Kodachome at Portland Center Stage

Last week was the world premiere of Kodachrome at Portland Center Stage. The production runs until March 18, 2018 at the downstairs intimate Ellyn Bye Studio. Kodachrome was developed from a submission to the 2015 JAW (Just Add Water): A Playwrights Festival,  an annual festival supporting new plays and helping to incubate new works. What was then a script named Colchester now has grown up, renamed Kodachrome, and is in full production a few years later.
Kodachrome at Portland Center Stage: poster for Kodachrome, Art by Mikey Mann

The story takes place in a small town called Colchester, and is narrated by Suzanne, the town photographer. We follow her through the interconnected stories of a dozen people in the town, with the townspeople played by the 6 fellow cast members doing double  or sometimes triple duty (well, all except for Suzanne). Kodachrome is a play that definitely has many parallels to Our Town with its snippets of longing, look at love in various stages, and appreciations for small moments that are universally recognizable to us all. I think the play does better then Our Town in that there are excellent use of certain props though – especially the super effective use of flowers and petals, and over-sized symbols of love like a ring or perfume bottle.

The backdrop of the basic stage scenery are multiple screens showing photos, and is the nod to Kodachrome, the special Kodak film. I definitely liked the idea where at some points we would see and hear Suzanne snap a photo of a particular detail of what was happening on stage, and we would see it appear on one of those screens, captured to remember the moment. It seemed to promise two art shows at once – performance art with the play and art gallery.

Kodachrome at Portland Center Stage, L-R: Lena Kaminsky as The Photographer, John D. Haggerty as The Perfume Maker and Tina Chilip as The Waitress. Photo by Patrick Weishampel/blankeye.tv courtesy of Portland Center Stage at The Armor
L-R: Lena Kaminsky as The Photographer, John D. Haggerty as The Perfume Maker and Tina Chilip as The Waitress in Kodachrome at Portland Center Stage at The Armory. Photo by Patrick Weishampel/blankeye.tv courtesy of Portland Center Stage

This action photography took place a few times, but I was expecting to happen throughout as a consistent theme, rather then mostly towards the beginning and at a couple fun interactions with the audience. Other times, the screens would switch to almost stock photos that helped establish the environment of the scene, from Perfume Lab to Diner or Hardware Store etc. But the photos didn’t noticeably connect to the interactions happening on stage with a new photo added to the repetitive stock mix representing the moment. So I was a little disappointed that wasn’t carried throughout, given the name of the play.

When it came to the various interactions of the character pairs falling in or through or out of love, you can totally believe the same actor or actress is embodying a different a character in the tow. This is true even as they interact with essentially the same castmate in multiple circular love triangles but as another character.

For particular standouts, Ryan Tresser draws a clear line between The Gravedigger and The Young Man and is able to demonstrate the humorous physical moments but also the poignant hurt of each of the men distinctly. Sharonlee McLean also wonderfully draws the perfect picture of the different kinds of yearnings, and how those yearnings change through the course of the play, in both her portrayals of her placid, still waters run deep Mystery Novelist, and in contrast with her passionate Florist. Even when she’s saying nothing at all, you know which character she is.

My favorite part was that love can be awkward – and Kodachrome doesn’t shy away from how crazy but adorable those moments can be. Love can be painful, and cause exquisite suffering, and as Kodachome shows us, also tenderness, boldness, dwelling in the past, plans for the future, laugh out loud moments, questioning of what is the best way to live life and what kind of love is enough to be happy, and how it connects everyone.

As always, there are a couple additional events available related to Kodachrome at Portland Center Stage if you want to have a more active experience then just watching in the audience. Check the Upcoming Events Calendar for full listing of all events.

  • Tuesday, February 20 6:30 – 7:30 p.m. Happy Hour with Blue Sky Gallery viewing photographs with some complimentary snacks and drinks. FREE
  • Sunday, February 25 6:30 – 7:30 p.m. Happy Hour with Portland Darkroom FREE
  • Saturday, March 10 1 – 3 p.m. Film and Darkroom Printing Workshop is not free, but it’s $25 and each workshop attendee will have the chance to take a portrait, have a portrait taken of them, learn how darkroom enlarging works, and create their very own “The Armory” branded gelatin silver postcard to take home

Kodachrome runs for 90 minutes with no admission, and is performed Evenings: Tuesday – Sunday at 7:30 p.m Matinees: Saturday and Sundays at 2 p.m., Thursdays at noon, but check their schedule for exact times.

You may also want to book tickets for a new exciting play coming up called The Magic Play running March 3 – April 1 that promises a hybrid of a play and a magic show, literally with the cast including an actor who is also a magician and illusion designer!




Portland Center Stage Fun Home

Portland Center Stage is celebrating it’s 30th anniversary this season! Congratulation! The first productions for this new season are Fun Home running September 16 – October 22 on the US Bank Main Stage and in the downstairs intimate Ellen Bye Theater will be Every Brilliant Thing, running September 23 – November 5, 2017. Both plays have moments of comedy and joy, but also have a dark lining: suicide and depression, the gap between the face one wears to the world and the mental well being inside. On stage and in the audience, you will be laughing and crying together.

Portland Center Stage: Fun Home Publicity Photo Left to right: Medium Alison (Sara Masterson), Alison (Allison Mickelson), Bruce Bechdel (Robert Mammana) and Small Alison (Aida Valentine) in Fun Home at The Armory. Photo by Kate Szrom
Portland Center Stage: Fun Home Publicity Photo Left to right: Medium Alison (Sara Masterson), Alison (Allison Mickelson), Bruce Bechdel (Robert Mammana) and Small Alison (Aida Valentine) in “Fun Home” at The Armory. Photo by Kate Szrom.

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Spring Musicals at Portland Center Stage

The dressing rooms, hallways, and stages are alive with music at PCS! This past weekend, Portland Center Stage debuted the world premier of of two new shows both featuring music: Wild and Reckless: A New Concert Event with Blitzen Trapper (running until April 30, 2017) and Lauren Weedman Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (running until April 30, 2017).

I attended both and here’s are my thoughts on the Spring Musicals at Portland Center Stage.

Wild and Reckless: A New Concert Event with Blitzen Trapper

Portland Center Stage and Wild and Reckless: A New Musical Event from Blitzen Trapper. Written and Performed By Blitzen Trapper, Directed by Rose Riordan and Liam Kaas-Lentz Poster Design by Michael Buchino Photo by Kate Szrom

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Events First Week of March 2017 in PDX

If you read this blog, you probably love food – it’s mostly what I write about. But once in a while I review a book, or a theater production. This post is a heads up about one performance show and one movie, both are limited engagements, both events first week of March 2017 in PDX already have tickets online if you are interested.

Cuisine and Confessions

The first is about a combination of food and theater: namely, the production of Cuisine and Confessions that is coming to the Newmark Theater in downtown Portland in a few weeks Thursday March 2 – Saturday March 4, 2017. This is a visiting show from the company 7 Digits from Montreal.

I haven’t seen the production yet, so I can’t review it, but the high level overview is that it is a combination of Cirque du Soleil (which if you haven’t seen before, is itself a combination of circus and dance theater – some of the original founders of 7 Digits were originally performers from Cirque du Soleil!) and takes place in a setting that actually is a working kitchen and the stories/settings behind the performances are themed around food and family and food memories.

One of the descriptive lines of the show promises “acrobats who cook and bake before your very eyes”.  Members of the cast are from all over the world, and I look forward to seeing how despite different languages and upbringings, food can bring everyone together while also being witness to amazing feats of athleticism and visual beauty.

The performance is for all ages, and includes evening shows at 7:30 on the three nights and a matinee on Saturday at 2 PM. The doors open 30 minutes before the show, which some reviews highly recommended you get there when doors open as performers are already on the stage having discussions and interacting with the audience before the show itself begins. The show itself is about 90 minutes – and there will be freshly baked banana bread at the end!

You can purchase tickets from White Bird with a range from $26-$64. I bought my own tickets to the show and was not asked to promote it, but I thought this was a fun event to share.

The Movie Kedi

The other future event that I am really looking forward to is the movie Kedi, a subtitled Turkish Documentary about the cats in Istanbul. also playing that timeframe of Thursday March 3- 9. I like how this review by Todd VanDerWerff at Vox summed it up,”Kedi, a documentary about cats in Istanbul, is expectedly adorable and unexpectedly wise. Cats. Cities. God. Life. Humanity. This new film covers it all in just 80 minutes.”

By the end of its trim, 80-minute running time, Kedi is asking questions like “How do we live in society without destroying each other?” and “Could you ever prove God exists?” without straining under the burden of those questions — a remarkable feat for a movie that spends so much time on cute kitten footage. Our relationship with the animals around us that we can destroy casually and easily, the film suggests, is our relationship with everything.

There is also a much detailed longer review from RogerEbert.com here though it had more spoilers of what you’d see. “What (Ceyda) Torun really captures in her unexpectedly powerful film is kindness in its purest form.” You can also look at the original movie site to see when and where it is playing near you in your city. You can purchase advance tickets to the Cinema 21 screenings now.

What upcoming shows or movies are you looking forward to?



Portland Center Stage: The Oregon Trail

The latest play to hit the US Bank Main stage at Portland Center Stage is the October 29 – November 20 2016 run of The Oregon Trail. Here’s my thoughts as well as listings of how you can make a ticket to Portland Center Stage: The Oregon Trail a full date by taking advantage of free discussions, happy hours, DJs playing music and board games.
Portland Center Stage: The Oregon Trail By Bekah Brunstetter Directed by Rose Riordan Art by Mikey Mann October 29 - November 20 2016
Portland Center Stage: The Oregon Trail At Portland Center Stage October 29 – November 20 2016. By Bekah Brunstetter Directed by Rose Riordan Art by Mikey Mann

The description for The Oregon Trail play reads

You have died of dysentery! For those who grew up playing “The Oregon Trail” computer game, dysentery was serious business. In this fresh and funny retelling of our history, two Janes traverse The Oregon Trail. “Now Jane” is playing the computer game in 1997; “Then Jane” is in a covered wagon in 1848. A judgey game show narrator, a domineering sister and two oxen try to corral the two Janes. Fate maneuvers them both to a conclusion that changes their lives and sends them to the end of the trail.

Besides the nod the The Oregon Trail, there are multiple nostalgic nods to the 90s peppered through the play, varying from floppy disks to Teen Spirit to more prominently, music that somehow crosses over between Now Jane and Then Jane to hilarious effect. I loved the staging of the entire production with the screens framing the world of Then Jane in slight sepia toned lighting while in front, Now Jane passes through middle school to her mid 20s in cool white lighting or in darkened lighting illuminated by the glow of a computer screen. A turntable is used wonderfully during a ford the river scene, and a tumbleweed doubles down on conveying the environment around the wagon.

Portland Center Stage: The Oregon Trail By Bekah Brunstetter Directed by Rose Riordan Art (L-R) Sarah Baskin as Now Jane and Alex Leigh Ramirez as Then Jane At The Armory October 29 through November 20, 2016. Photo by Patrick Weishampel/blankeye.tv
Portland Center Stage: The Oregon Trail Sarah Baskin as Now Jane (front) and Alex Leigh Ramirez as Then Jane in Bekah Brunstetter’s “The Oregon Trail,” running at The Armory October 29 through November 20, 2016. Photo by Patrick Weishampel/blankeye.tv.

The journey that both Janes are on is more internal despite that Then Jane is physically traveling in her story. Both women suffer from “a melancholy” – Then Jane from the loss of her mother and home, Now Jane from it seems depression. Then Jane is forced to travel daily along the trail to Oregon, and her heart aches as every step takes her farther away from what has been left behind. Meanwhile, Now Jane is in a state of inertia: friendless, feeling unimportant so as to be left waiting at school, and then later wallowing in an unemployed rut.

Portland Center Stage: The Oregon Trail By Bekah Brunstetter Directed by Rose Riordan Art Sarah Baskin as Now Jane (front) and Alex Leigh Ramirez as Then Jane At The Armory October 29 through November 20, 2016. Photo by Patrick Weishampel/blankeye.tv.
Portland Center Stage: The Oregon Trail Sarah Baskin as Now Jane (front) and Alex Leigh Ramirez as Then Jane in Bekah Brunstetter’s “The Oregon Trail,” running at The Armory October 29 through November 20, 2016. Photo by Patrick Weishampel/blankeye.tv.

Both women also have to contend with a seemingly perfect older sister (both played by the same actress in both time periods) who can’t understand why her sister Jane can’t just get up and move forward. You’ve wasted your privilege and have a bad attitude, the judgey game/life narrotor thunders mockingly to Now Jane, and her sister similarly tells her there are others who have had it much worse and can be sad but Now Jane’s life hasn’t been traumatic enough to be this way. It’s a painful reality for people who face depression: people who think depression can be controlled, or fixed.

I didn’t expect everything to be wrapped up in a happy ending, though I was still surprised at how to me the play seemed to end suddenly. I still am thinking about it since I saw it last night, wondering what do I want from the end that would have closed the story better. If you see the play, what do you think of the ending?

I do recognize that part of the message was about accepting depression and sadness as part of oneself, and that you are not alone. And I greatly appreciate that this is a play not about events that are happening, but the voices of internal struggle within that too often, we hide and don’t talk about when the most helpful thing is to be vulnerable and express it and be listened to.

People are afraid of themselves, of their own reality; their feelings most of all. People talk about how great love is, but that’s bullshit. Love hurts. Feelings are disturbing. People are taught that pain is evil and dangerous. How can they deal with love if they’re afraid to feel? Pain is meant to wake us up. People try to hide their pain. But they’re wrong. Pain is something to carry, like a radio. You feel your strength in the experience of pain. It’s all in how you carry it. That’s what matters. Pain is a feeling. Your feelings are a part of you. Your own reality. If you feel ashamed of them, and hide them, you’re letting society destroy your reality. You should stand up for your right to feel your pain. ~Jim Morrison

This October 29 – November 20 2016 run of Portland Center Stage The Oregon Trail is on the US Bank Main Stage. The performance runs for approximately 90 minutes with no intermission. All performances are at the Armory (128 NW 11th Avenue, in the Pearl District). See more details and other ticket specials for groups, students, military, or learn about rush tickets here.

  • Tuesday – Sunday 7:30 PM. ($25-60 for adults Tues, Wed, Thurs, Sun, $25-70 for the Fri-Sat evening performances)
  • Saturday and Sundays at 2 PM and Thursdays at noon  ($25-55 for adults)

The Oregon Trail at The Armory of Portland Center Stage

As always, PCS is hosting special events so you can explore more about the play or something about the play’s theme, which in this case is gaming! You can enjoy $10 off select tickets using promo codes especially for some of the events below to make it more than just seeing a play – enjoy happy hour, music, board games, and food and drink and get a discounted ticket! Also be sure to like Portland Center Stage on Facebook as there are additional promotions that are often listed there.

Happy Hour: The Oregon Trail

There are several opportunities for happy hour and discussions related to Portland Center Stage: The Oregon Trail before the show.

Post-show Perspectives Series for The Oregon Trail 

Take part in discussions after the show! These are post-show discussions developed in partnership with PIGSquad, Rose City Games and the Oregon Games Organization following these Sunday matinee performances of The Oregon Trail.

November 6, 12 and 13 | 3:30 p.m. | U.S. Bank Main Stage | FREE | Use the Promo Code “PIGSQUAD” for $10 off your ticket to The Oregon Trail!

  • November 6 – With Paul Culp, CEO of SuperGenius and P. Renee Shimek, gamer and Ph.D. candidate in Psychology, moderated by Kelsey Tyler
  • November 12 – With Corey Warning, co-founder of Rose City Games, and Mo Cohen, founder of Queermo Games, moderated by P. Renee Shimek
  • November 13 – With Will Lewis, co-founder of Rose City Games, and Peter Lund, COO of SuperGenius, moderated by P. Renee Shimek

Movie Night with Girl, Interrupted

November 7 – This is a new kind of event – a movie night?! PCS is offering a chance to get ready for the coming-of-age travails in The Oregon Trail with a screening of Girl, Interrupted which is a brilliant pairing before or after you see this play. Arrive at 7:00 p.m. to enjoy complimentary Sizzle Pie pizza and soda before the movie! November 7 | 7:30 p.m. showtime; 7:00 p.m. pizza | Ellyn Bye Studio | FREE | Use the Promo Code “MOVIENIGHT” for $10 off your ticket to Oregon Trail

As always, the Armory Bar before the show (since there is no intermission) has interesting specialty cocktail choices to select from featuring local ingredients and themed to match the show for your consideration. Don’t feel the pressure to drink it all before going to your seat – you can bring it in with you if it’s in a plastic cup with a lid!
Specialty cocktails for The Oregon Trail at Portland Center Stage

Disclosure: I was invited to see this production of Portland Center Stage: The Oregon Trail, but I will always provide my honest opinion and assessment of all products and experiences I may be given. The views and opinions expressed in this blog are entirely my own.