The coronavirus may have halted theater productions for the foreseeable future, but that hasn't stopped Portland's actors and directors from working. Across the city, many are trying to save the arts scene from financial oblivion. WW spoke to four of them about how they are coping with the effects of the pandemic and plans to push forward.
Anthony Hudson (aka drag clown Carla Rossi)
Creator and star of "Looking for Tiger Lily"
WW: Looking for Tiger Lily was going to open in May. Are you exploring other options?
Anthony Hudson: Luckily, Artists Rep is committed to producing the show, so we are just going to figure out when it's going to happen.
Are there other projects you can continue to develop at home?
Some days are really just anxiety inducing and filled with angst and dread, like a scene in Repulsion with Catherine Deneuve. But now I'm beginning to feel a little bit more productive. For my podcast, Gaylords of Darkness, we're working on brand-new episodes and a companion podcast. I'm beginning to brainstorm a couple new internet shows that I can put out there and ways that Carla can still come into people's homes because she's Portland's Freddy Krueger and won't be denied.
Co-founder and artistic director of the touring arm of Milagro Theatre
WW: Take me inside Milagro's decision process for responding to the pandemic.
Dañel Malán: We're in the middle of doing all our planning for next season. Normally, you would do auditions, but right now that's not really a good idea. We're reaching out to actors individually through Skype interviews.
After the 28th, there will hopefully still be school, because there are a lot of school programs we have lined up for May, and we're hoping those will still happen, because some of them are grant programs so you have to do them to fulfill the grant obligation.
Will you bring back shows that are canceled, or will you move on?
We have not made a decision about that yet. We're in this weird holding pattern.
After this interview, Milagro announced the launch of "Nueva Frontera," a digital series focused on Latinx arts and culture.
Samantha Van Der Merwe
Artistic director of Shaking the Tree Theatre, director of the company's production of "The Antipodes"
WW: The Antipodes is postponed. What are your plans for it down the line?
Samantha Van Der Merwe: The thing that makes the most sense is to put it into the spring slot in 2021.
Are there other things you can work on?
I have some reservations right now about jumping in and immediately pivoting to think about all the creative things I could be doing. Because right now I need to, at least for the next maybe week or two, reflect on what is happening, allow myself to process it, ask myself what it means that the world is going through this.
How are you keeping yourself occupied?
My kids are still at home, and they're college age, and one just graduated college. I said, "We should just make a play together and I'll direct you and we can film it." I'm not able to sit around for long before I need to do something creative.
Artistic director of Portland Center Stage at the Armory
WW: How's everyone at Portland Center Stage holding up?
Marissa Wolf: It's a really hard time. We're down to a skeleton crew that's working to fundraise and strategize so that as soon as we can open the theater back up, there's a vibrant home for everyone to come back to, for both staff and the community.
Have you thought about the kind of plays people will want to see after this international trauma?
The thing I love about our '20-21 season, which we just mapped a week ago, is that I was already thinking about the political climate that we're in, knowing that fall brings an election. I was already programming shows that are politically engaged and thoughtful, but each of them also has a tender core. There's something deeply human and personal about every play next season.
I want Portland Center Stage to be a space in which everyone from this region feels like, "That's my theater, that theater belongs to me, because I see myself reflected onstage there all the time and my story's being told." Now is the time for continued conversations. Now is the time for plays that offer feeling. Now is the time for plays that offer nonstop laughter. All of those things remain true and even more critical.