It has been an up and down last few years with many changes for Third Rail Rep.
Just a few years ago – as recently as 2010 or 2011 – the company was indisputably the most exciting theatre in Portland. After a string of incredible shows at the IFCC, Third Rail upsized to the World Trade Center and the unforgettable nights of live performance just kept coming.
In hindsight, this was the golden moment. Big enough to generate more revenue and build the audience, but still cheap and unknown enough to keep it live and unpredictable.
Who can forget THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF DISSOCIA (No Drammys??? Are you people kidding me??? Do those aging theatre trolls ever crawl up from their underground sink hole to breathe actual air or check the mail???), THE LYING KIND, DEAD FUNNY or, my own personal favorite, the world premiere of THE GRAY SISTERS by Craig Wright, written expressly for Third Rail actors and featuring two of the most astonishing performances Portland has ever seen by Maureen Porter and Valerie Stevens.
A world premiere by Craig Wright? In Portland? Written for Portland?
What else do you want – Storm Large to swing down on a vine and fire Fred Armisen out of a cannon into a vat of Salt & Straw ice cream?
Frankly, it would be easier to arrange that than a repeat of THE GRAY SISTERS. You’re going to have to get up pretty early in the morning and eat loads of Wheaties before you come up with an event more exciting than THE GRAY SISTERS was – on any stage ANYWHERE.
What were Third Railers smoking in those days? Whatever it was, that was back before dope was legal. It worked over and over. It was the real McCoy. Some crazy shizzle.
And then came the move to the [whatever the heck it’s called now]. You know – that big architectural monstrosity next to the Schnitz. The PCPA is the antithesis of everything you would want as a cool home for your cool theatre. It’s ugly, it’s bland, it’s unionized, it’s expensive, it has carpeting by the same interior designer who did East Berlin, it has (brace yourselves, Portlanders) bad food. Which is where somebody with standards has to draw the line. It’s almost institutionally impossible to create great theatre in such a cheese whiz space – though it has happened.
But after this move TR seemed to go a little off the rails. The old excitement wasn’t there. To be fair, it was literally impossible for it to be there in that deadest of spaces.
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In a most unfortunate development, the Drammy Awards have now made the no man’s land of PCPA their new home. Where SHOULD the Drammys take place? Revolution Hall – a cool new Portland space.
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There was also the split screen effect of having some shows in the PCPA and some in their Off Burnside space at the CoHo. That kind of thing confuses the audience. BUT (always wait for the but) there was that little all time box office flattening sensation thingy known as NOISES OFF at the PCPA, which as you may recall we showed a little interest in. So yeah, that was a big plus.
Alll that was then and all this is now. And tonight there’s some really great news from Portland’s once and (we hope) future theatre leaders. For 2016, Third Rail is taking their entire operation over to Imago. It’s quite a change in some ways from the more generic and safe confines of the PCPA. But when you step back and think about it, it’s a great choice for the TR brand.
Imago is the exact opposite of the PCPA. It’s dark and dangerous. It’s avant garde. It’s a little gritty. It’s cheaper. It’s old Portland – in a city where old Portland is almost gone. It’s the kind of place where great theatre is already being made routinely.
Plus it’s much, much closer to the Doug Fir Lounge.
It’s a great development. And showing that they are going straight back to their roots with a vengeance, Third Railers have come up with a slate of four contemporary kick ass plays to give you a reason to go to the theatre again.
But don’t answer yet!!! You also get [redacted]. There are several other exciting aspects of the brave new world, but they won’t hit the air waves until tomorrow.
Bravo, Third Rail. Let’s crank the magic machine back up and scare the shite out of Portlanders like in the old days. You can do it.
And to celebrate the big ten year milestone, here’s something that clearly needs to happen. It’s time to corral former and currently offsite TR members Time True, Valerie Stevens and John Steinkamp and get them back on stage in a TR show.
The people demand it. And what the people wants, the people gets.
Anyway – woops it’s 3:30 AM and this post is officially over.
Third Rail 2016 Season at Imago Theatre
The Angry Brigade
by James Graham
Against a backdrop of Tory cuts, high unemployment and the deregulated economy of 1970s Britain, a young urban guerrilla group mobilizes: The Angry Brigade. Their targets? Embassies. Police. Pageant Queens. A world of order shattered by anarchy. An uprising has begun and no one is exempt. Part history play, part police procedural, part comedy of manners, part thriller, part documentary, part social satire, The Angry Brigade is perhaps the most compelling show we’ve ever programmed to open a season.
by Liz Duffy Adams
Set over the course of a single evening, Aphra Behn – poet, actress, spy, and one of the first professional female playwrights of the Restoration – has the opportunity to land her first commission for a professional company if she can deliver her play by dawn. Complicating this task are an array of lovers and rivals, from a rogue-spy to a blossoming ingenue to the king himself, vying for her time and affections. With echoes of Restoration comedy, quick-change farce, a dash or two of Tom Stoppard, and the sexual revolution of the 1960’s, Or, is a little valentine to love in the theatre.
by David Gieselman, translated by David Tushingham
What do a mysterious trunk, an Orwellian pizza ordering system, architectural design, tiramisu, Marilyn Monroe, Goofy, Bill Clinton, chaos theory, ropes, gags, and the world’s worst boss have in common? You’ll find out in a play that Variety described as “a wicked treat for the morbidly inclined — a bonbon filled with arsenic.” One part Albee, one part Hitchcock, one part Tarantino, Mr. Kolpert is a play we’ve been dying to produce since day one. Comedy doesn’t come much blacker or better than this.
The New Electric Ballroom
by Enda Walsh
Meet Breda, Clara, and Ada, three sisters trapped in a remote Irish town filled with gossip and fish. Breda and Clara obsessively relive the time when, as 17-year-olds, they were nearly seduced at the New Electric Ballroom by Roller Doyle, the hearthrob singer in a touring band. Meanwhile Ada, the youngest, tries her best to fend off the romantic overtures of the local fishmonger. Funny, tender-hearted and at times pitch dark, The New Electric Ballroom is a coiled, glitter-dusted fable about the stories that come to define us.