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ART’s Vision for Sharing Intimate, and Essential Stories

Decades of breakthrough “firsts” show ART’s unrelenting commitment to telling stories that help us make sense of the world.

Presented by Artists Rep November 14, 2021

This commitment to artistic breakthroughs with each theatrical offering has been the guiding force through ART’s past and future. Now more than ever, ART is positioned to breakthrough to new possibilities—leading the field as dramatic purveyors of meaningful discussions. During the early stages of COVID, ART broke through to new ways of creating. As the performing arts were shut down, ART began producing audio dramas and films, most notably, See Me: a powerful exploration of the Black Portlanders’ experience during the pandemic. The award-winning film is one of many examples of ART’s breakthrough responses to unprecedented times. 

See Me was executive produced as part of ART’s new breakthrough programming. Written by Kisha Jarrett, Josie Seid (Resident Artist), Vin Shambry (Resident Artist), and Aki Ruiz (Graphic Design/Illustrator); and sound engineered by Leslie Crandell Dawes (Marketing Director). See Me features Andrea Vernea (pictured, Resident Artist), Treasure Lunan (School Girls; or, The African Mean Girls Play and Today is My Birthday), and William (Bill) Earl Ray

ART’s breakthrough programs have earned national attention for Portland theatre makers. During Artistic Director Dámaso Rodríguez’s nine-year tenure,  Artists Rep joined the 76-member League of Resident Theatres (LORT), making Rodríguez the first Latinx executive to lead a major U.S. theatre, a long-overdue breakthrough. During his tenure, ART produced more than 60 productions including a growing number of stories told on ART stages by Black, Indigenous, Asian American and Pacific Islander, Latinx, women, and LGBTQIA+ playwrights. As you may know, Dámaso is stepping down after nine years of visionary leadership, and the Board of Directors has launched a national search for his successor. The next AD will be only the third in ART’s thirty-nine-year history and, assuredly, a distinctly breakthrough talent. 

Portland’s unaffordable real estate creates real barriers to artistic access, ART breakthrough ArtsHub program meets this challenge by providing performance and rehearsal space to help smaller arts and community organizations thrive. In 2019, nearly 50 nonprofits produced more than 1,000 events in our spaces. This is a groundbreaking national model for collaboration that will be enhanced in our new facility. In March 2022, ART will begin the next phase of construction on its new theatrical home. When completed, the building will contain two theatres, four rehearsal halls/classrooms, and collaborative spaces to support ART and the ArtsHub. 

The last 20 months have changed the world—and ART. We deeply examined our policies and practices, and committed to working persistently to root out bias and inequality in our theatre. We established DNA: Oxygen—breaking ground by being one of the first major regional theatres in the country to provide resources directly to BIPOC artists to create the program they want and need. In November, we produced The Chinese Lady—our first live play since Indecent closed in 2020. What a joy to be gathered again for live theatre! It was important to us to produce this play now, when anti-Asian hate crimes have been rising, to invite audiences to see American life through The Chinese Lady’s knowing, but hopeful eyes. In January, we’ll open The Great Leap and take audiences to the time when the US - China rivalry centered on a basketball game. In Spring 2022, we’ll produce the Portland premiere of the Broadway and West End-acclaimed drama The Children, a riveting, timely play that is in the intimate and actor-driven style for which is ART well-known, while launching a new, free touring program called pushcART, a new DNA: Oxygen project that will take plays to people all over Portland eliminating critical barriers to access and breaking through to new audiences. Supporting theatre that speaks to the critical issues of today is what makes live theatre possible. Your gift to ART via artistsrep.org or ART’s participation in the Willamette Week Give Guide giveguide.org allows us to continue to break through the new way of doing theatre. 

Help ART nurture its breakthrough vision for sharing intimate, provocative and essential stories. Help ART breakthrough watershed moments by supporting our artistic transition. Help ART breakthrough to an innovative model for collaborative artistic support. Live theatre is possible again and we need your help to lift new voices and breakthrough to new stories. 


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