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See Fertile Ground works at Lakewood

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Fertile Ground, a festival of new works, is on. Lakewood Center for the Arts will present four works.

STAFF PHOTOS: VERN UYETAKE  - Presenting Fertile Ground readings of their plays at Lakewood Theatre Company are front row from left, Hayley Green, Haley Phillips, Meghan Mueller, Nikolas John Alves and YPF Program Director Megan Kate Ward, and back row, left to right, Cynthia Whitcomb, Laurence Overmire, Nancy McDonald and Father Richard Berg. Not pictured are Ron Lee, Austin Green and Natalie Schur.

Lakewood Theatre Company supports Portland's playwriting community by participating in Fertile Ground, a city-wide festival of new works Jan. 20-29 at various venues around Portland.

The festival features new plays in staged readings performed by local actors. The event offers more than two-dozen plays of differing lengths and a large selection of topics and forms. In addition, a Lake Oswego staple, the Lakewood Theatre Company, will present four Fertile Ground works.

"New works have been and continue to be a vital part of our mission at Lakewood," says Steve Knox, education coordinator for Lakewood Theatre Company. "Presenting these readings by established and emerging artists is one of the most exciting aspects of our mission to inspire and nurture the arts."

Many productions feature more than one showing. Tickets are $10 and festival passes are available for $50, which allow admission to as many performances as attendees want to see. Tickets can be purchased at the door and by calling 1-800-494-8497. If using a festival pass, reservations must be made for each performance, to ensure there's enough seating. To view the complete schedule and purchase tickets, visit pdxplaywrights.org/wp/fertile-ground-2017.

The works the Lakewood Theatre Company will present are:

  • Jan. 21, 2 p.m. — "Shot in the Back before Christmas" by Ron Lee, directed by Cynthia Whitcomb. The preview notes read: "When English detective novelist Jonathan Jones comes into a California beach house rental that seems too good to be true, it may be because the previous owner was killed there and his ghost tricked Jones into coming to help him solve his own murder. The suspects are a colorful collection of quirky characters in the tradition of theatrical farce. Murder, mystery, mayhem and merriment abound."

    "This is a silly play, it doesn't mean anything, it's a farce," Whitcomb says.

    Lee is a playwright from Liverpool, England. His play "Under the Yew Tree" was read at Lakewood in 2016, as part of the Fertile Ground Festival. His play "Dearly Beloved" was part of a short play event at Portland Center Stage in October 2016.

    Whitcomb is a seasoned playwright and Fertile Ground participant. She has written roles for Jason Robards, Kevin Spacey, Ellen Burstyn, Anjelica Huston, Martin Sheen and Gena Rowlands. Her play "Looking-Glass," co-authored with Michael Sutton, was produced Off Broadway. And "Holidazed," co-authored by Marc Acito, was produced at Artists Repertory in 2008 and 2009, and nominated for the Angus Bowmer Award. "The Seven Wonders of Ballyknock" premiered on the Lakewood stage in February 2015.

  • Jan. 22, 2 p.m. — "Wings of Fire," with book and lyrics by Hayley Green and music and lyrics by Austin Green. The Greens recently moved to the Portland area from New York City, where they both had successful careers in the performing arts. "Wings of Fire" was inspired by historic accounts of the notorious Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in 1911. This new musical theater work in-development shares an intimate perspective of this tragic event. The story follows a sisterhood of young immigrant women as they try to achieve the American dream in New York City at the turn of the century.

    For the musical, the Greens used music from the era, but updated it with contemporary methods.

    "The music is written for acoustic guitar, piano and violin," Hayley Green said. "Wings of Fire" has been produced as staged readings in New York City, Washington, D. C. and as a crew show onboard Disney Cruise Lines.

  • Jan. 24, 7 p.m. — "Scars" written by Richard Berg, adaptation by Roccie Hill with Laurence Overmire, directed by Nancy McDonald and Overmire.

    "Scars" is a dramatic play in one act about one of the most debilitating mental health issues of our time, posttraumatic stress, or PTSD. Based on intimate conversations with courageous men and women who have served in combat, this is a story that opens minds and hearts to what they endure in war, and the trials soldiers endure when they return home.

    "I gave these interviews a great deal of thought and research," said Berg, an ordained priest who is the chaplain at Mary's Woods Retirement Community in Lake Oswego. "Clearly, we are dealing with more than the wounds of war here. Wounds heal. Scars remain."

    The audience's reaction at a table reading showed the power of the topic, and how impactful McDonald and Overmire's treatment could be. Berg said the play is intense; it is intended for audiences ages 16 and older. The performance will be followed by a discussion.

    Overmire is a playwright and actor; he has appeared on Broadway in "Amadeus," off Broadway with the New York Shakespeare Festival and other companies and on TV soap operas "All My Children" and "Loving." He is an internationally known poet and author.

    Director Nancy McDonald is currently directed Lakewood Theatre's production of "Murder on the Nile." She studied directing with Nagle Jackson, former artistic director of the McCarter Theatre at Princeton, and with Michael Parva at The Directors Company in New York. She was a founder of Shakespeare Stage Company in New York, and after moving to Hollywood, founded The Writer's Lab, where she directed new scripts, and worked with prominent actors. She teaches adult acting classes at Lakewood Center for the Arts.

  • Jan. 28, 2 p.m. — Enjoy Young Playwrights Festival, with works by Nikolas John Alves, Meghan Mueller, Haley Phillips and Natalie Schur.

    These high school playwrights were selected to work with professional directors and actors to gain insight, experience and feedback to develop their plays. Through a series of workshops, the teens learn and discover how to hone their playwriting skills. The culmination of the process is to experience the audience response at this presentation of their work.

    Alves, a senior at Clackamas High School, will present "Love Does," a drama about family dynamics. Will and his wife Sarah come home for the holidays, but the couple is unable to avoid the nagging question, "When are you starting a family?" "Love Does" explores the pressures of this monumental decision. Alves hopes the audience will recognize that "family comes first."

    Mueller, a senior at Jesuit High School and resident of Wilsonville, will present "Ruby's," a play she has dedicated to her friend Ruby. It's a comedy about the lengths two shop boys at Ruby's Market will go to get the attention of two beautiful girls who walk in during a terrible storm.

    "I hope it captures her spirit that everyone who knew her grew to love," Mueller says.

    Phillips is a senior at Oregon City High School, and enjoys all aspects of the theater, from acting to costuming. Her play, "50 Point Word Score for your Soul," is a comedy about a competitive father and son that asks the question "What would you give to win at family game night?"

    Phillips says she was pleased that her sense of humor came across effectively in her play, as, "It's hard to translate humor."

    Schur is a senior at Jesuit and lives in Portland. Her dramatic piece is titled "Work in Progress" and explores a slice of family life around the dinner table, where everyone has their own agenda. She became interested in playwriting and theater after taking a creative writing course and had a play she wrote produced in her school's playwriting festival.

    YPF Program Director Megan Kate Ward is the former artistic/literary assistant for Portland Center Stage and served as festival producer for JAW: A Playwrights Festival and founded, produced and directed PCS's monthly reading series Now Hear This.

    Lakewood Center for the Arts is located at 368 S. State St. in Lake Oswego. People intending to purchase festival passes (allowing admission to all events for a cost of $50) can purchase them at Lakewood Center. Lakewood Center receives $20 of each pass sold.

    Contact Lake Oswego Review and West Linn Tidings reporter Barb Randall at 503-636-1281 ext. 100 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..