The Snowstorm

Drammys: ‘Snowstorm,’ ‘Mary Poppins,’ lots of love

Portland theater's annual awards party turns into a love-in Monday night, with a special award for Miracle Theatre and a lifetime honor for Tobias Andersen

The 37th annual Drammy Awards, Portland’s celebration of the best and brightest in the year’s theater scene, hit the Newmark Theatre Monday night like a roller coaster of love – for stage managers and dressers and designers, for directors and writers, for the whole crazy game of theater and the people who are held happily hostage by it.

The Snowstorm, Eric Nordin and Jessica Wallenfels’ ambitious original combination of theater, music, and dance that came out of this spring’s Fertile Ground new-works festival, took three awards, including the coveted best production Drammy, and by the crowd reaction, was an immensely popular choice. It was produced by CoHo Productions and Many Hats Collaborations.

Beth Thompson as Bear in best-production winner "The Snowstorm"; mask by Tony Fummeler. Photo: Brud Giles

Beth Thompson as Bear in best-production winner “The Snowstorm”; mask by Tony Fummeler. Photo: Brud Giles

But if any single show dominated the evening, it was a musical by a children’s theater company. As it did in the PAMTA musical-theater awards two weeks ago, Northwest Children’s Theater’s high-flying Mary Poppins swept up in the musicals categories, taking seven awards, including best musical production, direction of a musical (Sarah Jane Hardy, who also took the choreography award), and actor in a musical (John Ellingson, who also won for his Mary Poppins prop design). The show’s large cast and crew stayed in shape hustling onstage multiple times, to loud applause. Hardy spoke passionately about the Portland way of doing children’s theater, which, she said, is to have lots of children as opposed to all adult actors in the shows, and Ellingson gave moving tribute to his husband for his support, remarking that he hoped it would be the last time such a comment would be viewed as a political statement.

Northwest Children's Theatre's "Mary Poppins" dominated the musical-theater awards. Photo: David Kinder

Northwest Children’s Theater’s “Mary Poppins” dominated the musical-theater awards. Photo: David Kinder

After years at the Crystal Ballroom and, before that, at the Benson Hotel, the Drammys moved uptown into the 870-seat Newmark, a hall that provided a touch of class and put the theater awards in an actual theater. If the atmosphere cut back on some of the evening’s trademark rowdiness, it also made hearing from the audience much easier, and gave the evening a grown-up feel. Emcee Dan Murphy kept the crowd titillated with a dizzying succession of costume changes, each time emerging from the wings like a Cher impersonator in a bargain Nevada casino lounge. At one point he and presenter Olga Sanchez, artistic director of Miracle Theatre, showed up onstage in nearly identical electric-blue evening gowns. Sanchez took the style award, Murphy the comedy crown.


Groovin’ Greenhouse: where the dance is

Polaris hosts the biggest dance slice (but not the only one) of the Fertile Ground new works festival. Here's what's coming up.

Groovin’ Greenhouse, hosted by Polaris Dance Theater as part of the larger Fertile Ground festival of new works, is prime territory for festival dance followers, a sort of festival within the festival. It will showcase eight new works by emerging and established Portland-area dance companies, January 22-31 at Polaris’s in-house black box studio theater at 1501 SW Taylor St. Other significant dance projects are debuting during the festival, too, including Eric Nordin and Jessica Wallenfels’ The Snowstorm, which has already developed significant buzz, and Northwest Children’s Theatre’s The Jungle Book, which incorporates traditional Indian dance by Anita Menon.

Groovin' Greenhouse host company, Polaris Dance Theatre.

Groovin’ Greenhouse host company, Polaris Dance Theatre.

At Groovin’ Greenhouse:

Polaris Dance Theater, Jan, 22, 23, 24, 29, 30, 31 @ 7:30pm

The Greenhouse’s host company will be performing a new work and score by Artistic Director Robert Guitron.

Automal, Jan. 29, 31 @ 7:30pm

Automal, a newish dance company directed by choreographer Kate Rafter, will be performing Graft, a primordial piece that involves Silly Putt and, explores symmetry in nature, replication, recycling and interconnection. Performers include Ross Calhoun, Kate Rafter, Sara Himmelman, Lauren Vermilion, Paris Cannon, and Ella Matweyou. Music will be made up of covers, arrangements, remixes and originals from Bjork’s 2007 Volta album, in addition to a commissioned rearrangement by Juliet Gordon.

Muddy Feet Contemporary Dance, Jan. 23, 24 @ 7:30pm

Muddy Feet Contemporary Dance, co-founded and directed by Suzanne Chi and Rachel Slater, is brand new to the Portland dance scene. It has commissioned a duet, The Servant, by Tracy Durbin, depicting the complexities of sisterly bonds. Also premiering is Slater’s West Rising Sun. Joined by Eliza Larson, the dancers pose the question, “What is happiness?” Joining Muddy Feet will be WolfBird Dance in an excerpt from its upcoming piece, Your Backwash is Better than Nothing.The Directors, Choreographers and Performers are Selina DiPronio and Raven Jones.

Art in Progress: Choreographers Collective, Jan 30 @ 7:30pm

Art in Progress is a collective of dancers and choreographers inspiring each other to create.The dances are generated by every member and brought to life collaboratively. Company Members include: Adrienne Kirk, Beca Rasch, Dustin Brown, Frieda Carlsen, Kelly Koltiska, and Rachel Swanson.

 Fanina Padykula, Heather Henna Louise and Emilie Lauren, Portland Bellydance Guild.

Fanina Padykula, Heather Henna Louise and Emilie Lauren, Portland Bellydance Guild.

The Portland Bellydance Guild, Jan. 24 @ 7:30pm

Elise Morris, director and president of The Portland Bellydance Guild, has brought together 18 dancers in four styles of belly dance. Playing off the light-and-shadow concept of chiaroscuro, they will represent folkloric, cabaret, tribal and tribal fusion styles. This newly formed guild hopes to unite Portland’s bellydancing community, promote artistic excellence, and demonstrate that belly dance in America can mean many different things.

PDX Dance Collective, Jan. 23, 24 @ 7:30pm

Cycle and Seek choreographed by Hannah Downs in collaboration with the members of the PDX Dance Collective, explores the way in which humans repeatedly run up against their own barriers.

Polaris Jr. Company, Jan. 21, 31 @ 7:30pm

Polaris Dance Theater’s second company, Polaris Jr., will perform works by Jr. Company Director M’Liss Stephenson and guest choreographer Gerard Regot. These works-in-progress will be performed in full in May.

NW Fusion Dance Company, Jan, 30 @ 7:30pm

Directed by Brad Hampton, this pre-professional dance company will perform new works by Elizabeth Bressler, Lauren Edson, and Mahina Moon exploring a range of music from the ’80s to opera.

Dance happenings in the larger Fertile Ground Festival

The Jungle Book, Jan. 31-March 1

The Jungle Book, at Northwest Children’s Theater, is adapted by Anita Menon, Sarah Jane Hardy, and John Ellingson, and directed by Hardy. Through the fusion of traditional Indian dances and western theater, this original adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s tales of Mowgli, the boy raised in the wild, is fantastically formed, with dancing wolves and high-energy Bollywood feats.

"The Snowstorm," at CoHo Theatre.

“The Snowstorm,” at CoHo Theatre.

The Snowstorm, Jan. 16-Feb 7

The Snowstorm is written by Eric Nordin, and directed and choreographed by Jessica Wallenfels, with musical direction and piano performance by Nordin. Presented by CoHo Production & Many Hats Collaboration, this physical theater production combines the classical piano music of Rachmaninoff, classical romance, puppetry and masks. Early audiences have been giving it rave reviews.

CoLevity in That’s How We Roll, Jan 24, 25, 31 @ 5 p.m., Feb 1 at 1 p.m.

Choreography is by the CoLevity Performance Group: Cami Curtis, Stephan Diaz, Hilary Hart and Blake Seidel. The company describes That’s How We Roll as satire in dance form, loosely based on the premise of an eccentric blend of characters in a large happy/unhappy family and told through dance, song, and spoken word.

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