Expansive. Entertaining. Exhausting. Exhilarating.
All of those words describe Fertile Ground, the festival of new and mostly (but not exclusively) theatrical works marking its 10th year. Lasting 11 days and featuring 76 different events, the 2019 edition offers audiences the opportunity to see plays before their jagged edges have been sanded smooth—and that's a good thing. There's a raw, risk-everything vitality to the whole affair that eludes many productions.
With a terrifically diverse group of artists and a slate of productions that promises to take us around the world—from World War II Germany to a post-apocalyptic Portland—Fertile Ground 2019 looks to be a fitting culmination of the festival's first decade. Here are 10 of this year's can't-miss events.
A Dangerous Joy
You've probably heard of Claus von Stauffenberg—the German army officer behind the July 20, 1944, plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler—but you're probably less familiar with Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German theologian who was linked to the conspiracy and ultimately executed. Terry Lomax's play is a fictionalized version of the last hour of Bonhoeffer's life—and his relationship with Heinrich Müller, head of the Gestapo. Lakewood Center for the Arts, 368 S State St., Lake Oswego. 7:30 pm Sunday-Monday, Jan. 27-28. $15.
From These Streets I Rise
If you live in Portland, you have at one point either patronized or ignored Street Roots, the newspaper focused on poverty and homelessness that has been active for more than 20 years. Mikki Jordan's one-woman show is a musical tribute to the publication—and was inspired by interviews with Street Roots vendors. Classic Pianos, 3003 SE Milwaukie Ave. 7 pm Sunday, Jan. 27. $20 (all proceeds go to Street Roots).
Polaris Dance Theatre unites multiple companies for this nine-part series that features everything from ballet to modern jazz to Mexican folk dances. Polaris Dance Theatre, 1826 NW 18th Ave. 7:30 pm Thursday-Friday, Jan. 25, 31 and Feb. 1; 2 and 7:30 pm Saturday-Sunday, Jan. 26-27 and Feb. 2-3. $18-$22.
Homebrew 2019: A PDX Animation Showcase
Fertile Ground doesn't have much for movie buffs, but there is this two-hour collection of animated films curated by Sophya Vidal (who is also involved with the noir-inspired improv show The Jade Decanter, another Fertile Ground highlight). Wacom Experience Center, 1455 NW Irving St. 1 pm Sunday, Jan. 27 and Feb. 3. $5-$10.
There are echoes of Alex Garland's Oscar-winning artificial-intelligence thriller Ex Machina in this play by Rebecca Petchenik, which is about an animatronic sex doll's rebellion. Hipbone Theatre, 1847 E Burnside St. 2 pm Sunday, Feb. 3. $10.
Sirens of Coos Bay
In 2018, nonprofit theater company the Broken Planetarium turned Rosa Red—a musical about the legendary socialist Rosa Luxemburg—into one of Fertile Ground's biggest and most poignant hits. This year, they're back with another musical, which is set in the '90s and follows a former mermaid to the titular coastal town. Mother Foucault's Bookshop, 523 SE Morrison St. 7 pm Wednesday-Friday, Jan. 30-Feb. 1. $5.
The Starlings Present: Dinosaurs!
Yes, this dino extravaganza from Northwest Children's Theater puppet troupe the Starlings is probably intended for kids. But be honest with yourself: In these troubled times, aren't there days when you wish a cute dinosaur was around to cheer you up? Thought so. Northwest Children's Theater, 1819 NW Everett St. 11 am and 2 pm Saturday-Sunday, Feb. 2-24. $16-$20.
Welcome to Zion
It's official: "Mormon musical" is now a subgenre. Holly Yurth Harmon wrote the music, lyrics and book for this play about a Mormon couple who must wrestle with their core beliefs when they learn their son is gay. Artists Repertory Theatre, 1515 SW Morrison St. Noon Tuesday, Jan. 29. Free.
Ever wondered how Portland would fare in a post-apocalyptic future? Rusty Newtown Tennant's speculative play proposes an answer to that question. The Headwaters Theatre, 55 NE Farragut St. 10 pm Thursday, 6 pm Friday, 8 pm Saturday, and 4 pm Sunday, Jan. 24-27. $10-$15.
You Ruined My Play or, Svetlana Svetlana
Dan Kitrosser—writer of the acclaimed 2018 film We the Animals—delivers and stars in an absurdist comedy about a playwright, Stalin's daughter and a cat who claims to be a reincarnation of Lenin. The Sanctuary at Sandy Plaza, 1785 NE Sandy Blvd. 7:30 pm Saturday, Jan. 26. $20 or pay what you can.
SEE IT: Fertile Ground runs Jan. 24-Feb. 3 at multiple venues. Visit fertilegroundpdx.org for a complete schedule.