Category Archive: Backstage

Meet Josh Hecht! Our New Artistic Director

Omaha profile close upProfile Theatre is pleased to announce Josh Hecht as its new Artistic Director after a seven month national search. Josh will be relocating to Portland and take up leadership of theatre in February 2017. “I’ve spent my career guided by the belief that it is our writers who help us dream our culture forward,” says Josh. “I’m thrilled to join Profile Theatre, whose distinctive mission uses one playwright’s vision as a lens to help us better understand ourselves and our world. And I am inspired by Profile’s commitment to artistic excellence, robust community engagement and to presenting artists who reflect the diversity of our shared culture.”

“Profile Theatre was honored to have over 80 qualified applicants from around the world express interest in becoming our Artistic Director,” says Richard Bradspies, Profile Board member and head of the Artistic Director search committee. “We are especially excited to have Josh Hecht join us because he brings outstanding experience coupled with a shared vision and passion for the unique place Profile fills in the Portland arts scene.”

Josh comes to Profile after having previously served in senior staff positions at two important theaters in New York, MCC Theater and WET. While at MCC, he commissioned new work by Terrence McNally and John Guare, dramaturged Tony-nominated plays by Bryony Lavery and Neil LaBute, and created and ran the Playwrights Coalition, developing new plays by some of the most honored young playwrights of the last decade including Stephen Adly Guirgis, Lucy Thurber, David Adjmi, Adam Bock, Itamar Moses and many others. At WET he developed new work by some of our most prominent female playwrights including Anna Ziegler, Melissa James Gibson, and Kate Robin. He has consulted with the Lake George Theatre Lab and the Great Plains Theatre Conference, helping them expand their programming and community engagement initiatives.

As a freelance director, Josh’s work has received the Drama Desk Award for Unique Theatrical Experience, Festival First awards at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and Dublin Arts Festival, and has been nominated for the IRNE Award (Boston) and the GLAAD Award (New York). Productions have been seen at theaters around the country including the Guthrie Theater, the Humana Festival of New American Plays at Actors Theater of Louisville, the Berkshire Theater Festival, the Kennedy Center, No Rules at Signature Theater Company in DC, and in New York at MCC Theater, the Cherry Lane, the Duke on 42nd Street, The Culture Project and the Obie-winning collective 13Playwrights, among others. He has continued to develop dozens of new plays at theaters and play development centers across the country.

As an educator, Josh has been on the faculty of the New School for Drama’s MFA Directing program,  Fordham University’s MFA Playwriting program and Purchase College, SUNY’s esteemed BFA Dramatic Writing program, in addition to guest stints at The Juilliard School, NYU, Carnegie Mellon, the University of Minnesota and others.

His writing has been seen at the Kennedy Center in a collaborative piece created with National Medal of Honor winner Ping Chong, at the Duke on 42nd Street, the Flynn Center in Burlington, VT and the Round House Theater, and has received the support of the Jerome Foundation.

Profile Board Chair Steve Young adds, “Along with other members of Profile’s Search committee, I was impressed by Josh’s credentials as an educator and award-winning director with broad and deep experience in American theatre—in NYC and across the US. I am also impressed by his communication, collaboration, and leadership skills and by his passionate belief in theatre’s responsibility to contribute to the civic life of our community.”

Josh will arrive at Profile Theatre to launch Profile’s 2017 Quiara Alegría Hudes Season. “I’ve been a fan of Quiara Alegría Hudes since seeing Elliot nearly a decade ago,” says Josh. “I find her plays profoundly optimistic in world-view, without ignoring the complicated, often painful  realities of our lives. They seem to suggest that human connection is the salve that can begin to heal even the biggest traumas.” He will direct the rotating repertory productions of Water by the Spoonful and The Happiest Song Plays Last running November 1-19, 2017.

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Collaborating on Antigone

Adriana Baer first reached out to us at String House last year about collaborating on Antigone Project, and we (Alex Leigh Ramirez, Kaye Blankenship, and myself) were instantly hooked on the prospect of a project so crammed with amazing female artists working on such potent and timely stories. When she pitched us the script for Antigone Arkhe, however, the third piece in the festival written by Caridad Svich, I was admittedly daunted. Arkhe is arguably the most structurally experimental of these one-acts; the text alone is tricky to grasp in its poetic and fragmentary nature, but the added elements of tightly integrated projection, video, and sound also make it a logistically ambitious piece to implement on its own, let alone as part of a larger suite of work. A collaborative co-production made immediate sense as the best way to deliver it to an audience, and despite the obvious challenges I couldn’t help but get more hooked on the script the longer I sat with it. The ideas this piece contains about narrative ownership, female empowerment, and the politics of storytelling itself are just too interesting for a director like myself to pass up exploring. In the end we simply couldn’t say no.

To me, Arkhe is a story about a woman who has had her story stolen. Here she has been relegated in death to pieces of what she once was– shards of memory, artifacts of experience, and bits and pieces of hearsay. In her absence these pieces have been collected and commodified without her consent in order to reshape the story of what happened to her. The Archivist represents this act of appropriation. She has taken ownership of everything that once belonged to Antigone, primary of which is the trauma of her experience, and neatly packaged it all so that it can be delivered to us, the audience, in a palatable form. The journey of Antigone Arkhe, therefore, is that of Antigone’s attempt to reclaim what is rightfully hers.

String House is keenly interested in the practice of storytelling, and it is something we have focused on tightly in our previous theatrical work. However, examining this particular subject through the lens of race yields an even greater depth of field than what we’ve worked with before. As a mixed race artist working in the world today, I am avidly interested in how we as an artistic community tell the stories of people of color; as such, this piece raises fascinating questions for me. For instance, when are depictions of racial trauma on stage empowering, and when are they disempowering? At what point as art-makers do we cross the line from giving voice to a community’s experience into co-opting it for titillation, edification, or dramatic affect? In the terms of this particular story, whether or not the Archivist’s intentions are good or bad, right or wrong, what right does she have, at the end of the day, to Antigone’s story? All loaded questions. Difficult questions. Questions I am excited to drop into a room filled with other amazing female artists of color for some deep exploration.

– Emily Gregory, Co-founder of String House Theatre and Director of Antigone Arkhe

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Cast and Creative Team of Antigone Project

Meet the amazing team of artists that are bringing Antigone Project: A Play in 5 Parts to the stage.

In addition to the artists listed below, String House Theatre is creating one of pieces in this show. Read all about that collaboration, HERE.

CAST

Lauren Modica
Lauren Modica is thrilled to perform with Profile Theatre. A Portland native, she has performed with Portland Center Stage (Twist Your Dickens, Our Town, JAW), Artists Repertory Theater (The Skin of Our Teeth), Defunkt (In the Forest She Grew Fangs, Undiscovered Country), PHAME, Action/Adventure, Willamette Shakespeare, PAE, and many others.

Chris_Murray
Chris Murray

Chris is an actor and producer in Portland who was last seen at Profile Theatre was The Sam Shepard Festival of One Acts. Previous shows at Profile include The Sisters Rosensweig, A Few Stout Individuals and Six Degrees of Separation.Locally, he has been seen at Portland Center Stage in Great Expectations, Our Town, Futura, Sometimes a Great Notion, and 10 years at the JAW festival. Artists Repertory Theatre (The Liar, Playboy of the Western World, Xmas Unplugged, I am Still (The Duchess of Malfi), Mr. Marmalade, Take Me Out), Third Rail Repertory Theatre (A Bright New Boise, Penelope, The Aliens, A Skull in Connemara) and several shows at CoHo Productions, Portland Playhouse and more. Chris has been in many feature films you’ve probably never heard of. A few TV shows you probably have, and was called a pinhead by Bill O’Reilly on The O’Reilly Factor for his portrayal of Jesus in Everclear’s music video, Hater.


Cecily Overman

Cecily Overman has been active in Portland theatre for over ten years, both teaching and performing. Some of her favorite roles recently include: Lady Macbeth in Macbeth,  White Witch in The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, and Mother in The Giver.  She has taught in the community for Artist Repertory Theatre, Portland Center Stage, Oregon Children’s Theatre, and Northwest Children’s Theater. Cecily is also committed to her work with PlayWrite Inc. where, as a coach, she helps youth on the edge find their voice through theater. She holds Bachelor’s degrees in both Psychology and Theatre from Whitman College.


Seth Rue

Seth is super excited to be working with Profile again, and especially on Antigone Project! He’s just returned from the Folger Theatre in DC for the world premiere of Aaron Posner’s District Merchants and you may have seen him in Blue Door last spring in a Drammy-nominated performance. Seth believes that illustrating rejection of oppressive and repressive patriarchy and defending the voiceless will always be one of the most urgent functions of art and he is grateful that these playwrights have done that so beautifully and accessibly. Check out their other works – you will be glad you did.


Andrea White
Andrea White is a Portland native. She moved to Los Angeles for a decade pursuing film and television. She had guest roles on Family Matters, NYPD Blue, and Living Single. She also played Jeannie in the 30th year revival of Hair. Since returning to Portland 10 years ago she has been seen in the following: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Radio Golf, Gem of the Ocean (Portland Playhouse); Lesson Before Dying, American Daughter (Profile Theatre);  The Udmurts (Defunkt Theater) and Love and Information (Theatre Vertigo) She is a two time Best Supporting Actress Drammy Award winner for her work in Two Sister’s and a Piano (Artists Rep) and Hell Cab (Theatre Vertigo). Andrea is also a former faculty member and Acting Instructor at the Portland Actors Conservatory.

 

CREATIVE TEAM
Dawn Monique Williams
Director
Dawn Monique Williams, drawn to heightened language and magic realism, is a resident artist at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival where she’ll direct Merry Wives of Windsor in 2017. She’s directed a range of plays including the English language premiere of Gracia Morales’ NN12, Othello, Twelfth Night, In the Blood, Steel Magnolias, Children of Eden, The 25th Annual Spelling Bee, Little Shop of Horrors, Burial at Thebes, Medea, and La Ronde; international directing credits include Scapin the Cheat, Anna Bella Eema, and The Tempest. Most recently Dawn directed August Wilson’s The Piano Lesson and Lynn Nottage’s By the Way, Meet Stark. She was the 2013 Killian Directing Fellow at OSF, a TCG Leadership U awardee, and a 2011 Directing Fellow of the Drama League. She holds an MA in Dramatic Literature and an MFA in Directing.

Emily Gregory
Antigone Arkhe Director
Emily Gregory is a director, playwright, and the proud co-founder of String House, a new works laboratory and producing title for experimental, home-grown works of theatre.  Past work with String House includes Waxwing (playwright; 2012), …And the Great Refraction! (playwright/director; 2013), and Rosencrantz Are Guildenstern Are Dead (director, in collaboration with Anon It Moves; 2014).  Emily was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, but is now proud to call Portland, Oregon her home.  She is thrilled to begin a masters in Writing For Performance at Goldsmiths University of London this fall.

Kaye Blankenship
Scenic and Props Design
Kaye is a props, scenic, and lighting designer originally hailing from Sammamish, Washington. She earned her BA in theatre from Lewis & Clark College, and after a year working in New York, she is back in Portland and excited to work with Profile once again. Favorite past shows include: Annapurna (Third Rail), Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood LIVE (Mills Entertainment), A Winter’s Tale (Anon It Moves), Static (Third Rail Repertory Theatre), Ramona Quimby (Oregon Children’s Theatre), Snowstorm (CoHo), In The Next Room (Profile Theatre), and Waxwing with String House Theatre, where she is a founding member.

Jennifer Lin
Lighting Design
Jennifer Lin is a freelance lighting designer and stage technician who has been working in Portland theatre, dance and opera since 2008. She attended Portland State University from 2006-2008, and received The Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival’s Achievement Award for her lighting design for PSU’s production of Electra.  Jennifer is a company member of Third Rail Repertory Theatre, and upcoming projects include Third Rail’s production of The Nether.

Sarah Ludeman
Costume Design

Sara is a local costume designer. Born and raised in Portland,  she graduated from PSU with her BA in History. In addition to her production work, she also assists with Profile’s Hand’s On Theatre program in the Portland Public Schools. Her credits include: Into the Beautiful North and American Night (Milagro Theatre), The Call and Passion Play (Profile Theatre), Peter and the Starcatcher (Portland Playhouse) and High School Musical (Enlightened Theatrics).

Phillip Johnson
Sound Design

Phillip is a theatrical artist based in Portland Oregon and the Technical Director of Ridgefield High school’s Drama program. His recent productions include Hands Up (Red Door Project), Worse Than Tigers (ACT Theater/Red Stage), Contigo Pan y Cebolla (Milagro Theater), A Lady Onstage (Profile Theater), and The Importance of Being Earnest (Valley Repertory Theater).  When he isn’t designing or teaching Phil is traveling the world spreading art education to impoverished areas. He most recently taught theater in the slums of Nairobi, Kenya. He has a B.F.A. and M.A. from Ohio University. For updates, Downloads and links to show soundtracks please visit PhilJohnsondesignstheworld.com

Miranda Russ
Stage Manager
Miranda Swineford has a BA in Drama with Honors in Stage Management from University of California, Irvine and an MFA in Stage Management from Columbia University in the City of New York. Her professional credits include: Gigi on Broadway; Othello at Classic Stage Company; Birds of Paradise at New York International Fringe Festival; Summer Valley Fair at New York Musical Theatre Festival; and more.  Having recently moved back to the West Coast, Miranda is absolutely thrilled to be working on her first production with Profile Theatre.

Karen Hill
Production Manager
Karen is thrilled to be working with Profile and such wonderful fellow artists.  Continuing to be a part of this theater community is joyful gift.  Karen also works with Artists Repertory Theater, Portland Shakespeare Project, and has previously worked at Oregon Children’s Theater, Third Rail, Portland Center Stage, and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.  One million thanks to Mike for supporting this crazy lifestyle.

Melissa Sondergeld
Production Assistan
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Melissa is thrilled to be working with Profile Theater again, after working on Dead Man’s Cell Phone last season. She is a recent graduate of Warner Pacific College, with a degree in Music Education and Theater. She is currently working as a teacher at Mayer Christian Academy. Past productions include Encounter, As You Like It and The Spitfire Grill at WPC, Hello Dolly at Manestage Theater Company and Eurydice at Portland State.

Karen Hartman
Hang Ten
Karen Hartman held the Playwright Center’s 2014-15 McKnight Residency and Commission for a nationally recognized playwright. Current: Roz and Ray (Alley Theatre), The Book of Joseph (Chicago Shakespeare Theater), Project Dawn (People’s Light & Theater Company), and a Yale Repertory Theater commission about the landmark Supreme Court case Ricci vs DeStefano. Her new dialogue for Mozart’s The Magic Flute appeared at Meany Center in Seattle, 2015. Goldie, Max, and Milk premiered at Florida Stage and the Phoenix Theater. Other works: Goliath, Gum, Leah’s Train, Going Gone; Girl Under Grain; Wild Kate, ALICE: Tales of a Curious Girl Troy Women; and MotherBone, score by Graham Reynolds. New York: Women’s Project, National Asian American Theatre Company, P73, the New York Fringe, and Summer Play Festival. Regional: Center Stage, Cincinnati Playhouse, Dallas Theater Center, the Magic, and elsewhere. Publications: TCG, DPS, Playscripts, Backstage Books, and NoPassport Press. Awards: Sustainable Arts Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation at Bellagio, the N.E.A., the Helen Merrill Foundation, Daryl Roth “Creative Spirit” Award, Hodder Fellowship, Jerome Fellowship, Fulbright Scholarship. Prose: New York Times and The Washington Post. An alumna of New Dramatists and longtime Brooklynite, Karen is now Senior Artist in Residence at the University of Washington School of Drama.

Tanya Barfield
Medallion
Tanya Barfield’s plays include: Bright Half Life (Women’s Project Theatre), The Call (Playwrights Horizons/Primary Stages), Blue Door (South Coast Rep, Playwrights Horizons), Feast (co-writer, Young Vic/Royal Court), Of Equal Measure (Center Theatre Group), Chat (New Dramatists’ Playtime Festival), The Quick (New York Stage & Film).  A recipient of a Lilly Award, the inaugural Lilly Award Commission and a Helen Merrill Award, Tanya is an alumna of Dramatists and a member of The Dramatist Guild Council. In 2016,  Profile Theatre is devoting their entire season to her work.  TV credits include: The One Percent and The Americans.

Caridad Svich
Antigone Arkhe
Caridad Svich received a 2012 OBIE Award for Lifetime Achievement in the theatre, a 2012 Edgerton Foundation New Play Award and NNPN rolling world premiere for Guapa, and the 2011 American Theatre Critics Association Primus Prize for her play The House of the Spirits, based on the Isabel Allende novel. She has won the National Latino Playwriting Award (sponsored by Arizona Theatre Company) twice, including in the year 2013 for her play Spark. She has been short-listed for the PEN Award in Drama four times, including in the year 2012 for her play Magnificent Waste. Seven of her plays are published in Instructions for Breathing and Other Plays (Seagull Books and University of Chicago Press, 2014). Five of her plays radically re-imagining ancient Greek tragedies are published in Blasted Heavens (Eyecorner Press, University of Denmark, 2012). She has edited several book on theatre including Innovation in Five Acts (TCG, 2015), and Trans-Global Readings (Manchester University Press, 2004). She sustains a parallel career as a theatrical translator, chiefly of the dramatic work of Federico Garcia Lorca. She is alumna playwright of New Dramatists, associate editor of Contemporary Theatre Review (Routledge,UK), and founder of NoPassport theatre alliance and press.

Lynn Nottage
A Stone’s Throw
Lynn Nottage is a Pulitzer Prize winning playwright and a screenwriter.  Her plays include SweatBy The Way, Meet Vera Stark (Lily Award, Drama Desk Nomination), Ruined (Pulitzer Prize, OBIE, Lucille Lortel, New York Drama Critics’ Circle, Audelco, Drama Desk, and Outer Critics Circle Award), Intimate Apparel (American Theatre Critics and New York Drama Critics’ Circle Awards for Best Play), Fabulation, or The Re-Education of Undine (OBIE Award), Crumbs from the Table of Joy,  Las Meninas, Mud, River, Stone, Por’knockers and POOF!.
Nottage is the recipient of a MacArthur “Genius Grant” Fellowship, Steinberg “Mimi” Distinguished Playwright Award, the Dramatists Guild Hull-Warriner Award, the inaugural Horton Foote Prize, Lilly Award, Helen Hayes Award, the Lee Reynolds Award, and the Jewish World Watch iWitness Award. Her other honors include the National Black Theatre Fest’s August Wilson Playwriting Award, a Guggenheim Grant, PEN/Laura Pels Award, Lucille Lortel Fellowship and Visiting Research Fellowship at Princeton University. She is a graduate of Brown University and the Yale School of Drama, where she has been a faculty member since 2001.  She is also an Associate Professor at Columbia School of the Arts.

Chiori Miyagawa
Red Again
Chiori Miyagawa is a playwright based in New York City. She conceived Antigone Project in 2004—during Bush’s second presidential campaign—to pull together women’s political voices and share them with audiences. Chiori’s plays have been produced off-Broadway (Vineyard Theatre, New York Theatre Workshop, Women’s Project, Culture Project), at renowned performance houses in NYC (HERE Arts Center, Performance Space 122, Ohio Theater, La Mama) and regionally. This Lingering Life premiered in San Francisco in June 2014 at Z Space and was a finalist for Theater Bay Area Best Premiere of Play Award. A collection of seven of her plays, Thousand Years Waiting and Other Plays, is published by Seagull Books; and another collection of five plays, America Dreaming and Other Plays is published by NoPassport Press. She is a recipient of many fellowships including a New York Foundation for the Arts Playwriting Fellowship, a McKnight Playwriting Fellowship, an Asian Cultural Council Fellowship, a Rockefeller Bellagio Residency Fellowship, and a Radcliffe Institute Fellowship at Harvard University. She is an alumna of New Dramatists, a Usual Suspect of New York Theatre Workshop and Playwright in Residence at Bard College.

 

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Antigone: A Timeless Tale of Defiance

Antigone is the gut-wrenching finale to Sophocles’ soul-and- spirit-wrenching Oedipus trilogy, which details the rise, fall, and inevitable fulfillment of prophecy of Oedipus. Following his timely death in the previous installment, Oedipus at Colonus, his lifelong battle with fate is passed down to his next of kin – sons Eteocles and Polyneices and our titular heroine, daughter Antigone. Their prophecy, foretold by the prophet Teiresias, states that the two brothers will kill each other in a battle for their late father’s seat as the King of Thebes. Antigone returns to Thebes, hoping to halt this prophecy, only to discover her brothers already dead and Polyneice’s body rotting in the town square. Creon, believing Polyneice a traitor, has made it illegal for him to receive proper burial rites. Refusing to accept Creon’s word as law, Antigone decides to bury her brother, leading to her imprisonment. Knowing she likely faces torture and death, Antigone hangs herself in her cell, defying Creon once again. In the wake of her suicide, Creon’s son (Antigone’s fiance) is stricken by grief and kills himself as well, leaving Creon to end the play in anguish.

Antigone is, at its heart, a story of defiance, of civil disobedience, of doing what is morally right in the face of unjust laws. The entire Oedipus trilogy revolves around these themes but the previous two installments focus mainly on the conflict of free will vs. fate (or prophecy). The battles are heady and internal and in many cases a character’s enemy is themselves, or what they may one day be. But Antigone is unique in that the prophecy has been fulfilled before Antigone ever enters Thebes. Her brothers lay dead and the wrong person is in power. So, what is she going to do about it?

For once, it is up to her.

As long as we as a society have governments and centralized powers, stories of civil disobedience will resonate. We often hear of protests and boycotts, walk-outs and sit-ins; in this Post-Ferguson, Post-Occupy world, people are realizing the power of like-minded groups. But what if you have no group? Antigone stands alone throughout the play. Her family is dead and the city she once called home is against her. She is a young woman fighting for what she knows to be right in a patriarchal society which views her as objectively lesser. It is not an uphill battle; it is a gravity-defying climb up a jagged rock face in a storm. Still she is defiant to her last breath.

Antigone is the perfect example of fighting for what is right, of overcoming the odds, of looking fate in the eyes and saying “not today”. Many ancient Greek plays became archaic long ago – but Antigone holds up and speaks as true today as the day it was written.

 

-London Bauman
Profile Dramaturgy Intern

 

Get tickets to Antigone Project: A Play in 5 Parts

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Mythic Heros Through a Different Lens

What does it mean to be a character? What does it mean to be a person? How many lives can one person live? How can Spider-Man be black?

The answers to all of these questions usually mix together and boil down to two key principles of story-telling: the speaker and the audience; or, what the story means to the person telling it and who they are shaping it for. Perhaps they change certain important aspects of the story and yet keep others. Maybe a character changes gender or the setting is shifted a thousand years. It is very rare for a story and all its details to stay enduringly unique forever – which is why modernized Shakespeare plays are the norm and why in the current Marvel canon, the man under the Spider-Man mask is Miles Morales – an outcast black teen from New York – following Peter Parker’s death in past issues. One explanation is simply that the next man to receive Spidey’s superpowers just happened to be of African-American descent; a coincidence.

But nothing in storytelling is a coincidence.

So, the other explanation is that the story of Spider-Man, a nerdy teen who didn’t fit in from New York (a city which is 30% Black), resonates with young African-Americans and tells a story which makes sense and inspires a demographic who doesn’t typically get to see themselves represented by super heroes. A classic story of heroics and redemption is taken and reworked when a new storyteller took up the pen and a new audience was designated as the listeners.

The exact same mechanic is at work amid all 5 stories of  Antigone Project, as 5 different playwrights take the basic framework of the ancient Greek story Antigone and dissect it, scrutinizing it’s details and fitting them into a fresh skin with new words and characters but the same few strands of truth present in all of them. In Tanya Barfield’s Medallion, Antigone is embodied in Antoinette, a young African-American woman demanding she receive the purple heart she believes is owed to her deceased brother from Carlton (Creon), who tells her she “oversteps herself” with her requests. It is a story of civil disobedience and rightful burial just as Sophocles’ 2500 year old play is and the same resonant strands are present, but it is a new tale told by a new teller and for a new audience. It is not a rendition, nor it is an homage, but a retelling – allowing Antigone and her fight to breathe in the air of 1918 and show how different times are … or, exactly the same.

All 5 playwrights within Antigone Project offer their own personal reworking of Antigone and her struggle while mixing in their own intimate impressions of the ancient woman they write about. Sometimes it is startlingly different, sometimes entirely familiar. It all depends on who tells the story and who they tell it for.

-London Bauman
Profile Dramaturgy Intern

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How to Choose a Season

Season selection is one of the most important, exciting and challenging aspects of an Artistic Director’s job.  A good season is one that balances different kinds of stories, different styles, big questions, comedies and dramas, etc. through the presentation of a carefully curated series of plays.  It is one part jigsaw puzzle and one part tightrope act!  At Profile, our mission of featuring the work of a single playwright each year adds another layer of complexity – what single playwright can provide all of that within their body of work?

 

For our first 17 years, we looked primarily to the master writers of the 20th century – the playwrights who are household names, who show up in all of the drama textbooks.  But recently with Sarah Ruhl and Tanya Barfield, Profile has started to shift where we look for excellent writers, towards playwrights who are in the midst of creating their body of work – the ones who will be featured in the next generation of textbooks!  To identify these writers, the Artistic Director begins by talking to people – asking friends and colleagues around the country “Who has work that is exciting to you?  Who is shaping the field and changing the game?”

 

Through these conversations and the Artistic Director’s own knowledge, a list begins to take shape.  Then begins the hunt to find a way to contact the playwrights.  Usually this is done through the playwright’s agent who, excited by the prospect of their client being featured for an entire season, is eager to help us and get the Artistic Director the materials they need to really familiarize themselves with the writer’s work.

 

And then….the reading.  Oh, the reading!  At this point the Artistic Director may ask other Profile staff or interns to take a look at some of the scripts to provide feedback and a sounding board. But it primarily falls to the Artistic Director to read each of the scripts and decide if the artist is a good candidate to be a Profile featured playwright.

 

What makes a good candidate?  The most important thing is excellence – excellent writing and storytelling, complex and nuanced characters, plays that grapple with big questions and compelling issues.  After that, it gets more complicated….  We look for the playwright to have a fair amount of variety within their body of work – different styles of storytelling, variation in structure and rhythm, a diversity of themes and questions within the plays.  And then the vagaries and practicalities of production scale must come into play.  Ultimately, Profile is a fairly small organization producing in intimate spaces.  While we might daydream about an epic Stephen Sondheim season, the cost of large casts, complicated costumes, huge sets, big design teams etc. mean that we do not have the capacity or the means to produce a season of such large shows.  Thankfully, there is a huge pool of talented writers in the field who create plays of all shapes and sizes – it is just about finding the right person at the right moment in both their career and our life as an organization.
In the end, like with all other companies, selecting a Profile playwright and season is a balancing act – balancing excellent writing, a dynamic body of work and our capacity as an organization to do that work justice, presenting strong and compelling productions to you, our audience and community.

-Lauren Bloom Hanover, Interim Artistic Director

Students at Metropolitan Learning Center flourish in their Profile Theatre classes!

IMG_4874Profile Theatre has partnered with Metropolitan Learning Center for 14 years, sending exceptional teaching artists to teach a class called Theatre Arts. Juniors and seniors explore all aspects of theatre through the lens of our season’s featured playwright.

This school year, Profile is offering a second residency at MLC, and this time it’s for freshman and sophomores! Veteran teaching artist Katherine Lewis has spent the last couple months working with a group of students, many of whom are experiencing theatre for the first time.

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Using physical activities, games, writing exercises and discussions, Katherine has helped the students form an ensemble. They researched the Antigone myth, and then read Profile’s next main stage play, Fall Festival: Antigone Project. Now the students are creating their own version of Antigone, based on their lives and concerns. Katherine’s MLC students went from being too shy to speak in class to standing at a mic in front of a crowd! Several of them presented excerpts from their work-in-progress to the gathered audience before a recent production of Blue Door.

If you’d like to see what Profile residencies foster, check out the final presentation by the younger class of MLC students, which is open to the pubic.

Monday, June 6th , at 7:30
The MLC Auditorium
2033 NW Glisan St, Portland, OR 97209

We All Have a Story to Tell

Photo courtesy of Tony Funchess

On Sunday, April 10th, a group of men of color attended the matinee of Blue Door and then had a private discussion, led by community activist Tony Funchess, in the rehearsal hall following the play. Below are Mr. Funchess’ thoughts on that discussion and Blue Door.

We all have a story to tell! The story that men tell in public, a story of confidence, strength, assuredness is not always the story they keep locked within. Lewis, the reflection of so many men of color allows us the ability to cross the chasm that exist between the full “dimensionality” of being a man, and a man of color. As we sit in the theater we are transformed into the role of primary in our own narrative as we each assume a role and identity of Lewis’ as he is visited by his ancestors on his reflective journey into his past; the road map to defining and finding himself.

This journey of introspection and liberation is not one easily taken. As the men who showed up for this experience of watching Blue Door and the post post-show discussion that took place for men of color, expressed behind closed doors. This experience of having an affinity space; a space solely for men of color, became a transformative space. Guards down, titles set aside, and brotherhood established we discussed our experiences with American theater, predominantly white spaces, and our commonalty in struggle as men of color, as well as our shared desire for liberation.

As we reflected on Lewis’ journey we discussed the recent scientific discovery of genetic memory of experiencing encoded into our DNA, the impacts of Mass Incarceration, the historical fairy tale of the black man as rapist, and our own journey’s that brought us into this circle. These men who had traveled from as far as Texas, and southern Oregon to be in this room expressed their deep need for spaces like these were the truth of our strength, and frailty can be discussed without damage to our external images.

The insomnia of Tanya Barfield’s Blue Door is the waking nightmare that many men of color experience in silence. Conditioned by society to “man up” we are often denied the opportunity to “let our hair down” and just be. As men of color there is this ever present awareness of our own presence in a room and the recognition of the multiplicity of thoughts and judgements about our presence in that room. Well thanks to Profile Theater this time the room was just ours. It was a room of breathing; exhaling the frustration of societal pressures to live up to ideologies often foreign to our internal design and historical make-up, and inhaling; the friendship, brotherhood, and healing of transparency in expression without pretense.

This room was our Blue Door the symbol of locking the evil of this world out and keeping the harmony of self and family in throughout eternity. This process of shared existence and experience is one that we must all approach in our own time and in our own way. Thanks to the intentional directorial approach to this piece, Bobby Bermea focuses with laser precision, a moon beam for us to follow out of the dark night of hidden history and identity and into the liberated space of fullness as men of color. Undeniably a need story to be told and experience to be had.

-Tony Funchess

So why IS the door blue?

 

I don’t know about you, but I love history. Sit me down in front of The History Channel with some popcorn and several hours and suddenly you have a very happy person. Blue Door, the next magical installment of this Tanya Barfield season is chock full of interesting (and sometimes heart-wrenching) historical tid-bits. One of these is right in the title: Blue Door. Why Blue? Why Door? Let’s discuss.

Momma in Blue Door suggests, “Paint dis do’way blue. Keep d’ good spirits in. Keep d’ghost out.” According to the Gullah people (descendants of enslaved Africans from the lowcountry of Georgia and South Carolina) the color blue was thought to ward off ghosts or “haints” who, for whatever reason, had not moved onto the spirit world or who had malicious intent.

Okay, but still why blue? It is believed that haints can’t cross water, so African slaves would mix up a batch of “haint blue” milk paint and invoke the idea of water with the color blue. Though the practice of painting porches “haint blue” later became one of those, “It’s just what we do!” And we don’t know why kind of practices in the south, don’t be fooled! The Gullah people did it first.

The exact hue of haint blue is hard to pin down as it was generally produced from milk paint (a modern recipe for eco-friendly, indigo milk paint can be found here) a blend of lime, milk protein, pigment, and any kind of reliable binder such as eggs. As you can imagine with such a general ingredient as “pigment” the hue of the pigment and what it was derived from varied widely. Though, a lighter egg-shell blue is often associated with haint blue.

So, who were these people and how come it is such a common practice? The Gullah people were descended from African slaves who came from regions that were naturally sweltering, humid and where rice plantations were common. Their tolerance for malaria and yellow fever (diseases prone to cultivate in warm, humid weather) was relatively high so while the European settlers were dying from the disease, they were not. As a result, by the start of the 18th century the lowcountry region was primarily black. This isolation allowed African slaves more freedom to cultivate and perpetuate their traditions including (you guessed it) the blue door.

-Hannah Nutter, Dramaturgy Intern

Children’s Book Drive for Blue Door

Throughout the run of Blue Door, Profile is partnering with The Children’s Book Bank on their project, A Story Like Mine.

Books are most effective when they are relevant to children’s lives, but our current inventory of culturally diverse books is not nearly sufficient to meet the need of the wide diversity of children and families we serve.  To bridge the gap between the need for culturally diverse books and the lack of availability, we are launching “A Story Like Mine.”  Your support of this project helps us make more culturally diverse books available for all of the children we serve.

So many of the themes in Blue Door connect with storytelling and connection to culture through our shared stories and histories. Profile is thrilled to partner with The Children’s Book Bank on this important work. Children seeing their lives and cultures reflected in the books they read help them become more grounded and whole adults.

When you come to see Blue Door, bring new or gently used books featuring multicultural stories, characters and authors and drop them in our book box by the box office. Profile will deliver all book donations to the Children’s Book Bank when the show closes.

Want some ideas for kids books about African Americans?

 

Blue Door Director Bobby Bermea recommends Sounder, Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, The Egypt Game and Malcolm X.

 

 

Actor Seth Rue loves The People Could FlyMirandy and Brother Wind, Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters and The Snowy Day.

 

 

 

Playwright Tanya Barfield recommends Wilma Unlimited.