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'Gusbandry' is antidote to post-election stress
Alicia J. Rose is the epitome of a Portland artist — if there is such a thing.
She's been going at it — that is, ferociously making art — in the City of Roses since she scooped up a house in 1998 in the Sabin neighborhood for dirt-cheap by today's standards.
She's a photographer, a writer, a filmmaker, the list goes on. She plays accordion in a band called Moon Tiger. (Next show is Nov. 9 at Holocene.)
But Rose's most recent project is the second season of an online series called "The Benefits of Gusbandry" — a show about a woman tired of traditional dating life, deciding instead to enter into a platonic relationship with her best gay friend, also known as a "gusband."
The first season was praised by The New York Times, and the second season, three episodes, debuts online Nov. 7. Find out more: thebenefitsofgusbandry.com.
Lately Rose has been helping make commercials for Killer Burger and making headway on two other feature projects — including a show based on her 20 years in the Portland and San Francisco music business.
But she's also trying to get backing for "The Benefits of Gusbandry" by Seed&Spark, a crowdfunding and streaming platform for filmmakers. Next stop, hopefully, is Netflix.
The Tribune caught up with Rose to pick her brain about "Gusbandry" and other topics:
Tribune: Tell me about season two of "The Benefits of Gusbandry." What themes are you tackling and why?
Rose: Well Courtenay Hameister, my co-writer, and I sat down after the new year this year, after the election and after like sort of peeling ourselves off the floor. We crowdfunded the show literally like the week after the election, which was maybe the hardest thing I had ever done in my life. We somehow got through it and then took a break and then came back to it in the new year and were like, OK, what are we going to write?
You know, I had ideas for these particular episodes in my head for a while. Especially "STD Day," when they wind up at Planned Parenthood.
And you know, I think post-election, in that sort of dysphoria of what's reality now, it wound up being perfect.
Tribune: You mention the election. What's life been like lately under President Donald Trump?
Rose: Well, you know, I mean for all of us we're stressed out a little bit every day. But I have a little platform with "Gusbandry." Just a little one, it's not the biggest one in the world, but you know what, we're going to use it.
I think in a time like this where we're all trying to get through by day by day with this overarching cloud of sociopathic narcissistic [expletive] that's weirdly being normalized in our society ... oddly, I was already looking at some of those themes in "Gusbandry" even in season one, but I think it's just come to bear in season two.
I mean what do you do? This is a woman's point of view show. Of course, it's also a gay man's point of view, but two women write it. So at the end of the day, we're scared, but you know, what a great way to sort of share our feelings and relate to our audience and our community and have a laugh at all of our own expenses together. Because if we can't laugh at it, what can we do?
The other part of my coping mechanism is my art. I think I've heard from a lot of artists. I think we're all feeling the same way, like thank God for art.
Tribune: How would you describe Portland's art scene now?
Rose: We're blessed in Portland. We're making art in the dark basements of the winter, and we emerge like phoenixes from the nasty gray ashes.
I've spent over 20 years in the music business collectively. So for me, I love the music scene in Portland, though I think there's something more, not small town, but more homespun than say a huge city. That kind of plays into how I see the art scene and the film scene, too. I think no matter what community you're in, whether it's music, or art, or film, there's something amazing about Portland's community of collaboration. Unlike Los Angeles, which I think is an extremely opportunistic culture, and New York, which is a very privilege-based culture. ... In Portland, really smart, really talented people are sometimes just looking for really interesting things to do. And we all support each other with the paid gigs and the ones that are more labors of love.
Tribune: There's been that narrative that it's become more difficult for artists to live in Portland. Do you see that at all?
Rose: Well, I think that based on rent prices alone and real estate prices alone, yes. I went to this event last night, the 100th-episode anniversary of "The Future of What" (podcast) at Holocene. All these different artists were talking about that exact topic.
You know this town needs to be affordable to maintain its status as an incredible artistic hub. One benefit is that many people like me have lived here for a long time and bought houses when they were actually cheap and realistic to buy. So we live here, there's a base, and that's impressive. But we have to work really, really hard to maintain that livability and affordability for artists.
Tribune: How would you describe dating in Portland? Do you have a significant other?
Rose: Well, at the moment I'd say I'm dating/not dating my gusband. The show is real — it's based on my real life.
The last year or so I've pulled myself off all internet dating. With the nature of politics and everything going on I can't, it's just too complicated. I had to take an online dating holiday. So I've just been dealing with real life, and interesting things come from real life. But on a general level, I'm single. But I'm absolutely relying on my gusband. I think one important thing with this show with my point of view, it's not about finding a partner, it's about finding yourself. That's what gusbandry is about. It's not about filling the hole of not having a husband. It's not about fulfilling our parents' dreams or societies' imaginings, or what a woman is or a man is.
It's about loving yourself and making sure you're healthy for you. I think gusbandry for me really came from that place.