Fertile Ground Portland

A Festival of New Works Blog

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.”


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: Gary Corbin January 22, 2013


Gary Corbin, playwright, author of  Lying in Judgement & The Exes

Gary Corbin, playwright, author of Lying in Judgement & The Exes

Two new plays, two genres, one prolific playwright:

“Lying in Judgment,” A courtroom thriller

“The Exes,” a romantic comedy united by common themes of (in)fidelity, trust, and the search for a complex truth.

Part of “PDX Playwrights Presents” at Hipbone Studio

Dates & Times: 1/27/13, 3-5 PM

Tickets: $10 door or at http://bit.ly/PDXPFG13

Contact: gary@garycorbinwriting.com

Gary Corbin, originally from a small town outside of Springfield, MA, may be the Grandpa Moses of Fertile Ground, having begun his stage work late in life. Okay, he was in his forties, after his divorce. But as far as mid-life crises go, theater seemed cheaper (at the time) than a Camaro.

Gary studied improv and sketch with ComedySportz, the Brody Theater and Curious Comedy, and playwriting with Matt Zrebski and Francesca Sanders. His first Fertile Ground experience was the self-produced “Happy Anniversary,” a Hothouse production at the Armory mezzanine in 2010. In attendance for that play was Tony Broom, who staged “Happy Anniversary” when he later opened Serendipity Players in Vancouver. Later in 2010, Gary’s first fully staged production, “PS, I Love Your Daughter,” opened CoHo Theater’s “Endless Summer” event and was later produced by North End Players in Portland. In all, a dozen productions of Gary’s plays have appeared in the Portland area in the last three years, including at Magenta Theater, Ft Vancouver National Trust and Hipbone Studios.

Gary’s day job title is Royal Storyteller at Portland Walking Tours (really). He also appears as Eddie Kurnitz in Neil Simon’s “Lost in Yonkers” opening February 21 at North End Players.


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

Sam Shepard. I love how much emotion he wrings out of such spare scripts. I also love how he portrays simple but real characters in complex ways.

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

Neil Simon. I know he’s kind of out of favor among contemporary playwrights but I love his wit, and again, his very real, likable but flawed characters. The dialog always makes sense, even when the characters don’t.

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

At the Oregon coast with the love of my life, Renee, and our two rascal hounds.

4. Five Songs On My Writing Playlist Are . . .

I actually prefer quiet when I write. But stuff that inspires me includes:

“In Your Eyes,” Peter Gabriel

“Somebody that I used to know,” Gotye

“Silver Lining,” David Gray OR Bonnie Raitt

“Jungleland,” Springsteen

Anything and everything by The Beatles

5. A Portland Artist or Company I’d Love To Work With Is . . .

Theater Theater! Love that they’re so committed to producing original work and every interaction with the people there has been terrific.

6. I Am Terrified Of . . .

How I drive.

7. I Am Obsessed With . . .

Politics. I am also disgusted by it. But it’s like those bad horror movies – I can’t tear myself away. It’s why I have a useless Poli Sci PhD.

8. The Book Currently On My Nightstand Is . . .

The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton. Thank God you didn’t ask me this question last week.

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

Lying in Judgment: Psychological, Twisted, Intense

The Exes: Funny, Emotional, Quirky

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

A younger Stanley Tucci.


1) Tell us about your Fertile Ground Festival work.

Lying in Judgment poses the question, What would happen if a person served on the jury of a trial for the murder that person committed? Or, at least, believed they did.

Such the fate besets Peter Robertson. As the play opens, the jury begins deliberations on the evidence presented in court. He and five other jurors struggle to reach consensus, but their perspectives on what they heard are as different as their personalities. Alfred, an unemployed recent college grad, spent most of the trial hitting on Christine, a sassy juror who fixates on the defendant’s history of stalking the victim’s girlfriend. Her unabashed romantic interest in Peter leads to heightened conflict with Alfred even as they ally to push for conviction. Under intense stress, Peter’s struggle to separate what he experienced and what was presented in court causes him to reveal things that only the killer should know. When Christine catches on, Peter’s world unravels.

The Exes Promo-med

The Exes: Two divorced couples crisscross their romantic paths and hook up with each others’ exes without realizing it until it’s too late and wedding bells start to chime.

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

Lying in Judgment: Back in the late 1980’s, as a friend told me about his experience on jury duty, it struck me that the accused in that case could have been anybody – just as the jurors, his peers, could be anybody. What if one of those jurors, randomly drawn from the pool of local citizens, were actually guilty of a similar crime – but never convicted? This quickly morphed into: what if it was the *same* crime? What if it was murder? He’d have to be completely disconnected from the victim, which meant he killed a perfect stranger – and why would he do that? And if so, what would make us want to root for him?

The Exes: Specifically? I have no idea. But in general, I am always intrigued by awkward relationship circumstances. (“PS, I Love Your Daughter” has similarly vague origins.) Probably I heard or read about some spouse-swapping situation and wondered what it would be like if it WASN’T creepy. Seemed like comedy gold to me.

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

I usually write in the morning, after breakfast when I have the house to myself, lots of coffee and sleepy dogs. I write by hand, using pen and paper, for all first drafts, then later transcribe on the laptop once the story is well underway. I usually develop a scene-by-scene outline and character profiles (even complete biographies) to start the story, and I write a lot of scenes that I never use – or even intend to use – to help me figure out a character’s back-story. I do separate edit passes for flow and structure, plot, character voice/consistency, and dialog fine-tuning before I show it to anyone. I like to have it table-read next, and for the past year and a half I’ve relied on PDX Playwrights for that – an amazing organization of amazing, creative, hard-working people. Then I revise a few more times to incorporate their feedback. Then I try to do a staged reading, like Fertile Ground, and revise it again. Sometimes I change them even after they’ve gone into production. Only once have I changed a play DURING a run. I was bad, I know. But it made the play better.