5 Things to Check Out at the 2022 Fertile Ground Festival

This year’s virtual performance fest will bring 38 new works to our screens. Here’s what we’re looking forward to.

By Conner Reed January 27, 2022

Groovin' Greenhouse at Polaris Dance Theatre is one of our picks for this year's Fertile Ground festival 

Image: Troy Butcher

Ah, Fertile Ground. Portland’s rowdy free-for-all new works festival, typically spread across multiple venues and neighborhoods each winter, kicks off its second annual virtual iteration tonight, January 27. Through February 6, nearly 40 (avowedly un-curated) works will be presented online, covering a staggering amount of forms and subjects—it is perhaps the only place in town to take in a play about a pirate queen and also a show called The Cult of Cunnilingus.  

That sprawl is, no doubt, a huge part of what gives Fertile Ground its charm, but if you’re looking to chop the full itinerary down to size, here are five pieces we’re especially looking forward to.  

Groovin’ Greenhouse  

7:30 p.m. Fri–Sat, Jan 28–29 & Feb 4–5, Polaris Dance Theatre, $20–25 

Returning for its 11th year, this new works showcase from Polaris Dance Theatre will feature unique lineups on each of its four nights. Some highlights: a new dance film about social atomization called Grains, South Indian classical dance from Sweta Ravisanka, and a pair of high-glam performances from cabaret duo Izohnny. This is one of the fest’s few offerings with a live option—live tickets, at Polaris's space on NW 18th, are $25, and the virtual stream will run you $20.  

Heart of Stone

7:30 p.m. Fri, Feb 4 & noon Sat, Feb 5, Fool House Art Collective, $5–15 suggested donation

Choreographer Alisher Khasanov presents three scenes from a longer, devised, in-progress narrative work about a Muslim Uighur boy wielding his love of music against his father and an oppressive government. Heart of Stone snagged one of Fertile Ground's five GROW Awards, given to outstanding pieces that spotlight BIPOC, LGBTQ, or disabled communities, which lent it $500 toward production—potential is high for it to blossom into something exciting.

Julio Escarce, Leif Schmit, Richard Cohn-Lee, Irina Lavrinenko, Yulia Paradnaya, Christie Zhao, Desiree Roy, and Olga Kravtsov in Heart of Stone

Image: Jason Okamoto


On-demand through Feb 27, Theatre Vertigo, pay-what-you-will 

This new audio drama from Theatre Vertigo, written by Sara Jean Accuardi and directed by Clara-Liis Hillier, with sound design by Jake Newcomb, is set during an amazing time we are all clamoring to remember: the 2020 presidential election. In all seriousness, though, Accuardi’s last collaboration with Theatre Vertigo—2019’s The Delays—won a Drammy for Outstanding Original Script and a glowing notice from Broadway World, so if anyone is likely to “explore connection amid a backdrop of political absurdity” effectively (per Landscape’s press materials), this is probably the team to pull it off.   

Victoria Alvarez-Chacon, Jake Newcomb, Sara Jean Accuardi, and Clara-Liis Hillier recording Landscape

SOUL’D: the economics of our Black body (the Joy edition) 

On-demand through Feb 27, Vanport Mosaic, pay-what-you-will 

This entry in the Vanport Mosaic’s SOUL’D project, which began in 2019 to "engage questions of how Black bodies have participated in the American Economic Dream," focuses in on the ways Black Americans have found joy and fostered growth in hostile conditions. Presented as a film, with contributions from 11 performers, the piece will lay personal narratives over world events, and be available to view online for a full month.

Andrea Whittle, LaTevin Alexander, and Kenneth Dembo in SOUL'D (the Joy edition)

Image: Salim Sanchez

Stuff of the Dead

7 p.m. Fri, Feb 5, Twitch/Facebook Live, FREE

A new endeavor from Brian Scott Rogers, the mind behind internet character Big Ed BarnhamStuff of the Dead purports to be a dispatch from the Oregon Rim Estate Sale Association about the magic and mystery of the objects one finds while rummaging through the lives of the departed. If this online testimonials page is anything to go by, expect folksy absurdity, a permanently blurred line between character and reality, and a controversial recipe for egg salad.