Portland is a hive of new work. It happens in small theatres and large. So, this article can’t possibly focus on all of them. Instead this Season in Review will spotlight a few theatres that specialize in giving new work the loving support it needs to thrive.
Artists Repertory Theatre produced the world premiere of Hansol Jung’s Wolf Play this season. It was a riveting play that explored both the boundaries of theatre and also what it means to be “discarded” or “kept” in our disposable society. It illuminated cross-cultural hazards as well as the bridges that can be formed amongst people across the globe.
Milagro Theatre produced four world premieres and one U.S. premiere this season. ¡Alebrijes! A Día de Muertos Tale was written and directed by Guild member Georgina Escobar. Set in present-day San Luis Potosí, in Xochimilco in 1936, and in an afterlife that looks too much like a psychedelic Oaxacan jungle, young Pedro realizes his artistic potential through his relationship to his pets as totems, his love for painting, and a close encounter with death.
Judge Torres, by Milta Ortiz, is a modern-day fairytale rooted in Salvadoran folklore. It premiered at Milagro and is currently touring through the end of 2019.
Jump, by Guild member Charly Evon Simpson, was co-produced by Milagro with Confrontation Theatre as part of the NNPN Rolling World Premiere along with PlayMakers Repertory Company in Chapel Hill, NC; Shrewd Productions in Austin, TX; and Actor’s Express in Atlanta, GA.
And Marisela Treviño Orta’s Wolf at the Door was another NNPN Rolling World Premiere produced by Milagro, New Jersey Repertory Company in Long Branch, NJ; Kitchen Dog Theater in Dallas, TX; and Halcyon Theatre in Chicago, IL.
Portland Playhouse produced the world premiere of No Candy by Emma Stanton, a play centered on a multi-generational community of Bosnian Muslim women who survived the Srebrenica genocide and, years later, open a gift shop for tourists who visit the Srebrenica memorial.
Mary Katherine Nagle’s Crossing Mnisose premiered at Portland Center Stage at The Armory. It is the story of one of America’s first feminists, Sacajawea, drawing a line from a completely original view of Lewis and Clark to the present day, as descendants of the Dakota and Lakota Nations continue their fight for the Mnisose (or what Europeans named the “Missouri River”) and the lands that contain the burials of their ancestors.
Theatre for Young Audiences are sometimes overlooked when mentioning new work. But Portland’s Oregon Children’s Theatre deserves praise for their commitment to world premieres.
The Legend of Rock, Paper, Scissors was adapted by DG member John Maclay and composer Eric Nordin. While I haven’t seen it yet, I’m sure it’s delighting children and adults alike.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the man behind Oregon Children’s Theatre, Artistic Director Stan Foote. Since 1991, he has dedicated himself to bringing theatre to young audiences. While he’s announced that this will be his last season at the helm, his legacy will certainly live on in the hearts and minds of current children as well as those who are all “grown up.”