Fertile Ground Portland

A Festival of New Works Blog

Playwright Interview #3 – Sven Bonnichsen October 25, 2010

NAME: Sven Bonnichsen

PROJECT: Death of the Party

I wanted to be Darth Vader when I was six.  I grew up in a university town in Maine, and spent summers in the company of archaeologists.  I moved to Portland in 1990 to go to Reed College…  Partly because people here know how to wear the color purple.  I work in animation, machining tiny metal skeletons for puppets.  Theater’s a nice change of pace, because I don’t have to build my actors from scratch, or move their limbs one frame at a time.

TEN ONE-WORD ANSWERS

1. A Writer I Admire Is . . . Joss Whedon

2. My Writing Style Can Be Described As . . . Thelonius Monk Meets The Muppet Show

3. The Portland Theatre Company I’d Most Love To See This Show Produced By Is . . . Atomic Arts (Trek in the Park)

4. The Celebrity I Would Most Like To See Star In This Play On Broadway Is . . . Seth Green as Claude

5. A Portland Theatre Artist I Admire Is . . . Matt Zrebski

6. I Am Terrified Of . . . The Tickle Monster

7. I Am Obsessed With . . . Measuring time

8. The Book Currently On My Nightstand Is . . . The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction (May/June issue)

9. Three Adjectives That Describe This Play Are . . . Vivacious, Bawdy, Cruel

10. In the Indie Art-House Biographical Film Of My Life, I Should Be Played By . . . Alan Cumming

FIVE QUESTIONS OF DEPTH AND SUBSTANCE

1. Tell us about your Fertile Ground Festival play.

A frolicky pansexual disco boy goes to despicable lengths trying to unlock his best friend’s untouchable heart.  Claude, who thinks other people’s suffering is the height of comedy, has the power to bed anyone he wants…  Anyone, that is, except Dean: Man of Mystery, and rising musical sensation.  When Claude pursues clues to Dean’s past through a series of one-night-stands, unscrupulous infatuation will be punished with the romance that both monsters deserve.

Death of the Party is presented by PDX Playwrights and will play Saturday, January 22nd at 12:30pm on the mezzanine of the Portland Armory (128 NW 11th Ave).  Tickets are $5.

2. How did this story come about?  What inspired it?

I wanted to write a sensual romance between two men that transcends labels like “straight” and “gay.”  I also wanted to write about a truly despicable, id-driven character…  Villains are usually the most interesting part of a show!

3. Talk about your writing process.  (How do you write?  When do you write?  What gets you writing?)

I don’t want to get caged by the limits of my own imagination.  So, for Death of the Party I collected hundreds of photos of faces off of Google . . . I picked one randomly — and that became Claude.  My foundation for writing is journaling.  At least one page a day, 365 days a year.  For creative writing, I need to understand the whole fictional world first; dialogue comes last of all.  I love pumping out twenty pages of stream-of-consciousness, my pen hand hurting.  The first idea that really sings with poetry is usually on page 19.

4. What is the most exciting/inspiring piece of theatre you’ve seen in Portland?

I love what Atomic Arts is doing with their Trek in the Park shows.  Hundreds and hundreds of people are showing up to see verbatim reenactments of Star Trek episodes.  It’s what open-air Shakespeare is supposed to be:  melodramatic, philosophical, crowd-pleasing.  I also really dug seeing Apollo at Portland Center Stage.  It’s probably as close as Portland will ever get to staging Einstein on the Beach. In my own work, I’d like to blend these two styles: Abstract Art House + Pulp Fantasy.

5. What are you up to these days when you’re not writing?

I’m helping run PDX Playwrights, an open group for writers who want to hear their plays read aloud and share feedback.  And I’m working on an artsy mixed-media animation titled “Let Sleeping Gods Lie.”  It’s about arctic explorers who discover a cave of giant space aliens — which were responsible for creating life on Earth — and whose former slaves still seek vengeance.
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Playwright Interview #2 – Dave Chapman October 24, 2010

NAME: Dave Chapman

PROJECT: Sinking Spring

Dave Chapman is a recent transplant to Portland, but he has been writing, acting, and directing for most of his life.  He is a graduate of Bowling Green State University, where he directed productions of Death and the Maiden and Chicks, and acted in several productions.  He has also directed productions of Henry IV Part One, The Tempest, and Little Secrets. He has authored a variety of plays, including Lock and Key, Use Only as Directed, and Condolences, and he wrote and directed the films Numb to the Cold and Ruin Follows Us while studying as a graduate student at Ohio University.  In 2007 Dave coordinated and participated in a playwriting workshop in the Los Angeles area, resulting in the play Over, which he directed in a staged reading.  Dave is a regular attendee of the PDX Playwrights group, and is thrilled to be a part of this year’s Fertile Ground festival.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Dave is new to town and left blank the Portland-specific questions because he hasn’t been here long enough to make an assessment.  But don’t hold it against him.  He’s here NOW, and that’s what’s important.]

TEN ONE-WORD ANSWERS

1. A Writer I Admire Is . . . Joss Whedon

2. My Writing Style Can Be Described As . . . Edward Albee Meets Steve Erickson

3. The Portland Theatre Company I’d Most Love To See This Show Produced By Is . . .

4. The Celebrity I Would Most Like To See Star In This Play On Broadway Is . . . Michelle Williams as Jessica

5. A Portland Theatre Artist I Admire Is . . .

6. I Am Terrified Of . . . Scorpions

7. I Am Obsessed With . . . Baseball

8. The Book Currently On My Nightstand Is . . . Little Big (John Crowley)

9. Three Adjectives That Describe This Play Are . . .Human, Horrifying, Hopeful

10. In the Indie Art-House Biographical Film Of My Life, I Should Be Played By . . . If it’s an indie, I might as well play myself.  We probably can’t afford anyone else.

FIVE QUESTIONS OF DEPTH AND SUBSTANCE

1. Tell us about your Fertile Ground Festival play.

The residents of Sinking Spring, Iowa have learned to live with neglect. Kids grow up and leave forever. There are few jobs left. No one pays much attention to this little town except for the brief few days during campaign season when caucus candidates make their obligatory stops at the local pizza parlor. No one notices the desperation and resentment that threatens to tear the community apart. And certainly no one expects the senseless tragedy that gains national attention and shakes one family to its core … but that just might be the clarion call for which Sinking Spring has been waiting.

Sinking Spring is presented by PDX Playwrights and will play Sunday January 23 at 9:00 pm at Hipbone Studio (1847 E. Burnside).  Tickets are Pay-What-You-Will.

2. How did this story come about?  What inspired it?

I was thinking about It’s a Wonderful Life, and wondered what it might be like to tell a story like that, but kind of inverted — rather than have an idealistic young man stay in a stifling, small town to keep it from falling apart, what if that young man had left the town and now comes back to try to fix it after most of the damage has been done?  I’d already been developing the story of Jessica and Calvin as a one-act, so I decided to incorporate them into the town as well.  Most of my scripts are narrowly focused on a few characters, and I wanted to try something with a slightly grander sense of place.

3. Talk about your writing process.  (How do you write?  When do you write?  What gets you writing?)

Unfortunately, I’m a very undisciplined writer.  I’m not one of those people who sets aside a few hours everyday to write.  In fact, I really don’t write very often, and I’ll sit on an idea for years before I actually start putting anything down on paper.  My writing “career” is full of false starts.  I don’t particularly enjoy the process of writing, but as far as I can tell it’s a requirement if you want to get anything written.

4. What is the most exciting/inspiring piece of theatre you’ve seen in Portland?

5. What are you up to these days when you’re not writing?

I work as a programmer, so I spend most of my time in front of the computer trying to solve puzzles.  I am also a lifelong fan of the Chicago Cubs, so I’m usually pretty miserable in the late summer.

 

Playwright Interview #1 – Jeremy Benjamin October 23, 2010

NAME: Jeremy Benjamin

PROJECT: Yarp?!


TEN ONE-WORD ANSWERS

1. A Writer I Admire Is . . . Margaret Mitchell

2. My Writing Style Can Be Described As . . . David Ives Meets Ray Bradbury

3. The Portland Theatre Company I’d Most Love To See This Show Produced By Is . . . Fuse Theatre Ensemble or Working Theatre Collective

4. The Celebrity I Would Most Like To See Star In This Play On Broadway Is . . . A young and slim Joe Pesci as Chad

5. A Portland Theatre Artist I Admire Is . . . Gilberto Martin del Campo

6. I Am Terrified Of . . . Traffic jams

7. I Am Obsessed With . . . The kale grapefruit salad at Whole Foods

8. The Book Currently On My Nightstand Is . . . Dracula (Bram Stoker)

9. Three Adjectives That Describe This Play Are . . . Rude, Bohemian, Portland-Based

10. In the Indie Art-House Biographical Film Of My Life, I Should Be Played By . . . a mutant hybrid of Ben Savage, Jack Nicholson and a rabid squirrel


FIVE QUESTIONS OF DEPTH AND SUBSTANCE

1. Tell us about your Fertile Ground Festival play.

Yarp?!” is the true story of two friends, Chad — a modern-day ninja with a foul mouth — and Jeremy — a writer, philosopher and father in the throes of a divorce and a life-threatening illness — who cooperatively ran a food cart on Hawthorne that catered to a late-night crowd, dedicated to serving restaurant quality food for dirt cheap, and thereby building community.  If you drive by Hawthorne and 12th today, you will see a metal merry-go-round standing next to a sign advertising “Fried Pies!”  Where that merry-go-round is now, “Yarp?!” tells the story of what took place on that square of concrete in the not-too-distant past.

Yarp?! is presented by PDX Playwrights and will play Sunday January 30 at 12:30pm on the mezzanine of the Portland Armory (128 NW 11th Ave).  Tickets are $5.

2. How did this story come about?  What inspired it?

I was a regular customer of the beloved food cart before they went out of business. One night while dining at another cart with some theater friends, gazing on at the empty region of concrete in Yarp?!’s wake and reminiscing, I realized that my friends had never experienced Yarp?! In attempting to describe the Yarp?! dynamic, it hit me that the conversation was insufficient to do so, and that the memory of Yarp?! requires nothing short of a theatric production. So I wrote it.

3. Talk about your writing process.  (How do you write?  When do you write?  What gets you writing?)

I write whenever I need to, for however long I need to. Sometimes I’ll seclude myself in a room and write for several hours. Sometimes, if I’m at work and an idea or a phrase strikes me, I’ll sprint to the nearest bathroom stall, jot it down on a scrap of paper and stuff it in my pocket for later. Sometimes I’ll halt my bicycle, pull a notebook out of my backpack and write on the sidewalk. It’s not controllable. When a thought requires capturing, a pen is on duty.

4. What is the most exciting/inspiring piece of theatre you’ve seen in Portland?

The Clean House at Artists Rep.

5. What are you up to these days when you’re not writing?

Teaching aerobics classes, working as a personal trainer, and acting in films, plays and web series.  And during the month of October, my first priority is putting on diabolical makeup, perching in a dark corner and startling your bowels into involuntary mobilization as you make your way through a haunted house attraction.

 

Fertile Ground 2011 Playwright Interview Series

Filed under: the creative process,the writing process — Claire @ 4:23 am
Tags: ,

The leaves are changing on the trees . . .

There’s a snap in the air . . .

Cute sweaters and coats are on sale at the mall . . .

There are pumpkins on every doorstep . . .

It can only mean one thing  . . .

It’s time for Fertile Ground playwrights to start hyperventilating about only having two and a half months left to finish their projects.

This year, the festival blog will be featuring a series of interviews with participating artists, to give y’all a chance to get to know some of the smart, creative people who are inventing new pieces of art using only the power of their giant brains – their stories, what makes them tick, how they write, who they are.  If you or someone you love is a Fertile Ground artist with a project in the festival, and you/they want to be interviewed, shoot me an email at miss.willett at gmail dot com and I’ll send you the interview questions.

 

Fertile Ground PDX at Wordstock (A Syllogism) October 8, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — fertilegroundpdx @ 10:37 pm

We’re back! Time to get geared up for the 2011 festival – be sure to check here for updates on who’s in the Festival, what they’re doing, and how you can be a part of it. Now, on to the syllogism…

Fertile Ground started in the Theatre community. Theatre companies make plays. Plays are made of words. Wordstock is a celebration of words. Therefore, Fertile Ground is made of words, and we love Wordstock!

Terrible syllogisms aside, you really should come visit us at Wordstock. We’ll have a table there from 10 AM – 6 PM on Saturday October 9th and Sunday October 10th. Look for us at the Very Green Booth (the semi-official name of our booth), not far from the Target Children’s Corner.

We’ll spreading the word (heh) about Fertile Ground, answering your questions (yes, you SHOULD create something for Fertile Ground!), and generally being enthusiastic about theatre, dance, writing, and other art forms.