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.


Stories from Portland’s Streets: Lunacy Stageworks January 22, 2011

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Lunacy Stageworks presents Stories from the Streets


Wielding the Light Saber January 12, 2011

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One of the actresses at the audition asks, “How did this musical come about?  What was your inspiration for it?”  We are conducting auditions for BRIDGETOWN, A Musical, a show that will be performed as part of the citywide Fertile Ground Festival in January.  All eyes turn to me, the playwright, in anticipation.

My brain rewinds to over a year ago when I met Fred Stickley at the Fertile Ground Festival’s It Takes All Shorts program.  Fred had just performed a song he had written called “Portland, Oh Portland,” and my short play, called Consumed, was performed in the same program.  Now, at the audition, I reply to the actors that “it was inspired by a song that Fred wrote.”  Ironically, the song that inspired the story (“Northwest 23rd”) is no longer in the show, even though “Portland, Oh Portland” opens and closes the musical.

Fred sits down at the keyboard placed prominently in his living room and says, “Some of these songs don’t have lyrics yet, and the lyrics that we do have are tentative.  We still have to work on them.  Karen and I get together and pull out our sabers and fight over them.”

“Yeah, and they light up, too!”  I add.  During our lyric writing sessions, Fred usually thrusts with a clever line or pretty image, and I parry with character motivation and play structure.  Our sessions are very animated, so much so that the last time we met over lyrics, Fred trashed his computer with a gesture that knocked it off the café table.  Luckily it was backed up.

Fred Stickley performs regularly with his band around the Portland area, and he has quite a following.  In any given week, he packs a crowd into Wilfts in town or into O’Connor’s Vault in Multnomah Village.  In earlier years, he toured the globe playing keyboards for John Hyatt, and since then he has released three CD albums.  Dinah Urell of hipfish describes his style as “Costello, Steely Dan and The Eurythmics— in genre and quality of musical craft.”

My own background includes years of touring the globe with Disney, NBC, operetta, and my own club shows, as well as performing in musicals, industrials, ballets and theatre.  I have published articles on film, and my short plays have appeared at each of the previous Fertile Ground Festivals.  I have taught theatre in both public and private schools, and I currently teach dance for stage at Oregon Children’s Theatre.

The result of our creative battles, called BRIDGETOWN, A Musical, is a celebration of Portland’s uniquely feisty culture and the characters’ struggles to find their place (or not) in the “city of bridges.”  A work-in-progress, it will be presented as a staged reading with live music at Conduit, 918 SW Yamhill, Suite 401, on January 27th, 28th and 29th at 7:30 pm, as part of the 2011 Fertile Ground Festival.  Tickets cost $12, and they may be purchased through boxofficetickets.com or at the door with cash.  The audience is invited to stay for a feedback session following the show, and wine and Voodoo Donuts will be available for purchase.  The show contains adult language and mature themes.

And of course, Fred and I will be available at each feedback session, light sabers in hand, both ready to do battle for the creative muse.


Whitebird Video Interview with Minh Tran and Tere Mathern December 31, 2009

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As part of this year’s effort to branch out into new genres of world premiere performance, Fertile Ground is delighted to welcome Whitebird Dance’s world premiere dance performance from Minh Tran and Tere Mathern. Here’s a great interview with them about the genesis for their pieces, and the bittersweet announcement that this performance will be the last time to see Minh Tran perform on stage. Check it out!


Welcome! July 27, 2009

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This blog will serve as the greenhouse for our Fertile Ground community: a place to plant ideas, spark innovation and collaboration and share the progress of your world premiere project with the audience and our regional and national colleagues.

All Fertile Ground participants will have the opportunity to post thoughts, progress reports, questions, resources and opportunities on this blog. We hope you will use it as a resource to build community, find collaborators, and share your development process with the world.

Before we begin, however, I thought you might enjoy a look back at the 2009 Inaugural year of the festival:

Matt Zrebski and Eugenia Woods at closing party{Playwrights Matt Zrebski and Eugenia Woods at the closing party, 209.}

Fall of the House Cast

{The kids from Action/Adventure, whose serial semi-improvised soap opera was a festival highlight.}

Patron at lunchbox reading{Patrons at one of the Lunchbox noon readings at the Armory.}

Apollo reaching webready

{Nancy Keystone’s World Premiere Apollo, on the Armory Main Stage}

Boxes 2008 by Gabriel Darling{The cast from Jessamyn Rae’s Boxes, an investigation of gender identity and family politics that received a workshop reading at the festival.}

Breaking and Entering{The playwrights of Breaking and Entering, the collaborators behind Foreplay at the Someday, a project that sold out the Someday Lounge.}

Shelly, Laura and Patrick at closing party{Vitriol and Violets playwright Shelly Lipkin, actress Lara Kobrin and Open City playwright Patrick Wohlmut at the closing night party.}

Tommy Twimble{Performance artist Thomas Schroyer as Tommy Twimble during the Late Night Hothouse series.}

Heart of the City copy{Bobby Bermea, playwright and performer of Heart of the City, with fellow performer Jamie Rea.}

Ohana - Jojopatamus1{The Kim Berstler and Katie Ortolano, the girls of Ohana SE PDX Children’s Theater in The Adventures of Jojopotamus and his Best Friend Ralphred.}

There’s much more, I’m sure. Send me your production photos (and your impressions of each other’s work) from last year’s Fertile Ground Festival to trisham@pcs.organd I will be happy to post them here.