With the COVID-19 vaccine rollout underway, live in-person theater in 2021 feels like a real possibility. Most theaters are still focusing on digital and audio productions, but a few have come up with ways to create experiences while maintaining social distancing. Here are nine performances to add to your calendars this spring.
Read more: Portland spring arts guide: 10 opportunities to experience classical music online
“Wine in the Wilderness” – presented by Portland Center Stage
Set in the aftermath of a race riot in Harlem, Alice Childress’ play delves into classism within Black communities. Portland Center Stage will present a staged reading directed by Tiffany Nichole Greene, a resident director of “Hamilton.” “This play takes a deep dive into a very specific wound in the Black community,” Greene said. “There’s an internalized shame that swirls about in this room full of brothers and sisters, as they all reckon with their own insecurities, internalized prejudices, and pride.” Opening night will include a live pre-show discussion at 7:30 p.m. between Greene and Portland Center Stage’s literary manager Kamilah Bush. After that, the show will be available to stream.
March 26-April 11, pcs.org/wine-in-the-wilderness, pay what you will starting at $5.
“Refuge” – presented by Shaking the Tree
The idea for “Refuge” came to artistic director Samantha Van Der Merwe as the pandemic began last year: to create a literal refuge from the world. She asked 12 Portland artists from a wide range of disciplines to create installations in the theater for audience members to experience. Van Der Merwe is looking to the beginnings of theater and ritual, and hopes to create an experience where audiences can reimagine a better future by looking back through history. Audience members enter the space and have an hour to spend with the installations. In order to keep the space safe, there are no live performances in the venue. Audience members can take in the show alone, or with their “germ pod” (five people maximum).
6, 7:30 and 9 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and 2, 3:30 and 5 p.m. Sundays through April 24, 823 S.E. Grant St., shaking-the-tree.com/refuge.html, free but donations accepted. (Sold out but you can get on the wait list for cancellations.)
“Triggered Life ” – presented by Portland Playhouse
Holding on to the one of the core tenets of theater, the entire run of “Triggered Life” is streamed live from Portland Playhouse. The show, which opened last week, follows a day in the life of Ishmael and Keith as they relive their stories of an abusive childhood and embark on a journey to define their own manhood and identity. The 90-minute show is presented in two acts, the second a community discussion moderated by a mental health clinician. This production is a partnership with The Triggered Project, which uses art to shatter the silence of Black and Brown men and boys who have been sexually abused. Half of the performances in this run are reserved for Black and Brown audience members only: March 26, 28, 31 and April 2.
7 p.m. various dates through April 4, portlandplayhouse.org/shows-events/triggered-life, $5 – $20 per viewing household.
“Manahatta” – presented by Oregon Shakespeare Festival
Oregon Shakespeare Festival has begun its new season with a hybrid model of onstage and digital shows. For now, only digital shows have set dates. The shows can be streamed online anytime during their run as many times as a viewer would like. The season is kicking off with filmed productions from previous seasons. “Manahatta” by Mary Kathryn Nagle had its world premiere onstage in Ashland in 2018. Time is cyclical in Nagle’s script. The removal of the Lenape people from their home, on what is now the island of Manhattan, by Dutch colonists mirrors the removal of a Lenape family from their home in the wake of the subprime mortgage crisis of 2008. The show reckons with the exploitation of Indigenous people in the United States while also placing them front and center, part of the present and not a vanished past.
March 29-April 24, osfashland.org, $15.
“The Vertical City” – presented by Artists Repertory Theatre
Artists Repertory has partnered with The Actors Conservatory to co-produce a new single-episode audio drama. Written by Diana Burbano and directed by D’amaso Rodr’iguez, “The Vertical City” is set in a future-Portland built to survive the effects of climate change and imagines how technology might help or hurt civilization. The show will be cast from second-year students in the conservatory. As with ART’s previous audio dramas, audiences will be able to stream the show online.
Live listening party 7 p.m. April 24, access April 26-June 30, artistsrep.org/performance/vertical-city, free for basic access and sliding scale starting at $10 for premium access. Tickets to virtual opening night April 24 are $20.
“Distancias” – presented by Hand2Mouth
Three company members of Hand2Mouth are working together to create its first streaming show “Distancias.” The production is a series of vignettes that tell a larger story about how people have dealt with the last year. Robi Arce, Geo Alva and Michael Cavazos use their own experiences to talk about how people have adapted to the changes we’ve experienced and look at the distances between people. Audience members will be emailed a link to a YouTube stream to watch the show, which will be followed by a live talk back.
7:30 p.m. April 2-3, hand2mouththeatre.org/distancias, sliding scale $15-$25.
“Snow in Midsummer” – presented by Oregon Shakespeare Festival
“Snow in Midsummer” had its United States premiere at Oregon Shakespeare Festival in 2018. Based on a 13th-century Chinese play by Guan Hanqing, “The Injustice to Dou Yi that Moved Heaven and Earth,” the show interweaves the stories of a young widow who curses her city from beyond the grave and a wealthy businesswoman taking ownership of a factory in a city plagued by drought. Past and present, as well as the worlds of the living and the dead, converge in this exploration of injustice, love and environmental catastrophe. This show contains graphic violence, including sexual violence, and may not be suitable for all audiences.
May 3-29, osfashland.org, $15
“The Music Man” – presented by Portland Center Stage
Portland Center Stage’s latest virtual reading is the classic Meredith Wilson musical “The Music Man.” Con man Harold Hill insulates himself into a small town with an elaborate scheme to make himself rich. But the longer he spends with the people he’s trying to swindle, the more attached he becomes to them. “The Music Man offers a spirited and moving look at the way the arts can transform a community,” says PCS artistic director Marissa Wolf, who is directing the stripped-down reading with just two actors and a live piano accompaniment. The show will be livestreamed via Vimeo.
7:30 p.m. May 7-8, pcs.org, pay what you will, starting at $5.
“A Thousand Ways: An Encounter (Part Two)” – presented by Boom Arts
Last year, Boom Arts brought a theatrical experience to Portland from the New York theater group 600 Highwaymen. Participants called a phone number at a prescribed time and were paired with another audience member. Together, guided by a recorded narrator, the two would play the part of both audience and performer through the prompts. “A Thousand Ways” is a tryptic, and the next iteration will happen in person. In “A Thousand Ways: An Encounter (Part Two),” two strangers will sit opposite each other at a six-foot-long table with a glass partition. Only four audience members are in the space at once, masks must be worn at all times, temperatures are checked at the door, and entrances are staggered to avoid contact in the lobby and allow for cleaning between shows. Each person has a stack of index cards, a handful of objects, and a set of instructions to guide them. The work of 600 Highwaymen challenges what audiences think of as theater by exploring the connection between strangers.
May 14-23, boomarts.org, The Armory, 128 N.W. 11th Ave., $25-$40.