Ernest Shackleton

Launch of the lifeboat James Caird from the shore of Elephant Island, April 24, 1916. Published in Shackleton's book, "South," William Heinemann, London 1919. Photo is probably by Frank Hurley, the expedition's photographer. Wikimedia Commons

It’s crazy-new time on Portland stages for the next few days: the annual Fertile Ground festival of new works is popping out dozens of new shows all across the city, putting on almost 200 performances of pieces ranging from A Noble Failure to Rapunzel –Uncut!

But this weekend I took a break from what’s new.

I wanted to see a guy standing alone on a bare stage, talking for three hours about another guy who did an extraordinary thing a long time ago.

The two guys are the great if semi-forgotten Antarctic explorer Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton and his ardent Portland champion, storyteller Lawrence Howard of Portland Story Theater.

Howard’s played this territory a couple of times before, creating a loyal following and helping to turn Shackleton into something of an unlikely local hero. On Friday, Shackleton’s Antarctic Nightmare: The True Story of the 1914 Voyage of the Endurance once again held an enthusiastic packed house at southeast Portland’s Hipbone Studio in rapt attention from beginning to end.

Three hours? You’re not supposed to be able to get away with that sort of thing. The contemporary solo show is a cut-to-the-bone thing – usually 90 minutes max, designed to wrap up before the audience’s patience runs out and the performer keels over in a dead faint.


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