“I met Tim Stapleton soon after moving to Portland when Steve Young, then one of our Board members, invited me and my then-partner to dinner with Tim at Steve and Jane’s apartment. Tim regaled us with stories of his Kentucky youth, and he told me of his excitement about our upcoming Lisa Kron season, since he had spent so many years in Lansing where Lisa is from, working at the Boorshead Theatre where Lisa cut her teeth.
Many years earlier, I had worked with Gore Vidal “dramaturging” a play of his. (I put that in quotes because Gore had little interest in that collaboration. But he did regale me with stories every afternoon. I was thoroughly, utterly charmed.) Tim reminded me of Gore, with his naughty twinkle and his southern drawl, which he leaned into occasionally for effect. Was there ever anyone more charming than Tim?
One of the things I loved most about Tim is that he believed you didn’t have be an “Artist” with a capital A to make art and to have your life enriched by the act of creation. He himself, of course, was a consummate artist, and he shared that gift freely and called it forth in others.
One of the first big “wins” for me at Profile was when we won a large near-six-figure Creative Heights grant to commission Ping Chong + Company to create a docu-theatre piece about living with chronic illness or caring for someone who does. 6 Portland residents told their own and each other’s stories. One of them was Tim. I was and am immensely proud of that piece, crafted with love and directed by Sara Zatz.
Tim had the last lines of the play. He hoisted himself to standing with the aid of his friend and documentarian Dave Poulshock and said these words:
“I stand with the aid of a cane on the porch of a house in a mid-west town. The sky rolls by pouring a blue-gray wash over an autumn landscape. Colors run and blend. To the west there is light. The yard dims. Fireflies, a seemingly vast constellation hovering in the yellow-orange carpeted darkness, pull me from the porch. I step off. Suddenly, in the early shades of night the fireflies transform into an army with fiery wands drawn at ready, soldiering me into this battle against my affliction.
My cane becomes a sword. […]
My name is Timothy Wayne Stapleton. I was born March 29th, 1949 in Fleming, Kentucky. My name means “a wagon full of things that honor God.” I’ve always felt I was born out of fire. It was the start of Spring in Coal Country, the season of rebirth.”
As you know, due to the serious ongoing COVID-19 pandemic we’ve had to cancel our remaining in-person programming. In April, we called upon our supporters to see us through the crisis. Your generous contributions helped us surpass our fundraising goals and retain our staff. In addition, we were able to collaborate remotely with a team of artists to create a new play and adapt to an audio platform. Our vision is to give the gift of theatre in a way that you can enjoy anywhere, anytime. Episode 1 launches on Monday, June 15 and we can’t wait to share!
DEDICATED TO BIPOC WHO LOST THEIR LIVES TO HIV
“According to the Center for Disease Control, the Black and Diaspora communities have the most severe burden of HIV of all racial/ethnic groups in the United States. These communities face a higher rate of poverty than other racial/ethnic groups which results in decreased access to high-quality health care, housing, and HIV prevention education—directly and indirectly increasing the risk for HIV infection and affecting the health of people living with and at risk for HIV.” –Cascade AIDS Project (CAP)
For the rest of June, we are using our platforms to raise vital funds for the compassionate healthcare services that Prism Health and CAP provides to the LGBTQ community and beyond. Donate HERE
Since 2016, Profile Theatre has had an explicit commitment to presenting stories from a wide variety of perspectives, centering women, people of color, and Queer writers and artists. CLAUDIA was collaboratively-written by 9 of today’s most honored and exciting writers from a range of backgrounds.Check out their bios HERE
Now more than ever, we must deepen our collective compassion and fight for racial and social justice. Writers with diverse perspectives help us see, make sense of the most challenging of times, and light the way towards the future.
We hope that this serial audio play is a chance for you to sit back, relax, and use your imagination. Soak in the soundscape we’ve created and meet our diverse characters. Then, we hope you harness your renewed energy and creativity to ACT and be a force for change. BLACK LIVES MATTER
Yesterday, we got the devastating news that, though we submitted our application to our bank more than ten days ago, the Small Business Administration fund has run out of money before our loan could be processed, depriving Profile of $68,000 in potential payroll support.
Our staff of 6 remain fully employed at this time and we are working hard to envision and create sustainable, inspiring arts programming. The path is unclear but our mission is more important than ever.
We’ve received a total of $7,200 in COVID relief funding from Oregon Community Foundation, Advanced Gender Equity in the Arts and American Theatre Wing. We are incredibly grateful.
But, as you can imagine, this is just a fraction of the need we are facing.
Patrons like you remain the beating heart of the theatre and the reason we can continue our work.
The stories we share connect us to ourselves and each other. They help us make sense of the suffering we see around us and dream into being the re-emergence we long for. At times, they provide needed escape, opening our imaginations and helping us soar. In the coming months, we will begin sharing new stories you can enjoy from the safety of your home.
But we can’t do it alone. Any gift you can make in this extraordinary time will help us continue shining a light on the stories that inspire us into the new world together.
We hope that you, like us, have been hunkering down and staying in as much as possible during this Coronavirus pandemic. What an incredibly difficult time we are living through. What has become clear in this crisis is how interconnected we truly are.
The health and safety of our patrons, staff and the community at large is a top priority. In compliance with social distancing directives from the state, city and county we have made the difficult decisions to:
-Postpone the remainder of our 2019-20 season until Fall 2020 -Cancel our April 24 gala and raise $75,000 virtually
While we can’t gather in person to carry out our life-enriching programs, we will continue to pursue our important mission and serve the Portland community.
WE NEED YOUR SUPPORT NOW MORE THAN EVER Local arts organizations like Profile Theatre are unable to carry out programs that benefit thousands of individuals each year. This is resulting in lost revenue and loss of work for many artists, theatre technicians and administrators. Your gift will make our ongoing community engagement work & future mainstage programming possible.
OUR GOAL To keep our operations running in the absence of our planned programming, we need to raise $75,000 by April 24.
WE SURPASSED OUR GOAL and raised $100,193 including $17,332 in tickets donated back and $82,861 in cash contributions.
Thank you to all of our donors.
WHAT WILL PROFILE DO? We are doubling down on our engagement efforts through digital platforms and ramping up our connectivity to the easily-isolated members of our Community Profile program: members of the LGBTQ+ community and People Living With HIV. Get creative with us as we bring our work to you through online arts programming until we can be together again.
LET’S CONNECT Stay tuned for fun ways to engage with our community through digital platforms to ease isolation in this trying time. Our team is working remotely but we want to hear from you! profiletheatre.org/contact-us
So much needs your attention right now in this urgent time. Art cannot literally save a life. But art helps us make meaning out of life. And art connects us to our deepest selves and to one another, easing isolation and creating a much-needed sense of community. In this way, art can be a lifeline to so many.
Help us continue to bring you the arts and community programming you value by making a gift today. We promise to use our creativity to continue serving our city however we can in this extraordinary time.
With warmest regards, Josh Hecht, Artistic Director Profile Theatre
#1 – THE STORY IS MOVING Indecent will make you laugh, cry and maybe even dance! Paula Vogel’s Tony Nominated play will add breadth to your perspective on the world and depth to your compassion.
#2 – THE CAST DAZZLES Director, Josh Hecht encourages actors to “fall in love with each other” and that is exactly what has happened with this cast of 10. Witness their individual strengths and group chemistry on stage!
#3 – NOT A PLAIN JANE PLAY Indecent is a multi-faceted play spanning half a century on two continents. The virtuosic ensemble cast expertly layers dozens of characters and the set transforms before our eyes in unexpected ways.
#4 – INCREDIBLE STAGING When two theatre companies combine forces, amazing things like Indecent happen. From the first rehearsal to opening night the creative process has been a collaborative journey with mastermind designers!
“The star of ART and Profile’s production is the stagecraft. At any moment, you could take a picture that would be both gorgeous and expressive.”
#5 – MESMERIZING MUSIC AND DANCE The three piece klezmer band led by Christina Crowder provides the dynamic beating heart of the play while choreography by Adin Walker adds complementary layers of emotion, intimacy and fun!
WHAT ARE CRITICS SAYING?
“Sublime! Staggering in its scope!” -Bennett Campbell Ferguson, Willamette Week Read the review: bit.ly/indecentreview
“At times, I was so engrossed with imagery director Josh Hecht created that I failed to notice that the entire stage had transformed until all of a sudden the light hit it in a new way. -Krista Garver, Broadway World Read the review: bit.ly/indecentreview2
“The Portland production, beautifully directed by Profile’s artistic director Josh Hecht, benefits from especially resonant design choices.” -Darleen Orteaga, The Portland Observer Read the review: bit.ly/indecentreview3
“If people miss this, it’s a huge loss to their soul!”
At its heart, INDECENT is about the power of telling our own stories and the transformative dignity of having those stories seen and valued
Josh Hecht, Director
When we started conceiving this production of INDECENT, I was about to go into rehearsals for THE BALTIMORE WALTZ, an early work by Paula Vogel written in the months just after her brother Carl died of AIDS and in which she imagines the trip to Europe she never got to take with him. It is a comedic work nonetheless suffused with loss, and the familiar ache that lies beneath our favorite memories of loved ones gone. No one quite marries humor and sadness like Paula Vogel. It is a hallmark of her work.
One of the pleasures of being the Artistic Director of Profile Theatre is our unique ability to get to know intimately an artist’s body of work and to start to draw connections between those works. Like putting on the glasses of a dear friend or family member and seeing the world through their eyes. When I had lunch with Paula over the summer, I mentioned the similarities I had noticed between THE BALTIMORE WALTZ and INDECENT, from its adventurous form to the stunning final moment that dreams into being a healing embrace from the beyond. She smiled at me and said, “They’re book-ends. No one’s noticed that before.”
THE BALTIMORE WALTZ begins and ends in Carl Vogel’s hospital room, and though in between Vogel’s play takes us on a journey across continents and time, in one sense we never really leave the hospital in which it begins. As we started working, set designer Peter Ksander and I began to wonder what would happen if the dusty attic in which INDECENT begins never wholly leaves us either.
INDECENT is told through the eyes of a theatre troupe who have performed Scholem Asch’s THE GOD OF VENGEANCE for years in Jewish communities throughout Europe and in America. So moved are they by Asch’s story of love found in this obscenity of a world, that even during the horrors of the holocaust, they gather in secret in a cramped attic in the Warsaw ghetto to perform this play every week.
Our need to tell our own stories is one of the most ancient needs we have. Recently, a board member of ours went to France, where he visited the caves in which Neanderthals painted images of their lived experience 64,000 years ago. Before humankind had fully emerged as a distinct species, the urge towards creative expression was strong. And though we may not have had stages like Lincoln Hall and large producing organizations like Artists Rep or Profile, there has always been someone who stood up and told a story to someone else who listened. For it’s not just the telling that is important. It’s the witnessing. It’s the confirmation that comes from speaking our truths and having someone else say, “Yes, that’s me, too. Yes, I recognize that. We may be different, but in this way we are the same.” It’s why, in ancient Greece, the entire city-state would gather on the eve of battle to watch plays together, to listen and be seen, and to have their place in the universe, their belonging, confirmed.
This is why it’s so important to present a diversity of stories and lives on the stage. Because this need to tell our own stories, to have them witnessed and valued, and to feel our place in this world is an essential need. And if we believe that the theatre can be, in the words of Anna Deavere Smith, a convening ground, a place where communities come together to practice seeing ourselves in each other’s stories, a place to exchange ideas and expand our souls, then we must make space in our theaters for many to be seen and known. It is one of the ways we fold many threads into the American tapestry we live in.
At its heart, INDECENT is about the power of telling our own stories and the transformative dignity of having those stories seen and valued — a feeling so strong, this troupe will risk everything for it, even their very lives. The attic in which their fate was sealed is, for me, a reminder of how delicate our lives and culture are. 75 years ago, more than a third of the world’s Jewish population were destroyed. What if we were not here to witness this story, told by ghosts in an attic whose whereabouts have been long-forgotten? Very few write stories in Yiddish anymore, as Paula writes in INDECENT. And yet, these stories are an essential desiderata, rising from the ashes to claim their space in the world night after night, asking us to witness, to take them into our hearts, and to be transformed.
The longtime OSF designer and arts leader says extending equity to under-represented groups provides a way forward for everyone
As is true of many of our Vision 2020 participants, Christopher Acebo wears many hats. Until leaving recently to pursue freelance opportunities, he was associate artistic director of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland. In 14 seasons there, his work included virtually every aspect of play production, from season planning and casting to design; he also participated in strategic planning and creative team selections.
He worked on more than 30 productions at OSF, including Robert Schenkkan’s All The Way, which also played on Broadway and won the 2014 Tony Award for best play. His work has also been in theaters in Portland and around the country. Beginning Jan. 16, he’ll be directing Lynn Nottage’s Sweat at Profile Theatre in Portland.
At OSF, Acebo initiated and curated the Latinx Play Project, which developed and presented new plays and provided a forum for artists, producers, and audiences to discuss and advance Latinx theatre. He was also a founding member of the Latinx Theatre Commons and in 2013 was presented with the LTC Award for Outstanding Advocacy for Latinx Voices in the New American Theater.
How would you describe the general state of artistic and cultural life in Oregon?
I have both optimism and pessimism when it comes to the arts in Oregon. The optimism comes from the work I’ve been experiencing. The quality, breadth, and social activism is flourishing, and artists in the state have become powerful beacons creating extraordinary work and calling out injustice in various forms — from theaters that are pushing the boundaries of the stories they’re telling to art venues investing in shows by artists that have not had a platform to express themselves to a broader audience. Arts organizations are looking at their operations and delving into more equitable representation.
But there’s a flip side?
The pessimism comes in the support and/or lack of value that we sometimes give artists and organizations. I’ve become skeptical of the nonprofit structure in the arts in that it can rely too heavily on the wealthy class and that can affect artistic risk and progress. Arts organizations then have to twist their missions and staffs to be able to get support from a variety of funding sources — including foundations, government/public and patrons — to do their vital work. That amounts to a lot of input and output and it’s a taxing situation. I’m not trying to blame good people and intentions, but it’s an old system that sometimes grinds against progress.
Tell us a bit about your work on the Oregon Arts Commission over the past year. And what’s on the agenda for the coming year? What are the opportunities and challenges?
The evolution of my time on the commission has been a very rewarding experience. In the first few years when I joined, we were able to travel to various parts of the state and meet with rural artists, arts leaders, and advocates. Those commissioner meetings and art salons provided more rural connections and support outside the metro area. Unfortunately, those outreach efforts have scaled back due to budget cuts and those interactions between commissioners and artists now have to be virtual.
The good news is that within the commissioner body, we have representation from coastal, central, eastern, and southern Oregon. We’ve also simplified our application process and requirements and offer support and feedback to help artists and small organizations and not overburden their operations. We are entering a strategic planning process that will take in our new spending reality but will continue to advocate for artists, organizations, and education.
One of the most rewarding parts of my tenure as chair was the Art Summit in 2017 that brought together a bright spectrum of our creative community. We also reinstated the Governor’s Arts Awards and made room for conversations and interaction with artists and allies. And I got to meet and interview one of my personal heroes, Tony Kushner!
On the whole, though, I have to say the epiphany for me in the last few years has been my understanding of the artistic contributions of Native communities. The visual expression, storytelling culture, and community-building through art-making is breathtaking in its capacity to hold truth, anger, beauty, and laughter together and is very inspiring.
You have a background as a theater artist and also as a teacher, so I’m curious how those experiences have been useful to you in advisory/administrative type work — the commission, the Theatre Communications Group, etc.
I realize I stand in a very interesting intersection. Starting my career as a working artist, delving into higher education, then being part of the leadership of the largest arts organization in Oregon, participating on the advocacy level with the commission and now, since leaving OSF, moving back into life as a freelance artist and creative individual. Living and working at this intersection in Oregon for the past 14 years has had a profound impact. My sense is that Oregon is a place of invention and that a person can make an impact and shift the landscape. I think that out of necessity, artists are required to be hybrid individuals, and therefore we get to interact with a wide range of people, and that informs our work. There is an extraordinary creative community that connects art to life and makes our state more livable, more active, and more thoughtful as a result.
Given the advocacy award you received a few years ago from Latinx Theatre Commons, I’m wondering if you could weigh in on equity in Oregon. OSF has done some extraordinary and visible work in this regard, but what about the rest of Oregon? What are you seeing?
For me, the most important work that I’ve been able to do in the last decade is about advocacy and giving opportunity to artists that I deeply believe in and who may not have had a clear path to the “castle.” It’s very simple: If you control the gate to the castle, you decide who can get in. In my time in Oregon, I have seen the leadership in our state shift in remarkable ways and it’s thrilling. But what’s thrilling for some can cause deep fear and resentment in others. Creating a system of equity then becomes a powerful way forward for our entire community. That system has to be in place in order for the work to have integrity. If the art doesn’t reflect the community, then it struggles to find its meaning and loses its impact because you just don’t trust it; it only holds historic value, not progressive value.
When I first came to OSF, we started programming more Latinx-based plays, because they were both my story and the stories of a growing population in the state, and we felt it was critical for that voice to be heard (among other stories by marginalized communities). A few seasons later, the artistic office got a comment card that said, “Why all the Spanish in plays? Are the Mexicans running this place now?” And of course, the answer is “Yes!” There is now an American-Mexican in the artistic office shaping the choices being made of what the audience will see.
At OSF, there continues to be a vocal group of audience members that want to keep things the way they were. For people that have been over-represented in the arts that might feel like erasure. But we have to make room for the stories of under-represented people so we can get a deeper sense of the challenges and triumphs that are part of our larger community. I still have that unsigned comment card as a reminder that the stories we choose to tell are a powerful force and can have a profound influence.
The United States is obviously in a period of political and social turbulence, and regardless of the outcome of any election, it is likely to be exacerbated by ecological problems related to climate change and industrialization. How do you see those issues resonating and finding expression among artists? What is the responsibility of an artist in such times?
The sole responsibility of the artist is to reflect what they see. We have to nurture the seers amongst us, because they can show us who we are and what we may become, and that can be exhilarating and also scary. Our collective responsibility as an audience/viewer/listener is to enter every artistic experience with deep curiosity and empathy. My belief is that when both these things happen (the artist shows and the viewer sees), the conversation that emerges gives us a way forward together, especially in troubling times.
What are your goals and expectations for 2020 in the arts, professionally and personally?
I am excited about 2020 and diving back into my work as a freelance artist and advocate. I turned 50 this year and it’s been an exhilarating year of change. I’m looking at shifting my art-making to include more directing, designing outside of the theater, and exploring mission-driven filmmaking. I’m also expanding my own creative consulting practice to help organizations connect the dots between art, culture, and community to deepen their impact.
If you could make one thing happen in the artistic/cultural world in 2020, what would it be?
I would love Oregon to become the first state in the nation that provides every student an opportunity to have five arts experiences before they graduate high school. I have a plan!
UP NEXT at Profile Theatre is a “humane, heartbreaking and magnificent play” about a group of working class friends in Reading, PA. Profile is proud to present the Portland premiere of Sweat, Lynn Nottage’s Pulitzer Prize winning play. January 16-February 2 at Imago Theatre.
Sweat is under the direction of former Oregon Shakespeare Festival Associate Artistic Director, Christopher Acebo. The production marks Acebo’s Portland directorial debut after 12 seasons designing over 30 productions during his tenure in Ashland
SWEAT has been in my consciousness for several years since prior to its premiere at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. As the Associate Artistic Director, I was one of the lucky people who read an early draft of the play and its impact was immediate.
Christopher has decades of experience bringing plays to life. Recently, he worked as a designer on Portland productions La Ruta and Cuba Libre with Artists Repertory Theatre & Mojada for Portland Center Stage.
He has this to say about his creative process:
I have had the great fortune to build a life and career in the creative community. For me, collaboration is the foundation of being a theater artist and that work enables and informs all areas of creativity and leadership. The process starts with dreaming, moves to facilitating discussion and clarifying intention, translating ideas to realities, articulating goals, building coalitions (and listening to better ideas!), adapting to unexpected challenges and finally revealing the collective vision. And always, even during the challenges, leaning into joy.
The joy that he finds in collaboration and the creative process is evident. His vision for Sweat is one of grit and truth. He is thrilled to be working with such high-caliber actors, guiding them to tell the story with authenticity and honesty.
MEET THE BRILLIANT CAST
La’Tevin Alexander as Chris Cycerli Ash as Cynthia Bobby Bermea as Evan Duffy Epstein as Stan Linda Hayden as Tracey Alissa Jessup as Jessie Victor Mack as Brucie Chris Ramirez as Oscar Jim Vadala as Jason
(Cast pictured below from left to right, top to bottom)