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.

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