Fertile Ground Portland

A Festival of New Works Blog

Meet the Artist: Sydney Somerfield February 5, 2013

 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.


More Festival Press! January 29, 2010

Alison Hallett from the Portland Mercury just posted some fantastic reviews of Truth and Beauty and Roadhouse: The Play… check out her thoughts here.

The Willamette Week has been posting a near daily round up of what they’ve seen and what they thought of it. The most recent post about Pulp Diction and How the Light Gets In(with links to the past posts) is right here.

Suzi Steffen from the Eugene Weekly was up last weekend checking out some shows, particularly Dirtybomb and American Sueno.

She posted her thoughts on their blog here.

And last but not least, NW Children’s Theatre’s Pinocchio gets included in the Oregonian’s Best Bets for this weekend. Check it out here.

You still have 4 more days and nights to GO out and GROW with Fertile Ground.

What will you be making sure not to miss??


Willamette Week Makes Festival Recommends January 21, 2010

Need help navigating through the “must sees” of Fertile Ground? The <a href="“>Willamette Week weighs in with their opinion on the subject here (hint: Truth and Beauty, pictured above, gets a nod, as do Willow Jade, SexyNurd and the Pulp Diction late night series).

Meanwhile, Alexis Rehrmann from the Portland Monthly blog weighs in with a fun piece about Tandem, the comedy duo performing after SexyNurd at Curious Comedy during the Festival.

Alexis asks the all important question: ““Is sketch comedy worth trucking it up MLK for? ‘Cause I’ve got hulu at home.”

Her answer? “Turns out, yes.”

Read what she has to say about Tandem, and about the festival, here.

Bought your Festival Pass yet? They’re $50 and you can get them RIGHT HERE.


Pulp Diction Participant Talks Process December 2, 2009

Filed under: the writing process — fertilegroundpdx @ 2:23 am
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Anna Sahlstrom, playwright of one of the Pulp Diction late night pieces, called The Go Girls, shares how she went from JRR Tolkein spoof to late night pulpy feminine empowerment in just a few simple steps…

Every story for me starts out as a daydream or a passing idea.  Some people come to create a framework for an idea for a story and some just sit down and let the muse come to them.  I have tried both means of writing and have found that I can’t completely map what I’m going to write.  I don’t use outlines or other schematics.  I simply imagine the story I want to tell and I go with it.

The Go-Girls began for me as a funny idea for a story while I was at a meeting for the Women’s Ensemble performance group at Loyola Marymount University.  We created the group because of the lack of onstage opportunities for women at our school.  I thought it would be funny to do a modern, urban spoof of Lord of the Rings with me as the star.  The story would change greatly by the time I actually wrote the play, but what remained the same was the desire to have a show with all women and to have a theme of female empowerment.  And the comedic aspects would be there as well.

Well, I didn’t think about The Go-Girls until two years after I had graduated.  I had been steadily working on establishing my acting career.  I continued to study and audition and even did community theatre.  However, I was really frustrated and felt that I wasn’t getting anywhere.  I had also just gotten a day job after searching for two years.  I wanted to create a piece that was fun and with a lead role for me to play.  I really needed some inspiration.  I went to see X-Men: The Last Stand and it reminded me of when I read the comics and how much I loved the series.  The Go-Girls resurfaced in my mind as a feminist super-hero spoof rather than a spoof on JRR Tolkein.

I had never written a full-length play before, but I sat down at my computer and just let the writing come out.  It was easier to write than anything I had attempted before.  I think it was because I wasn’t forcing myself to please someone else or censoring my writing.  I find that I can create much better work when I get out of my own way.  The script simply felt right.  I spent the next year and a half editing my script, and then I was accepted into the One-Year Acting Program at Drama Studio London.  I brought a copy of The Go-Girls with me and imagined doing a staged reading of the play.  I was granted that opportunity and I cast a bunch of my new friends and myself in the lead.  The reading was so much fun.  The audience of ten people couldn’t stop laughing.

With the feedback from the director of the reading, I edited out parts that were either too long or didn’t work.  I was considering how to put together a future production, when the opportunity came to have a reading as part of The Pulp Stage’s Pulp Diction late-night reading series for Fertile Ground.  I have done further edits, with the advice of my director, to make the play work even better.  I am really excited to be sharing my work with the Portland theatre community.

The process of my work is the process of my life.  I determine what I want and the let the scenes and the pieces fall into place.  And I can never completely plan what will happen.

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What is Your Pulp Name? November 18, 2009

Filed under: the creative process — fertilegroundpdx @ 1:43 am
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I just received my Pulp Diction: Informer– the hilarious e-news magazine that Pulp Stages organizer Matt Haynes has put together to help his project collaborators get to know each other and stay up to date on their projects.

My favorite part so far? The brief bios of the collaborators, along with their “Pulp Name” and “surprising facts.” It reads like a superhero support group. Its AWESOME.

ANNA SAHLSTROM (author of THE GO-GIRLS) is an actress and writer born and raised in Vancouver, WA. She attended Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles where she earned a BA in Theatre and a minor in Spanish. Anna also trained in the One-Year Acting Program for Post-Graduates and Professionals at Drama Studio London where The Go-Girls had its first reading. Additionally, she attended the Playwrights’ Cornucopia workshop at CSU Summer Arts. Anna recently originated the role of Betta in the musical Rejected No More with Trueheart Productions. This is the first play she has written.

Pulp Name: Lady Katerina

Two surprising facts:
1. My friend and I were interviewed for a South Korean documentary about why Americans do community service.
2. I have magic toes. One day I accidentally cracked my little toe out of joint and I managed to pop it back into place. I can also pick things up with my toes.

My Pulp Story: I love X-Men so my pulp story would be X-Treme X-Men vol. 3: Invasion of Dimension X. It’s got unconditional love, self-sacrifice and great heroism: qualities I admire and would like to embody. It’s also beautifully drawn.

BRAD BULCHUNOS (Author of DEATH WEARS FISHNETS) wrote for years as a newspaper reporter in Colorado and Oregon and, for a glimmering time, as a humor columnist before landing his current role at the homeless youth clinic Outside In. He continues to write and act in Portland. Recently he appeared as a lunatic ghost in Twilight Tales (Northwest Children’s Theater), a wiggly innkeeper in The Three Musketeers (Lakewood), and various roles in The Dining Room (North End Players). Previously he also performed on stages in Cannon Beach and Astoria, where a few of the short plays he wrote garnered audience acclaim in competition. He is thrilled to see Death Wears Fishnets debut as his first staged work in Portland.

PULP NAME: Fleen (This is a nickname of mine, vaguely suggestive of agility and stealth but perhaps also appealing as a kind of streamlined counterpart to my Lithuanian last name. But I like “Bolchunos” (pronounced “Bowl-CHOO-nos” well enough). My Google effort produced “William Ranging” — not bad!

– I once had the honor of meeting and interviewing The Godfather of Soul amid a series of stories about a bridge-naming contest in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, in which the winning entry was “The James Brown Soul Center of the Universe Bridge.”
-Probably my worst job was through a temporary agency years ago when I somehow wound up spending a day at a factory making gun parts. My own task was not horrible (scraping off the flashing from clips), but I grew a bit uneasy amid too many regular employees in the shadows near the loud, monstrous machinery (complete with black and yellow caution stripes) who had limb injuries or missing fingers.

The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler. I’m an abiding fan of the writings of Chandler and of Dashiell Hammett, too — as well as film versions of their work. My attempts at humor and parody are also meant as homage. (This was a tough category to pick just one — so many great movies and stories that might be considered pulp, depending on how it is defined, come to mind … among my favorite filmmakers alone are the Coen brothers, David Lynch, Alfred Hitchcock…).

JASON FERTE (Author of ALBA) has worked his ass off in Portland theatre since the late 70s, but not so much the past ten years or so. Favorite memories: working the build/run of the West Coast premiere (non-Broadway produced, or maybe it was only the Portland first-run…?) of Chicago; stage managing Stan Foote’s very first kid’s show in town, Snow White at the Circus; designing lights for the opera Hansel and Gretel; and being honored with a Technical Achievement award for Something’s Afoot, all at the old Lake Oswego Community Theatre. Recent stints include stage managing the fifth season of Action/Adventure’s Fall of the House (love those guys!), producing/directing/designing the original musical Whatever Girl (co-written with the amazing Rachel Sakry) at Echo Theatre, and designing Dia de los Muertos at Miracle Theatre a few years back (love those guys too!).

PULP NAME: don’t think I have one, though I get called “asshole,” “fucker,” and “dickface” a lot (I work with homeless kids, comes with the territory, though to be fair some think I’m the bees’ knees on my good days).

Two facts: I’ve seen every James Bond film on the big screen (some I’ve regretted seeing…); and, I write by making the shit up as I go – if I think too far ahead it starts coming out all stilted and fake and I have to backtrack and find my correct free-wheelin’ groove again, weird but it works for me.

Pulp story: don’t know what that is, I generally don’t like being someone else so I’ll just be me.

RICH RUBIN (Author of HAMLET IN HIDING)’s plays have been performed at multiple theaters in the U. S. and abroad.

NICKNAME: Short Rich Rubin (so people won’t confuse me with Tall Matt Haynes)


I (mis)spent my youth in Bay Ridge, the Brooklyn neighborhood John Travolta made forever famous in Saturday Night Fever.
I once dated a woman who’d lived next door to Tonto, the Lone Ranger’s trusted companion in varmint-vanquishing.

PULP STORY: Martin McDonagh’s Leenane trilogy, the blast that shed the light

STEVE PATTERSON (author of THE REWRITE MAN) has written over 50 plays, with works staged in Portland, Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit, Austin, Tampa, and other U.S. cities as well as in Canada and New Zealand. His works include Waiting on Sean Flynn, Malaria, Altered States of America, Turquoise and Obsidian, Bombardment, Delusion of Darkness, and The Centering (with Chris Harder). In 2008, his play Liberation was published by Original Works Publishing. In 2008, his play Lost Wavelengths won the Oregon Book Award. He is a member of the Dramatists Guild of America.

BRIAN ALLARD (PR and Director of THE REWRITE MAN) is the Artistic Director and Founder of the Original Practice Shakespeare Festival. Brian has comes to Portland via Minneapolis, London and New York, but is now very happy to call Oregon home. His training has taken many courses, from London’s Globe to the New England Shakespeare Festival. During his time in New York, Brian appeared off-Broadway as Caliban in The Tempest and Romney Leigh in Aurora Leigh. Since coming to PDX, he played in the US Premeire of Tales of Ordinary Madness in the lead role of Peter with CoHo Productions, clucked around as Allen in bobrauschenbergamerica at Portland Playhouse, and proudly appeared as Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice with Quintessence.

MICKI SELVITELLA (Director of THE GO-GIRLS) is a director and educator. She has served as Education Director at Portland Center Stage, Artistic Director of Pittsburgh New Voices, and Director of Student Education for the Great Lakes Theater Festival. She has taught at several universities around the country, including Pacific University (Director of Theatre Department), Northern Arizona University (Interim Director of Opera Theatre), Carnegie Mellon Summer Institute, PSU, and PCC. As a director, favorite past projects include Boston Marriage and Stones in His Pockets (CoHo Productions), Amateurs (Next Step Theatre, Seattle); and Terra Nova (Ohio University). Lately, Micki has been spending time screenwriting, and is working on a web series. A native Bostonian, she is a graduate of the Yale School of Drama, and holds an MFA in Directing from Ohio University. She is the recipient of an SDCF Observership (Intiman Theatre, Seattle), and is a Fulbright scholar (Taiwan, China).

What are you doing to create community with your project collaborators? Got ideas to share?

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Strange Bedfellows: The Art of Collaboration November 10, 2009

Phaedra 1Pulp Stage’s “Tall” Matt Haynes talks about the fruits of unexpected collaborators and the delightful matches that can be made when you throw an idea out into the universe and see what new partners it catches.

Hey gang,
Tall Matt Haynes here.
I don’t know about the rest of you producers but for me the joy of this position is the new connections you make as you reach out for support: You put messages in e-bottles and cast them in as many directions as you can in the spirit of “What can it hurt?” Suddenly you’ve got delightful collaborators drifting your way from all sorts of surprising places.
There are now over 20 people and five organizations involved in Pulp Diction. All of them are excellent. Many of them were a surprise. Here are some samples and links if you want to learn more about these folks:

-As I looked for a venue that had either a stage or a bar, my now-PR-Manager Brian Allard directed me to The Brody which has both AND a sweet tooth for pulp (www.brodytheater.com)

-Oregon Book Award winner, Steve Patterson, agreed to not only let Pulp Diction test-drive his new play “The Rewrite Man” but also to help out with our publicity campaign.( http://)

-Looking for some help with image design, Nicole Lane referred me to Hypnokomix a new comic book company that is designing our brand and even adapted a comic, “Beach Blanket Beyond” for our reading series. (http://www.hypnokomix.com)

-The nearby drag club, Portland Embers, has agreed to let us cross-promote with them and one of their queens, Phaedra Knight will be hosting our shows (www.emberspdx.net)

-Nationally renowned voice actor and storyteller, Bill Ratner will be flying in from LA to perform in his play, GOLD which he submitted for the reading series (www.billratner.com)

And much more… This has been very exciting and fun. Hopefully the shows will be equally if not more so.


Fertile Ground Gets More SENSATIONAL

Filed under: Uncategorized — fertilegroundpdx @ 7:05 pm
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One of our intriguing new groups participating in this year’s Fertile Ground Festival is Pulp Stages, a troupe dedicated to all things sensational, genre and pulpy. Got a missive from the group’s organizer, the sensationally-sized “Tall” Matt Haynes.

Hey gang,
Tall Matt Haynes here.
I’m producing a late night reading series of new plays that are of the Pulp genre. We call the event Pulp Diction. Our plays deal with sensationalist goodness like vampires, avatars, psycho killers, private eyes, drag divas, superheroes and much more…
It’s all being held at the Brody Theater, downtown on Burnside and Broadway, 7:30 on Sunday January 24th and then at 10:30 the following Tues-Thurs. Different plays each night. Hot food and cold beer are available.

Check out our website: http://thepulpstage.weebly.com
Since THE PULP STAGE is not the only company doing readings, we would be happy to band together with the other reading groups in cross-promoting.
This could be in the form of:
-Putting ads in each others programs
-Pooling together to get ad space in the Fertile Ground program or the papers.
-Pitching the other readings happening before our own
-Passing out post cards or business cards of each other’s stuff before our own shows.
-Any other ideas?

Keep having fun and drop a line if you can.