With the end of June comes the end of the 2013/14 season for most of the local arts organizations. We want to end on a cliffhanger: a look forward to what’s in store for the next year of Portland theater, music, and dance. You’ve got plenty of time to enjoy the summer, of course, but it’s not too early to get excited for fall (or get a season subscription to your favorite company).
Sept 9–Oct 5
In the Pulitzer Prize–winning Lynn Nottage’s most celebrated play, a young African American woman travels to New York in 1905 and pursues her dreams of independence by becoming a seamstress and crafting lingerie for both midtown shops and downtown brothels.
Sept 30–Oct 26
Six Cuban refugees trapped in a small boat adrift at sea after a storm are forced to confront tensions between themselves and their pasts in the Northwest premiere of this play from Cuban playwright and television actor Carlos Lacamara, who left Cuba himself during the Revolution.
Nov 25–Dec 21
There’s more than one play about ghosts that theaters can produce during the holidays: in this spectral 1941 comedy by Noël Coward, a socialite invites an eccentric clairvoyant to his house only for the woman to summon the ghost of his irritable first wife. Season’s greetings!
Feb 3–Mar 1
Through the story of a deaf man raised by hearing parents who meets a hearing woman born to deaf parents, and consequently is introduced to the deaf community, this British drama explores ways that “families,” both related and otherwise, pass down ideologies, hierarchies, and unique languages.
The Invisible Hand
Mar 10–Apr 5
Artist Rep postponed this tense political thriller not once but twice due difficulties attaining visas for the Pakistani actors that former Artistic Director Allen Nause felt were critical to the production. In the meantime playwright Ayad Akhtar won the 2013 Pulitzer, and now Nause returns to direct this story of a kidnapped American futures trader in Pakistan and the Islamic militants who hold him captive. How’s that for timing the market!
Mar 31–Apr 26
Artists Rep revives a lesser-known but no less essential Arthur Miller work, in which two estranged brothers must sort through the mess of belongings in their deceased father’s Manhattan brownstone in order for an ancient antiques dealer to bid on the furniture.
Apr 28–May 24
After Portland Playhouse introduced PDX to New York–playwright Amy Herzog this past season, Artists Rep and Third Rail jump on the bandwagon. In her 2013 Pulitzer finalist, playing for the first time in the Pacific Northwest, 21-year old Leo shows up unexpectedly at the doorstep of his grandmother’s Greenwich Village apartment after a cross-country bike trip and in the wake of a monumental personal loss. As he first bristles and then warms to living with the woman 70 years his senior, the details of his emotional strife are slowly revealed.
May 26–June 21
David Ives is something of an adaptation specialist, being known for revitalizing Georges Feydeau, Molière, and even an unperformed Mark Twain manuscript. Here, he turns to Pierre Cornielle’s 1644 farce of a romantic comedy, about a man whose quest for love is stalled by mistaken identities and an ever-increasing web of lies.
Artistic Director Scott Palmer promises that B&B’s seventh season will be their “most ambitious yet,” and he’s likely right. The Hillsboro company continues their run of original Shakespeare adaptations with an Fellini-esque outdoor take on Love’s Labors Lost (July 24–Aug 9) and a reimagined The Two Gentlemen of Verona (Mar 5–22) cast with six women playing all 12 roles (and appropriately titled, The Six Gentlepersons of Verona). Halloween and Christmas both get the B&B treatment: Dial “M” for Murder (Oct 16–Nov 2), the play that inspired the Hitchcock classic, will aim to spook, and Miracle on 43rd Street (Nov 28–Dec 23), a 1940s radio play send-up of the similarly-titled holiday classic, follows on the heels of last year’s successful festive satire It’s a (Somewhat) Wonderful Life. A record cast for the company takes on Arthur Miller’s The Crucible (Sept 4–28), and acclaimed English playwright Timberlake Wertenbaker’s Our Country’s Good (May 7–31) ends the season with the story of English Naval officers and their prisoners in the early days of the Australian penal colony.
The only thing I should really have to say about this smash hit musical, in which a shoe factory owner endeavors to save his business with the help of a drag queen in need of some stilettos, is that the score comes courtesy of none other than Cyndi Lauper. As if imagining one of her videos in stage form wasn’t enough to get you to the box office, Broadway demigod Harvey Fierstein wrote the book.
We know, we know—this ‘80s favorite is a little cheesy. I mean, the main characters are a 17-year old girl nicknamed “Baby” and a dance instructor named Johnny Castle. Johnny Castle. But let’s be honest: it’s a guilty pleasure that’ll only get better with a full live dance troupe.
A new take on the classic musical updates the story for the modern stage while keeping intact the Rodgers and Hammerstein tunes that made this timeless story and worldwide hit. Perfect for the kids.
Guys and Dolls
It doesn’t get much more classically Broadway than this, does it? Based on the short stories of Damon Runyon, this beloved musical chronicles the colorful characters of the ‘20s and ‘30s New York underground.
I Love Lucy Live on Stage
One of the most popular shows in history comes alive on the stage, transporting theatergoers to the sound stage at Desilu Playhouse, as if they were a studio audience for the filming of I Love Lucy episodes. Live ad jingles and a host explaining the wonders of a new technology called “television” complete a true ‘50s nostalgia trip.
The Phantom of the Opera
Original producer Cameron Mackintosh’s reinvigoration of this worldwide hit enjoyed a well-received sold-out tour of the UK, pairing the celebrated music and story with spectacular new special effects and a cast and orchestra of 52.
This wildly popular, Tony and Grammy–winning companion piece to The Wizard of Oz, which serves as an origin story for the Wicked Witch of the West, has been everywhere since it debuted in 2003, including Portland seemingly a half-dozen times—but we keep buying tickets.
- The Music Man, Jun 27–Jul 20
- The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, Aug 1–17
- Whodunit…The Musical, Sept 19–Oct 19
A Christmas Survival Guide, Nov 28–Dec 21
Right off the bat, this NW collaborative company’s coming season isn’t shying away from the heavy stuff: first up is Marsha Norman’s 1983 Pulitzer-winning ‘night Mother in collaboration with Corrib Theatre (Oct 17–Nov 8), in which a desperate mother pleads with her divorced, epileptic, and terminally unemployed daughter after the latter announces plans to end her own life at the end of the evening. The world premiere of The Snowstorm (Jan 16–Feb 7) comes next, a performance piece by Eric Nordin combining elements of dance, puppetry, theater, and the music of Rachmaninoff. Finally, Isaac Lamb directs Rebeccan Lingafelter in Grounded (May 1–May 23), the one-woman show about a pregnant fighter pilot reassigned to the drone program that made waves at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
- The 39 Steps, July 11–Aug 17
- Young Frankenstein, Sept 12–Oct 19 (Portland premiere)
- She Loves Me, Nov 7–Dec 21
- The Seven Wonders of Ballyknock, Jan 9–Feb 15 (World Premiere)
- Three Men On a Horse, Mar 6–Apr 12
Mame, May 1–June 7
On the Main Stage
Sept 20–Nov 2
This Tony-sweeping Broadway musical is (unofficially) based on the story of Diana Ross, the Supremes, and their manager Barry Gordon’s quest to bring Motown into the mainstream—and make a killing in the process. You might also know it as a little movie starring Beyoncé Knowles and Jennifer Hudson.
The Second City’s A Christmas Carol: Twist Your Dickens
Nov 22–Dec 24
The famed Chicago improv troupe returns for a second time to stage its satirical romp through this ubiquitous holiday tale, with audience input and revolving local celebrity guests making for a fresh performance each night.
Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
Jan 10–Feb 8
This bizarro mash-up of Chekov’s major works, supplemented by a healthy dose of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and the Greek tragedy Cassandra, netted playwright Christopher Durang the 2013 Tony for Best Play. You’ll find plenty to laugh at even if the only Three Sisters you know are the mountains in Bend.
Other Desert Cities
Feb 21–Mar 22
Jon Robin Baitz’s 2012 Pulitzer-finalist, which drew gushing critical accolades after moving to Broadway, follows a family holiday gathering in which the tensions over long-held political differences erupt over a tragic family secret.
Apr 4–May 3
Edmond Rostand’s 1897 play Cyrano De Bergerac has been retold with actors as famous as Gérard Depardieu and Steve Martin (1987’s Roxanne) playing the eponymous big-nosed swordsman and poet. his fresh translation by Philadelphia playwright Michael Hollinger adapts the work for a modern audience while maintaining all the swashbuckling thrills and delightful lyricism .
Three Days of Rain
May 17-June 21
PCS's late addition to the season is the concluding crown jewel in an already strong lineup. Grimm's Silas Weir Mitchell and Sasha Roiz (the Blutblad Monroe and Captain Renard, respectively) make their Portland stage debuts in this Pulitzer-finalist by Richard Greenberg about siblings trying to solve the mystery of their architect parents. Mitchell, Roiz, and a third cast member to be announced play both the children and their parents.
In the Ellen Bye Studio
The Typographer’s Dream
Oct 5–Nov 16
This revealing examination of work, self-definition, and the intersection of personal and professional life takes the form of a would-be panel discussion between a typographer, a geographer, and a stenographer that gets derailed by the participants messy emotions. Written by PCS favorite Adam Bock (he penned this season’s A Small Fire).
The Santaland Diaries
Nov 23–Dec 28
Portland favorite Darius Pierce returns as Crumpet in PCS’ annual production of David Sedaris’ satirical story of working at a Macys’ Santaland display during holiday crunch-time.
Jan 24–Mar 8
A selection from last year’s JAW playwrights festival at PCS, this world premiere from award-winning, Egyption-born playwright Yussef El Guindi explores the tension that arises when a couple attempt to solve their issues by inviting a relative stranger into their bedroom.
The People’s Republic of Portland
Mar 21–Apr 19
There’s nothing Portland likes more than a bit of navel-gazing, as evidenced by comedian and former The Daily Show correspondent Lauren Weedman’s return to Portland—after a nine-week sold-out run last spring—for a limited run of this one-woman ode to Bridgetown and its eccentricities.
May 2–Jun 14
This one-man musical from au courant New York theater darling Benjamin Scheuer is a coming-of-age tale that wowed audiences at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
The Piano Lesson
Sept 24–Nov 2
By August Wilson; directed by Kevin Jones
Given the company’s outstanding record producing the work of American playwriting treasure August Wilson, it’s surprising that it has taken them this many years to tackle the play that many regard as his finest achievement. This Pulitzer Prize+winner is about an African American family in 1930s Pittsburgh and their disagreement over what to do with an heirloom piano.
The Christmas Carol
Dec 4–Dec 28
This musical adaptation of the Dickens classic won this season’s Drammy’s for best ensemble, director, and production. It returns again next year like a ghost of Christmas past.
How To End Poverty in 90 Minutes
Feb 4–Feb 22
Somewhere between theater, panel discussion, and town hall meeting, the world premiere of this interactive theater piece from Sojourn Theater attacks the problem of poverty from a variety of angles before culminating in an audience vote on how best to spend the $1000 from ticket sales.
The Other Place
Mar 18–Apr 12
A brilliant and powerful middle-aged drug company scientist struggles with sudden onset of dementia and comes to doubt even the simplest things in her life in this taught psychological drama that earned American playwright Sharr White his Broadway debut.
Mr. Burns, A Post-Electric Play
May 13–June 7
Guggenheim recipient and ex-Portlander Anne Washburn mythologizes the work of another former Rose City resident, Simpsons creator Matt Groening. In a post-apocalyptic landscape devoid of the comforts of electricity, survivors orally retell episodes of Groening’s cultishly beloved animated series, passing them down until they become quite literally the stuff of legend.
The Northwest’s premiere Latino company prepares for its 31st season of theater unlike any you’ll see elsewhere in town. The annual Día de Muertos celebration comes in the form of the world-premiere ¡O Romeo! (Oct 17–Nov 9), a genre- and culture-blurring mash up of Shakespeare and the festive traditions of the holiday of the dead. Searching for Aztlán (Jan 8–17), another world premiere, is a comedic exploration of Latino identity from Lakin Valdez, son of Luis Valdez, founder of California’s storied migrant theater troupe El Theatro Campesino. A couple return to their homeland of Argentina after 10 years of political exile in Nelly Fernandez Tiscornia’s Made in Lanús (Feb 5–28), which will be presented in the original Spanish with English supertitles. The season concludes with American Night: The Ballad of Juan José (Apr 30–May 23), which comically examines the nexus of American history and pop culture through the lens of a young man’s enthusiastic preparation for his citizenship exam.
Remaining productions in this upstart theater company's fourth season include an unashamed jump onto the zombie bandwagon with the post-apocalyptic flesh-eating horror of Carlos Cisco’s The Last Days (Oct 2–Oct 26), about a group of four survivors, one of whom receives a fatal bite, and artistic director Ty Boice’s take on the Bard’s As You Like It. The fifth anniversary 2015 season includes:
- The Woman on the Scarlet Beast (World Premiere)
- Twelfth Night
- Comedy of Errors
- Much Ado about Nothing
The only company in Portland—and one of only three in the US—that devotes an entire season to a single playwright finishes the 2014 Sam Shepard season with a Festival of One Acts (Sept 3–8), directed by a wealth of local talent, and True West (Nov 6–23). In 2015, Profile turns to the work of MacArthur Genius Grant recipient Sarah Ruhl, a young American who first found widespread acclaim with 2004’s Pulitzer-finalist The Clean House. The comedy Dead Man’s Cell Phone (Jan 29–Feb 15) follows a woman who finds just that, slowly gaining insight into the deceased’s life by taking his calls. The Tony-nominated In the Next Room, or the Vibrator Play (June 11–28) examines women’s life in the 19th century through the lens of the early history of the vibrator as a treatment for hysteria. Passion Play (September 10–September 13), Rhul’s exploration of the intersection of religion and politics through the story of performances of the Passion of the Christ in three different historical settings, and Orlando (November 5-November 22), her adaptation of the Virginia Woolf novel, round out the season.
Sept 26–Oct 19
If you thought there wasn’t any room for yet another reinterpretation of Thornton Wilder’s ubiquitously performed Our Town, Will Eno’s quirky, Wilder-inspired Middletown might make you think again. A hit at PCS’s JAW festival in 2009, it’s a cleverly wordy examination of all life’s joys and absurdities.
The Mystery of Irma Vep
Dec 5–Jan 10
Following on the heels of last year’s holiday season production of the fantastically farcical and incredibly demanding Noises Off!, Third Rail presents this equally demanding comedy by Charles Ludlam, which satirizes Victorian melodrama, vampire stories, and Hitchcock-esque psychological thrillers with only two actors and plenty of elaborate costume changes.
The Night Alive
Feb 20–Mar 14
Irish playwright and director Conor McPherson garnered enthusiastic critical response in the UK and an Olivier Award nomination for this tragicomedy fraught with the squalor of a perennially under-employed Dublin man’s attempts to escape a past that won’t let him be.
Mar 27–Apr 18
How much can we ever truly know another person? That’s the question asked in this dark drama by Amy Herzog about a newlywed couple living in an up-and-coming part of Paris whose relationship begins to slowly crumble after the emotionally fragile wife catches her equally troubled husband watching internet porn.
Apr 24–May 17
Third Rail stages the American premiere of this play about a woman trying to unravel the mystery behind a mixtape that her husband made for her before his death. There’s just one catch: by the time he died, her husband was deaf. The entire production is staged in both sign language and spoken English.
The 119th season from the state’s premiere symphony orchestra looks set to be as ambitious and exciting as usual: returning classical stars like violinists Nadja Salerno-Sonnenburg and Itzhak Perlman and pianists Stephen Hough and André Watts are complemented by first-timers like Spanish guitarist Pablo Sáinz Villegas. Jazz heavyweights like saxophonist James Carter and pianist Herbie Hancock, along with rather eccentric contemporary pop names like Trey Anastasio (of Phish) and Ben Folds, contribute to an enviable list of guest artists. Sixteen debut pieces join old favorites like Copland’s suite from Appalachian Spring and Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. Cellist Alban Gerhardt returns for his third and final season as Artist in Residence, and special concerts like Gospel Christmas and an election-day performance from political satirists Capitol Steps round out an abundantly entertaining calendar.
By Johan Straus II
Portland Opera revisits their first ever production, a comedy of intoxicated scheming and romantic intrigue set around a Venetian masked ball, with Mary Dunleavy and Daniel Belcher as Rosalinde and Gabriel Von Eisentstein. Each performance is set to feature surprise guest-starring Portlanders in a champagne-soaked celebration of 50 years in the Portland arts scene.
By Georges Bizet
Though a critical disaster amongst the opera community upon its first performance, this story of a soldier’s downfall at the hands of the beguiling eponymous gypsy is now recognized as one of the greatest achievements of the genre. Rising national star Sandra Piques Eddy returns to Portland Opera to sing the part of Carmen.
Book and Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, Score by Jerome Kern
The Opera takes on the Hal Prince reworking of this 1927 classic, never before performed in Portland, which amplifies the racial rifts in its portrayal of the lives of performers and workers on a Mississippi River shot boat over a forty year span.
The Rake’s Progress
By Igor Stravinsky
The Russian composer’s only opera, a Faustian tale of a young man led away from his fiancée to ruin by the lure of riches and carnal pleasure, was inspired by William Hogarth’s eight-painting series of the same title. A simultaneous exhibit at the Portland Art Museum will highlight David Hockney’s famous 1975 scenic and costume designs inspired by Hogarth’s paintings and used in the production.
The Elixir of Love
Jul 17–Aug 1
By Gaetano Donizetti
Portland Opera rounds out its season with an intimate Newmark Theatre staging of what is perhaps the wildly prolific Donizetti’s most well-known work. As you might guess from the title, it portrays a young man hoping a magic potion might reverse his fortunes in love; unusually, the company reimagines the tale in the American Wild West.
- Philharmonia Quartett Berlin, Oct 13–14
- Salzburg Marionette Theater with Orion Weiss, Oct 26
- Project Trio, Nov 7
- Pacifica Quartet, Dec 8–9
- Takács Quartet, Jan 19–20
- Matthew Polenzani, Jan 28
- Nordic Voices, Feb 17
- Jordi Savall with Hespèrion XXI, Feb 23
- Hermitage Trio, Mar 16–17
- Elias Quartet, Apr 6–7
- Chanticleer, Apr 24
- BloodyVox, Oct 23–Nov 1
- Firewall, Dec 4-13
- Skinner|Kirk Ensemble, Feb 12–21
Cosmosis, BodyVox with the Amphion String Quartet, May 21–30
The lauded hometown dance company kicks off the season with their annual performance of new works, New Now Wow (Oct 23–25), featuring pieces by Czech choreographer Jirí Pokorný, a former dancer with Nederlands Dans Theater and Cystal Pite’s Kidd Pivot (both of which are or will be familiar with White Bird audiences); local dancer/choreographer Minh Tran; and the 2013 Pretty Creatives International Choreographic Competition winner, Yin Yue. Next up is the intimate “un-holiday” In Good Company (Dec 5–14) highlighting choreographic works by the company’s own members, but with a twist: it will be the first show in NWDP’s new Center. The spring show this year, called Louder than Words (Mar 19–21), features a third world premiere from NWDP bestie Ihsan Rustem, a reprise of Sarah Slipper’s “Casual Act” from 2013, and a work by Lucas Crandall. Finally, Summer Splendors goes big with a move to PSU’s Lincoln Performance Hall and a collaboration with Chamber Music Northwest.
OBT celebrates the opening of its 25th season by toasting its history through a series of duets from founding artistic director James Canfield, former resident choreographer Trey McIntyre, and former artistic director Christopher Stowell, combined with the debut of the classic and experimental Balanchine-Stravinsky collaboration Agon and a full-company world premiere by choreographer Nicolo Fonte. How’s that for a retrospective?
OBT’s annual staging of the Balanchine holiday classic has understandably become a local festive tradition for those of us who somehow haven’t yet had our fill. Six of the 17 shows will be accompanied by the OBT Orchestra.
Feb 28–Mar 7
Ben Stevenson’s 1970 version of the timeless folk tale has been universally adored since its premiere. It’s the ultimate “something-for-everyone” production: kids will be drawn to the familiar story and entrancing movement while adults warm to Sergei Prokofiev’s lush and exciting score.
The anniversary season draws to a close with another varied program encompassing the past and future of the company: an emotionally gripping Duato piece set to the music of a Haitian songwriter and inspired by resistance to slavery, a performance of first OBT resident choreographer Dennis Spaight’s Crayola that launches the newly established OBT II apprentice company, and a world premiere of a piece by Darrell Grand Moultrie, who has choreographed for Beyoncé.
This California-based troupe returns to White Bird for the first time in 10 years with director Jacques Heim’s new work Fluid Infinities, featuring an immense dome and other structures created by Portland’s Michael Curry Design and set to music by famed minimalist composer Phillip Glass.
Michael Clark Company
This iconoclastic British choreographer’s six-member dance company comes to Portland as part of a four-stops-only tour to present come, been, and gone, an evening of intense and demanding dance inspired by and set to the music and video of David Bowie. Here’s hoping for a “Space Oddity” recreation, or at the very least some “Life On Mars”-style makeup.
This unsurprisingly all-male company, founded by former Royal Ballet dancers Michael Nunn and William Trevit in what one assumes required more effort and care than coming up with the name, comes to the Rose City for the first time to perform a program by British choreographers Russell Maliphant and Liam Scarlett.
Nederland Dance Theater 2
This axillary apprentice company to the Nederland Dance Theater’s main ensemble will perform a varied selection of works from an all-star cast of European choreographers, including conveniently-named artistic director Paul Lightfoot.
Alonzo King LINES Ballet
The celebrated choreographer Alonzo King, noted for his collaborative work since the 1982-founding of this acclaimed Bay Area ballet, presents a new work supported by the first ever White Bird “Barney” Choreographic prize.
Dance Theatre of Harlem
The storied company was founded in 1969 by Karel Shook and Arthur Mitchel, the first African American principal dancer at the New York City Ballet. They return to Portland after a 30-year absence with a new contemporary program.
Yossi Berg and Oded Graf
White Bird presents the US premiere of BodyLand, a new work from these Israeli choreographers that furthers their reputation for provocative dance theater that’s full of humor. In this new piece, which drew rave reviews during a European and Israeli tour in late 2013, five men from four countries explore the distinctions of bodily and geographical culture that shape us.
Russel Maliphant Company
One of the leading lights of contemporary British choreography brings his dedicated company, with which Maliphant himself performs, to Portland for the first time. They’ll perform Still Current, a new collection of duos and trios the name of which probably belies this Olivier and Critic’s Circle award-winner’s ongoing contributions to modern dance.
New Israeli Voices in Dance: Hillel Kogan & Danielle Agami
Kogan and Agami, current and former members, respectively, of Tel Aviv’s internationally acclaimed Batsheba Dance Company, come to Portland for this celebration of Israel’s thriving contemporary dance scene. Kogan’s award-winning duet We Love Arabs explores—you guessed it—Jewish and Arab religious identity, while Agami will debut a new work commissioned by White Bird.
Urban Bush Women
Continuing a proud tradition of woman-centered dance exploring the heritage and disenfranchisement of the African Diaspora, Jawole Willa Jo Zollar’s 30-year-old company returns with a new work inspired by John Coltrane’s masterpiece A Love Supreme, accompanied by Grammy-winner and pianist extraordinaire George Caldwell.
Les 7 Doigts de la Main's Sequence 8
While this Montreal dance troupe’s name, which translates to “the seven fingers of the hand,” might be a play on a French idiom meant to express distinct elements united together, it also gives a good idea of the seemingly unnatural acrobatic feats performed by the dancers in this company focused on bringing circus to a human scale.
Boundary-pushing tap-dance choreographer Michelle Dorrance (The New Yorker called her "one of the most imaginative tap choreographers working today") makes her Portland debut with her company. Their new piece, The Blues Project, pairs a group of nine dancers with live blues accompaniment from a band led by Toshi Reagon, daughter of Sweet Honey in the Rock founder Bernice Johnson Reagon.