The big weekend, Portland Opera’s 50th year, much more

We link to the weekend's shows, pounce on the opera's 5-production season, and gather various and sundry

"The Rake's Progress" will be part of Portland Opera's 50th season./© Alastair Muir

“The Rake’s Progress” will be part of Portland Opera’s 50th season./© Alastair

Of course it was a busy weekend on the theater front, the first of many as companies reload their theater chambers for the Second Season, and yes, I’m already sorry for that gun metaphor. How is a play like a bullet?

What does the New Reviewing look like? It seeks to understand and integrate, not sit in judgment, for one. And so you get Bob Hicks writing about two important plays that opened this weekend, Chinglish at Portland Center Stage and Eyes for Consuela at Profile Theatre, in a way that links the two with each other and with a prominent cultural “character,” the Ugly American.

Meanwhile, AL Adams and Mr. Hicks combined to project the upcoming Fertile Ground new work festival through their “speed-dating” preview event. Dinner and a performance, anyone. And Adams reviewed CoHo’s Enjoy, a translation of a play about Japanese hipster/slackers.

Why do we need New Reviewing? Well, I attempted to talk about that a little bit in a previous post that’s gotten a lot of attention, “A vote for re-inventing arts journalism”: I link to it just so you can give it a read if you want to get caught up.

We’ll close this links section of our report with an avenue to Tom Hallman Jr.’s profile of actor Wendy Westerwelle and her new Triangle Productions one-woman show, Medicare-fully Fabulous. Maybe you had to see Westerwelle back in the day at Storefront Theatre to begin to come to terms with how deliciously subversive she can be, but Hallman’s account of her recent medical struggles is really well done.

OK, now on to more news and notes!


Historically speaking (and we so love to speak historically!), the Portland Opera is the first major arts group to announce its next season to the public. We so love it when history holds true to form!

The opera’s 2014-15 season will be its 50th anniversary season, so General Director Christopher Mattaliano has gone with gusto and five productions. “Our 2014/15 Season represents all that is best in opera and musical theater: compelling stories of comedy, drama, and romance told through great music; outstanding performers led by internationally renowned conductors and directors; splendid scenery and captivating costumes in five productions that are new to Portland.”

  • Die Fledermaus, Keller Auditorium, November 7, 9, 13 & 15, 2014: The Portland Opera started its life with Johan Strauss II’s romantic comedy on December 11, 1964, in the Madison High School auditorium.
  • Carmen, Keller Auditorium, February 6, 8, 10, 12 & 14, 2015: Sandra Piques Eddy plays the tempestuous title role in Georges Bizet’s great, ground-breaking opera.
  • Show Boat, Keller Auditorium, May 1, 3, 5, 7 & 9, 2015: The Portland Opera will stage Hal Prince’s justly famous 1994 staging of the Jerome Kern-Oscar Hammerstein III musical.
  • The Rake’s Progress, Keller Auditorium, June 11, 12 & 14, 2015: Igor Stravinsky, inspired by Mozart’s Don Giovanni, built his only opera on the narrative skeleton of Hogarth’s eight-painting series of the same name. This one has sets by artist David Hockney.
  • The Elixer of Love, Newmark Theatre, July 17, 19, 23, 25 & 30, August 1, 2015: The season concludes with the opera’s chamber presentation featuring its resident artists in the 880-seat Newmark, Gaetano Donizetti’s romance, which here will moved to the American West.

Tickets are now available through the Portland Opera website.


Portland Playhouse’s Jitney will populate August Wilson’s play with a crackerjack cast, led by Oregon Shakespeare Festival star Kevin Kennerly and Portland Center Stage favorite Rodney Hicks. Here director G. Valmont Thomas discusses the production.


Playwrights West, the illustrious gathering of mostly Portland playwrights, has joined forces with Artists Repertory Theatre for a series of new play readings this winter and spring, Flash Reads. The first two on the schedule are part of Fertile Ground.

Calumnies, by Ellen Margolis, 7:30 pm January 27: Based on a true story (and set in my neck of the woods, Frankfort, Kentucky, in the 1820s), Calumnies follows backwoods beauty Olivia Burke’s ill-starred romance with a local politician and a would-be knight in shining armor.

Carter Hall, by Claire Willett, 7:30 pm January 28: Willett’s fairytale of a play unspools to the music of Steeleye Span as the heroes track down a missing child in the fairy underworld.

In other Playwrights West news, the group (Debbie Lamedman, Karin Magaldi, Ellen Margolis, Aleks Merilo, Steve Patterson, Andrea Stolowitz, Andrew Wardenaar, Claire Willett, Patrick Wohlmut, and Matthew B. Zrebski) has announced a new member, Aleks Merilo, whose Exit 27 (at the Landing Theatre) was named 2013’s Best New Play for Houston by Broadway World.


Read more by Barry Johnson.

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