Upon first reading Portland Playhouse’s 2013-14 season announcement, you might do a double take.
Huh? That can’t be right.
How could one of Portland’s smaller companies be doing a sampler of the contemporary theatre world’s most exciting works?
Perhaps the wires got crossed, and what you are actually reading is an announcement from Steppenwolf or Manhattan Theatre Club or Playwrights Horizons. There must be some mistake.
Nope. You read correctly.
Lil’ (in size of venue only) Portland Playhouse, holding forth from its unique DIY space in Northeast’s Old Church, has just announced a stunning season number 6 that would not be out of place at one of the country’s largest and most established theatres.
For fans of cutting edge contemporary works, it is one of the most impressive season announcements Portland has ever seen.
Any theatre anywhere would be lucky to have a season like this. But the fact that this roster of top flight contemporary plays is being done in one of Portland’s small spaces, at one of its newest companies, makes it even more striking.
So what’s inside the envelope?
There’s the edgy DETROIT by Lisa D’Amour, which has been done at Steppenwolf. There’s Sharr White’s THE OTHER PLACE, which just closed at Manhattan Theatre Club. There is August Wilson’s seldom scene JITNEY, one of the century cycle plays. There’s musical THE LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA by Carig Lucas and Adam Guettel, which was birthed at Seattle’s Intiman Theatre and opened in New York in 2005. And finally there is AFTER THE REVOLUTION by white hot New York playwright (but heretofore strangely unproduced in Portland) Amy Herzog.
The good news: Portlanders who like contemporary theatre have less and less need to travel.
The better news: By acting like a theatre ten times its size, Portland Playhouse is leading by example. They are demonstrating that you can put on the best quality plays AND attract a devoted audience.
Build it and we’re there.
There is no dumbing down, no fear that the audience won’t come unless we dangle the usual baubles, no selection of musicals that might have seemed relevant back during the Truman administration.
Instead, call it a “smarting up” effect. Portland Playhouse respects its audience and knows they want the very best.
This is what true vision and leadership looks like. This is bringing the best to the audience, trusting that they will come along for the ride. And they will.
Because it’s about art. It’s not about putting butts in seats. It’s about creating unforgettable nights in the theatre.
And if anyone knows how to do that, it’s Portland Playhouse.
DETROIT by Lisa D’Amour
Directed by Brian Weaver
October 2 – November 3, 2013
A “sharp X-ray of the embattled Ameri-can psyche…a dark comedy as rich and addictively satisfying as a five-layer dip served up with a brimming bowl of tortilla chips.” -The New York Times
THE OTHER PLACE by Sharr White
November 20 – December 8, 2013
Gretchen Corbett stars in Sharr White’s riveting psycho-logical drama that critics have hailed as “piercing and tonally on-target” (New York Magazine) “curvy and com-pelling” (NY Daily News), and a “taut, incisive puzzle play” (Backstage).
JITNEY by August Wilson
January 15 – February 2, 2014
Don’t miss Portland Playhouse’s signature approach to Wilson, of which Portland Monthly wrote about this season’s King Hedley II: “if you like your drama strong and your performances intense, it’s unlikely that you’ll see a production this gripping… anytime soon.”
THE LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA Book by Craig Lucas
Music & Lyrics by Adam Guettel
February 26 – March 30, 2014
Discover what The New York Times calls “a blessing for those in search of signs of intelligent life in the American musical.”
AFTER THE REVOLUTION by Amy Herzog
Playwright’s Portland Debut
April 30 – June 1, 2014
Tamara Fisch (Race at Artist’s Rep 2012; The Scene at Portland Playhouse 2011; After the Revolution World Premiere workshop at the Williamstown Theatre Festival 2010) directs this “smart, engrossing play” that “crackle[s] with lively, natural dialogue” and characters that “are drawn with a perceptive sense of the contradictions that color personality” (The New York Times).