This fall, Portland stages and screens will be filled with vampires, zombies and pigs feasting upon dismembered human corpses. That’s probably less a sign of the times than a reminder of humanity’s endless fascination with dirty creepy things.
Yet there’s no mistaking the grim mood that has slipped into Oregon’s arts scene like the Wallowa Lake Monster.
It’s been sleepless nights ever since last April, when the Oregon Shakespeare Festival announced a $2.5 million fundraising campaign to save its 2023-24 season and avert layoffs. Still more chilling was Artists Repertory Theatre’s recent decision to suspend its new season, pending further examination of its financial situation (the company is in the midst of a costly renovation that began before the pandemic).
The twin threat of financial struggles at some of the state’s most influential artistic institutions and a predicted winter COVID variant surge (potentially leading to another round of canceled shows) will undoubtedly affect the fall arts season. It’s a scary time to be an artist, but there’s no better way to fight fear than by yanking out of the psyche and into the spotlight.
So then: Boo! Our fall arts guide focuses on an array of spooky creations, including Portland Center Stage’s feminist take on Dracula, a film about the murderous “pig lady” from Jackson County, the irresistibly titled Evil Babylon and the region’s most shriek-worthy haunted houses. And if all that’s too terrifying, we have a palate cleanser: a preview of quasi-shoegaze Portland duo Phosphene’s sweeping new album.
Some of these projects promise to be genuinely terrifying, others will lace horror with laughter. All of them, however, represent the promise of innovation and imagination in difficulty. It’s the worst of times—and therefore also the best of times to get a little freaky. —Bennett Campbell Ferguson, Assistant Arts & Culture Editor
Fall Arts 2023