If there's one thing that unites this winter's upcoming theater productions, it is that they promise to immerse us in a thrillingly vast spectrum of worlds, lives and ideas.
Are you hungry for a glimpse behind the curtain of one of the most scandalous shows in Broadway history? Profile Theatre will give you a peak. Are you in the market for environmentalist puppetry? Fertile Ground will deliver. Have you always wondered what beauty pageants were like in Ghana during the '80s? Artists Rep and Portland Center Stage are about to show you.
And that's just the beginning. Here are five shows that look most likely to light up the bleak winter months.
Milagro Theatre, Jan. 9-18
Playwright-actor-director Marilo Nuñez may be a fixture of Canadian theater, but some of her best-known plays are set in Chile, where she was born in 1974, and where her parents defied the autocratic regime of Augusto Pinochet. Huínca examines the South American nation through the eyes of a woman who attempts to negotiate lands away from the indigenous Mapuche people on behalf of a logging company.
God of Vengeance
Readers Theatre Repertory, Jan. 10-11 and 17-18
Profile Theatre/Artists Repertory Theatre, Feb. 19-March 8
In 1923, Sholem Asch's God of Vengeance—about an Orthodox Jew who owns a brothel—was shut down after six weeks on Broadway for being obscene. Never one to resist a taboo topic, playwright Paula Vogel looks behind the scenes of that fateful production in Indecent. With Readers Repertory Theatre presenting God of Vengeance before Indecent opens, Portland playgoers will have a unique opportunity to view a cultural phenomenon from two distinct vantage points.
School Girls; Or, the African Mean Girls Play
Artists Repertory Theatre/Portland Center Stage at the Armory, Jan. 18-Feb. 16
Ghanaian American playwright Jocelyn Bioh has said that in college, she was expected to write "poverty porn." School Girls; Or, the African Mean Girls Play is arguably a rebuttal to that expectation. Set in 1986, the play draws inspiration from the 2004 teen comedy Mean Girls to tell the story of Paulina, a tyrannical student at Aburi Girls' Senior High School in Ghana, who faces the cruel reality of colorism when she enters the Miss Ghana pageant.
Fertile Ground Festival, Jan. 30-Feb. 9
There will be plenty of time to fully probe the 11th edition of Portland's annual festival of new works when it officially begins, but it's never too early to start salivating. The most enticing offerings include Terran's Aquarium, which uses puppets and projections to imagine a world without fresh water, and sex-positive dynamo Eleanor O'Brien's one-woman show How to Really, Really? Really! Love a Woman.
Portland Playhouse/Confrontation Theatre, Feb. 19-March 15
"Sometimes people push you too far, make you feel like an animal from another jungle." Those words are spoken in Pipeline after Omari, a black student at a private school, is suspended for attacking a teacher who degraded him with a particularly galling microaggression. Playwright Dominique Morisseau explores the aftermath of that conflict—and offers audiences a chance to bask in the brilliance of Confrontation Theatre, which has a history of successfully tackling intense, intelligent plays.