BWW Review: Fertile Ground: THE WAYS WE COPE, RECENT UNSETTLING EVENTS, TOO LATE!
As we head into the final weekend of Fertile Ground 2020, here's recap of the excellent shows I saw this week.
THE WAYS WE COPE
This show, by Red Balloon Theatre Collective (RBTC) has been the best surprise of my festival so far. I had no idea what to expect from this relatively new ensemble when I walked into the basement of Alberta Abbey. What I experienced was a beautiful, expressive exploration of pain and fear and the ways we deal with those emotions. It was a powerful tribute to our inner strength.
THE WAYS WE COPE is a movement-based piece, blending theatre, dance, and visual art. Four women are each dealing with something difficult -- sexual violence, the loss of a mother, feelings of social isolation, a crippling fear of being seen. The stories are revealed via short interwoven vignettes, which probe the sources of the women's pain, the ways they've learned to cope, and how they can break out of destructive cycles. Ultimately, THE WAYS WE COPE is about finding your way through the darkness, which often requires getting a little help from your friends.
This piece began its life during Shaking The Tree Theatre's inaugural Open Space Residency in December 2018. There are no more Fertile Ground performances, but keep an eye on RBTC for news about future productions. https://redballooncollective.org/
RECENT UNSETTLING EVENTS
Wherever you fall on the political spectrum, you'll probably agree that the state of our public discourse at the moment is dismal. Debates have become shouting matches, and too many voices are being silenced -- ironically, often in the name of free speech.
Set on a liberal arts college campus, Andrea Stolowitz's RECENT UNSETTLING EVENTS, which won the Portland Civic Theatre Guild's 2020 New Play Award, echoes several real-life events that have occurred on campuses in the past few years (like what happened at Evergreen State when professor Ben Weinstein refused to participate in the "Day of Absence"). In the play, the catalyst is the required Western Civilization classics course, which students protest as perpetuating racism because the texts are all the work of dead white males. The complicating factor is that the class is taught by a Latina woman, raising the question of whose voice is really being silenced.
RECENT UNSETTLING EVENTS provides a nuanced look at the complex interplay among identity and free speech, and at what happens when discourse devolves. I found it thoroughly engrossing and also mega-gutsy. Later this month, the play will have a reading in New York, and I will have my fingers crossed that it gets picked up for a full production. http://andreastolowitz.com/
Great news! It's not too late for you to see Yocto Theatre's TOO LATE! It's been selling out, so for the first time in Fertile Ground history, they added an additional showtime -- Sunday at 2pm. If you've been feeling down lately, or need some extra positivity in your life (who doesn't?), you will want to take advantage of this opportunity.
TOO LATE!, conceived by Mary Rose and written by Rose, Sean Bowie, and the members of Portland Action Theatre, is all about regrets. Specifically, it's about letting go of regrets so that they don't trap us in the past. Whether it's standing against injustice, singing when you have a song to share, or simply contributing more significantly to potlucks, we all have things we wish we could have done differently.
Combining theatre, storytelling, music, and dance, TOO LATE! encourages us to exorcise the demons of our regrets and focus on the future. It's inspiring, uplifting, and will give you the best gift of all -- a feeling of joy to take home with you. https://www.yoctotheatre.com/