The Five Theater Shows We’re Most Excited to See This Fall

From Lin-Manuel Miranda’s break out musical, to a family saga about a character that drinks paint and another named Footnote.

In the Heights (Michael Brosilow)

In the Heights

Before Lin-Manuel Miranda's name was synonymous with Hamilton, he masterminded this New York City musical, set over the course of three days in a Latino immigrant community in Washington Heights. You can experience the play's moving, exhilarating songs—including "Breathe" and "It Won't Be Long Now"—on the big screen when the film adaptation opens in 2020, but they will be better served by Portland Center Stage, where you can feel the full, infectious force of Miranda's music. Portland Center Stage, 128 NW 11th Ave., Tuesday-Sunday, through Oct. 13.


Between the apocalyptic comedy Escaped Alone and the overpowering dance-play Made to Dance in Burning Buildings, 2019 has already been an electric year for Shaking the Tree, and further proof the company is one of Portland's most notable hubs of experimental theater. Its production of Anne Carson's translation of Euripides' Bakkhai promises to continue the company's risk-taking streak. Chronicling the schemes of Dionysus, Carson's translation has been described as a more modern version of the original text, but don't expect this rendition to be straightforward—it's directed by Shaking the Tree's artistic director, Samantha van der Merwe, who delights in leaving audiences thrillingly discombobulated. Shaking the Tree Theatre, 823 SE Grant St., Thursday-Sunday, Oct. 4-Nov. 2. 

The Baltimore Waltz

There's no topic too daunting for legendary theatrical provocateur Paul Vogel, who has written about pornography, prostitution and pedophilia (she also wrote a play about traditional Japanese puppet theater, bunraku, but that's another story). The Baltimore Waltz is one of her most personal works. While the story—about the European travels of an elementary school teacher diagnosed with a fictitious ailment, "Acquired Toilet Disease"—has comedic elements, it was inspired by the playwright's brother Carl, who died of AIDS. Since it's a Vogel play, there's a good chance it will be bawdy, heartfelt and cringe-inducing—in a good way. Imago Theatre, 17 SE 8th Ave., Thursday-Sunday, Oct. 17-Nov. 3.

La Ruta

While growing up along the U.S.-Mexico border, playwright Ian Gomez was unaware that more than 1,500 women have vanished from the Mexican city of Ciudad Juárez since 1993. But after a friend asked him about the disappearances, he found himself confronting his own male privilege and writing La Ruta, which uses real-life testimonies to explore the lives of women living in the shadow of one of the most enduring crises in North American history. With Artists Repertory Theatre's always-inventive artistic director, Dámaso Rodríguez, helming the production, this should be a haunting, engrossing and confrontational experience. Hampton Opera Center, 211 SE Caruthers St., Tuesday-Sunday, Nov. 2-Dec. 1.


Written by Noah Haidle, Smokefall has been met with both rapture and ridicule. Yet it's impossible not to be intrigued by a family saga that spans 80 years, and features one character who drinks paint and another named Footnote. Defunkt Theatre's history of injecting its productions with emotional rawness adds to the appeal, as does the presence of director Patrick Walsh, who showed his gift for capturing the turbulence of family life last year with his striking production of Chekhov's Three Sisters. Defunkt Theatre, 4319 SE Hawthorne Blvd., Oct. 18-Nov. 16.

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