Fertile Ground Portland

A Festival of New Works Blog

Meet the Artist: JENNY GREENMILLER January 29, 2013


JENNI GREENMILLER’s new play, “An Island,” is based on the true story of Arthur and Nan Kellam, who in 1949 purchased and moved to a 550-acre island off the coast of Maine.

Workshop reading of “An Island” Sunday February 3rd at 3:30PM
Hipbone Studios 1847 East Burnside Street

Nan and Arthur Kellam tested their marriage and their values by cutting their ties to a more conventional world. Nan, an economist and Arthur, an engineer rumored to have worked on the atomic bomb during WW II, chose to live a very rustic existence on Placentia Island for nearly 40 years, cut off from the world in which at one time, they had both thrived.

The Kellams wrote daily in journals, known collectively as The Big Book, from June 8, 1949 to August 8, 1975. Jenni will travel to Maine to continue her research and to visit Placentia Island which is now in trust with the Nature Conservancy. She will also visit the SW Harbor Main Public Library, which houses the Kellams’ journals. Jenni won a Regional Arts and Culture Council grant to conduct this extensive research and complete her play. This summer, she will hold a reading of the completed script as part of the Scriptorium Project at MilePost 5.


Jenni studied communications and theater at Portland State University, studying playwriting with Karin Magaldi. She is a graduate of the Portland Actors Conservatory and was a member of the Sowelu Theater acting ensemble where she participated as an actor in their new works project. Jenni has studied with the SITI Co. in Syracuse, NY, and with Burning Wheel / Siti Co. in Los Angeles, CA. She is a professional speaker and copywriter for non-profit organizations, crafting stories and advocating for the work these organizations do throughout our community. Jenni has acted on various stages throughout the greater Portland area, including; ART, Lakewood Theater Co., Curious Comedy, Lunacy Productions, Brainwaves, and Sowelu Theater Co.
Jenni likes all baked goods, pie especially, donuts and red wine. But really good red wine.

Pop Quiz

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

Charles Mee & Sarah Ruhl

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

I saw True Love by Charles Mee at the Zipper Theater in NYC—loved it. The next night I saw Strindberg’s, Dance of Death starring Ian McKellan, Helen Mirren and David Strathairn… I about peed my pants. And then sometime around that same time, or a year before or after, I saw Defunkt do Mee’s, The Investigation of the Murder in El Salvador, and I peed my pants again. (or before. I can’t remember)

Plus poetry and composition work.

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

At the Grocery Store.

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

I know I’m supposed to put something cultured and intellectually stimulating here but honestly I only listen to music when I’m stuck and can’t get my fingers to move across the keyboard anymore, so it probably doesn’t really matter what I listen, it’s really just about jumping up and down, breaking through the silence, finding another note… Oh alright… PINK…. or Bach’s Cello Suites

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

All of them.

6. I Am Terrified Of . .

This questionnaire
7. I Am Obsessed With . . .

Non-Fat Plain Greek Yogurt

8. The Books Currently On My Nightstand is . . 

The Lovers Discourse; Roland Barthes
Tender Buttons; Gertrude Stein
The Hobbit; J.R.R. Tolkein
The Peoples History of the United States; Howard Zinn (a bit dusty, but still)
The Poisonwood Bible; Barbara Kingslover
Stories 1,2,3, 4; Eugene Ionesco & Etienne Delessert

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

It’s still in process so it’s difficult to say.

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

I don’t know. This one makes me chuckle. And then blush.

1) Tell us about your Fertile Ground Festival work. 

In 1949, seeking isolation from the rest of the world, Arthur and Nan Kellam purchased a 550-acre island off the coast of Maine. Arthur was an engineer for Lockheed Martin where he was on the team that engineered the Atomic bomb. Nan Kellam was an economist. The Kellam’s lived on Placentia Island for nearly 40 years, essentially cut off from the rest of the world. They sought freedom from material things and from dependence on technology; independence from others and their expectations; a closer rapport with Nature; the development of self-reliance; and a better perspective on oneself, on marriage, and on the meaning of life. The play is a portrait of their lives, the mental and physical toll of such an unusual lifestyle, and yet a beautifully devoted and loving relationship that endured and prospered in isolation.
In this year’s Fertile Ground, we will be reading a rough draft, of the play.

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

In 2003 I came across an article written in the NY Times about Art & Nan Kellam and their life on the Island. I was fascinated with their love story so I ripped it out and tucked it away inside of some journal that ended up inside of my desk. Then last year I was just beginning a playwriting intensive when I found the article, tucked inside the journal inside of my desk and I decided it was time to write their story. A quarter of the way through the process of writing I became stuck and so I started doing some research on the Internet. It’s here where I found Peter Blanchard, executor of their estate, which consists of the preservation of their Island. I sent him an email inquiring about the Kellam’s, thinking he would never return the email, and within an hour he responded with his phone number, asking me to call. And so I did. We spoke for over an hour and he suggested I travel to SW Harbor Maine to visit the Kellam’s journals (volumes) that are housed in the public library. He said to give Candy Emblem the librarian a ring, tell her you know me. So I gave her a call and again, she and I spoke for over an hour. She talked about all the people in the community who would be willing to share their stories about the Kellam’s, and about the volumes of journals written by the couple. She said the same thing Robert said, “You really need to come.” And so, I wrote a RACC grant for research to complete the project. In late March or early April I will be traveling to SW Harbor and meeting with lots of people and traveling to, or rather lobster boating to the island, as well as popping a squat in the library for days to read about the Kellam’s life.
3) Talk about your creative process.  (How do you work?  When do you work?  What gets you inspired?)
I like to work late at night or early in the morning. And I like coffee. People’s stories inspire but sometimes it can be a conversation overheard in a coffee shop or the way someone is walking down the street. I am fascinated with finding a way to play the notes between the lines, the musicality in the unspoken…without defining an actors choice.
I am excited about process. And this project specifically is designed to receive feedback throughout the process both with mini-readings throughout, as well as a final reading of the finished play (Sometime end of summer or early fall) as well as actor feedback throughout the rehearsal process.
Anyone can follow the process, especially when I travel to Maine, via this Facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/AnIslandbyJenniGreenMiller?ref=hl
I’ll be updating with pictures and status updates and blog posts.


Meet the Artist: Rusty Tennant

Rusty Tennant is Co-Artistic Director and Director of Marketing at Fuse Theatre Ensemble. He’s also the Resident Props Designer for Artists Rep. A Renaissance man with a lovely red beard to boot, Rusty is the director of “(…) an experiment in repetition” and “Sonnetscape,” two of the three shows from Fuse at this year’s Fertile Ground Festival.

(…), an experiment in repetition
Thurs-Sat Jan 31-Feb 2 @7:30PM, Sun Feb 3 @2PM
Thurs-Sat Jan 31-Feb 2 @10PM, Sun Feb 3 @7PM
Both shows at the Arena Stage at Theater! Theatre! 3430 SE Belmont St. $10 in advance, $12 at the door

co-Artistic Director of Fuse Theatre Ensemble  & Director of (...), an experiment in repetition

co-Artistic Director of Fuse Theatre Ensemble & Director of (…), an experiment in repetition

Rusty has an MFA in Directing and Performance from the University of New Orleans and is an Advanced Actor/Combatant with the Society of American Fight Directors. A well-traveled director/actor/choreographer/designer-/writer, you can never be sure where you’ll find his fingerprints on a production or his name popping up in a program.

Selected Regional Credits include: Carousel (Gary English, dir. Connecticut Rep), House of Plunder (Ryan Rilette, dir. Southern Rep), Mother Courage (Robert Benedetti, dir. Nevada Conservatory Theatre). Recent Portland productions: Henry IV 1 (Falstaff), A Midsummer Night’s Somnambulism (Bottom), Sonnetscape (Best Choreography and Sound Design, Portland Outdoor Shakespeare Festival)(Director/Performer), Karaoke Night! (the musical), #smarter_than_phones and MySp_ace (Performer/Writer/Director, Fuse); And So It Goes, Seven Guitars, Race, (I am Still) The Duchess of Malfi, Jack Goes Boating, The Lieutenant of Inishmore (Drammy Award, 2010)(Props Design, Artists Rep); Lear’s Follies, King Lear (Set Design, Portland Shakespeare Project); Same Time, Next Year (Director), To Kill a Mockingbird, The Shape of Things, Moonlight for Magnolias (Lighting Design, The Pub); Machinal (Director, Pacific University), Failure to Communicate, Romeo & Juliet and Plumfield, Iraq (Fight/Movement Choreographer, Lewis & Clark College.) For film and television credits, which include: “Grimm” and “The Dukes of Hazzard,” search imdb.com. Rusty’s favorite food group is the chocolate group.

Gerrin Mitchell, Kate Mura, Christina Markowski in (...), an experiment in repetition
Gerrin Mitchell, Kate Mura Christina Markowski in (…), an experiment in repetition


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

Anne Bogart

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

The Viewpoints Book by Anne Bogart and Tina Landau

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

Wait… there's supposed to be a time when we're not creating art?

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

I can only speak for myself and it's more about artists than songs…


Saul Williams

Mos Def

La Dispute

The Presets

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

Artists Rep, Tears of Joy, Wonderheads, Hand2Mouth, Post5, PETE

6. I Am Terrified Of . . .


7. We are Obsessed With . . .

Daring ourselves

8. The Books Currently On My Nightstand is . .

The Sonnets, No Exit, Peter Pan

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

Devised, Different, Daring

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

Uh… I'm an actor. I got this one, thanks 😉


1) Tell us about your Fertile Ground Festival work.

Fuse is offering a trio of work during Fertile Ground. Our feature production is our newest creation (…). What started out as a simple experiment in repetition has blossomed into an exceptionally poignant and relevant tale about the our need to connect. For the first weekend of the festival, Nikolas Hoback's solo show Virgin in Neverland will perform in our late night slot. Sonnetscape will take that slot in the second weekend.

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

I've always had a fascination with Open Scenes in early acting classes and the way they teach us to tell the story with our bodies. I wondered what would happen if we tried to tell a complete story by repeating the same basic script over and over. What we've created lives comfortably between the worlds of realism and absurdism and is shockingly poignant.

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

We gather as an ensemble every Saturday morning in our weekly Fusions. These allow us the freedom to explore the basic Viewpoints laid out by Anne Bogart and Tina Landau while growing together as an ensemble.


Meet the Artists: SubRosa Dance Collective January 24, 2013


SubRosa Dance Collective

LevitationThe SubRosa Dance Collective is comprised of six lovely dancers: Cerrin Lathrop, Lena Traenkenschuh, Carlyn Hudson, Jessica Evans, Zahra Banzi and Kailee McMurran. They formed their company in 2011 and came together under what they like to call “the nurturing, fervent, and palpable Portland energy that spurs on expression and entertainment through art and performance.” They all have earned combined degrees in the Arts from SUNY Purchase College, Arizona State University, Western Oregon University, and Western Washington University.


“Living the Room” February 2 at 7:00pm Polaris Dance Theatre 1501 SW Taylor St Portland

In their latest work, “Living the Room,” The SubRosa Dance Collective explores the emotional and physical webs woven throughout the rooms we live in. The inanimate inhabitants within these spaces – the chairs we rest and cry in the arms of, the linens we make love between, the surfaces we make messes of and sluff off layers of ourselves in and onto – have inspired SubRosa to discuss these ubiquitous relationships with these objects in the somatic rhetoric that is so unique to our dance‐voice. The whole show is an hour and half-ish but SubRosa is sharing it with two other dance groups. SubRosa is the second company scheduled to perform: 30 minutes of non-stop dancing. The entire space with be transformed into a room with furniture.




A Final Moment of Inspirations January 29, 2012

Filed under: Inspirations — fertilegroundpdx @ 7:34 pm

As we reach the final day of the 2012 Fertile Ground Festival, we are reminded that one of the goals of the festival is to inspire YOU to find fertile ground for your own acts of creation. To get you going, here is a final round up of festival project inspirations, and a request: In the comments below, tell us: What were YOU inspired by at this year’s festival?

We were struck this year by how many projects were inspired by the death of a family member- what legacies in your life would you like to see preserved through art?

My mother peacefully left this world from her hospital bed in March 2010 and I was suddenly seized both with an urgency to tell her tale and the permission to do so. Ephemory, a reading, written and directed by Miriam Feder.

My Grandpa passed away last year, I never got a chance to know him well, but I wanted to create something that honored him. –
Sarah Soards, Trifecta.

“I was sitting on a hospital bed in Ann Arbor, Michigan in the University of Michigan’s Cardiology Centre while my Father was speaking with my older brother, my younger sister and myself about his will should he not successfully pull through surgery. Of course this brought much surprise and speculation. And as he began to speak I could sense the visceral behavior in both my sister and brother and I thought, this is surreal. And, although we never had to soothe his ego with praise and love there was much unspoken behavior to what our futures might look like.”

Thus was born “The Season of Lear.” -Michael Mendelson, The Season of Lear (with CS Whitcomb)

Others were inspired by survival, often their own. What have you survived that needs sharing?

I’m sitting in a coffee shop with a woman I admire asking how to move from acting student to actor when she says she can tell I have a history, though I wear it well, and perhaps I should consider a one woman-show; and in that moment I suddenly wonder what it would be like to stop hiding and running from my time being homeless–do a 180 and just throw all that raw truth up on the stage. – Eileen DuClos, City of Roses/City of Thorns

I was in the lobby of the theatre where Lunacy performs looking at true stories of people’s lives that had been submitted for the creation of a theatre piece and I came across this quote by Alice Walker: We who have survived fierce battle must tell our war stories over and over again. – Lunacy StageWorks, Stories: From Survivors of the Sex Trade.

I was in the midst of chaos; knowing I had to move but clinging to the hope that things wouldn’t have to change, and as I sat watching an interview with the Dali Llama he said that whenever we are in crisis we need to remind ourselves that this is temporary. – Debbie Lamedman,This is Temporary

What inspired you this year at the Fertile Ground Festival? Do tell.


Inspired by… Cancer and Beauty and a 9 Year Old Boy January 19, 2012

Filed under: Inspirations,Penguins of Ithaca,the creative process,the writing process — fertilegroundpdx @ 7:31 pm

What inspires a Festival project? Here’s one extraordinary answer from playwright David Berkson.

Fifteen years ago, I began tutoring 9 year old boy named Eric. My new student had recently been diagnosed with leukemia, and was being homeschooled. Told by his family of a voracious appetite Shakespeare, I was asked if I could take an hour a week to help foster his burgeoning interest.

Eking out a living as a professional actor in San Francisco, I was happy for the work. And I was especially pleased to meet my new charge; even at our first interview, Eric wasted no time. He wanted to talk about The Merchant of Venice. Bothered and fascinated with the Bard’s treatment of the Jewish moneylender Shylock, Eric wrestled with the most troublesome issues in the play before finally asking: “Was Shakespeare anti-Symmetrical?”

Most malapropisms reveal ignorance. Eric’s revealed knowledge. And curiosity. Read the rest of the story.

You can check out his piece, The Penguins of Ithaca,  January 27, 28, 29 @ 7:30pm at the Northwest Academy Blue Box Theatre, 1130 SW Main St, Portland OR 97205. Tickets available through www.fertilegroundpdx.org.