Fertile Ground opens this weekend
Fertile Ground performances start today.
Hosted by Portland Area Theatre Alliance the citywide festival of new works is now in its 11th year, and features dozens of "acts of creation" that bubble and catalyze yearlong in Portland.
Fertile Ground aspires to increase the appreciation of Portland's lush creative culture with the works of artist projects spawned here in native soil.
The festival runs Jan. 30 through Feb. 9 at venues throughout the Portland metro area, including Lakewood Center for the Arts, 368 S. State St. in Lake Oswego.
Lakewood Theatre Company will present the Young Playwrights Festival (YPF) taking place at 2 p.m. Feb. 1.
YPF is a collection of one-act plays by high school playwrights who have been selected to work with professional directors and actors to gain insight, experience and feedback to develop their plays. The group is led by Program Director Megan Ward Stevens, who has been directing and producing plays in Portland for more than a dozen years.
"This year we present the works of four female writers," said Stevens. "All of them are really strong. Two of them are new to the program but Emily and Aishwarya who are returning playwrights are very talented and have been good guides for the others."
The teens began working on their plays in October, and have been working with Stevens and other mentors since.
They meet with their casts near the end of the process, as the plays are presented as theatrical readings rather than finished productions.
All four women are seniors in high school, so Stevens says next year she will be working with all new playwrights in the program.
Returning for a third year as a YPF participant is Aishwarya Marathe presenting "Playdate," based on true incidents of child rape in India and Pakistan.
The play explores the nuances of humanity in journalism, the significance of truth and the need to transform victims into survivors.
Marathe said this play has been easier than others to write.
"In some sense it was easy because of the grave and somber topic," she said. "It is easy to the truth (behind the story). My mentors helped me understand what my play is trying to say. My goal was to start a conversation and bring awareness to the issue."
Emily Imanishi is the other returning playwright. She attends the Arts and Communication Magnet Academy in Beaverton and has raised the bar for herself.
"My first draft was a monologue and at the advice of my mentors I rewrote the whole thing to include interaction and now my third draft includes conversations and monologues."
She describes her play thus: "Our lives are built on memory, and it's those moments that shape our personalities, hopes, dreams and relationships.
But, what if that was all gone? (If) 11 years of life seemingly nonexistent? 'To Remember' explores this thought, as characters Evie and Richard deal with the effects and repercussions of how our lives change as we age."
Though new to YPF, Lana Sage is no stranger to LCT productions. She currently is cast as Gloria in "Wait Until Dark," and was in "Matilda, The Musical" this past summer.
She has been acting in films and commercials since she was seven. Sage is an early college student at Portland Community College.
Her play is titled "Once More" and is about a boy and a girl who can't let each other go, but when haunted by grief, what is there to hold onto?
"I like to see what the characters do (rather than write action for them)," she said. "A lot of my pieces are character driven, I am interested in the psychology of how and people work."
The final woman in the YPF is Jane Brinkley, a senior at South Eugene High School in Eugene. She met Marathe at a national playwright workshop in Los Angeles and learned about YPF through her. Her play is titled "The Body Keeps Score" and deals with girls at a gym who are getting ready for a competition. But when Maria comes back from summer camp nothing in her world is the same.
"The play is about the abuse of power and the lack of accountability," she said. She has enjoyed working with the Stevens and the other women playwrights in the YPF.
"This has been a very useful process," she said. "I've enjoyed working with the other young women. It's been positive all along. It is remarkable that it's all girls this year, and that we are all presenting plays that deal with women's issues. There is good diversity in the material."
Tickets to the YPF are $10 each.
Seasoned playwright C.S. Whitcomb will present a theatrical reading of her new play "The Ghost of David Belasco" at 2 p.m. Feb. 8 at Lakewood Center for the Arts.
"The Ghost of David Belasco" is a farce in the vein of "Noises Off" and "The Play That Goes Wrong."
Set in a haunted theatre in 1927, a group of interested characters hire a renowned Russian medium to try and lay the ghost's angry spirit to rest so the theatre can be safely reopened.
They successfully make contact with the long dead theatre impresario David Belasco, but from there things go hilariously astray, including freak lightning storms, murder and mayhem.
Will this historic theater be exorcised? Will the actual audience escape with their lives and sanity intact? We shall see.
"This is a super fun play with no great deeper meaning," Whitcomb said. "It is a play within a play, and I can guarantee the audience will have fun."
She said the cast includes "great actors who are right for the parts."
Whitcomb has presented several pieces at Fertile Grounds, and has had at least two world premieres at LTC including "The Seven Wonders of Ballyknock (2015) and "Parnassis on Wheels" (2018). She also wrote "Stoker" and "Santos" produced by Proscenium Live.
"Lear's Follies" was commissioned by Portland Shakespeare Project and had its world premiere, produced by them, at Artists Repertory.
She teaches screenwriting locally and takes a group of writers on a trans-Atlantic cruise every spring.
You can learn more online at cynthiawhitcomb.com.
Tickets to "The Ghost of David Belasco" are $15.
Lake Oswego storyteller John Wylder will present "Once In a Blue Moon," with fellow storywriters Barbara Fankhauser, Mike Goss and Anne-Louise Sterry Feb. 1, at Clinton Street Theater in Portland.
The program features stories of unexpected turns, oddities, peculiarities and rare, out-of-time moments.
Doors open at 7 p.m. and the show starts at 7:30 p.m. Tickets can be purchased online at cstpdx-com.seatengine.com.
Tickets for the Lakewood events can be purchased online at Lakewood-center.org.
To view the complete Fertile Ground schedule and purchase festival passes visit fertilegroundpdx.org.
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