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New year, new president, and, thanks to the Portland Area Theater Alliance (PATA), new drama. A year and a half in the making, the Fertile Ground festival gives theater buffs the chance to see twenty new plays—some opening their repertory runs, some still in the workshop stage—over a nine-day span. PATA developed this shindig to help create excitement and enthusiasm about fresh theatrical works ranging from the traditional to the experimental. To that end, Northwest Children’s Theater will unveil its ambitious jazz version of Alice in Wonderland, while Dirty Martini chanteuse Christine McKinley will put on her playwright’s cap with Artists Repertory Theatre for Gracie and the Atom, a musical (with accompanying album) about “life, death, and physics” in a Catholic girls’ school. To ensure that theatergoers spread the wealth, Fertile Ground has partnered with local bars and restaurants to make food and drink discounts available with a festival button. “If people see three plays, they might not like all of them, but they might like one of them,” said Trisha Pancio, new works chair for PATA. “Either way, we really want people to go out and talk about what they’ve just seen, so the night doesn’t end at the theater.”

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