Fertile Ground, Portland’s annual new works festival, is the latest local culture staple to get the digital treatment. It kicked off in earnest at the end of last month, with staggered virtual premieres of more than 36 original performance pieces. Now that everything is available to stream on-demand through February 15, here are five you should add to your watchlist before time runs out. (You can view the full slate of titles here, and stream them on Fertile Ground's YouTube Channel.)
This 10-minute short film from multidisciplinary artist Joni Renee Whitworth is visually arresting, slyly funny, and ultimately crushing. Whitworth processes 2020 from all sides—first by joking that it was a lesbian’s dream (“sleeping in late, reading to each other, fretting over the cat, cooking, stretching, listening to jazz in silks”) and then by facing down the darkness (“War-ravaged Syria just reported its first COVID-19 death. We’re here. We’re here.”). It all adds up to a surprising, cathartic watch, which both breezes by and feels infinitely more expansive than its compact runtime.
Opera singer Emanuel “Onry” Henreid made headlines last year when a clip of his impromptu duet with a PSU student went viral. His latest music video, which sees him traversing evergreen forests and stacking money note on top of money note (on top of money note), is a must watch: exhilarating, anthemic, and incredible to look at.
The Vanport Mosaic streamed a staged reading of the first act of this new play by Don Wilson Glenn. In it, Martha Washington takes refuge during an imagined slave revolt at Mount Vernon, fueled by the revelation that her husband's will grants the couple's slaves freedom only after Martha has died. While she performs a cooking show in isolation, the show teases out questions of historical authorship and the thorny relationship between abolition and suffrage.
Petra Delarocha, cofounder of circus company Prismagic, cites Chilean surrealist filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky as one of her major influences. In this dizzying half-hour variety show, she puts her money where her mouth is. We get a dance sequence that asks, "What if Madonna's 'Music' video was soundtracked by Ennio Morricone?" We get a literal star hosting a radio hotline, helping listeners' dreams come true. And we get several sequences of pretty thrilling circus antics, all charismatically hosted by local actor Gerrin Mitchell.
Writer J.C. Mehta's piece is billed as a "virtual poetry tour": a video component walks us through a 3D-rendered gallery (it gives off very satisfying early-aughts-CD-ROM vibes) littered with her own visual art. In voiceover, Mehta reads a poem that traces the etymology of her name and her family tree ("My mother named me after famous cowboys, then went and married an Indian herself.") It succeeds by shirking the idea of trying to replicate an in-person experience, instead embracing an almost-uncanny format to deliver its powerful words.