Elliot a Soldier’s Fugue

Spotlight on Anthony Lam

One actor, one character, three plays: fellow actor Bobby Bermea profiles the star of Quiara Alegría Hudes' war trilogy at Profile Theatre

Anthony Lam has an infectious and generous spirit, and a high motor both as a person and a performer: everything he does, he does with an intense energy. A relatively new actor to the Portland theater scene, he’s a family man – he and his wife, Kimberly, have three kids; Nolan, 7, and the twins, Lilah and Alice, 4. He loves the stage (“That’s what I trained for. I trained on stage. I always knew upon graduation that I was always going to look for work on the stage.”) but the majority of his work, how he pays his bills and supports his family, is in TV and film.

It makes sense. He was born and bred in southern California and he’s TV/movie handsome, the product of Nicaraguan, Chinese and Spanish genes. Though he lost touch with his father, his grandfather was a central figure in his life, and Anthony kept the name Lam to honor him.

Anthony Lam, relaxing offstage. Photo: Bobby Bermea

I met Lam only recently, because he is the lead (along with Crystal Ann Muñoz) of the show I’m currently working on, Quiara Alegría Hudes’ Pulitzer Prize winning Water by the Spoonful, which is running through Nov. 19 in rotating repertory with The Happiest Song Plays Last at Profile Theatre. Water is the middle play in a trilogy – Elliott: A Soldier’s Fugue, Water by the Spoonful and Happiest Song – that follows a Puerto Rican family from north Philadelphia whose fate and fortunes are inextricably tied up in the U.S. military. The men of the family fight the wars. The women protest them and heal the wounds that are the result. Hudes weaves a beautiful, tragic, angry, and funny tapestry of lives, through which the one continuous thread is the character of Elliott Ortiz, who is played by Anthony Lam.

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A stage for veterans’ stories

Profile's "Elliot" trilogy tells the tale of a soldier's difficult return. On the same stage Monday, real-life vets' own stories will be told.

By SEAN DAVIS

What do an 82nd Airborne infantry Afghanistan War veteran and an Ivy League educated, Pulitzer Prize winning dramatist have in common? Both have works being featured onstage by Profile Theatre over Veterans’ Day weekend. In fact, multiple veterans and veterans’ family members will have their words read on stage by professional actors on Monday, Nov. 13. And Profile Theatre is producing two award-winning plays by Quiara Alegría Hudes and holding an exclusive speaking event with the playwright herself on Nov. 18. This is the culmination of an eight-month collaboration among Profile, the Writers Guild Initiative, and several veterans’ groups around Portland.

Cast of “Elliot: A Soldier’s Fugue,” which began Profile’s “Elliot” trilogy in February: Cristi Miles, Anthony Lam, Jimmy Garcia, Anthony Green. Photo: David Kinder

As the focus of its 2017 season, Profile presented Quiara Alegría Hudes’ award-winning “Elliot” Trilogy: Elliot, A Soldier’s Fugue, the Pulitzer Prize winning Water By The Spoonful, and The Happiest Song Plays Last. The Elliot in the “Elliot Trilogy” is a Marine combat veteran who survived his soul-wrenching experiences at war and tries to integrate back into the society he left. The plays are also about how both physical and mental injuries suffered in combat can echo through the generations, and how families are affected by the trauma.

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ArtsWatch Weekly: and all that jazz

Portland Jazz Festival joins the parade of arts festivals in town; a new "Swan Lake" flies at Oregon Ballet

If it’s Tuesday, this must be Festival Town. (And Valentine’s Day. Don’t forget Valentine’s Day.) Three film celebrations – the Portland Black Film Festival, the Cascadia Festival of African Films, and the big-kahuna 40th annual Portland International Film Festival – are still spooling out stories on screens around town.

And on Thursday the PDX Jazz Festival 2017 roars into action with a packed program through February 26 arranged loosely around an homage to jazz centurions Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, and Buddy Rich, each born in 1917. Things kick off Thursday with a blast of Branford Marsalis, a thump of bass virtuoso Thundercat, and more, and the festival continues with the likes of the fabulous Heath Brothers, The Yellowjackets, and more. It’s not all old-style and it’s not all new, but a healthy-looking blend of tradition and exploration.

ArtsWatch’s Brett Campbell offers tips for this week’s shows, beginning with Thursday’s Marsalis quartet appearance “with the great jazz singer Kurt Elling, Maria Schneider’s orchestra and Ralph Peterson’s trio in separate shows Friday, the hip jazz-rock fusion band Kneebody and the old-school all-star band The Cookers on Saturday. On Sunday, you have a choice of pop jazzers the Yellowjackets with Mike Stern, avant jazz guitar deity James ‘Blood’ Ulmer, or rising piano star Aminca Claudine Myers (or see all three!).”

2017 PDX Jazz Fest honoree Dizzy Gillespie, at Deauville, France, July 1991. Photo: Roland Godefroy/Wikimedia Commons

In his preview PDX Jazz Festival: Signs of Life, Campbell sets the table more completely, talking about the state of jazz in Portland and internationally. Here’s just a taste of what he has to say:

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‘Elliot’: a fertile seed, growing

"A Soldier's Fugue," The opening salvo in Profile Theatre's season of plays by Quiara Alegria Hudes, plants the promise of bigger things

One of the most striking bits of information you’ll encounter if you go to see Profile Theatre’s production of Elliot, a Soldier’s Fugue is dropped offhandedly into a program note by artistic director Josh Hecht, who mentions that “there are currently 21.8 million veterans in the United States.” That’s around seven percent of us, as if we’d sent the whole state of Florida, say, off to war — or the entire Northwest plus a chunk of Northern California. Or, to put it in terms that might hit home to 19-year-old Elliot Ortiz, serving in Iraq with the 1st Marine Division, that’s three and a half times the population of greater Philadelphia.

In any case, it’s quite a figure for a nation that thinks of itself as peace-loving, or at least peace-keeping; a peaceful nation ever at war.

Cristi Miles, Anthony Lam (in fatigues), Jimmy Garcia, Anthony Green (far right) in “Elliot.” Photo: David Kinder

The bulk of those veterans still around served in either Iraq, Vietnam or Korea: places — or do we think of them merely as conflicts — that serve as the generational benchmarks for Quiara Alegria Hudes’ play, which was first produced (in a slightly different version) at Portland’s Miracle Theatre in 2005. Inspired by the Iraq War experiences of her own cousin, Hudes presents three generations of men in the same family, examining what they made of their time at war and what that time made of them.

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