The Portland-grown Fertile Ground City-Wide Festival of New Works directed by Nicole Lane kicks off its 11th annual festival next week beginning on Thursday, January 30 and continuing through Sunday, February 9. Portland is a city bursting with prolific playwrights, abundant actors, innovative dancers, talented designers and adventuresome producers. Over the past ten festivals, Fertile Ground has welcomed more than 1,100 “acts of creation” from Portland’s artistic communities that thrive on stages, nooks and crannies all over the city for 11 days.
This year’s lineup includes more than 75 events and 120-plus acts of creation including theatre, dance, puppetry, circus, music, animation, and multidisciplinary arts in 43 venues across Portland. It’s an opportunity to see a plethora of new works for very little money. A festival pass costs just $70. You will want to get yours now, along with the 2020 Festival Guide. Individual shows are inexpensive, too, with admissions averaging $10-$15. There is truly something here for everyone!
Fertile Ground participants and local play reviewers enjoyed a “Speed Dating” event in early January wherein the creatives pitched their projects to the journalists in 3-minute bits. I talked to representatives from more than 20 shows in the 90-minute event–plus a few before and after. Here is a peek into some of the upcoming shows:
Invisible Friend by David Fuks, directed by Jane Unger in reading format deals with the unresolved loss of a Mexican-American family’s daughter Alma. Alma becomes younger sister Luna’s “invisible friend” as the family struggles to move past their grief. Bi-lingual.
Olding written and performed by Johanna Courtleigh, this one-woman show examines aging in our society as shown through four characters in a senior care center. A licensed professional counselor, Courtleigh is a long-time writer of prose and poetry. Her play Wild Bill was among Fertile Ground’s 2019 offerings.
8-24-9 (Secret Asian Man) by Samson Syharath is offered in a workshop performance “devised in response to the dual identity of being a Laotian-American and discovering a secret war”. Many will remember Syharath for his recent, haunting performance in The Brothers Paranormal at CoHo Theatre.
Jephthah’s Daughter by Katie Bennett explores the sacrifice myths of Abraham’s son Isaac, and Jephthah’s daughter, Tali, in an imaginary Mesopotamian world where men and woman are equal.
Terran’s Aquarium created and directed by Mary Hildebrand Nagler is a family show about the fresh water situation in the world. Through magic, puppetry, video and special effects join Terran as he discovers how water moves through every aspect of his life.
While I cannot do justice to all the shows in the festival, let me further tantalize you with the following: a Wild West version of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde; a fully staged world premiere of Torsti Rovainen’s Olympus the musical at the Alpenrose Opera House; a staged reading of Sue Mach’s musical Vortex 1, and countless others.
Festival director Nicole Lane has done her usual outstanding job of overseeing the event. For guidance, here’s a copy of the Fertile Ground Festival Guide 2020 to aid you in your search for new and inspiring live performance events!
Heading photo: Charla Hathaway in Naked at My Age, Edis Jurcys photo: