2024 Fertile Ground Festival Starts Today!

Portland’s 11-day Fertile Ground Festival of New Works, featuring 64 “acts of creation” by local theatre artists, starts today.

By: Apr. 12, 2024
2024 Fertile Ground Festival Starts Today!
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It’s here!! Portland’s 11-day Fertile Ground Festival of New Works, featuring 64 “acts of creation” by local theatre artists, starts today. Especially after a year-long hiatus, I am very excited.

Here’s what’s currently on my schedule and why I chose them. Get the full line-up and buy your tickets or festival pass here.

Anne Zander is MOTHER

  • What: Enter the afterbirth at Anne Zander is MOTHER, a postpartum comedy! From the mind that created the “painfully funny” smash-hit JUICEBOX (Official Selection 2020 HBO’s Women in Comedy Festival), and the body that birthed twins 2 years ago comes Anne Zander is MOTHER, a brand new solo show that will make you laugh until you pee a little (we won’t judge your pelvic floor strength here). Imbued with Zander’s “completely ridiculous… completely vulnerable” comedy (BroadwayWorld), Anne Zander is MOTHER is clown, character, truth and fantasy, all rolled into one woman, dancing to the beat of her own breast pumps.
  • When: April 13, 14, 20 & 21 @ 3:15 p.m.
  • Where: Curious Comedy Annex (5225 NE MLK Blvd, Portland, OR 97211)
  • Why: I’ve seen Zander’s work before and it always makes my face hurt from laughing.


  • What: Annabelle Wright is: software engineer by day, comedian/clown/and circus artist by night, and once upon a time… TheTnTGamer! Before she became the fabulous woman she is today, Annabelle was a pre-teen boy with a YouTube channel and a simple dream: to be famous. In Annabelle’s debut solo show, she recreates the world of her former self and explores with vulnerability and absurdity how it shaped her identity and expression. Integrating the literal (and sometimes mortifying) YouTube videos from her youth – a showcase of her bizarre and useless talents to a handful of viewers – TheTnTGamer is a one-woman comedy show about growing up in a world that doesn’t always understand or appreciate the creative pursuits of youth.
  • When: April 13, 14, 20 & 21 @ 2 p.m.
  • Where: Curious Comedy Annex (5225 NE MLK Blvd, Portland, OR 97211)
  • Why: It looks fun. I’m making an afternoon of it with a double feature of Anne Zander is MOTHER and TheTnTGamer, so I expect both my face and my stomach will hurt from laughing.

A Concert of Songs from Freedom: The Untold Story of Moses

  • What: Join us for the world-premiere concert performance featuring a selection of songs from Freedom: The Untold Story of Moses. This rousing rock musical brings one of civilization’s most iconic tales to life, portraying the Hebrew prophet Moses not just as the destined leader of his people, but as a young man torn between royal privilege and stark injustice. Freedom transcends the scriptural story of Moses by illuminating the experiences of those around him—from his mother’s heart-wrenching sacrifice to an aspiring Pharaoh’s arrogant ambitions—taking us on an emotional journey of love, loss, and liberation.
  • When: April 14 and 21, 4 p.m.
  • Where: Eastside Jewish Commons (2420 NE Sandy Blvd, Portland, OR 97232)
  • Why: I got a sneak peek at this one already. I admire writer / composer Chari Smith’s work in general, and this concert features some fantastic voices (shout-out to Denni Edlund and Sarah Sanderson-Doughty). Also, Eastside Jewish Commons is a great arts space!

Bone Sorrow

  • What: A trio of original surrealist dramas by Nina Monique Kelly
    • The Elder Tree – This retelling of the witch trials of 1500s Europe follows the harrowing infestation of religious fanaticism in a once harmonious village. We witness the womenfolk resist the onslaught of perverse accusations and embrace their attempts at reclaiming their power.
    • Cleave – A girl child, intrigued by a shadowed figure that looms outside her window, desperately seeks her place in the outside world. Her mother is an entity of the undead. Having transcended her own death, she gathers herself to nurture her living child. A surrealist poem of myth, we sojourn with a poverty-struck mother and her child through tragedy, unwavering love, and ghosts.
    • A Circle of Stones – An expression of the playwright’s family strife with profound, generational mental illness. We traverse through a haunting tale of three generations of women desperately seeking nurturance, love, and self realization against the bondage of mental torment.
  • When: April 18, 7:30 p.m., April 21, 12:30 p.m.
  • Where: Chapel Theatre (4110 SE Harrison St, Milwaukie, OR 97222)
  • Why: I don’t know much about these shows other than these types of stories appeal to me, but one of the great pleasures of Fertile Ground is the thrill of discovery!


  • What: Told through song, audience interaction and aerial dance, Dreya Weber’s solo show, Hexen, weaves the narratives of three women representing witch archetypes. The Crone, a healer living in the forest. The Bewitcher, a temptress with a destructive affinity for the dark and absurd. And the Daughter, who searches for wisdom from her fore bearers. Part historical account, ancestral legacy and imaginative fancy, Hexen explores the demonization of women, the power of reclaiming ancestry, and the honoring of the mystical. Sparked by her mother’s search for familial roots, Dreya dove into the history of European witch hunts of the 1600’s. What she learned inspired the writing of Hexen. Weber seamlessly morphs between characters as she travels through the generational journey of Hexen, culminating in a new understanding of her strength, freedoms and self determination. Original music by Weber with recordings of Mahler and Dvorak sung by Jenny Trier. Dreya Weber is an actor/director/choreography/aerialist and producer. @dreya_weber (Films: The Gymnast, The Aerialist, A Marine Story. Aerial choreography: P!NK, Madonna, Taylor Swift, Rihanna, Michael Jackson)
  • When: April 12 and 13, 7:30 p.m.
  • Where: JaJaPDX Circus (819 SE Taylor St. Portland OR 97214)
  • Why: I love aerial arts, it looks amazing, and I’ve never been to this venue. So, win-win-win!

The Play About My Father

  • What: The Play About My Father, created and performed by Kate Mura, is a theatrical “thank you” to the New Jersey community who rallied around her family after her father’s freak accident. This tale of (seemingly- too-rare) compassion and kindness features physical storytelling, corporeal mime, improv and a magic skirt! Watch her shift from tragedy to acceptance via the race track, ghosts, and lots and lots of casseroles. The Play About My Father began as a short mask show, Suburban Tribe, in the very first Fertile Ground. It grew & transformed over the past decade through national and international tours, theft, and death. Resiliency continues in this final iteration transforming tragedy into creation.
  • When: April 11 – May 5, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays @ 7:30 p.m., Sundays @ 3 p.m.
  • Where: The Back Door Theatre (4319 SE Hawthorne Blvd. Portland, OR 97215)
  • Why: I saw this on opening night and loved it. Kate Mura is a generous and expressive performer, and this show is a beautiful tribute to the people who supported her through difficult times. I will be writing a full review, so stay tuned. But in the meantime, go see this lovely play!

The Mural

  • What: Set in a town not so far away, The Mural tells the story of an in-debt, struggling soup-cafe owner named Denny who finally begins to see her business grow after painting a mural on an otherwise drab wall. But, the mural that seemed to bring business gets defaced, which turns out to be the final straw for Denny. With newfound community by her side, she is forced to find fierceness in herself she didn’t know she had by threatening the vandal to face her and to face consequences. Written by Alison Wesley, small-business owner and wife of a Portland-restaurateur, The Mural is like any good soup needs to be – a nourishing, balanced mix of many unique ingredients. It was born out of similar real-life experiences, the need for people to come together more than ever before and a heavy helping of fantasy.
  • When: April 13 and 20, 3 p.m.
  • Where: The Back Door Theatre (4319 SE Hawthorne Blvd, Portland, OR 97215)
  • Why: I got a hot tip from a trusted friend that this is a show to see!

Sam’s 21st

  • What: A brand-new musical that follows college student Sam on the night of her quintessential “welcome-to-adulthood” birthday. To honor the occasion, her roommates decide to throw her an epic party. Although she’d rather spend the night hiding in her room, she is excited by the promised attendance of Sophie, the high school crush that she never got over. But as the party gets going, an unexpected surprise throws her for a loop and leads her down a path of revenge. With music and lyrics by Duncan Kass and a book by Duncan Kass and Niels Truman, Sam’s 21st is full of weird roommates, ecstatic partygoers, overwrought party games, and the complications of friendship. It’s fun for the whole family! (minus the kids).
  • When: April 14, 7:00 p.m.
  • Where: Clinton Street Theater (2522 SE Clinton St, Portland, OR 97202)
  • Why: At a Fertile Ground press event, Duncan Kass and Niels Truman’s 2-minute pitch for this show had me in stitches.

Have Fun Kids

  • What: When Laura lost her best friend, Jordan weeks before the world shut down in January of 2020, she wasn’t sure how she would cope. Discovering Jordan left over 700 pages of plays and live arts scripts, she did the only thing she knew, create his last show. Laura Anne Harris is a multi-award winning solo performer and playwright whose work has been seen around the world including Bangkok, Toronto, New York, and Cincinnati. Laura is delighted to perform her newest solo work, Have Fun Kids, as a reading for the 2024 Fertile Ground Festival.
  • When: April 15 at 7 p.m., April 16 at 8:30 p.m.
  • Where: Back Door Theatre (Fuse Theatre Ensemble) (4319 SE Hawthorne Blvd. Portland, OR 97215)
  • Why: I love solo shows, and this one seems like a good mix of humor and heartwarming.

Lesbian Pageant

  • What: A rent increase for a 26-year old lesbian bar threatens its existence, and Darcy has a plan to save it. Is the 90’s-themed Lesbian Pageant she dreams up as a fundraiser the answer? Or do the lesbians around her have different ideas about what needs to be saved? Lesbian Pageant skips through time and space – real and imagined – exploring what it means to be a lesbian in a lesbian community, the importance of spaces for queer people, and what makes someone feel they belong. Conceived by Amy Driesler and Virginia Baeta, this reading is the result of a January 2024 workshop (dramaturg/director, Tamara Carroll) which was funded by Regional Arts & Culture Council (RACC). Amy and Virginia have been performing on stage together since 2006. This is the first play they’ve written together.
  • When: April 15 at 8:30 p.m., April 16 at 7 p.m. (ASL interpreted performance)
  • Where: Back Door Theatre (Fuse Theatre Ensemble) (4319 SE Hawthorne Blvd. Portland, OR 97215)
  • Why: This sounds like the type of show I’d want to see at any time, so the fact that it’s part of Fertile Ground is an extra bonus. I’m making this a double-header with Have Fun Kids.

A Bridge to the Promised Land: 1968

  • What: In 1968, as UC-Berkeley students were outside protesting the Vietnam War, a young music professor, Milton Williams (who wrote the music and lyrics) was in his office, laying down the origins of his story about Hubert Turner, the black mayor of a Southern city. Drawing upon his own experience, Williams explores the challenges and expectations faced by a ‘successful’ black politician in America: When does one achieve enough to finally stop climbing and ‘make a stand’? Does attaining a goal justify the piecemeal selling-out of your soul? And who do you trust to keep you honest to yourself? Hubert Turner and his daughter, Ginnie represent two generations and two sides of the same cause who, on one prophetic day, each choose to stand for their cause. But will they both survive the day? Politically and literally…
  • When: April 12, 8 p.m., April 13, 3 p.m & 7 p.m., April 14, 2 p.m.
  • Where: Bridgetown Conservatory of Musical Theatre (711 SW 14th Ave, Portland, OR 97205)
  • Why: The themes are highly relevant today. Plus, I can’t resist a new musical.


  • What: As the annual number of school shooting incidents continues to rise, gun safety training programs designed for educators electing to arm themselves in the classroom are popping up throughout the United States. PULL, by Sara Jean Accuardi, follows a group of school teachers in one of these trainings as they grapple with the question of whether or not taking matters into their own hands will make them feel less helpless. How does one retain one’s humanity in such a world? How does one maintain one’s sanity?
  • When: April 17, 5 p.m.
  • Where: Artists Repertory Theatre (1518 SW Morrison St Portland, OR 97205)
  • Why: Sara Jean Accuardi is an excellent playwright and this sounds like the type of play that needs to be seen now.

Strange Birds

  • What: When Jo and her forest ranger trainee find blood in the snow outside a remote mountain house, they suspect that something bad has happened. Can they figure out what before the storm hits?  Jo’s old friend Lou might be able to help… or she might be involved herself. Strange Birds, by E.M. Lewis, is about women, and wolves, and sisters, and secrets. What do we owe to the systems that oppress us? And how do you escape something that you carry inside you?
  • When: April 18, 12 p.m. (noon)
  • Where: Artists Repertory Theatre (1515 SW Morrison St Portland, OR 97205)
  • Why: E.M. Lewis is one of Oregon’s premier playwrights, so I endeavor never to miss the chance to see her work.

An Equal Voice: The Story of Votes for Women

  • What: A retired scholar of women’s history is invited to address city council and staff about voting. Excited and surprised, she picks her theme: Why Vote? Just Ask History! Gathering a lifetime accumulation of photos, stories, and costumes, she plots out the 70-year woman suffrage campaign. But she needs help from the audience – volunteers to take roles, read speeches, improvise strategies, even sing songs. Voting rights history is messy, complex, and essential to American democracy. The women’s campaign defines most voting issues still alive today. Because democracy is participatory, this work invites audience engagement using the British system of “process drama.”
  • When: April 13, 2:00 p.m, April 13, 7:00 p.m., April 14, 2:00 p.m., April 18, 5:00 p.m.
  • April 19, 5:00 p.m. & 7:30 p.m.
  • Where: Portland Playhouse Studio (602 NE Prescott St., Portland 97211) and Artists Repertory Theater (1515 SW Morrison Street Portland OR 97205)
  • Why: I saw this show, by playwright/actor Randi Douglas, in a previous Fertile Ground. It’s something that everyone should see, especially now, when voting rights are under attack in many parts of the country.

Plan V: Acts of Pleasure (Activism)

  • What: Plan V: Acts of Pleasure (activism) is the third installment of Eleanor O’Brien’s series dedicated to a future “Great Awakening,” where humanity has shifted to Goddess Worship, and the Divine Feminine is revered as sacred. (O’Brien premiered How to Really, Really? Really! Love a Woman at Fertile Ground 2019, Cult of Cunnilingus in 2022, and Pussy Parables & Epiphanies in 2023). This show takes place live on Zoom, where the audience is embedded in an online Gathering of true believers. Listen in on stories from cult members about their ecstatic conversions and spontaneous healing. “Pussy is Life!!” is both a greeting and a blessing, as well as this group’s raison d’être. But this group doesn’t just sit around talking pussy, this group is out to LIBERATE those still trapped by shame. Join in on the discussion about which Acts of Pleasure will prove most effective (and where to proselytize next!).
  • When: April 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, and 20, 7:30 p.m.
  • Where: Zoom
  • Why: I mean, just read the description. Eleanor O’Brien’s work is always…what’s the right word?...titillating! I saw the first installment and am excited to see how it all turns out!

Photo credit: Fertile Ground Festival of New Work


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