Category Archives: Theater

Banned in Sherwood, sold out in Portland

The good news is, I couldn’t get in to Brunish  Hall Sunday afternoon to see “Higher Ground” — it was sold out. Maybe you read about it here, on the front page of Monday’s Oregonian, in another of reporter Maya Blackmun’s continuing series on the off-again, on-again production of a play about middle-school bullying that Sherwood Middle School Principal Anna Pittioni deemed too hot for her tots to handle.

It would have been nice to see this sort-of happy ending, with all the cheers for the hard work of the student performers and tekkies and their drama teacher, Jennie Brown, who wrote the script that Principal Pittioni considered too mature for some of the school’s students to deal with. (The kids in the show argued that the script actually watered down everyday reality in the halls of the Sherwood school, a typical sort of place in a typical sort of town, and, you could further argue, a reality that the typical young teen enrolled in the school is already all too familiar with.) But if I’d gotten in, someone else would have been left out (lots of us were turned away at the door), and isn’t that what every producer wants: a sold-out show?

So everybody won, and everything turned out great, right?

Well, no — and it’s important to remember that.

Continue reading Banned in Sherwood, sold out in Portland

For Sherwood kids, the show goes on — downtown

This from Maya Blackmun at The Oregonian, who’s been covering the flap over a play about bullying at Sherwood Middle School. In brief: The show’s going on, but not in Sherwood, where the school principal ordered a last-minute postponement of “Higher Ground” and said parts of the script would have to be rewritten after parents of three kids involved in the show (out of almost 50) complained about the content. The kids voted to cancel the show, which was supposed to have opened Feb. 22, instead of changing it. Art Scatter wrote about the issue on Feb. 27.

Now you can see it, the way they and their director intend it: The Portland Center for the Performing Arts has donated the center’s Brunish Hall for one performance, at 2 p.m. this Sunday, March 9. It’s free, but donations are being accepted at the door (dig into your pockets) and the kids are also collecting nonperishable food for the Loaves and Fishes lunchtime program at Sherwood Senior Center, where they’ve been rehearsing. As the rock anthem goes: The kids are alright.

— Bob Hicks

Bully pulpit: One more punch to the theatrical chops

“Why do I feel it is important to impress upon young readers their right to freedom of speech? Because so many of them don’t know they have freedom of speech. I’m not sure their peer group leaders give them freedom of speech. And I do know that the school library of the school they attend is under heavier attack than the public library just down the street. I think they are in the thick of the battle and many of them are not aware of it.”

Richard Peck
Newbery Medal-winning novelist, quoted on

If the kids at Sherwood Middle School in suburban Portland didn’t know they were in the thick of the battle, they found out with a thud last week. As Oregonian writer Maya Blackmun reported in two excellent stories — Feb. 21 on the uproar, Feb. 22 on the outcome — you can think what you say but you can’t always say what you think. At least, not from a school-sanctioned stage.

In brief: Principal Anna Pittioni postponed the winter play, “Higher Ground,” after last-minute complaints about its contents by parents of a few students involved in the show.

And that content was?

Continue reading Bully pulpit: One more punch to the theatrical chops

Second rate? Second rank? A snarky dispute


Maybe you spotted it, near the end of a generally mild-mannered editorial urging people to help pay down the debt at Portland Center Stage’s Gerding Theater at the Armory, in the Saturday, Feb. 9, Oregonian: a throwaway insult guaranteed to boil blood.

“Portland has long been recognized,” the editorialist sniped, “as a first-rate place to see second-rate theater.”

That didn’t get past Oregonian reader Mary Starrs, who replied angrily in a letter to the editor on the Tuesday, Feb. 13, op-ed page, and if the original editorial hadn’t happened to run on a Saturday, by tradition the least-read edition of any daily newspaper, it might have raised more of a ruckus.

Now, there probably isn’t a writer in history who hasn’t experienced the clever line coming back to bite him on the behind, so I’m not going to toss too many pebbles at the anonymous editorial writer: glass houses and all that. Nevertheless, this particular cute line is a big mistake in a couple of ways.

First, it muddies the main message of the editorial, which is that Portland Center Stage is still almost $11 million short on its $37 million rehab of the Armory — a troubling figure that hasn’t much budged in the past year. The whys and wherefores of the company’s inability to pay off its debt — you always want to have bricks and mortar paid for before a new museum building or performance hall opens, while there’s still some excitement about the project — are fit subject for some serious analysis, but that’s another story.

Second, if the editorial writer actually meant what he or she wrote, it displays a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of local and regional theater. What exactly does “second-rate” mean? (And isn’t the reference to Portland as a “first-rate place” just another example of this city’s increasingly annoying habit of overestimating its own charms? — but that’s another story, too.) Continue reading Second rate? Second rank? A snarky dispute