Community Profile: Our City’s Veterans

On Monday, November 13th we celebrated the end of this year-long program!  The emotional evening was a public performance of the veterans’ writing staged with professional actors on the Alder Stage.  

This reading was presented in conjunction with our rotating repertory production of Water By The Spoonful and The Happiest Song Plays Last, the final two plays in a trilogy of work centered around Elliot Ortiz, a veteran of the Iraq war.

 

From Artistic Director Josh Hecht

One of the things that most attracted me to Profile Theatre when I applied for the job of Artistic Director last year is the company's long-standing commitment to real community engagement. My desire to lead a theater company stems from my belief that, at its best, theater can help us have conversations we might not otherwise have. A theater that was already putting significant human capital and programming resources into community dialogue felt like the right home for me.

One of my biggest priorities as I start my new tenure at the helm of Profile is continuing to broaden the communities we reach and serve, and continuing to deepen the two-way engagement with our city.

At the center of our 2017 Quiara Alegria Hudes season we will present all three plays in Hudes' “Elliot” Trilogy: Elliot, A Soldier's Fugue, Pulitzer Prize-winner Water By The Spoonful, and The Happiest Song Plays Last. The first follows three generations of a Puerto Rican-American family, all of whom have served in the US Armed Forces – the grandfather in Korea, the Father and mother in Vietnam, and Elliot who serves two tours in Iraq. The two subsequent plays follow Elliot's re-introduction into civilian life and his struggle to find his place in the world.

What better an opportunity to engage with our own veterans community. There are currently nearly 22 million American combat vets, 2.5 million from the current engagements in the Middle East alone. Profile has created a one-of-a-kind collaboration with the Writers Guild Initiative, the professional trade organization of screenwriters and playwrights, to bring award-winning writers from across the country to Portland. Here they will work with local veterans and their families, mentoring them in a writing practice designed to help them reflect upon and share their experiences through the written word. We've also partnered with the American Legion Post 134 in NE Portland, various Veterans Resource Centers at colleges in the area, and the Wounded Warrior Project's regional base in Seattle to identify local participants in these workshops.

The group gathered in February for two days of intensive writing workshops. They also saw our production of Elliot, A Soldier's Fugue. Throughout the year, we continued to meet one Saturday afternoon a month to create community, share work and continue our practice. Finally, in November, selections of their writing were presented with professional actors and director on Profile's stage alongside our repertory productions of Water By The Spoonful and The Happiest Song Plays Last.

Our goal is manifold: To use the theater as a site of community-formation. To think of the theater, not just as an institution that can start conversations, but as a place the community goes to have those conversations. But also, to provide a place where various communities can see their own lives reflected back to them on the stage, so that we might know ourselves and each other as necessary parts of this great American tapestry.

If you are interested in learning more about our veterans' collaborations this year, please don't hesitate to drop me a line. I hope to see you at the theater.

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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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