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.

Unfortunately I am traveling to Los Angeles and San Francisco so haven’t seen Every Brilliant Thing, but I did get to attend opening night of Fun Home. The description for Fun Home, a Winner of five Tony Awards, including Best Musical of 2015, reads

Based on Alison Bechdel’s witty and wistful illustrated autobiography of the same name, the Tony Award-winning musical Fun Home ushers us inside Alison’s head — at three different ages — as she struggles to process the chain of childhood events that made her the adult she is today. Growing up in a funeral home as the closeted lesbian daughter of a father with secrets of his own was complicated. But by looking back on her family life, and remembering all the loving, silly, and even shameful moments, she learns to see her parents — and herself — for who they really are.

The music throughout the production of Fun Home is wonderful, finding a way to stir emotion while also featuring off beat conversational lyrics. Small and Medium Alison (Aida Valentine, Sara Masterson) both have great songs showcasing their clear voices in “Changing My Major” and “Ring of Keys” that communicate sheer joy and discovery while also featuring humorous observations. Other music pieces included fun homages to The Jackson Five and Partridge Family.

Portland Center Stage: L-R: Aida Valentine as Small Alison, Karsten George as Christian Bechdel and Theo Curl as John Bechdel in Fun Home at The Armory. Photo by Patrick Weishampel/blankeye.tv.
Portland Center Stage: L-R: Aida Valentine as Small Alison, Karsten George as Christian Bechdel and Theo Curl as John Bechdel in “Fun Home” at The Armory. Photo by Patrick Weishampel/blankeye.tv.

Mother Helen Bechdel (Faith Sandberg) often seems a bit in the background as Alison focuses more on her father, so I found it really poignant when she opens herself up finally to Alison and us in the exceptional “Days and Days”, reminding us all in song and how her presence is not fully realized in the story about all the powerful depth that runs silently underneath. Father Bruce Bechdel (Robert Mammana) deftly portrays a complicated father you can both love and hate. A lot of scripts center around action, of a start and a finish of things happening – Fun Home successfully center around the complexity of people.

The production and staging is also fantastic – they really make use of all the space from in the way back for the live orchestra to set pieces hanging in the air and re-arranging to establish a house or Oberlin College, to the moving pieces on stage itself whisking in and out. You’ll just have to see and experience the stage magic for yourselves. The run time of Fun Home is approximately 1 hour and 40 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.

Portland Center Stage: The cast of Fun Home at The Armory. Photo by Patrick Weishampel/blankeye.tv
Portland Center Stage: The cast of “Fun Home” at The Armory. Photo by Patrick Weishampel/blankeye.tv./

PCS is hosting several special events so you can explore more about the play or something about the play’s theme. You can find these and possibly more events they add to the calendar at the PCS Upcoming Events calendar. Also be sure to check out the like Portland Center Stage on Facebook as there are additional promotions that are often listed there.

Attend any of these events and look for  a promo code to redeem on PlayMaker for 250 points! Playmaker is their new new online loyalty program where you can earn points by attending shows and events at The Armory, or tasks like taking a selfie inside PCS or engaging with their social media, and redeem those points for backstage access, free drinks, discounts and more. Sign up for free at www.pcsplaymaker.org.
Selfie at the Fire Wall at Portland Center Stage

  • Thursday September 28, 6:30 – 7:30 PM – Happy Hour with Lesbians of a Certain Age + Chris Coleman + Rick LewisJoin LOCA for a Happy Hour event with complimentary snacks and your first drink on PCS as you learn all about the production of “Fun Home” in a brief presentation by director Chris Coleman and music director Rick Lewis. Free. Use the Promo Code “HOMEGIRL” for $35 tickets to Fun Home on Sun – Thu evenings. Not valid on Area 4 seating, student tickets, special engagements, or with other discounts. Subject to availability.
  • Thursday October 5, 5 – 7 PM First Thursday with Nicole Georges and Dear Nora. Join cartoonist Nicole Georges with Dear Nora with cartoonists for portrait drawing and illustration-based antics. Groove along with the band Dear Nora with its naturalistic folk melodies while enjoying complimentary snacks and a beer from Deschutes. Free. Use the code “THURSDAY” for $10 off your ticket to any show this season! Not valid on Area 4 seating, student tickets, or with other discounts. Subject to availability.
  • Sunday October 8, 12:30 – 2:00 PM – Comedy Happy Hour with Nicole Georges. Join cartoonist Nicole Georges for a complimentary mimosa or some brunch snacks as she hosts her live podcast and hosts stories and standup. Free.
  • Thursday October 12, 6:30 – 7:30 PM – Happy Hour with Portland Lesbian Choir and Portland Gay Men’s Chorus Enjoy a complimentary snack or beverage while mingling with members of the two choruses and learn more about the music of Fun Home during a special presentation with Music Director Rick Lewis. Free.
  • Saturday October 21, 6:30 – 7:30 PM – Pre-show Happy Hour hosted by PFLAG, with members from all over the US visiting Portland for their national convention. Learn more about this amazing organization, including local chapters, while enjoying our cash bar and complimentary hors d’hoeuvres on the Mezzanine. Free.

As always, visit the Armory Bar before the show (especially since for the current show there is no intermission). They have 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 Fun Home and Every Brilliant Thing runs at Portland Center Stage

If you are interested in Every Brilliant Thing, here’s the description – let me know how it is!

A kid makes a list for his mom. A list of everything worth living for in the world. He needs her to read the list so she doesn’t try to leave the world again. As the kid grows up and experiences more life, more love, and more loss, his list of every brilliant thing gets longer and more vital with each addition. Duncan Macmillan’s play shines hilarious and compassionate light in dark corners of the human condition, and the way in which the creators have constructed the performance is refreshingly theatrical. A reminder that hope is never truly lost, and a testament to the healing power of storytelling.

Disclosure: I was invited to see this production of Portland Center Stage: Fun Home, 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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