncho.

16. You are not fazed by “Today's forecast: showers followed by rain,” and “Tomorrow's forecast: rain followed by showers.”

17 You have no concept of humidity without precipitation.

18. You know that Boring is a town in Oregon and not just a state of mind.

19 You can point to at least two volcanoes, even if you cannot see through the cloud cover.

20. You notice “The mountain is out” when it is a pretty day and you can actually see it.

21. You put on your shorts when the temperature gets above 50, but still wear your hiking boots and parka.

22. You switch to your sandals when it gets about 60, but keep the socks on.

23. You have actually used your mountain bike on a mountain.

24. You think people who use umbrellas are either wimps or tourists.

25. You buy new sunglasses every year, because you cannot find the old ones after such a long time.

26. You measure distance in hours.

27. You often switch from “heat” to “a/c” in the same day.

28. You design your kid’s Halloween costume to fit under a raincoat.

29. You know all the important seasons: Almost Winter, Winter, Still Raining (Spring), Road Construction (Summer), Deer & Elk season (Fall).

30. You actually understood these jokes and will probably forward them.