Fertile Ground 2022 Kicks Off with Virtual and Live Performances - 5 Picks for This Year's Festival

Portland’s 13th annual festival of new works runs through Feb. 6.

By: Jan. 28, 2022
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Fertile Ground 2022 officially kicked off yesterday! Portland's 13th annual festival of new works runs through Feb. 6.

This year's festival is a little different from years past. All shows have a virtual option and some are also being presented live. Every show has an official "opening" performance and then will be available on demand through the end of the festival.

Quick links to essential info:

5 Picks for Fertile Ground 2022

This is always the hardest part. I've been attending Fertile Ground for six years, and I'm constantly amazed at the wealth of talent in our city. Since these are all new works, I have very little context for any of them, but here are five that I'm jazzed about. Note that some of the shows are in full production, some are workshops, and some are getting their very first audiences. (Descriptions taken from the FG website.)


In RaChelle Schmidt's modern adaptation of Henrik Ibsen's 1882 play, an economically depressed community eagerly awaits the opening of a warm spring resort that is sure to bring a much needed economic boost. As the town looks forward to prosperity, the resort's lead medical advisor discovers pollutants in the waters that threaten to derail the entire project and the hope of the town.

Why I'm excited: I love modern adaptations of classics that serve to illustrate how much - or how little - we've changed.

Free on YouTube through Jan. 31.

2. Two new plays by E.M. Lewis (Readings)

Oregon's multi-award-winning playwright E.M. Lewis has two new plays in this year's lineup:

  • APPLE HUNTERS! - In rural Washington, three old friends join forces to search for a lost variety of apple called "The Golden Hawk. Presented by LineStorm Playwrights, Apple Hunters! is about finding friends, saving family, and figuring out what matters. Premieres Feb. 1 @ 7pm. Free tickets here.
  • DOROTHY'S DICTIONARY - Sparks fly when Zan, an angry high school student, is forced to work off his community service assignment by helping Dorothy, an ailing librarian. But each of them might just have what the other needs if they can only find the words. Dorothy's Dictionary is about how good books, careful listening, true friendship and kindness can help you chart your course in life, even when you are really, really lost. Streaming on-demand. Tickets by donation here.

Why I'm excited: Everything by E.M. Lewis is worth a watch.

3. HEART OF STONE (Dance performance)

HEART OF STONE is a devised theatre collaboration by artists from Moscow and Portland's Russian and Russian-American communities. This performance is part of a larger piece based on the life of co-writer and performer Alisher Khasanov. In it, a Muslim Uighur boy, in love with dance and music, defies both his father and the government soldiers when he tries to save a mysterious ancient artifact in a cave, risking his life but discovering who he is.

Why I'm excited: I know nothing about Russian theatre, and Fertile Ground is a great time to learn about new types of performance.

Two performances: Feb. 4 at 7:30 pm and Feb. 5 at noon. Tickets by donation here.

4. STUFF OF THE DEAD (Fully staged world premiere)

STUFF OF THE DEAD is an exploration of estate sales through a haze of whiskey, ghosts, tax advice, shopping tips, egg salad, classic literature, betrayal, the loss of people close to us, and the things they leave behind. It's a love letter to lost toys, found art, hidden trunks, family heirlooms, antiques, old books, dive bars, and business presentations in the conference room of an aging Red Lion Inn on the edge of town.

Why I'm excited: This promises to be both funny and touching. The playwrights, Scott Rogers and Wallace Fessler, both have solid comedy cred, and director Emily June Newton is hands-down brilliant.

Live-streamed free on Feb. 5. Details here.

5. SOUL'D: THE ECONOMICS OF OUR BLACK BODY (THE JOY EDITION) (Theatre reimagined for film)

The Vanport Mosaic with The Project presents SOUL'D: the economics of our Black body (the joy edition), a new performance piece adapted for film, engaging questions of how our Black bodies have participated in the American Economic Dream. Conceived by Damaris Webb and devised by a cohort of local Black performers, designers and filmmakers, SOUL'D sources first hand narratives, legislation, iconic tropes, current events, and personal stories, we position ourselves to gaze through the macro-cosims of slavery to present day post-Obama backlash.

Why I'm excited: I saw a previous version of this show and thought it was excellent. (Read the review.)

Available on demand. Tickets by donation here.