Tag Archives: Profile Theatre

From our stove to yours: small bites

By Bob Hicks

What’s been cooking lately in the Scatter kitchen? Well, a lovely baked dressing made up mostly of mushrooms, celery, onions and leftover bread slices (Mrs. Scatter’s clean-out-the-fridge creation). And another batch of baklazhannia ikra, or “poor man’s caviar,” an addictive eggplant/tomato/onion/pepper relish that William Grimes discovered recently in one of those great old Time/Life Foods of the World cookbooks and kindly passed along as a recipe in the New York Times.

Photo by Keith Weller/Wikimedia CommonsThings have been cooking outside of World Headquarters, too. I’ve recently signed on as a regular contributor to Oregon Arts Watch, the ambitious online cultural newsmagazine masterminded and edited by my friend and former colleague at The Oregonian, Barry Johnson. I’ve filed a couple of pieces there already:

A few other things that’ve been keeping me hopping, each of which should be coming out in story form sometime soon:

    • An evening up a dark alley to The Publication Studio for the opening celebration for artist Melody Owen‘s new book, which has something to do with mad hatters and rabbit holes.
    • An afternoon at the Portland Opera studios, where I discovered general manager Christopher Mattaliano leaping up and down with a cutout version of a gingerbread witch as singers from Engelbert Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel watched and nodded.
    • A morning at Milagro Theatre, talking with Dañel Malàn about the perils and pleasures of touring the country to perform bilingual plays in tucked-away spaces – and whether the world is really going to end with the Mayan calendar in 2012.

Hal Holbrook in 2007. Photo: Luke Ford, lukeford.net/Wikimedia Commons

  • An hour’s conversation on the phone with Hal Holbrook, octogenarian actor and uncanny channeler of the late, great Mark Twain, on topics ranging from politics to history to the unhappy state of print journalism and what it means to the future of democracy: “It’s a good paper. But as I remind people, it’s called the Wall. Street. Journal. Not The Journal. And it’s owned by that guy, Murdoch, who’s in all that trouble in England.”

Lots cooking, and more coming up. Last night I had an odd dream: I’d accepted an assignment from a glossy magazine to do a spread comparing two versions of barbecued pulled pork from famous Southern restaurants. This was a touchy situation for an ordinarily vegetarian/pescetarian writer, who was sorely tempted to do some serious taste-testing. In my dream I solved the problem by contacting the chefs of each restaurant and asking them to send me a towel soaked in their secret sauces. I then breathed in the aromas deeply, and began to type. If you should happen to stumble across this story somewhere in print, don’t believe a word it says.



  • Photo by Keith Weller/Wikimedia Commons
  • Hal Holbrook in 2007. Photo: Luke Ford, lukeford.net/Wikimedia Commons

Links: weaving, ‘BoomCrackleFly,’ more

By Bob Hicks

A few Friday hot links to go with your early-weekend bagel and eggs:

Laurie Herrick, "Three Giraffes," 1970. Linen, cotton and wool, 72 x 32 inches. Collection of Museum of Contemporary Craft in partnership with Pacific Northwest College of Art, gift of Ken Shores; 2006.05.01. Photo: Dan Kvitka.

Leave ’em hanging: In this morning’s A&E section of The Oregonian I reviewed Laurie Herrick: Weaving Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow, the new show at the Museum of Contemporary Craft. Herrick was a prominent loom weaver in Portland beginning in the late 1950s; she died in 1995. And she was well aware of art trends, as her ca. 1970 Op Art wall hanging Three Giraffes, shown here, attests. Teaser: “If Jackson Pollock created action painting, this is action weaving.” Read the review here.

Coolest-sounding show in town: Speaking trippingly on the tongue, that would be BoomCrackleFly, the brashly smooshed-together title of Charise Castro Smith‘s new play, which opens tonight at Miracle Theatre.

On Blogorrhea, Mr. Mead Hunter has a crackling-good interview of his own with Smith, in which he questions her, among other things, about how the theater is going to pull off the vision of “people bobbing in a world covered in water.” To which, in part, she replies: “I think one of the great things about theater is the fact that if an actor stands on stage and says something is true, then at that moment it’s true. It’s the huge imaginative possibility of theater to call all sorts of things into being with language.” Read the interview here.

Paper dance: What’s old is new. What’s outre is cool. We’re talking newspapers. The printed page. Good old-fashioned hold-it-in-your-hands-and-flip-the-page minimalism. Who’s reviving this retro craft? Why, Portland’s contemporary dance scene, that’s who (or what). We’ve been hearing rumors of the impending birth of a local dance newspaper, and now Marty Hughley has the inside scoop on Oregon Live (which is the not-printed version of the printed Oregonian). It’ll be called Front. Read the story here. And read Alison Hallett’s take on The Mercury’s Blogtown here.

Lanford Wilson, R.I.P.: The noted American playwright, whose many works were frequently staged in Portland, died on Thursday at age 73. Wilson‘s career spanned Off-Off, Off, and Broadway in addition to lots and lots of regional productions, and ranged from early hits such as The Hot l Baltimore to his Talley Trilogy (Talley & Son, Talley’s Folly, Fifth of July) and the high-octane Burn This. Several seasons ago he was the featured artist for Profile Theatre, the Portland company that spends each of its seasons exploring the works of a single playwright. At a time when household-name playwrights are pretty much a thing of the past (is Edward Albee the last of that breed?) Wilson was one of the noble practitioners who have kept the fabulous invalid alive and vigorously kicking. Read Margalit Fox’s obituary for the New York Times here.


Laurie Herrick, “Three Giraffes,” 1970. Linen, cotton and wool, 72 x 32 inches. Collection of Museum of Contemporary Craft in partnership with Pacific Northwest College of Art, gift of Ken Shores; 2006.05.01. Photo: Dan Kvitka.

On beyond Twelfth Night: upstaged

"Malvolio and the Countess," 1859. Daniel Maclise (1806-1870), engraved by R. Staines. Wikimedia Commons.

By Bob Hicks

Yes, it’s over. Today is January 6, Epiphany, the day after Twelfth Night, traditional final day of the Christmas season, complete with twelve lords a-leaping and a partridge in a pear tree. Salute them in the rear view mirror, say a fond farewell, and let’s move on.

The diarist Samuel Pepys seemed more than ready to turn his attentions elsewhere on January 6, 1663, when he recorded this among other observations of the day: “So to my brother’s, where Creed and I and my wife dined with Tom, and after dinner to the Duke’s house, and there saw Twelfth Night acted well, though it be but a silly play, and not related at all to the name or day.”

Design by Rachel Ann Lindsay; Typography by Michael Buchino; Art direction by Francesca RestrepoPepys had notoriously little patience for Shakespeare and his fripperies. What might he have thought, then, of Constance Congdon’s adaptation of Moliere’s The Imaginary Invalid, with David Margulies as the hypochondriacal Argan? We haven’t seen it (it opens next Friday, January 14, as Portland’s theater Second Season picks up speed) but the whispers blowing in from backstage are that it’s heavy on the flatulence jokes. Ah, the holy trinity of bodily-function comedy: Beavis and Butthead, South Park, Moliere.

Second Season gets off and running Friday night when Artists Repertory Theatre opens Tracy Letts’s Superior Donuts. The cast includes Bill Geisslinger and Linda K. Alper, a couple of top-rank actors from the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, which opens its new season in late February. And the crossovers continue. OSF opens its production of Letts’s biggest hit, August: Osage County, in April. And the festival opens its own version of The Imaginary Invalid — this one adapted by Oded Gross and director Tracy Young, with the excellent David Kelly as Argan — in February.

Continue reading On beyond Twelfth Night: upstaged

Blessing on thee, little man (and dog)

Ana Reiselman and Tim True in Lee Blessing's "Great Falls" at Profile Theatre. Photo: Jamie Bosworth

By Bob Hicks

Lee Blessing stopped by his old college stomping grounds Monday night, packing a big dog’s bark and a puppy’s eagerness to please.

Blessing, the author of such frequently produced plays as Independence, A Walk in the Woods, Eleemosynary and Fortinbras, sat alone on Reed College’s Mainstage, a couple of bottled waters propped on a stool next to him, as he read his 1999 one-actor comedy Chesapeake to a crowd of theater regulars, Reedies, and a few old friends.

Playwright Lee BlessingBesides being a homecoming of sorts — Blessing is a 1971 grad from Reed, where he directed and was directed by another high-profile theater alum, Eric Overmyer — the reading was one of the opening events of Wordstock, Portland’s annual orgy of bookiness. And it was a highlight of Profile Theatre‘s season-long look at Blessing’s plays, which has just kicked off with the West Coast premiere of Great Falls. All in all it was a convivial, low-key evening, capped by Mead Hunter‘s warm and smart onstage chat with Blessing after the show.

Chesapeake is the unlikely tale of a New York performance artist named Kerr (he’s best-known for a piece in which he recites The Song of Solomon as members of the audience strip him naked, one piece of clothing at a time) who becomes a pawn in the right-wing war against the National Endowment for the Arts (remember, the year is 1999).

Continue reading Blessing on thee, little man (and dog)

Watching paint dry? Taking my Foote out of my mouth

From left: Val Landrum, Jane Fellows and Jacklyn Maddux in "The Carpetbagger's Children" at Profile Theater. Photo: Jamie Bosworth

Here’s a story about the playwright Horton Foote, told by his daughter Daisy Foote and reprinted in the program for Profile Theatre‘s new production of his play The Carpetbagger’s Children, which opened Saturday night:

A few years ago a playwright friend and I were having dinner with my father. My friend had just seen “The Carpetbagger’s Children” at Lincoln Center Theater, and he casually asked my dad how long it took him to write the play. My father, even more casually, answered that it took him all of ten days. At that point, my friend looked like he might throw up all over the table and I might start crying, so my father took pity on us and added, “But I had been thinking about it for a very long time.”

Well, of course.

Stories take time — a lifetime, sometimes — and the actual setting down of them can be simply the culmination of a very long process, the plucking of the fruit from a tree that took years to mature and finally produce. It’s a little like the oft-told story of the “overnight success” that took twenty years to achieve.

But in Foote’s case (he died last March, 10 days shy of his 93rd birthday) it’s not just a matter of long experience bringing forth a story. It’s a matter of long experience in learning how flexible the theater can be, too. The Carpetbagger’s Children, for all its apparent traditionalism, breaks all sorts of rules about the stage — and it breaks them exceptionally because it’s learned the exceptions to the rules.

This is a memory play, and it’s told by three actresses, and “told” is the correct word: They take turns delivering long, carefully wrought soliloquies, speeches that overlap in theme and content (told by each sister from a slightly different point of view) but never overlapping in delivery. There is no dialogue, no pretension of ordinary conversational speech patterns, no give and take, except in the incidental clashes in the way the stories are told.

How could something so “undramatic” be so gripping? Because Foote knew story, and he knew the surprising elasticity of the theater, and he trusted that good performers would know how to bring life into the words that he put down. Remember, this is the guy who wrote the screenplays for To Kill a Mockingbird and Tender Mercies. Not ordinary tales. But that’s the beauty of the things.

I once commented in exasperation that watching a Horton Foote play was like watching paint dry. I don’t think I ever actually wrote those words for print, which is a good thing. I don’t even remember what particular incident inspired them. It must have been, I can only hope, a particularly ham-fisted production of one of his plays. Because although nothing much “happens” in a Foote play, at least in the sense of slam-bang Hollywood action, worlds turn, as they do in Chekhov.

The director of Profile’s production, Jon Kretzu, has a longtime affinity for Chekhov, and it shows in the way these three able actresses turn softly (and sometimes harshly) on a dime. If the journeys they take are largely internal, they have external effects. This is the story, in a way, of a Southern empire crumbling, more quietly than the crumbling empire of Tennessee Williams’ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (which opens in revival later this month at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival) but crumbling nonetheless. And that’s a fascinating, troubling, sometimes even exciting thing to see.

Briefly: A young Union soldier, fighting against the Confederates in Texas during the Civil War, likes what he sees and comes back, after the war, as a reconstructionist. Through shrewd business dealings and the aid of the triumphant Republican apparatus, he amasses a fortune in money and land, which he considers his offsprings’ duty to hold together. It’s up to sisters Cornelia (Jane Fellows), Grace Anne (Jacklyn Maddux) and Sissie (Val Landrum) to achieve that as the decades roll on.

Well, they can’t. Surprised? But the effort shapes each, and several other characters alluded to, in intense and often warping ways. That’s the way of the world. And without going into more detail, the plain old brutal way of the world is what the play’s about.

With Tim Stapleton’s simple but familiarly domestic in-the-round setting and DeeDee Remington’s spot-on costumes, it’s a handsome production. The three stars settle with warm fury into their characters. Nothing much “happens” except life and death themselves.  And paint does not dry.


PICTURED: Val Landrum (left), Jane Fellows (center) and Jacklyn Maddux: the carpetbagger’s daughters. Photo: Jamie Bosworth

Saturday scatter: too little time, too much to do

Josh Kornbuth brings a contemporary edge to Ben Franklin. Photo: Owen Carey

Josh Kornbluth bringing a dash of deceptive comedy to Founding Father Ben Franklin in his solo show in Portland Center Stage’s basement. Photo: Owen Carey

We have truly entered fall, and it’s not just the fireplace weather that tips me off. The sad truth is, suddenly Portland’s jumping with things to do, and Mr. and Mrs. Scatter just can’t jump high or fast enough.

We’ll miss the great Mikhail Baryshnikov and dancing partner, Ana Laguna, and we feel very bad about that. Our friend and cohort Martha Ullman West filed this terrific review of the White Bird show in this morning’s Oregonian.

Just last night we missed several one-time-only musical opportunities: the Portland Jazz Orchestra‘s Buddy Rich show; Indian slide guitarist Debashish Bhattacharya; the promising-looking Paris Guitar Duo; Portland Vocal Consort‘s evening of Handel and Haydn.


We did see monologuist Josh Kornbluth’s opening-night performance of Ben Franklin: Unplugged in the intimate basement space at Portland Center Stage, and given that you can’t see everything, it was a pretty good choice. Kornbluth and Ben will be playing the basement stage through Nov. 22, and I hope they get a good, packed run.

Kornbluth seems a little bit like a more extroverted, less dyspeptic Wally Shawn. He plays the nebbish role to the hilt, borrowing freely from Borscht Belt comic history and the vein of intellectual New York Jewish-radical neorosis that Woody Allen mines so freely. Starting with comic traditions that have served entertainers as diverse as Mort Sahl, Buddy Hackett and Neil Simon so well, he transforms them into a seemingly free-flowing riff that eventually doubles back on itself and makes structural sense.

To hear Kornbluth tell it, he became interested in old Ben when he looked into the mirror one day, inspected his receding hairline, and realized he’d come to look like the Founding Father. So why not do a show about him?

Like a lot of successful one-person shows, Ben Franklin: Unplugged takes its audience on a dual journey: one into the psyche and obsessions of the performer himself, the second into the performer’s discoveries about his external subject — in this case, Ben.

The link is fathers and sons: Kornbluth’s unresolved relationship with his own father, who died when Kornbluth was in college, and Franklin’s tortured relationship with his illegitimate but favored son William, who seemed the apple of his eye until the two took opposite sides on the issue of the Revolutionary War: the father the unrepentant radical, the son the extreme and sometimes ruthless loyalist.

Along the way Kornbluth creates a marvelous supporting character in the aged, accidental scholar Claude and unearths little pieces of fascinating biography in search of “my own Ben Franklin.” The wry blend of famous-man biography and obscure-entertainer autobiography makes for an engaging evening.


Other stuff to keep you eyes on:

La Boheme. Tonight is the final performance of Portland Opera‘s lively, fresh and winning production of the Puccini favorite, which Art Scatter wrote about here.

A Chorus Line. Musical-theater history at Stumptown Stages. How does this groundbreaking backstage show hold up after 34 years? Mr. Scatter will be there tonight to find out.

The Trip to Bountiful. Profile Theatre kicks off its season of plays by Horton Foote, who died last spring just shy of his 93rd birthday and who is perhaps best-known for his superb screen adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird.

Becky’s New Car. Steven Dietz’s comedy opened last week at Artists Rep, but I haven’t caught it. I like Dietz, though: He’s been turning out good, well-shaped plays for regional theaters for many years.

A Country Doctor. Somehow Defunkt Theatre‘s season opener slipped past me. I don’t know this play — it’s an interpretation of the Kafka story — but it’s by Len Jenkin, another writer who’s always worth a shot.

Jon Kimura Parker and the Oregon Symphony. Pianist Parker performs Brahms’ First Piano Concerto and the orchestra plays Bartok’s Divertimento for string and Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No. 1 in what could be a bell-ringer of a season-opening concert series Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Symphony violist Charles Noble, on his music blog Daily Observations, was enthusiastic about rehearsals.

Haochen Zhang. This year’s Van Cliburn winner plays Ravel, Beethoven, Brahms, Liszt and Mason Bates in a Portland Piano International performance at 4 p.m. Sunday in the Newmark.

San Antonio Vocal Arts Ensemble. Don’t know this touring group, but the program of Latin American sacred music sounds intriguing. 7:30 Saturday at University of Portland‘s Buckley Center, 4 p.m. Sunday at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Salem.

Aspen Santa Fe Ballet. The Southwest troupe performs pop-savvy Twyla Tharp’s Sue’s Leg at a White Bird performance Wednesday in the Schnitz.