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  • 31 Oct 2014

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Theater spawns arts campus

Artists Rep now houses eight groups under one roof


A distinctive red building at Southwest 15th Avenue and Morrison Street will be bustling with activity from now on.

Artists Repertory Theatre has always wanted to bring in other arts organizations to inhabit the 80,000-square-foot space, and the effort gained momentum with the hiring of Artistic Director Damaso Rodriguez. The result: Eight companies call Artists Rep home.

“I look at this like we have a little hub,” Rodriguez says. “We’ve been more aggressive about (expansion) this year. The focus of the building is to serve as many arts organization as we can.

“With all the residents, nobody’s in direct competition. Everybody’s mission is to be cooperative and not competitive. Everyone pursues their missions aggressively without stepping on each other’s toes,” he says.

Recent arrivals to the building are Profile Theatre, Polaris Dance Theatre, The Red Door Project and Traveling Lantern Theatre Company. Artists Rep continues relationships with the Portland Shakespeare Project, Portland Revels and Portland Area Theatre Alliance.

Three of them are performance-based inhabitants — Portland Shakespeare scheduled two summer plays; Profile relocated administrative offices and begins its 16th season profiling Sam Shepard’s work in January; Traveling Lantern began weekly Saturday morning performances of interactive theater for children on Aug. 17.

“For Profile, it’s really exciting that we had this space and needed to fill the main stages,” Rodriguez says. “We wanted to reduce the amount of dark time, and Profile lost its space. It was like a perfect moment that happened quickly.”

Four others keep offices at Artists Rep: Polaris Dance, which plans to continue to perform at its space at Southwest 15th Avenue and Taylor Street; Portland Area Theatre Alliance; Portland Revels, which will continue to produce at the Scottish Rite building across the street; and The Red Door Project.

“Polaris is a company that I wasn’t familiar with, but it’s a significant organization,” Rodriguez says. “It worked out that they didn’t need performance space, but office space, an administrative residency.”

What about the future?

“We’re pretty close to full,” Rodriguez says. “Who knows what ideas can come up that will maximize the facility.

“Where it goes from here, I don’t know about full residences. I still think there’s room for partnerships. We haven’t done much in the way of co-productions. That could be in the future, after we figure out how to comfortably pursue our own missions, we can find ways to work together to expand our resources. Maybe eventually the sets get built by sharing our resources, whether with storage or sharing crew. I can see it going in that direction.”

Rodriguez says there is other activity at the building that is “one-off,” where plenty of other groups rent space on a more limited basis for acting classes and rehearsals.