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Oct. 26, 2021

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Clark County thespians find Fertile Ground in Portland festival

By , Columbian Arts & Features Reporter
7 Photos
Rehearsal for "Daisy Dukes Shorts Night."
Rehearsal for "Daisy Dukes Shorts Night." Photo Gallery

Clark County is brimming with theatrical talent — writers, directors, actors, technical wizards. Too bad, local thespians say, that it mostly feeds Portland’s utterly overstuffed creative scene.

Jane-of-all-trades Dorinda Toner — a freelance actor, singer and director who lives in east Vancouver — said that in the past dozen years, she’s watched “almost every community theater in Vancouver shut its doors.”

Camas playwright and actor Gary Corbin said Clark County’s own theater scene “had its peak about 10 years ago,” when the Slocum, Serendipity, Magenta and extra-edgy Arts Equity companies, plus Clark College, were all contributing to a diverse and interesting downtown drama scene. Only Magenta and Clark College are still at it today.

“It’s a small city and a small market,” said Corbin; meanwhile, “there are over 90 production companies and venues in Portland. Portland has a huge creative class” as well as a huge appetite for what those creative folks put out, he said.

So maybe it’s just as well that Toner, Corbin and other local thespians travel over the bridge in order to participate in an annual festival of new works called Fertile Ground. So does Camas resident Nicole Lane, who volunteers as Fertile Ground’s executive director but whose day job is marketing and public relations for Artists Repertory Theater, one of Portland’s premiere professional companies.


• By Gary Corbin of Camas; directed by Dorina Toner of Vancouver; starring (among others) Laurie Campbell-Leslie of Vancouver and Maria Randall of Hockinson.

• When: 6 p.m. Jan. 24 and 31; 7 p.m. Jan. 29.

• Where: Hipbone Studio, 1847 E. Burnside St.

• Tickets: $10.


• 10 “short-short” plays, directed by Dave Roberts of Vancouver, including “Prefacing” and “Building Blocks” by Gary Corbin of Camas.

• When: 7 p.m. Jan 22 and 23.

• Where: Hipbone Studio, 1847 E. Burnside St.

• Tickets: $10.


• Lunchtime reading of one-man play by Rob Katsuno of Camas.

• When: Noon Jan. 27.

• Where: Artists Repertory Theatre, 1515 S.W. Morrison St.

• Tickets: Free.

Fertile Ground is a different world, Lane said: “It’s where patrons can come see works in development, works at small venues, works of every type. You’re not going to see Broadway Across America. It’s a training ground for playwrights and producers and smaller organizations. We give them an umbrella to show their work and to learn with us. It’s an incubator.”

Fertile Ground performances — more than 65 in all, featuring both works in progress and polished world premieres of drama, dance, staged readings and script workshops, even circus arts, clowning and animation — take place in small, voluntary venues all over the city, now through Jan. 31. Visit http://fertilegroundpdx.org to see the whole schedule.

“We would love to see a local (Clark County) company back local, original works,” said Corbin, who moved a few years ago from Portland to Camas and left behind an IT career in favor of writing full-time. But until one does, he said, he’s thrilled to have Fertile Ground as a nearby outlet — and he just hopes that Clark County theater lovers, or even just the theater-curious, will venture over the river anytime between now and the end of the month to check out their neighbors’ talents.

‘Family Hardware’

Your neighbors’ “talents” will be on racy-but-restrained display in “Family Hardware,” Corbin’s serious new sex comedy. There are some skimpy nighties and a bed. No F-bombs, though. Mostly there are many laughs amid a little honest discomfort about the aging of bodies whose owners prefer to remain as eternally youthful as possible.

The idea for “Family Hardware,” Corbin said, came from “those stupid Viagra and Cialis ads on TV” featuring gorgeous young women fawning all over men who look old enough to be their fathers. The ads are absurd, he said, but there’s a terribly serious underlying truth.

To Learn More:

All Fertile Ground information and tickets are available at fertilegroundpdx.org

“Sex is fun. Sex is funny. Sex is important,” Corbin said. “What lengths will people go to, to have a healthy sex life?”

Be prepared to find out in “Family Hardware,” which follows the adventures of a 50-something husband whose heart is no longer healthy enough for sex and his vivacious wife (played by Vancouver actor Laurie Campbell-Leslie) who “isn’t anywhere near done yet,” as Corbin puts it. “Outsourcing” of this bedroom business as well as the family hardware business is the result, Corbin said, with both hilarious and serious results.

“I’m not making light of it. There are some tough moments,” Corbin said. “Marriages are hurt and marriages end every day because of this. Boomers are right in the middle of it.” If there’s any out-and-out ridicule in “Family Hardware,” he said, it’s aimed at those gently suggestive TV commercials. “I’m definitely having fun with the medical-pharmaceutical community cashing in,” he said.

If the play were a movie, Corbin figures, it’d get rated PG-13. It’s being presented three times, at 6 p.m. Jan. 24 and 31, and at 7 p.m. Jan. 29, at Hipbone Studio, 1847 E. Burnside. Plenty of free parking, we’re told.

Short shorts

Also headed for Fertile Ground from the fertile pen of Corbin — who has won accolades for numerous original comedies, including the Vancouver-historical “Murder at the Barracks” and “KleptoFamilia,” a semifinalist in the national 2015 Neil Simon Playwriting Competition — are a couple of very quick, 10-minute plays. One is a comedy about intolerable verbal tics and the other is about a reuniting couple who figure out a way new forward over a tower-raising game of Jenga.

If You Go

 What: Eighth annual Fertile Ground City-Wide Festival of New Works; festival director is Nicole Lane of Camas.

 When: Jan. 21-31; numerous performances each day.

 Where: Venues all over Portland; check the website.

 Tickets: Prices vary, festival passes are $50 each.

These are among nine so-called “short shorts” packed into an anthology called “Daisy Dukes Shorts Night,” all of which are directed by Vancouver thespian Dave Roberts. They’ll be presented at 7 p.m. Jan. 22 and 23, also at Hipbone Studio.

“The ‘Shorts Night’ is pretty exciting since you get to see a variety of works from different playwrights all in about a 90-minute time span,” Roberts said. “I like to say that if you don’t like one, then wait 10 minutes and another one will come along.” Juggling nine different plays in a single performance has been quite a task, he added.

And, Camas resident Rob Katsuno will perform his autobiographical one-man comedy “American Atlas,” which traces the cultural minefield crossed by Katsuno, a Japanese American, when he married a Brazilian woman.