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8 Awesome Things You'll Find at Fertile Ground


8 Awesome Things You'll Find at Fertile Ground

The 2018 Fertile Ground Festival has officially kicked off. This 11-day city-wide festival of new works features more than 70 works, from lunchtime readings of new plays to dance performances and fully staged world premieres.

Here are eight awesome reasons to check out Fertile Ground.

New musicals

This year's schedule features several new musicals.

Whink Productions' JUST THIS ONE, written by Wayne Harrel, features music by the late Portland blues vocalist Paul DeLay. The cast is full of local celebs, including LaRhonda Steele, aka "Portland's first lady of the blues." Festival dates: Jan 27 @ 7:30pm; Jan 28 @ 4pm & 7:30pm

LIVING THINGS: A MUSICAL ANTHOLOGY, by Archie Washington, is described as a show that will "engage your imagination in entertaining and moving vignettes, with a unique assortment of characters that live and sing in love, in fear, and in hope." That sounds pretty great to me! Festival dates: Jan 21 @ 12pm; Jan 27 @ 9pm

Every year at Fertile Ground, The Broken Planetarium debuts a new indie folk musical by Laura Christina Dunn and Maggie Mascal. This year, they're presenting ROSA RED, which is "based on the letters the revolutionary socialist Rosa Luxemburg wrote from prison the year before she was murdered." I've enjoyed the shows by this group in previous years and will definitely be seeing this one. Festival dates: Jan 20 @ 4pm; Jan 21 @ 2pm; Jan 24, 25 @ 8pm

If you prefer your musicals in very short form, check out PORTLAND'S MINI MUSICAL FESTIVAL, featuring six new 15-minute musicals by local writers and composers. With the line-up of talent, this one's sure to be a lot of fun. Festival dates: Jan 18, 19, & 20 @ 7:30pm; Jan 21@ 2pm


Storytelling is one of the hottest trends in live performance right now. If you've ever listened to The Moth or attended a local storytelling event, you know what an incredible experience it be.

Rogue Pack provides storytelling workshops for at-risk, disconnected and low-income youth, and this year young women from Boys & Girls Aid will be taking the stage to share their own stories in TRUTH AND DARE. Festival dates: Jan. 26, 27 @ 7:30 pm

PERSEPHONE XOA IRIS, by Gretchen Peterson is a one-woman show telling the stories of three interconnected women: the Greek goddess Persephone, her lover Xoa (the goddess of women who love women), and brand new modern-day superhero Iris Eldinger. I saw this show last night and it was excellent - the stories are beautifully crafted, and Peterson tells them very well. Festival dates: Jan 18, 19, 20, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26 @ 7pm

Comedy and improv

Need a laugh? The Ape Theatre has you covered with COMEDY HOUSE PARTY and SOUL NIGHT & BIG MOTHER. This will be my first time seeing one of their shows, but I've heard they're hilarious. Festival dates: Comedy House Party - Jan 20 @ 7pm & Jan 28 @ 2pm; Soul Night & Big Mother - Jan 20 @9pm

On the improve site, Deep End Theater is doing something something very interesting with their show UNWROTE. They're using unfinished scripts by professional playwrights as a jumping-off point and then improvising the rest of the show...with the playwright in the audience! Festival dates: January 19, 20, 26, 27 @ 7:30pm

Other improve options include Artful Raven Studio's THE JADE DECANTER, a wholly improvised full-length murder mystery (Festival dates: Jan 20, 27 @ 7:30pm), and ONE OFF!, a collection of completely improvised one-acts (Festival dates: Jan 23, 28 @ 7pm). Rogue Pack's TRUTH AND DARE also includes an improv component (see "Storytelling" above).

Controversy and provocation

Several of the works on the schedule this year tackle difficult issues.

James Webb's THE CONTRACT, presented by Confrontation Theatre "explores the great divide between 'gay and God,'" through a story about Christianity and homosexuality in the black church. Festival dates: Jan 21, 22, 23 @ 7pm

Milagro Theatre's BI- is a world premiere play about "bi-identity" (bicultural, bilingual, bisexual, binary) inspired by Edwin Abbott's Flatland. Festival dates: Jan 18, 19 & 20 @ 7:30pm


The lineup features not one, but two, Chekovs: UNCLE VANYA (Portland Experimental Theatre Ensemble) and THREE SISTERS (Northwest Classical Theatre Collaborative). I've seen both of them and I recommend them very highly - worth a watch even if you think you don't like Chekov. Festival dates: Uncle Vanya - Jan 18, 19, 20, 21 @ 7:30pm (read my review); Three Sisters - Jan 18, 19, 20, 24, 25, 26, 27 @ 7:30pm; Jan 21, 28 @ 2pm (read my review).

E.M. Lewis

If you saw The Gun Show at CoHo Theatre last year, you're already familiar with talented local playwright E.M. Lewis. Fertile Ground offers the opportunity to see three of her new works!

MAGELLANICA, which is also part of Artists Rep's regular season, will be epic. This 5-act, 6-hour play (yes, you read that right) focuses on an 8½-month period in the lives of a research team at the South Pole. I've been looking forward to this for months! Festival dates: Jan 20, 21 @ 2pm (additional dates through Feb 18)

HOW THE LIGHT GETS IN, about "four lonely people [who] find each other when one of them falls apart," is part of the LineStorm Playwrights free lunch reading series (see below). Festival date: Jan 25 @ 12pm.

Finally, Craftsman Theatre's TO BE DETERMINED... is a workshop of several short works about climate change, including one by E.M. Lewis. Festival dates: Jan 25, 26, 27, 28 @ 8:30pm

Free readings

Tired of the same old lunchroom conversation? Head to Artists Rep for free readings of plays by members of the LineStorm playwrights collective. You don't need a ticket - just show up! All shows at 12pm, unless otherwise noted.


  • 1/19: GRAND JUNCTION by Rich Rubin

  • 1/19 (6pm): THE STORYTELLER by Sara Jean Accuardi

  • 1/22: PETITE DAMES by Josie Seid

  • 1/23: ALASKA by Audrey Block and STRANGEST YELLOW by Susan Faust

  • 1/24: OUT OF THE BLUE by Miriam Feder

  • 1/25: HOW THE LIGHT GETS IN In by E. M. Lewis

  • 1/26: GONE by Lolly Ward

  • 1/27: NOT SAFE FOR ADULTS: A PLAY FOR KIDS by Dan Kitrosser


Last, but far from least, Dance Naked Productions is premiering SEX WE CAN! AN EROTIC UPRISING from director Eleanor O'Brien, whose goal is "to help everyone on the planet have a more satisfying sex life." The evening will include "story, song, and spectacle from sex-positive artists of all stripes." Festival dates: Jan 25, 26, 27 @ 8pm (additional dates through Feb 14 - the Feb 1 show will be followed by speed dating for all sexual orientations)

For more information on these and all of the other works at this year's Fertile Ground, visit the festival website. I hope to see you at a show!

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