The Yellow Wallpaper by Bare Portland, Photo by JJ Peeler/James Patefield
That's right, PortFringe is back for its sixth year!
From June 17-24, nearly 50 new, weird, and edgy original shows by artists from around the country will be performed in tight, intimate venues throughout Portland's arts district. Since wading through these acts can be a bit daunting, we created this handy guide to this year's festival. In the mood for something dark and apocalyptic? Some high-minded puppetry, perhaps? How about "vaginal consciousness"? We've got you covered.
See shows at Geno’s Rock Club, the Portland Stage Studio and Storefront theaters, the Mechanics' Hall Ballroom, Bright Star World Dance, and Empire. Buy your rush tickets in advance — at all Coffee By Design locations or in Freeport, at the L.L.Bean Flagship Store — or during the festival, at venue box offices. Visit for more of the skinny.
And now, for the shows:
"Kara Sevda", Now What Theatre
DYSTOPIAS & OTHER EMERGENCIES
For some unfathomable reason, this year’s PF includes a lot of bad news, speculative and otherwise . Chimera Theatre Collective takes us under a dystopian NYC in Beneath the Steam Grates; while the world of Burning Man: Who Sold the World, by David Ortolano (Boulder, CO) is “pre-apocalypse” but already “post-truth” ( and it’s a musical).
The title characters of Easter and Annie by Mod Twenty Productions, deal with the November 2016 dystopia; while Kara Sevda looks ahead to love in nuclear winter , by Now What Theatre (NYC and Glasgow ).
Watch a national emergency of 1987 from the point of view of a radio DJ, in Finyette Productions ’ Please Stand By; and we go back to an older catastrophe on the eve of WWII, in The Antigone in Warsaw, by Purple Crayon .
Finally, Giant Nerd Productions (Seattle) takes on climate change in Tidal Surge, telling “ futuristic ecological disaster tales from three women outside the law.”
Michael Burgos in "The Eulogy" Photo by Jason Riedmiller
SATIRE, COMEDY & IMPROV
Current affairs is the focus this time for Mad Horse Theatre Company , which is back with more adult digressions on rock 'n' roll and comic rage with How Dare You, Sir: A Gentleman's Panel of Rock – The F**k the Man Tour ; while Amanda Huotari (Buckfield ) of the Celebration Barn Theater clowns her way through a critique of privilege, in Pretty Face Does A World of Good .
Jim & Melissa present John Waters-infused sketch comedy in Freaky Nasty Trash (Chicago) ; Jason LeSaldo & Khalil LeSaldo deliver a comedic brother-act with Deep as Hell; and in The Eulogy , Michael Burgos (Falls Church, VA) sends up ineptitude at a funeral.
Religion, addiction, and social media are the focus of satirist Dandy Darkly (Brooklyn, NY) in Dandy Darkly’s Myth Mouth! ; and little girls compete for the title of “Ultimate Supreme Miss Chitlin Bombshell 2017 ” in Andrea Carr’s Ultimate Supreme.
In a twist on improv, the audience uploads the images, and Two Red Hens Productions (Old Orchard Beach, ME) make s up an artsy-bougie talk about them, in 20×20: An Improvised PechaKucha. T he local six-person improv team the Turkey Club is back ; so are the Jetpack Superheroes (Berkley, MA) and Self IMPROVment with a show whose title presumably says it all: Date Night: A Kung Fu Improv and Musical Comedy Opera.
"I Was A Sixth Grade Bigfoot", Cyndi Freeman, Photo By Ben Trivett
TRUE STORIES AND DOCUMENTARY
Bullying and a cryptozoological fascination are the pulse of I Was A Sixth Grade Bigfoot, by storyteller Cyndi Freeman (Brooklyn, NY); while Brad Lawrence (also of Brooklyn) recounts how Reagan-era pop culture and cable TV helped him overcome terror about sex and the suicide of a sibling, in The Gospel of Sherilyn Fenn.
Kari Wagner-Peck (as directed by Bess Welden) reads in choose-your-own-adventure fashion from her memoir Not Always Happy, about raising a child with Down Syndrome; and in A Line in the Sand , the Chrysalis Theatre Company (NYC) takes on school shootings, using documentary perspectives of survivors.
"There Ain’t No More: Death of a Folksinger", Willi Carlisle Productions
PUPPETRY , MOVEMENT & MUSIC
In Sifters, Erica Murphy , with Lei-Lei Bavoil (NYC) and Hannah Daly, use puppetry and movement to explore children lost in space; while Spark Artist Collective infuses storytelling with hula hoops and poi, in Flowcase; and Tandem Theatre Collective conjures mud, alligators, and blood with music, movement, and puppetry, in Kill That Man, Come Back Alone.
There Ain’t No More: Death of a Folksinger is a one-man operetta à la American folk and vaudeville, by Willi Carlisle Productions (Fayetteville, AR); and Brian Calhoon (Boston) apparently performs his Marimba Cabaret in wicked high heels.
Radical Presence is an interactive and immersive work “focusing on physical interaction between the audience and the performer,” by Portland performance artist Jess Lauren Lipton's Pop Killed Culture Productions ; while Vivid Motion presents a dance work about relationships in Lovers Anonymous.
"Terror on the High Seas", The Adventures of Les Kurkendaal
TALES OF SELF AND OTHER S
We all know how much Sartre liked other people. In Hell Is, by Pie Man Theatre Company (South Portland) , he dies and winds up in a room with Camus and their lover Simone de Beauvoir.
Hell might be in-laws in the comedy Terror on the High Seas, produced by The Adventures of Les Kurkendaal (Los Angeles) , when a guy has the great idea to go on a cruise with his boyfriend and his boyfriend’s parents.
Eric Darrow Worthley chronicles a couple’s attempts to either save or bail on their relationship, in Drifting & Torn Apart ; an d in Ours, the beautifully lyrical playwright Molly Hunt explores how to find home within . And Meredythe Dehne Lindsey (South Portland) takes on depression, abuse, self-harm, and how to find “ truth, validity, and love outside of the box” of social norms, in You Are Not Alone.
"One-Man Apocalypse Now", Chris Davis
Marvelously poetic playwright Carmen-maria Mandley (Nashville, KY) stages a prequel to last summer’s adaptation of the myth of Daphnis and Chloe called Little Boy, Love Goat, produced by S tage Rage Productions.
In a compelling double feature, Bare Portland stages an adaptation of The Yellow Wallpaper, about a depressed woman confined to a room; while the feminist art collective New Fruit harmonizes with a piece titled from the rib vault in the room that has become mary .
Chris Davis (Philadelphia, PA) performs a dark-comedic One-Man Apocalypse Now; the venerably crass MTWTFSS Theatre Company imagines Charlie Brown in adolescence, in Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead; and Laura Packer (Kansas City, MO) tells probably-sexy Fairy Tales for Grown-Ups .
And Marianne Pillsbury magically re-makes makes a slew of famous female roles, in Strong Female Character: Teen Edition .
"That Was Unexpected", River Queen Productions
THE WOOWOO AND WEIRD: FANTASY, MYSTERY & SCI-FI
Gravity got you down? Check out a “magical '70s superstar ” and his joyous science in The Magical World of Doug Henning, by The Humanist Anti-gravity Research Department.
Two st rong ladies contend with mysteries and heartbreak in That Was Unexpected , by River Queen Productions; while The Glowing Boot, by Paul Bedard (Brooklyn, NY), explores a cryptic correspondence and a hermit .
Bonfire Films adapts Joe R. Lansdale’s sci-fi story Bar Talk for the stage; and in The Paranormal Pair, a two-hander by Box of Clowns (Portland, OR), we’re told t hat “1 in 10 Americans will become a ghost or apparition.”
Kelly Nesbitt in "POONSTRUCK"
AND FINALLY: STRANGE AND WONDROUS KNOWLEDGE
T acking toward wisdom and consciousness, Kellie Ryan & Deb Grant seek knowledge from the gods in the dark comedy Divination in 3 Parts ; and who knows how Mark Toland (Chicago, IL) knows what you did last night in Mark Toland – Mind Reader.
And last but not least, the incomparable performance artist Kelly Nesbitt (Portland, OR) is back in the right Portland as her priceless Dr. Tallulah – the Vaginal Consciousness (VAGCON) Pioneer – in POONSTRUCK . Hellagood for what ails us.
Latest from Megan Grumbling
- A handful of memories — Elizabeth Peavey stays connected in one-woman show 'My Mother's Clothes Are Not My Mother'
- Social justice storytelling — Portland writer/mom Kari Wagner-Peck's 'Not Always Happy'
- Inspect this! — Good Theater's absorbing mystery classic 'An Inspector Calls'
- Learning to Brace Yourself — Butler and company soar in 'Complications From a Fall'
- Draw the circle — Pie Man Theater Company plays with concepts of Hell