Portland’s small theaters pass the hat

"Theater is not cheap." As seasons close, ledgers and wallets open.

As the 2013/14 theater season draws its curtains closed, you might think it’d be time for a vacation…but theater budgets don’t take a summer break. For small theaters, whenever it’s not play time, it’s back to the budget crunch: wooing donors, wangling trades and services, and generally figuring out how to make next season (in this case, 2014/15) meet its goals.

“Theater’s not cheap to do, but we can’t stop doing it,” remarks Corrib Theatre’s artistic director Gemma Whalen, sitting down (below right in photo) to a burrito…


Gemma Whalen, Jody Pollak, and friends wrap up a “Hen Night Epiphany” cast meet-and-greet and Corrib Theatre fundraiser at La Bonita.

Corrib Theatre’s Mexican Dinner, May 23

It’s not often that Mexican and Irish culture get together, but at her company’s fundraiser at North Portland’s La Bonita, Whalen cites two prior instances: when Saint Patrick’s Battalion, an Irish regiment, fought for the Mexican side in the Mexican-American War, and when (much later) Whalen herself cheekily marched in San Francisco’s Saint Patty’s Day parade wearing that Battalion’s  uniform.

Now, she’ll add the time when this particular Mexican food subsidized Irish theater. Coordinated by Whalen and business owner/Milagro associate Joaquin Lopez, the dinner seems part of a growing bond between Portland’s ethno-specific theater companies. Corrib recently screened a film at the Jewish Museum. The Jewish Theatre Collaborative spent its first season under the roof of the Latino Miracle Theater Group. Now a Miracle member donates 20 percent of his evening’s profits to Corrib, completing a circle.

Since its inception last spring, Corrib’s quickly gained a following among Ire-o-philes and tied itself in with Irish-themed businesses. Kell’s Irish Pub has happily hosted two of the company’s staged readings (St. Nicholas and A Night In November), while Maher’s in Lake Oswego and Jenny’s Irish Tours are newer supporters. In the current climate of ART’s Playboy of the Western World and Third Rail’s The Beauty Queen of Leenane, Corrib soundly concludes that “Portland loves Irish theater.”

Now, how to leverage that love…? As the company moves from staged readings into its first full production, Jimmy Murphy’s The Hen Night Epiphany, it faces new costs: renting CoHo Theatre and promoting enough to fill a total of 1,400 seats. Paying a crew of designers and a cast of five actors, three of whom are Equity. “We need to build a foundation,” acknowledges Whalen. Pointing to herself and producing associate Jody Pollak, she quips “Right now, you’re looking at Corrib.”

As the programming moves forward this fall, Corrib will also be building its board, researching grants, and finding new ways to generate and organize general operating funds. Anticipating a full plate of admin and planning, the theatrical diners tuck into their tortillas.

Donate to Corrib Theatre >>


Portland Playhouse’s Ongoing Raffle

Packages from Toro Bravo and Bishops Barber Shop, a basket of local Etsy crafters’ plush toys, and several more tempting prizes line the will-call hallway of Portland Playhouse, and After the Revolution audiences can place $5 raffle tickets in any of the prizes’ corresponding cups for a chance to win. “At this point in the run, you have the advantage,” said Artistic Director Brian Weaver. “You can see which items have the fewest tickets and the best odds.”

True enough, and with a charming child actor making the ticket sales pitch, it’s a hard gamble to resist. With no apparent online option for raffle entry, you’ll have to visit the physical space and rip a little red ticket the old-fashioned way.

Donate to Portland Playhouse >>


Action/Adventure’s Inspired By, May 24

When they’re not creating TV-style show series, the folks at Action/Adventure are masters of the variety showcase, routinely pulling together friends from different disciplines and scenes and creating (somewhat random) connections. Think of A/A’s annual fundraising showcase Inspired By as a sort of creative phone tree: A/A provided a prompt, “The Wrong Side of the Tracks,” to several of its favorite local writers. The writers produced snippets of flash fiction, which were then handed off to a) performance artists and b) visual artists, who generated their own works…you guessed it…inspired by the writing.

Portland Experimental Theater Ensemble experiments with lounge-lizardry at A/A's "Inspired By"

Portland Experimental Theater Ensemble experiments with lounge-lizardry at A/A’s “Inspired By”

At Saturday’s fundraiser, the resultant performances were presented, and the artworks were sold. Despite a common origin, the offerings were diverse, even diffuse: LiveWire Radio’s Jason Rouse played a keynote speaker at a convention hectored by his anxious private thoughts (broadcast in voice-overs). PQ Monthly’s TJ Acena made a star turn, submitting and reading two pieces. Horror novelist Chelsea Cain was there in spirit but not body, submitting a story that referenced the sleep drug Ambien.

“The Indoor Kids,” WERK Studios’ Jade Harris and Matthew Hopkins, spun Cain’s story into film short “I Am Bien,” featuring hilarious (and disturbing) re-enactments of real-life Ambien trips. Puppeteers from Tears of Joy transformed a dog and a hedgehog into urban panhandlers, a trio from Anon It Moves sang and danced to an original a capella composition. A/A also plugged this weekend’s Robinson Crusoe and announced the winner of its “Pilot Season“: Nick Fenster’s Mars One, a space-colonizing comedy. In short, maybe you had to be there.

But, wait, who was that videotaping? Win Goodbody, who also assists Corrib with communications. Another overlap.

During the semi-swanky cocktail gathering, there was also a silent auction of items on a par with Portland Playhouse’s raffle prizes: tickets to other theaters including Portland Playhouse, hair products from comedian/company member Bri Pruett’s mother’s Ladd’s Addition salon, Sei Bella; leather bags from Ellington.

Though it was a “pick” in several local publications, the event seemed mostly filled out by company members and showcase participants. As the program wound to a close, several auction items were under- or even un- bidden. “We made approximately 2k on the night,” reports A/A’s Noah Dunham. “Miles below what we were at last year. We’re considering it a success, though…the turnout was great and the performances/pieces were both entertaining and provoking.” Due to circumstances beyond A/A’s control, the show’s start time was pushed forward at the last minute from 8 to 9. “We believe that many of our larger donors may have been discouraged by the later time,” Dunham admits, “But upward and onward. Fundraising and development are going to be huge focuses for us in the next year.” Basically, A/A will need to refine its outreach to less-artistically active contributors with more spare money…but ’til then, in its tight group of luminaries, inspiration flows both ways: “Compared to band guys, theater people put a lot of effort into every little thing,” quipped noteworthy Builders and Butchers band guy Ryan Solee as he closed the show with a freshly-written song.

Donate to Action Adventure Theatre >>


Feeling generous? Here are more direct “donate” links for Portland’s vibrant small theater companies:

Theatre Vertigo >> | Shaking The Tree Theatre >> | Northwest Classical Theatre >> | Imago Theatre >> | Milagro Theatre >> | Jewish Theatre Collaborative >> | Portland Experimental Theatre Ensemble >> | Badass Theatre Company >>

6 Responses.

  1. Thanks for the article mention for Anon It Moves! We are also raising funds for our 2014 Summer Season! 🙂

  2. Noah Dunham says:

    Thank you so much for the comprehensive coverage of our event and helping us spread the word about our fundraising efforts!

    The donate link doesn’t work for some reason when it is cut and pasted away from our page so people might have more success by going here and then clicking the donate link:



  3. New Century Players Community Theatre is having a Gala Fundraiser on May 31st. Please come and join us!

  4. Portland’s Shakespeare-in-the-Parks company, Portland Actors Ensemble, is just gearing up to provide its 44th consecutive ssummer of free Shakespeare. There are many ways to help them grow this cherished Portland tradition.


  5. Oops. Make that 45th consecutive summer of free Shakespeare-in-the-Parks. (It only feels like 44.)

  6. Lynne Duddy says:

    When Portland Story Theater launches its 10th season this September, it will be in our new home, the Alberta Abbey, and we would so appreciate support from the community to help us make the move. We need lights, sound equipment, and staging. Please donate today at http://www.portlandstorytheater.com/support/support.htm

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