BY KAREN ALEXANDER-BROWN
One of the actresses at the audition asks, “How did this musical come about? What was your inspiration for it?” We are conducting auditions for BRIDGETOWN, A Musical, a show that will be performed as part of the citywide Fertile Ground Festival in January. All eyes turn to me, the playwright, in anticipation.
My brain rewinds to over a year ago when I met Fred Stickley at the Fertile Ground Festival’s It Takes All Shorts program. Fred had just performed a song he had written called “Portland, Oh Portland,” and my short play, called Consumed, was performed in the same program. Now, at the audition, I reply to the actors that “it was inspired by a song that Fred wrote.” Ironically, the song that inspired the story (“Northwest 23rd”) is no longer in the show, even though “Portland, Oh Portland” opens and closes the musical.
Fred sits down at the keyboard placed prominently in his living room and says, “Some of these songs don’t have lyrics yet, and the lyrics that we do have are tentative. We still have to work on them. Karen and I get together and pull out our sabers and fight over them.”
“Yeah, and they light up, too!” I add. During our lyric writing sessions, Fred usually thrusts with a clever line or pretty image, and I parry with character motivation and play structure. Our sessions are very animated, so much so that the last time we met over lyrics, Fred trashed his computer with a gesture that knocked it off the café table. Luckily it was backed up.
Fred Stickley performs regularly with his band around the Portland area, and he has quite a following. In any given week, he packs a crowd into Wilfts in town or into O’Connor’s Vault in Multnomah Village. In earlier years, he toured the globe playing keyboards for John Hyatt, and since then he has released three CD albums. Dinah Urell of hipfish describes his style as “Costello, Steely Dan and The Eurythmics— in genre and quality of musical craft.”
My own background includes years of touring the globe with Disney, NBC, operetta, and my own club shows, as well as performing in musicals, industrials, ballets and theatre. I have published articles on film, and my short plays have appeared at each of the previous Fertile Ground Festivals. I have taught theatre in both public and private schools, and I currently teach dance for stage at Oregon Children’s Theatre.
The result of our creative battles, called BRIDGETOWN, A Musical, is a celebration of Portland’s uniquely feisty culture and the characters’ struggles to find their place (or not) in the “city of bridges.” A work-in-progress, it will be presented as a staged reading with live music at Conduit, 918 SW Yamhill, Suite 401, on January 27th, 28th and 29th at 7:30 pm, as part of the 2011 Fertile Ground Festival. Tickets cost $12, and they may be purchased through boxofficetickets.com or at the door with cash. The audience is invited to stay for a feedback session following the show, and wine and Voodoo Donuts will be available for purchase. The show contains adult language and mature themes.
And of course, Fred and I will be available at each feedback session, light sabers in hand, both ready to do battle for the creative muse.