Friday, January 21, 2011

This freaks me out on acid.

Ya, Fertile Ground's in full swing, but it's not too soon to plan your post-Fest escapades. Exhibit A, as Rod Serling used to say: this video for Third Rail's upcoming extravaganza. If this doesn't get you into the theater, nothing can.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Fertile Ground 2011 opens….any minute now!

Portland’s scrappy, anything goes, DIY theater fest opens tonight, launching 10 crazy days and night of marathon theatergoing. Since at this point I’m officially the last person in town to handicap the Festival, I’m going to be quick.

TONIGHT I’m attending Nick Zagone’s The Missing Pieces at the Portland Playhouse, a play about a boy's self-initiation into a big, big world. The play is dear to my heart, since it started out in PlayGroup the now-defunct PCS writing group that morphed into the fabulous Playwrights West), and was presented in JAW 2009. And now the full production, which runs through January 30 -- unless, that is, it becomes a huge hit like the Playhouse’s Festival offering of last year, Hunt Holman’s Willow Jade, which went on to win a Drammy Award for Outstanding Playwriting. Break many legs this year, Nick.

Just a few more highlights before I head out. Kim Rosenstock’s aleatory 99 Ways to [interfere with] a Swan continues its wildly popular run at Theatre Vertigo; and the always absorbing and startling Hand2Mouth company presents a new piece by Erin Leddy entitled My Mind Is Like an Open Meadow. And a young audiences piece that adults will enjoy as much as their kids is a wild new Monty Pythonesque version of Robin Hood, penned by James Moore (yes, that James Moore, he formerly of defunkt fame) at Northwest Children’s Theatre. (Okay, so I’m the dramaturg — I can still say it’s hilarious, right??)

Several staged readings of note also grace the Festival, including Andrea Stolowitz’s mindbending new play Antarktikos (on which I served as dramaturg and Gemma Whelan directed) at ART, and Steve Patterson has an eerie new play entitled Immaterial Matters, presented at CoHo Productions. Also Claire Willett has a new play, That Was the River, This is the Sea, co-written with Gilberto del Campo, which has a whole run at a new venue, The Art Department.

AND I can’t wait for Futura, Jordan Harrison’s bracing dystopian view of the future of literature. Though the official opening is February 4, Portland Center Stage is opening its invited dress rehearsal to Festival passholders, and discounted tickets during the regular. Do not miss this one.

There’s a ton more, but now I must shift from gush to rush -- so see you at the Festival.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

When Irish guys are stylin’

Across the country but especially here in Portlandia, I’m famous for evaporating like morning mist. Whether it’s a theater event, an art opening or Storm Large’s surprise party, take your eyes off me for a minute and I’m gone for the night. No. I'm not going through that awkward stage. It’s just hate the long goodbyes that are the fallout of social occasions.

My technique, honed by years of disappearing acts, involves scoping out all available exits upon arrival. Ideal targets? Egresses located just past bathrooms; back doors; secret passageways (oh yes — for some reason these abound in Portland). A quick scrutiny of “alarmed” doors, by way of checking whether their wires are attached or not, often yields handy exits where angels fear to tread. And catered affairs are a bonus; the servers will gladly clue you in about any hidden corridors or tunnels.

Imagine my surprise when “Cousin Tabitha” recently informed me that there's a term of art for the disappearing act: the Irish Goodbye. There’s even a Facebook page dedicated to the practice. So apparently I come from a long line of escape artists; it’s actually my genetic heritage.

Recently, though, that changed for me when I donating my aging Jetta to AllClassical. Now I get around by walking (a subversive act for this former Angeleno), busing, cycling, renting the occasional ZipCar. And also the kindness of acquaintances.

Whereas at first the inconvenience of all this seemed colossal — I mean, the ability to take off on impulse is very nearly the definition of American, is it not? — it’s turning to be a kind of blessing. Last week, for ex, Olga Sanchez and I got lost in the fogbound northwest hills and had a fun adventure together. My bus rides around town have resulted in a great increase of reading (and when you do that for a living, you know that can’t be bad). In attending Superior Donuts last week with my Drammy colleague Barbara, I found much about her storied career that I’d never suspected (since I’d never had the time to ask before). From the bicycling, I’ve discovered that oxygenation is entertaining. And last night, instead of being the first guy out the door at Vertigo, I headed over to The Blue Monk — ostensibly to wait for my ride home, then going on to have a rollicking conversation with playwright Kim Rosenstock and director Megan Kate Ward.

As recently as a few weeks ago, none of this would have happened. Had I still my own car, in each of these cases I would have appeared and vanished suddenly. Like Count Dracula, but without the starched shirt, cape and pomade.

So for now, anyway, it’s farewell to the Irish Goodbye and hello to a more earthbound MrMead than perhaps you’ve spotted fleetingly in the past.

Slán go fóill.