Fertile Ground Portland

A Festival of New Works Blog

Fertile Ground on KBOO Stage and Studio w Dmae Roberts TUES 11AM JAN 6 January 3, 2015

11AM TUES JAN 6 tune into 90.7 FM when KBOO will feature Fertile Ground on Dmae Roberts‘ Stage and Studio. Tune into 90.7 FM or go to:  http://stagenstudio.com/2015/01/fg-fest-2015/ or http://kboo.fm/content/fertile Twitter @stagenstudio
FG 2015 Coho Snowstorm 2 no text photoFG 15 Roots Rhyme book cover

The line up includes Eric Nordin, Turiya Autry and Miriam Feder, three FG 15 producers and Nicole Lane, Festival Director.

Eric Nordin,  writer, musical director of The Snowstorm, produced by Coho Productions & Many Hats Collaboration, directed and choreographed by Jessica Wallenfels. The Snowstorm is “visceral and sonically vivid new performance piece” spun around a classic romance with magical elements of puppetry and mask.
http://www.manyhatscollaboration.org/the-snowstorm-2/ http://www.cohoproductions.org/onstage/snowstorm

Turiya Autry, who is adapting her book Roots Reality & Rhyme into a multimedia theatrical production, directed by Kevin Jones. The work personalizes the experiences of the marginalized and addresses institutional and interpersonal dynamics of power, privilege and violence while reflecting on beauty, potential and love for self.

Miriam Feder
, of PDX Playwrights  – a volunteer run cooperative of Portland-based playwrights –  that will produce several new works at the Festival, including two new plays by Miriam. http://www.pdxplaywrights.org/wp/fertile-ground-2015/

Image produced by  Brad Bolchunos

Image produced by Brad Bolchunos



Meet Box of Clowns, and hear about their show “Mom?”: A Comedy of Mourners

Box of Clowns,  a new clown & physical theatre ensemble based in Portland is premiering a new dark comedy “Mom?” A Comedy of Mourners at FG 15.

FG 2015 box of clownsFG 15 Box of Clowns Defenestrators poster w text

Together they replied to our Pop Quiz so we could get to know them a bit better. See their show Jan 23 + 30 at 9:30PM and Jan 24 + 31 at 7PM and Jan 25 + Feb 1 at 8PM at Friendly House Community Center 1737 NW 26th. Double click on the poster (picture on the right) and see that they are sharing the stage with The Defenestrators. http://thedefenestratorst.wix.com/the-defenestrators

Jeff Desautels, Laura Loy and Anna Sell, Box of Clowns, “Mom?”: A Comedy of Mourners

1)Artists in your field that you have giant artist crushes on are..

Jeff:  Absolutely Philip Burgers. Look him up!

Anna:  Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton.

Laura: Mookie Cornish, Bill Irwin

2)Works that have shaped your artistic voice are

Jeff:  Can I bring up the Muppets and still be taken seriously? On stage, I’d have to say Three Trees, that’s a Dell’Arte Company show with three other clowns. Who happened to train us. Clearly we draw most of our inspiration from them!

Anna: Film: The Fall, directed by Tarsem Singh.  Stage: Three Trees, a Dell’arte Company.  Music Performance: Lady Gaga at the VMAs with Paparazzi.

Laura: Mabou Mines A Doll’s House, Diventare– I wish I knew who did this piece I saw at KCACTF, but I can’t remember.

3)When I’m not creating art you can often find me

Jeff: Probably doing something mundane, like grocery shopping.

Anna: Jumping from buildings, learning how to fly.

Laura: Writing postcards and looking at the sky.

4)Songs on my playlist are . .

Jeff: I’ve just discovered Patrick Wolf, Charli XCX and Chromeo. If I’m not listening to something current, then it’s gypsy swing.

Anna: Songs: Oh Fortuna, Chandelier, You Will Be My Ain True Love, Clap Your Hands.  Artists: Basshunter, Robyn, Lindsey Stirling, Florence and the Machine.

Laura: The Living Sisters Love to Live album, Kimbra Cameo Lover, and any number of podcasts- a current favorite is Startup by Gimlet Media.

5)A Portland artist/creative/arts or other community or social services organization I’d love to work with (e.g. Media Rites, Passin’ Art, PHAME, p:ear)

Jeff: Mizu Desierto! I’ve always wanted to learn more about Butoh.

Anna: I concur with Jeff.  Mizu Desierto is incredibly interesting.

Laura: Portland Parks and Rec- so many spaces that are perfect for arting about.

6) I am terrified of

Jeff: Clowns. (Just kidding.) I’m afraid of anything supernatural, to be quite honest. I have a very overactive imagination.

Anna: That Mango will slowly take over my daily life.

Laura: Stinkbugs. The way they move is super creepy.

7) I obsessed with..

Jeff:  The Serial podcast, like everyone else. Will they release the DNA results!?

Anna: Superheroes and the supernatural.

Laura: Grimm and science facts: Did you know that dinosaurs probably had feathers?  WHAT?! Stuff like that blows my mind.

box of clowns duck face

8) Favorite books and/or books currently on my nightstand are…

Jeff:  On nightstand is easier: The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, Still Life with Woodpecker by Tom Robbins, and The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton.

Anna: The nightstand is definitely easier: The Artist’s Way and Walking in this World by Julia Cameron; Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs; and Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff… and it’s all small stuff by Richard Carlson.

Laura: Since we’re doing nightstands: Hope for the Flowers by Trina Paulus, my journal, Finding Water by Julia Cameron, Lessons from a Sheepdog by W. Phillip Keller, Where’s Waldo? by Martin Handford, did I mention that my nightstand is a bookshelf?  Anyway, that’s what is on top.  My favorite book is Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery.

9) The words that describe your piece in the Festival

Jeff:  If Monty Python raised the children of Carol Burnett and Mr. Bean…

Anna: If peace, harmony, and tradition were thrown into a blender and served as a comedic smoothie…

Laura: I think Jeff and Anna have this one covered.  I might add something like “Well, it’s a funeral, but they’re clowns. So everything goes wrong…”

10) In the bio-flick of my Life, I should/want to be played by

Jeff:  Jennifer Lawrence. That woman can do anything.

Anna: Absolutely Jennifer Lawrence.  Fight you for her, Jeff.

Laura:  Maggie Smith, aided by a time machine.

About your show in the Festival

  • Tell us about your Fertile Ground Festival work

A mysterious trunk sits on the peak of a mountain at the end of the universe. Out of the trunk come the clown siblings Victoria, Frank, and Mango. They have brought with them the ashes of their dear, departed mother, whose last wish was to be scattered across the void. Jam-packed with acrobatics, slapstick, and mischievous antics, the clowns trip, fall, and stumble through the stages of grief.

box of clowns other show color candid

  • How did this work come about? What inspired it?

This work started two years ago when we studied at the Dell’Arte International School of Physical Theatre, it was our “Final” (yes, like the exam. The audience graded us). We liked the image of carrying more suitcases than we could physically handle. Each suitcase had it’s own “world” inside, (a beach, an office, a sock drawer, etc.). One suitcase we dubbed “mother’s garden”. Every time it was opened, Frank was required to leave behind a flower from his mother’s garden. This caused him to cry hysterically, because he dreaded the thought of an empty suitcase. This became the seed for “Mom?”, where we scatter our mother’s ashes instead. The other image we liked was getting sucked into a suitcase, so we found a bottomless trunk, put it on top of two tables, and that became how we entered and left the playing space. After we left Dell’Arte, we had to physically construct a trunk and adjoining tables that were the exact physical dimensions of the one at school, so we could continue working on the show. Needless to say, we are very proud of it.

  • Tell us about your creative process. How do you work? When do you work? What gets you inspired? How do you fight inertia and creative blocks?

Our process goes something like: find something fun to play with, put on a red nose, improvise, dissect what we liked, and see if we can replicate it and make it funnier. It’s very scientific. At the same time, at no point in our process did we consciously decide to create a play about grief. We did decide to create a play with these characters, we assembled some props, and Frank revealed to us that he was grieving. I know that sounds…spooky…but since we work with clowns it’s really essential for us to maintain some distance between ourselves and the characters in order to have authenticity. I’d bet a literary playwright would say the exact same thing. You’ll never hear me say, “I thought it would be fun to trip on stage”. Yes, on some level, I did think it would be fun, but it’s more accurate to say that Frank tripped and I thought it was funny so I make sure conditions are right for tripping. When we come to a block, it’s usually ourselves blocking the characters from doing what they do. I’ll often push for improvising since that’s my background, and maybe someone else will want to craft something, and then we’ll get in a fight about it because we care so much about this show. Usually going for a walk helps. And, sometimes, believe it or not, watching cat videos.


Triptych Americana by Karen Alexander-Brown January 28, 2012

What is the state of the “American Dream” today? How do its conditioned expectations help or hinder the average American in today’s society under duress?

Triptych Americana combines three vignettes into one staged reading addressing how the stresses of job loss, homelessness and mercenary war affect Americans on personal, social and political levels.

In the first vignette, job loss and precarious health put Benny and Shiela’s relationship on the brink. In the second vignette, a discarded ticket to the Museum of Modern Art is the impetus for a homeless woman to regain her visibility. In the third vignette, Jason and Dani, two mercenary soldiers, become threats to one another over an incident of “collateral damage.”

How does the American Dream stack up in your life, today? Come and see how these characters cope with the gap between their ideals and their reality.

January 29, 2012
1 pm, $8 at the door, or buy tickets online


Discover Portland’s Powerhouse Animation Scene January 26, 2012

Portland birthed the California Raisins. It schooled the voice of Bugs Bunny and the mind behind The Simpsons. It’s home to “the queen of indie animation.” It’s a rising force producing hit feature films such as Coraline. Discover the power source behind these cultural icons: our home town’s electric, eclectic animation scene.

Portland Animation Now! showcases 22 short films from local independent animators. Including both masters and remarkable amateurs, it’s a lineup of new works and seldom-seen gems you won’t find anywhere else.

The 90-minute variety show crams its fun into 24 frames each second. You’ll see hard-luck dinosaurs, cranky baristas, robot terminators, a sassy drunken detective, flying pirates — and a duck. Also, toe-tapping music, artistry and Big Ideas. Just like live theatre, right?

The NW Animation Festival is honored to bring you Fertile Ground’s first-ever film program. Attending animators will answer questions each night, illuminating this unique art form.

“I like chocolate turtles with pecans. I don’t like babies much—they’re too small and you can’t eat them. Well, I guess some people might eat them… But that’s just plain sick.” —Ruby Rocket, Private Detective.

P.S. Not sure which night to attend? The same program plays both nights — but we recommend Friday. There’s a special SURPRISE at the end of the show.

See Portland Animation Now! at 7pm on Friday or Saturday Jan 27-28. The 5th Avenue Cinema is located at 510 SW Hall. Free parking after 5pm just across the street at PSU Parking Structure 1. $8 general admission, buy now.


The North Plan: Are You on the List? January 25, 2012


The North Plan Trailer from Portland Center Stage on Vimeo.

Portland Center Stage’s world premiere production of The North Plan takes place in the not-so-distant-future. And that’s probably what makes it so extra-creepy and goose bump-inducing. The ripped-from-the-headlines idea that the revered U.S. Constitution could be thrown out so quickly and easily, under our very noses. Is it possible?

Yet, somehow, the show is also “a laugh riot.” Amidst such admittedly serious themes, Playwright Jason Wells manages to keep audiences rolling with laughter throughout the entire piece.

Here’s the plot: After a massive government breakdown, Carlton Berg, a bureaucrat for the State Department, runs off with the new regime’s top secret Enemies List – which contains the names of every American citizen slated to be rounded up by the new regime. Unfortunately for Carlton, the chase has come to an end in a police station in the small Ozark town of Lodus, Missouri. With a pair of DHS agents on the way, Carlton’s only hope is in the people around him: an unsympathetic police chief, an ambivalent administrative assistant, and fellow potty-mouthed prisoner Tanya Shepke.

So could such a breakdown and seemingly seamless regime changeover really happen? The rounding up of millions of  “suspicious” American citizens?

And if it did…would you be on the list?

Jason Wells participated in our annual JAW: A Playwrights Festival in the summer of 2010 with the workshopped reading of his newest play, The North Plan; a few ago, the production opened in its world premiere at PCS. After first hearing the play read more than a year and a half before, it was incredibly exciting to finally get to see the play’s characters, costumes and set fully materialize onstage.

Recently, we asked Jason about his inspiration for writing The North Plan.

“I had been thinking a lot about the hyperbolic political climate of recent years, and wondering how long it’s been since Americans have really had to think about what revolution means, or what tyranny really is. I sometimes hear that a political coup couldn’t happen here, for one reason or another, but I think those who say this are imagining something direct and unequivocal — a cartoon dictator, perhaps, with an evil army. But I think if we had such a coup, it would come clothed in a “re-interpreted” legality, and adorned with talking points. With the help of the media, it would be vague and confusing, at once oversimplified and riddled with impenetrable contradictions, and the great majority of us will be assured that there is nothing we need do but get on with our lives. Such a scenario seems not only possible to me, but plausible. It isn’t hard, unfortunately, to imagine the national tragedy that could ignite it.”

Come see The North Plan at Portland Center Stage, running through February 5. Tickets available here.


Don’t Let Us Tell You What to See… January 20, 2012

Check out these recommends from the Oregonian, the Willamette Week and The Portland Mercury to help you filter your Festival Weekend options:

The Oregonian picks out a vibrant selection of smaller and quirkier festival offerings here, to balance out their top picks and promising productions selections from last week:

Sample pick:

“They”: Fertile Ground is dedicated to new work, but sometimes the definition of that can be liberal. Hence the inclusion of this 1920 expressionist comedy by Polish writer/artist Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz, who used the pen name Witkacy. What’s new is this adaptation by Rogers Truax. It’s a political satire about secret forces behind state power, bent on crush individuality and creativity. The cast includes such reliable talents as Brian Allard and Northwest Classical Theatre stalwart Melissa Whitney. Read more.

The Willamette Week take a decidedly spookier stroll through the festival offerings, coming up with this bloody sexy set of selections to satisfy your inner goth:

Sample picks:

There’s political intrigue (The North Plan, They), supernatural terror (Ablaze, Bite Me a Little), gore ([I Am Still] the Duchess of Malfi, Grand Guignol 4) and rumblings of doomsday (Waxwing, B’aktun 13). So get out there and take in a little light entertainment—that is, if you’ve got the guts. Read more.

The Portland Mercury likes arty, smarty sexy and ironic. Their picks for the festival hit all the right notes.

Sample picks:

Something’s Got Ahold of My Heart—The lifespan of a Hand2Mouth show includes months of workshopping and revisions; their new production explores both the representations and the realities of love and commitment. The Mouth at Zoomtopia, 810 SE Belmont, Fri Jan 27-Sun Jan 29, 7 pm, hand2mouththeatre.org

Big Plastic Heroes—Performers auGi and Slash Coleman pair two like-minded stories of nerdy childhoods spent idolizing larger-than-life action heroes. The Sanctuary at Sandy Plaza, 1785 NE Sandy, bigplasticheroes.com for dates and times, through Feb 4

Read more.

Of course the most important taste maker in this particular festival is YOU the festival-goer. What’s on your opening weekend must see list?


Playing with Subversion January 11, 2012

post by Fertile Ground artist KAREN ALEXANDER-BROWN


My plays are conceived with strong visual and auditory elements in mind.  The non-verbal elements (music, sound, movement, photos, costumes, and lighting) represent essential experience beyond what is spoken.  However, this makes staged readings of the plays a challenge!

With the exception of my first short play, In Vino Veritas, a comic fantasy about a woman’s imagined perfect mate, each of the plays I have presented at Fertile Ground has continued to grow in one form or another.  Consumed, a monologue that takes place in the last hours of my grandmother’s life, became a short story that won notable mention at the 2010 Oregon Writer’s Colony Awards.  Last year’s piece, Bridgetown, A Musical, which is about a love triangle and making it (or not) in the “city of bridges,” is well on its way to becoming a novel.

I am hoping that Triptych Americana, my fourth contribution to the Fertile Ground Festival in as many years, eventually will grow beyond its staged reading into a production— or some other creative form— with all its visual elements fully realized.

For now, however, I am relying heavily on the audience’s imagination, along with a few visual, musical and choreographed elements, designed in collaboration with my sound and lighting designer, Gordon Romei.  The cast (Pat Janowski, Jon Farley, Angela Freeman, Jack Wells and Tom Stutzman) is terrific!

Thematically, my pieces involve familiar situations experienced from an unexpected perspective, usually involving female empowerment or the point of view of someone marginalized by society.  This subversive perspective in each play allows for new insights and unexpected outcomes.

Triptych Americana, a trio of short plays that will be presented as a staged reading on January 29th at 1:00 pm at Hipbone Studio, focuses on contemporary issues in America and how they affect the characters on a personal, social or political level.

And, of course, there will be music, sound, movement and photography, enhanced by your imagination.

Come give us your feedback and help Triptych Americana evolve.  Tickets are $8.00 (cash only) at the door, and the price includes a second feature, Skin Garden, by Jeremy Benjamin, that will follow.  Hipbone is located at ­­­­­­­­1847 E. BURNSIDE, #104,  PORTLAND, OR 97214.