Five Picks for the Fertile Ground Festival

Dozens of new, homegrown works of theater and performance will hit stages over the next 11 days. Here are the five shows we’re most looking forward to.

By Ramona DeNies and Fiona McCann January 20, 2016

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Groovin' Greenhouse: Claudia swirls for Portland Bellydance Guild.

Image: Phoebus-Foto

Portland’s annual festival of new works opens Thursday, January 21, with a slew of shows to test before audiences. Over 11 days, Fertile Ground showcases more than fifty new works, from staged readings to fully produced plays, dance premieres to domestic dramas, comedy acts to clown shows. We’ve selected the five shows we’re most excited about.

Groovin’ Greenhouse (Polaris Dance Theatre featuring Portland Bellydance Guild)

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Rachel Brice of Portland Bellydance Guild

This world premiere from Polaris Artistic Director Robert Guitron promises to tackle themes of love, loss, and loneliness while playing with light and shadow. The evening also showcases Portland Bellydance Guild, with new work from celebrated performers like Claudia and Rachel Brice. (Jan 23, Polaris Studio Theatre, 1826 NW 18th Ave)

Ophelia in Oblivion (Twysted Healing Systahs)

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The cast of Ophelia in Oblivion.

Since she left her job as an Oregonian columnist in 2008 to become a full-time artist, S. Renee Mitchell has been cropping up in all manner of places, performing spoken word poetry and even starring in a Fertile Ground hit last year called Cottonwood in the Flood. This year she’s bringing a staged reading of her own play, Ophelia in Oblivion, exploring multigenerational secrets and the burden of private guilt. (Jan 22-26, Celebration Tabernacle, 8131 N Denver Ave)

Shackleton, the Untold Story (Portland Story Theater)

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Lawrence Howard.

Ernest Shackleton, the early 20th-century Irish-born explorer whose southern explorations earned him a British knighthood, brought home no shortage of stories from his several trips towards the South Pole. Here, storyteller Lawrence Howard focuses on the ten men of Shackleton’s Ross Sea Party, who carried out a mission to lay a series of food caches for Shackleton, with some of them paying the ultimate price. (Jan 23 and 30, Alberta Abbey, 126 NE Alberta St)

Broken Promises (Milagro)

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A scene from Broken Promises.

Image: Milagro

Milagro takes on Portland’s flourishing sex industry in this tale of a young girl whose boyfriend becomes her pimp after a sex video brings financial success. With an original script by former artistic director Olga Sanchez, Broken Promises is an hourlong production that highlights a dark reality behind the city’s bright lights. (Jan 21-23, Milagro Theatre, 525 SE Stark St)

Displaced (SubRosa Dance Collective)

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SubRosa's Displaced.

This immersive work takes on the hot-button subject of displacement, from the shifts caused by Portland’s rising rents and evictions, to global realities of dislocation due to war and economic hardship. Audience members become active participants, displaced themselves as the piece plays out. (Jan 22-31, Conduit Dance, 2505 SE 11th Ave)


Fertile Ground runs Jan 21–31 at various venues around the city.

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