Fertile Ground Portland

A Festival of New Works Blog

Meet the Artist: Sandra de Helen February 5, 2013

Filed under: New Work at Fertile Ground 2013,the writing process — fertilegroundpdx @ 9:09 pm
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Sandra de Helen wrote The Godmother, produced by PDX Playwrights at Fertile Ground 2013 shown as a staged reading January 27 at Hipbone Studio.

The Godmother tells the story of a young butch lesbian whose crime family bristles at her leadership after the murder of her brother.

Sandra de Helen, playwright

With Kate Kasten, Sandra co-founded Actors’ Sorority, a women’s theater company in Kansas City, Missouri. When she later moved to Oregon, she founded the Portland Women’s Theatre Company. Most recently (2008), she is a founding member of Penplay a group of playwrights and screenwriters dedicated to developing the new work of multicultural voices.

Some of her plays have characters from mid-Missouri, where she was born and raised. With these plays and monologues, she hopes to preserve a way of speaking that is fading away. Sandra has studied with Maria Irene Fornes, and with Matt Zrebski. She learned playwriting by reading, writing, and producing plays beginning in the 1970s.

Sandra says that she is exploring the possibility of doing a web series based on The Godmother and is also hoping for the opportunity to mount a full stage production.


1. An Artist or Artists in My Field I Have a Giant Artist Crush On Is . . . Katori Hall. I love seeing young women making a name for themselves in this business. Stepping out early and with courage. I also love that she made a stand for same sex marriage. She didn’t have to. I also have to acknowledge a crush I’ve had since March 1979: Peggy Shaw. She is a butch lesbian who — with femme lesbian Lois Weaver and straight woman Deb Margolin — has been making extraordinary theatre for thirty-three years. When I first saw her she was still part of Spider Woman Theatre, but the three named formed Split Britches in 1980 and they are still at it.

2. A Work That Has Shaped My Artistic Voice Is . . . The Judy Garland/Andy Rooney movies with the “Hey Kids Let’s put on a show!” troupe (Babes on Broadway) shaped me more than plays, until I’d already written ten or fifteen. I started out writing musical comedies. I’ve moved on to drama — finally.

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

4. Five Songs On My Writing/Painting/Creating Playlist Are . . . I’m A Fool to Want You (Billie Holiday), Feelin the Same Way (Norah Jones), anything by k.d. lang (I have it all), opera, arias by Leontyne Price, Renee Fleming, etc.

5. A Portland Artist/Creative/Arts Organization I’d Love To Work With Is . . . A.R.T.

6. I Am Terrified Of . . the usual suspects. Nothing to see here.

7. I Am Obsessed With . . .Being productive. I am always working on at least two projects.

8. The Books Currently On My Nightstand are . . too many. Not only do I have hard backs and paper backs stacked up, I have more than 100 stashed on my Kindle now. I’m usually reading two or three at a time, but this week I’m reading only one: The Heretic’s Daughter by Kathleen Kent. That’s because I’m writing a new play called THE BURNING TIMES.

9. Three Adjectives That Describe THE GODMOTHER Are . . . Sexy, violent, funny.

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

374792_527037900658362_1869561330_n Godmother Tommy Boy McCorkle


1) Tell us about your Fertile Ground Festival work. THE GODMOTHER is a thirty-three year old Tomboy McCorkle who takes over her crime family upon the murder of her brother. She’s looking for love while wrangling a bunch of mobsters, a passel of working girls, and a sixteen year old brother. The family has to solve the murder, stay in business, war with the competing families, and Tomboy is the butch who has to lead them through this mess. It’s 1928 in Kansas City, the height of Prohibition. Speakeasies, jazz and Tommyguns. And now a lesbian leader.

2) How did this work come about? What inspired it? I read an article in the Kansas City Star about women becoming Godmothers and running Mafia families after their husbands or brothers were killed or imprisoned. That, combined with my once having lived in Kansas City in a mob neighborhood, inspired me to create a godmother story of my own.

3) Talk about your creative process. (How do you work? When do you work? What gets you inspired?) I start with a story and characters. I usually do some mind mapping on paper, and once I have a story in mind, I use Blake Snyder’s Beat Sheet to create an outline from which to write my play. The beat sheet becomes the scaffolding for me. I refer back to it constantly as I write scenes. I may write scenes that fit in anywhere, then move them around to fit the beat sheet. The beat sheet comes from Snyder’s “Save the Cat!” created for screenwriters. I find it useful for stage plays, short stories, even for novels. As for when I work, I generally write every day. For instance, in November 2012 I joined about 300,000 people for NaNoWriMo and wrote a novel in a month. (50,000 in 30 days). Now I have to find time to edit it.
As for what gets me inspired, I’d have to say that being alive is inspiration enough most days. I can always find something to write about, and when I am writing on a regular basis, I love my life.


Meet the Artist: Sydney Somerfield

 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 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 Artists: Brian Kettler and Matt Haynes January 26, 2013

Pulp Stage is a small but growing theater company that produces PULP DICTION a series of staged readings of new works every year at Fertile Ground. PULP DICTION has premiered works by local writers as well as writers from Seattle, LA, New York, New Jersey, Georgia, and Canada. PULP DICTION directors have included Brian Allard, Paul Angelo, Jason Ferte, Megan Murphy Ruckman and Micki Selvitella.
All PULP Stage productions at The Brody Theater 16 NW Broadway @ Burnside
Tickets: $15 or $10 & chocolate kisses with a completed survey
“Love/Hate Potion Number 9” Wednesday Jan 30 7:00PM
“PERSONAL” Thursday Jan 31 7:00PM
“Pulp Sampler” Saturday Feb 2 10:30PM (several short plays, staged readings)

Matt Haynes photo by Deneb Catalan
Matt Haynes, artistic director of Pulp Stage, directed “PERSONAL,” a new play by Brian Kettler that is premiering at this year’s Festival.
The founder of the Pulp Stage and the producer for PULP DICTION IV, Matt has previously directed “Pulp Stagings” of Frederika by Tina Connolly, The Flood by Vincent Kovar and Bitch by Sean Pomposello. Matt received his training at Skidmore College (Summa Cum Laude, BS in Theatre) and the Dell’Arte International School of Physical Theatre (Professional Training Program ’03). He has acted for Profile Theatre, The Brooklyn Bay, Reader’s Theatre Rep, Anonymous Theatre, Northwest Classical Theatre Co, OPS Fest and has both acted and taught for Northwest Children’s Theatre and Oregon Children’s Theatre. He is a proud member of the Portland Area Theatre Alliance.

Brian pic 2
Brian Kettler, is a graduate of Kenyon College and the National Theater Institute. His full-length plays include In School Suspension (JAW Made in Oregon: 2009) and Personal (JAW Made in Oregon: 2011). Last summer, his short play, Chained, was featured in the Just Add Water Made in Oregon 5-8 Minute Play Festival at Portland Center Stage. He is the recipient of a 2012 Oregon Literary Arts Fellowship in Drama. Brian is currently pursuing his M.F.A. in Playwriting at the University of Texas-Austin.


1. Artists in My Field I Have a Giant Artist Crush On are . . .

Brian: I have a big crush on The Aliens by Annie Baker. Peter Sinn-Nachtrieb, Fin Kennedy, Greg Moss, Detroit by Lisa D’Amour. The Shipment by Young Jean Lee. Stone Cold Dead Serious by Adam Rapp.

Matt: I’m frequently in awe of Portland Playhouse. They came to town, they saw, they started. They rose incredibly fast and seem to just keep rising while also stabilizing and enriching their output. And from my interactions with them and their reputation they’re extremely nice people. I’m also going to Out myself as having taken a shine to Action/Adventure theatre, not only because their name seems in tune with my company mission (to provide live theatre for fans of action, fantasy and suspense) but because their single shows and serial shows seem to have a wonderful combination of “Hell, yes, theatre is fun!” and the craft to keep it on its legs.

Fertile Ground Pulp Diction PERSONAL Racheal Erickson and Caitlin Nolan photo by David Kinder
Rachael Joy Erickson and Caitlin Nolan in a new play “PERSONAL” by Brian Kettler, produced by PULP Stage, directed by Matt Haynes, photo by David Kinder

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

Matt: King Kong. Not the “Poor Sweet Ape” remakes of the 70’s and 00’s but the poetic, strange, original one. I think it’s the E=MC Squared of popular modern entertainment. Here you have a movie whose meaning can still spark fierce serious debate/speculation among seasoned film critics… and yet aesthetically, it’s a one of the biggest, simplest, most appealing films of the 20th century. Perfect synthesis of depth and titillation (which is the quest of The Pulp Stage).

Brian: The Pillowman by Martin McDonagh is the play I wish I could write. I aspire to put that much humor, terror, sickness, lightness, and darkness into a play.

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

Brian: When I’m not creating art you can find me playing music, drinking coffee, drinking beer, playing darts, or reading.

Matt: Our production assistant and actor Kaia Maarja Hillier is a student at PSU and a core member of the Original Practice Shakespeare Festival. Director, actor and media specialist Joel Patrick Durham is everywhere right now. At the time of this writing, he’s collaborating also with CoHo and Matt Zrebski to name a couple of projects. Our frequent playwright and reading committee member, Tina Connolly, has just published a magical steampunk revision of Jane Eyre, IRONSKIN. Our treasurer, Sue Ellen Christensen was just in the Portland Revels and is in Brazil on her latest globe trot. For me, I work part time as an administrative assistant and otherwise my 6’9″ frame can be easily spotted going to the theatre, cafes, rehearsals spaces and my study, seeing where I can take The Pulp Stage.

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

From the Pulp Sampler, “Best Friends Forever” by Sydney Somerfield
in rehearsal with Jessi Walters, Kaia Hillier, Juliana Wheeler and [director] Joel Patrick Durham

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

Matt: Well, here’s 5 that you might recognize in the show I’m directing, PERSONAL (Thurs Jan 31 at 7pm at the Brody Theater):
-The Ground Beneath Her Feet- U2
-Shadow Of A Doubt- Sonic Youth
-Fear (remix)- Sarah McLachlan
-Low Light- Peter Gabriel
-Circuital- My Morning Jacket

Brian: Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings by Father John Misty. Gone Hollywood by Supertramp. Pursuit of Happiness by Kid Kudi. Request Denied by El-P. Underwear by Pulp.

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

Brian: Action/Adventure is a group I’d like to work with. Loved Fall of the House.
Matt: The film buffs and the comics fans. I bet there’s something we could offer them and I’d like to start figuring out what and how…

6. I Am Terrified Of . .

Brian: I am terrified of clowns. Right now, I’m writing a short play about it.
Matt: The opposite ends of the creative spectrum: Disgraceful mediocrity or destructive leaps.

7. I Am Obsessed With . . .

Brian: I am obsessed with two television shows. Mr. Show, which used to be on HBO and Freaks and Geeks.

Matt: a) The craft of titillation
b) The quality of depth or “artistic mystery.”
c) The possibilities, within the live theatre forum, for attracting non-theatre audiences who love our common genre.
d) The balance of quality and commerce within raising a theatre company.

8. The Books Currently On Our Nightstands are . .
Matt: I grabbed a memoir by Roger Ebert and am snacking on that. The title is Life Itself and I immediately thought “given his occupation, that’s gotta be slim pickins.” And the joy of reading it is seeing where and how I was wrong.

Brian: Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan, This is How you Lose Her by Junot Diaz, and Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury

9. Three Adjectives That Describe Pulp Stage’s Work Are . . .

1) Fun
2) Surprising
3) Inviting

Three Adjectives That Describe This Work [“Personal]:
strange, funny, scary

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

Matt: Kermit the Frog.
Brian: I’ll be played by Jessica Chastain. She’s in everything, right?

1) Tell us about your Fertile Ground Festival work.

Brian: This is a workshop production of Personal, a play I wrote a few years ago. Personal was in JAW 2011 at Portland Center Stage, as part of the Made in Oregon Series. It is a satire/comedy/horror story about the mysterious disappearance of one of the world’s biggest celebrities.
This play was inspired by a short story called The Girl Who was Plugged In, which was written by James Tiptree Jr. (Pseudonym for Alice Sheldon). Originally, I set out to write a play about post-apocalyptic travel agents, but the story morphed into something else completely. Writing this play was a long, sometimes painful process so I am happy to see it having a life, post-JAW.
Right now I am in Grad School for Playwriting, so I have a pretty good writing routine. I try to write every day, and usually am one of those assholes with their laptops in the coffee shop. I am inspired by the other writers in my program and I’m working on a lot of collaborative projects right now, which is exciting. I’m inspired by books, movies, music, weird stories, jokes, images, television shows, and sometimes even plays 

“Love/Hate Potion Number 9,” a new play by Sonya Sobieski and produced by Pulp Stage – from left to right, Juliana Wheeler, Kristen Martz, Kaia Hillier, Shawna Nordman, Jonathan Owicki (director), Cedar Braasch, Tom Young, James Luster

2) How did Pulp Diction and the shows it’s produced at this year’s Festival come about? What inspired them?

Matt: My older brother is a screenwriter. He got one film made (really quite a feat) but it went right to DVD. It’s a pulpy thriller called THE PLEASURE DRIVERS. I was sharing it with my wife one night and found myself tearing up because the conclusion was both so badass and thoughtful. I said to my wife “we need a forum where this stuff can get out into the world more easily.”
3) Talk about your creative process. (How do you work? When do you work? What gets you inspired?)
Right now, PULP DICTION (our yearly reading series), results from a lot of email reading and writing (getting submissions, getting organized with collaborators, getting word out) and some extremely fun meetings, readings and rehearsals. I get inspired just about every time I read something from our submitters that I resonate with and when I see what our actors and directors come up with time after time. Our mission: to fuse “Fine Art” with “Raw Entertainment” by introducing greater amounts of quality Pulp into live theatre.


Meet the Artist: Rich Rubin January 22, 2013

Filed under: the writing process — fertilegroundpdx @ 8:07 am
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A new play By Rich Rubin

Rich Rubin, playwright, "Marilyn/Misfits/Miller," at Fertile Ground 2013

Rich Rubin, playwright, “Marilyn/Misfits/Miller,” at Fertile Ground 2013

Directed by Karen Alexander-Brown

January 26th at 2 pm and 29th and 30th at 7:30 pm

Suggested donation: $12 at the door, cash or check only.

Reservations for pass holders accepted in advance.

Link to buy Fertile Ground passes: https-//www.boxofficetic#48781E

At CoHo Theater, 2257 NW Raleigh, Portland, OR 97210

In Rich Rubin’s new play,”Marilyn/Misfits/Miller,” Arthur Miller desperately tries to salvage his fragile marriage to Marilyn Monroe by writing a serious drama for her, The Misfits. Rubin’s script follows the love story of the Egghead and the Hourglass back to the early 1950s when Miller was still married to his first wife to the slow painful dissolution of his relationship with Marilyn and beyond her death into the early 2000s. Miller and Marilyn are joined by a star studded cast of characters, including Clark Gable, John Houston, Eli Wallach, Montgomery Clift, Thelma Ritter, Saul Bellow, parasitic journalists and a couple of self serving members of HUAC. The script takes us in and out of different time periods starting in 2003, taking us back to the 50s and 60s and back again. Miller is understated but clearly filled with shame, haunted by Marilyn and his failure to rescue her.

Written by Rich Rubin
Directed by Karen Alexander-Brown

Interview with Rich Rubin by Karen Alexander-Brown:

KAB: What compelled you to write the story of Monroe and Miller?

RR: From a dramatist’s point-of-view, it was downright irresistible: Two universally revered, transcendent stars – both titanic figures their respective realms – coming together and then pulling apart? I mean, it’s like a combination of Greek mythology and astrophysics! What’s there not to like?

KAB: Talk about the metaphor of the “misfit mustangs” and how it relates to both the characters in the movie and the characters in the play.

RR: The main characters in the movie were all misfits in one way or another, all somehow out-of-sync with the mid-twentieth century America in which they were living. The wild mustangs, of course, were similarly out-of-sync, at least with the time, if not the place. Like the characters, the mustangs’ longing for independence repeatedly clashed with the reality of their situation, and the results were often not very pretty. Still – and I think this was Miller’s main point – there was something undeniably noble in the clash itself, the struggle to exert one’s inner nature despite the odds.

As to the characters in the play, that’s a tougher call. Based on what I’ve read, I would say that Monroe, Huston and Clift were all “misfits” of a sort, frequently in conflict with their studios and unwilling to play the game the way others in Hollywood wanted it played. As a playwright much more comfortable with words than visual images, Miller was clearly a misfit on a movie set, but I’m less convinced that he was a misfit in any meaningful sense in the world at large. While his politics may have been outside the mainstream of middle America, they were probably not substantially different from many other intellectuals and writers of the day. If anything, what set him apart was the courage of his convictions.

KAB: Did you draw upon personal experience in marriage when writing the dialogue?

RR: Wow, what a loaded question! I was going to say “yes,” but I checked with my wife first and she said I should answer “no.” And for those of you who are interested, that right there is the secret to a very long and happy marriage!

KAB: What was your comfort level in writing dialogue for a female character, and in particular, for the complicated Marilyn Monroe?

RR: The main character in one of my first plays was a woman in her late eighties, so I actually enjoy the challenge. In addition, since half of the best actors in the world are women, why wouldn’t I want to write great roles for them? With regard to Marilyn, I fully agree; she is, indeed, an incredibly complex character. Luckily for me, I had a lot to work with: Not only has much been written about Miller and Monroe, but both of them also wrote (or spoke at length to others) about their relationship.


Although Marilyn undoubtedly treated Arthur very poorly on The Misfits set – several eyewitnesses described her behavior as “despicable – at the end of the day I felt enormous respect and admiration for her. Despite a really crummy early life and all the tinsel-land adulation, she was constantly working to hone her craft. She was a one-of-a-kind actress and comedienne, and her struggle for acceptance on her own terms is something I think all of us can relate to on some level.

KAB: Why do you think people should come to see this show?

RR: Ah, at last an easy question! Because it’s a fun play I think folks will really enjoy!


MEET THE ARTISTS: Evan Lewis & Claire Willett January 10, 2013

Welcome to the 5th Annual Fertile Ground Festival of New Work!  Over the next few weeks we’ll be profiling various participant artists on the blog in an interview series where you can get a sneak peek at the origins of their projects and get to know them as artists. 

The Witch of the Iron Wood

Music by Evan Lewis
Libretto by Claire Willett


Part of Ripen: A Feast of New Works at Milepost 5
Dates & Times: 1/27/13, 1/28/13, 1/31/13, 2/1/13 (7 pm)
Tickets: $12 door ($2 off with “DIG IT!” festival discount button)
Contact: miss.willett@gmail.com



MEET THE ARTIST: Jenny Newbry Waters

Welcome to the 5th Annual Fertile Ground Festival of New Work!  Over the next few weeks we’ll be profiling various participant artists on the blog in an interview series where you can get a sneak peek at the origins of their projects and get to know them as artists. 

Cinnamon & Cigarettes

By Jenny Newbry Waters

Jenny Newbry Waters Headshot 1

Part of Ripen: A Feast of New Works at Milepost 5
Devised in collaboration with Cassie Greer
Dates & Times: 1/29/13 – 1/31/13 (5 pm)
Tickets: $10 door ($2 off with “DIG IT!” festival discount button)
Contact: jnewbry@gmail.com