Fertile Ground Portland

A Festival of New Works Blog

Meet the Artist: Sydney Somerfield February 5, 2013

 Sydney Pulp Diction 2

Sydney Somerfield, playwright, Best Friends Forever, part of Pulp Diction IV,  at Fertile Ground 2013

Sydney Somerfield previously wrote The Devil Made Me Do It for PULP DICTION III.  She is a co-founder of Willamette Shakespeare with her husband, Daniel. While fairly new to playwriting, she has performed as an actor in Portland, Seattle and Los Angeles. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Theatre Arts from the University of Oregon and is currently working through a Feldenkrais Professional Training Program. Best Friends Forever a one act play was presented as part of  Pulp Diction IV, produced by Pulp Stage at Fertile Ground 2013.


1. An Artist or Artists in My Field I Have a Giant Artist Crush On Is. . . 

I love Caryl Churchill and the way she plays with language. And I have a big sci-fi writer-crush on Steven Moffat.

2.  A Work That Has Shaped My Artistic Voice Is . . .

Best Friends Forever was probably influenced by my brief obsession as a teenager with the movie Heathers.

3. When I’m Not Creating Art You Can Often Find Me. . .

I’m in a certification training program for the Feldenkrais Method, so I spend a lot of time rolling around on the floor and learning about how the human body moves.

4. Five Songs On My Writing/Painting/Creating Playlist Are . . . 

I can’t listen to anything with words when I write and sometimes I even find music distracting. Instead, I play nature loops of ambient rain or thunderstorms as a way of tuning everything out.

5. A Portland Artist/Creative/Arts Organization I’d Love To Work With Is . . .

I think there are so many amazing women acting in Portland and I’m interested in creating more opportunities for women to perform in Portland.

6. I Am Terrified Of 


7. I Am Obsessed With . . .


8. The Books Currently On My Nightstand is.. . . 

I just finished Chaos by James Gleick which kind of blew my mind. I just picked up Daring Greatly by Brene Brown from the library and Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers by Robert Sapolsky is next in my library queue.

9. Three Adjectives That Describe This Work Are . . .

silly, killer, bitchy

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

Michelle Williams has a similar vibe. If it was a comedy-musical version, then it might be Amy Adams.

Best Friends Forever- Jessi Walters, Kaia Maarja Hillier, Julianna Wheeler, (director Joel Patrick Durham)Best Friends Forever rehearsal with Jessi Walters, Kaia Maarja Jillier, Julianna Wheeler and director Joel Patrick Durham


1) Tell us about your Fertile Ground Festival work. 

Best Friends Forever is a 10 minute short that is part of the Pulp Diction Sampler at the Brody Theatre. In BFF, three teenage girls use a Ouija board to contact a friend on the “other side.”

2) How did this work come about?  What inspired it?

I wrote the first incarnation of BFF in a playwriting class with Francesca Sanders. She had suggested using artistic constraints to push creativity, so I chose three objects – a Ouija board, Vaseline, and a dollar bill to start. Two of those objects eventually dropped away, but all of them helped shape the play. I knew that I wanted to write women’s roles (more constraints) and that I didn’t want more than 3 characters (another constraint). My only experience using a Ouija board was in college and “the board” started to count down. It was terrifying, so that moment shows up too.

3) Talk about your creative process.  (How do you work?  When do you work?  What gets you inspired?)

I’m new to writing, so I’m still learning how I work. So far, I find it helpful to begin writing the scene or the characters that excite me the most and then I build from there. It feels more like an inflating process – blowing it up and stretching it out. Eventually there’s a structure to play with and I can do the really fun part – rewriting.  Sharing my writing and getting feedback from peers or mentors is really important. During the rehearsal process, I had a great conversation with Joel Patrick Durham, who is directing BFF and now I’ve got some ideas about how to really hone the piece.

My biggest inspiration comes from deadlines. When I know that I have to present or submit something by a certain date, the pieces just come together – sometimes in fun and unexpected ways.


Meet the Artists: Andrew Fridae, Olivia Murphy, Josh Gulotta February 1, 2013


Ribbons of War!, adapted from a rock opera by Jay Purdy-
Left to right: Playwright & Musical Director:Andrew Fridae; Production Manager:Olivia Murphy and Director: Josh Gulotta

Fri Feb 1@ 7:30PM – Sat Feb 2 @7:30PM – Sun Feb 3 @2:30PM
Shaking the Tree 1407 SE Stark St

Olivia, Andrew and Josh all went to Bennington College together in Vermont and ultimately landed in Portland where they decided to adapt Purdy’s musical for the stage. They – and the rest of the company who have worked with them on Ribbons of War! – are terribly inventive, collaborative, talented, humble, playful, generous and … will break into song unpredictably at any time and invite you to join in!


Land ho! Adventure! Romance! Sea Monsters! Ribbons of War tells the story of the lovely young pilot, Annelies, who abandons her island home to marry a tough and striking sea captain and join the madcap crew of the Good Ship Valiant, a surprisingly warm-hearted psychopath, an innocent and curious couple and an omniscient turtle dove.



1. An Artist or Artists in Our Field we Have a Giant Artist Crush On are . . .

All of us: Jay Purdy and the Extraordinaires! They are the foundation of this musical and have been so supportive as we turn their album into a play.

2. A Work That Has Shaped My Artistic Voice Is . . .

Josh: “The Fantasticks. So much of the musical is about theater magic and letting simple things tell bug stories.”

3. When We’re Not Creating Art You Can Often Find Me/Us . . .

All of us: Playing music together.

4. Five Songs On My/Our Writing/Painting/Creating Playlist Are . . .

How about one from each of us?

Josh: Tomorrow Gone, by Stew

Andrew: St. Elsewhere, by Gnarls Barkley

Olivia: Farewell Angelina, Wake the Dead

5. A Portland Artist/Creative/Arts Organization we’d Love To Work With Is . . .

All of us: So much support for our show came from Artists Repertory Theatre – we love them!


6. I Am Terrified Of .

Olivia, production manager: “Spiders! A big problem when we’re rehearsing in my garage.”

7. We are Obsessed With . . .

All of us: Ribbons of War!

8. The Books Currently On Our Nightstands are . .

Josh: “Concise History of the Middle of East, by Goldschmidt and Davidson.”

Olivia: “Shirley, by Charlotte Bronte. I wrote my senior thesis on the Brontes and am re-reading!”

9. Three Adjectives That Describe This Work Are . . .

How about three words? “Hearts not parts” – it’s all about love!


1) Tell us about your Fertile Ground Festival work.

Populated by fun and fantastic characters like Sophia the turtledove and Oswald the one handed gunman, Ribbons of War tells two parallel tales of love and tragedy.

First, we are introduced to Darling and Dearest, hopelessly in love and held captive by the Evil Captain Hart, enemy to all those who dare find true love on the seven seas.

While imprisoned, Darling and Dearest are brought scraps of letters, captain logs, and journals by a friendly turtledove, Sophia. The documents belong to Annelies and The Captain, women who meet and immediately elope on The Captain’s ship. These two and their crew set sail, navigate the stormy waters of a new marriage, and battle the Kraken all while Darling and Dearest lose themselves in the story but never forget their own immediate peril.

With fantastic songs by the band The Extraordinaires, Ribbons of War is a camp-filled joyride for the whole family!


2) How did this work come about? What inspired it?

Ribbons of War was originally the bold vision of singer/songwriter Jay Purdy about two lovers, one chained to the sea, and the other to the sky. This particular project began when the director, Josh Gulotta, attended a concert played by The Extraordinaires. Gulotta was enthralled with the music and the vision, and immediately contacted his close collaborator, Andrew Fridae, about writing a play to tell the story sung in Purdy’s music. Gulotta and Fridae are both musicians themselves and have written additional songs to supplement the script. The play has never been produced in this form before, and as such Fertile Ground was the exact opportunity Gulotta and Fridae needed to bring this play to Portland audiences.

3) Talk about your creative process. (How do you work? When do you work? What gets you inspired?)

Josh, director: “The most unique thing about this process for me was Andrew Fridae, whose role in the rehearsal room was both musical director and playwright. We’d be in the rehearsal room, I’d ask Andrew to play some incidental music, and the themes he came up with created an atmosphere for the play to live in. It could feed off the dialogue, and the dialogue could feed off of it.”