Fertile Ground’s Latest Crop of New Works Sprouts Hope With an Edge

Horror, politics and mermaids are coming to a stage near you.

The Masked Villian of Sellwood (Courtesy of Fertile G)

Anticipating the return of an in-person Fertile Ground Festival is like awaiting the spectacle of cherry blossoms along Waterfront Park after a gray Portland winter.

Happily, the annual festival of new theater, music, art, film and dance—which was started by the Portland Area Theatre Alliance in 2009—offers an array of invigorating works for 2024, following two years of virtual performances and last year’s hiatus. Some of the new creations come with a serving of edgy humor, others with a breath of hope for a hurting world (the return of the locally made film The Masked Villain of Sellwood offers both).

We’ve listed a few productions we’re psyched about (the festival runs April 10-20 at venues across the Portland area). From epic musical performances to madcap holiday-horror mashups, the collection of all 63 shows this year is a celebration of diverse voices that promises to usher in spring one blossoming performance at a time.

A Bridge to the Promised Land: 1968

A multimedia theater experience with musical compositions by the renowned Milton Williams, this show tackles racism, homelessness and conscience. Will Hubert Turner, the Black mayor of a large Southern city, save a homeless shelter from demolition or sell out for the sake of his career? Find out in this provocative play, which features a book by Ananda Bena-Weber. Bridgetown Conservatory of Musical Theater, 711 SW 14th Ave. 7 pm Friday, 3 and 7 pm Saturday, 2 pm Sunday, April 12–14. $15.

Sam’s 21st

Sam’s roommates are throwing her a birthday bash, but when her best friend James makes a pass at Sam’s crush Sophie, she wants revenge. The musical, written by childhood friends Duncan Kass and Niels Truman, features 15 songs and a queer/trans cast. Clinton Street Theater, 2522 SE Clinton St. 7 pm Sunday, April 14. Pay what you will.

Ten-Minute Tapestry: AAPI Writers’ Showcase

Theatre Diaspora’s collection of 10-minute plays is a celebration of diverse Asian identities. Among the works is Samson Syharath’s story about his relationship with his Laotian-speaking grandmother and his struggles to communicate with her. The showcase features an actual tapestry made by local members of the AAPI community. Desert Island Studios, 1316 SE 12th Ave. 2 pm Saturday, April 20. $10.


This staged reading is bound to resonate with anyone who struggles to follow their dreams despite family expectations. Jerilyn Armstrong wrote this semi-autobiographical play, about a college-aged woman who returns to her hometown, where she faces her family’s history of mental illness and alcohol dependence (as well as her own fears). Artists Repertory Theatre, 1515 SW Morrison St. 5 pm Saturday, 7:30 pm Sunday, April 13–14. Pay what you will.


Aerialist Dreya Weber’s solo show explores the demonization of women by weaving narratives of three witch archetypes. Weber, who’s 62 and has collaborated with Cher, Taylor Swift and Rihanna, wrote music for the show, which also features recordings of Mahler and Dvořák, with vocals by Jenny Trier. JaJa PDX Circus, 819 SE Taylor St. 7:30 pm Friday–Saturday, April 12–13. $30–$40.

True Life – A Shooter’s Story

Can a person who’s committed an atrocity atone for their crimes? Are they still human? The staged reading of David Fuks’ powerful script follows Winter, an abused youth, at the ages of 13 and 17, and then again at 28, when he’s serving a life sentence for mass murder. Artists Repertory Theatre, 1515 SW Morrison St. 7:30 pm Thursday, April 18. $15.

Rhythm and Autism

Singer-songwriter Andee Joyce’s one-woman celebration of otherness invites everyone to embrace their own differences. The sensory-friendly, interactive musical blends infectious comedy with a heartfelt rhythmic journey. Walters Cultural Arts Center, 527 E Main St., Hillsboro. 7:30 pm Friday, April 19. $10-$12.

Life at the Edges and WILD/CAUGHT

In this double-bill, Community Profile’s writing cohort focuses on the immigrant experience with Life at the Edges, a collection of 10-minute plays exploring everything from existential angst to the extraterrestrial. WILD/CAUGHT portrays multigenerational immigrant women who join forces to fight unfair working conditions at an Astoria cannery. The play was written by the current cohort of Pathways, a mentorship program for gender-diverse BIPOC theater artists. Artists Repertory Theatre, 1515 SW Morrison St. 7:30 pm Monday, April 15. $5–$15.

LineStorm Playwrights

Playwrights, assemble! This year, the LineStorm collective presents readings of 11 can’t-miss plays, including PULL, by Sara Jean Accuardi (a bold work about teachers who consider arming themselves), Josie Seid’s The Alchemy of Steam (which features a brilliant young woman who insists she’s a mermaid), and E.M. Lewis’ Strange Birds, a fierce and funny feminist thriller. Artists Repertory Theatre, 1515 SW Morrison St. Various times, April 12-21. Free.

Freedom: The Untold Story of Moses

By portraying women from the Moses story, this concert of songs from Chari Smith’s rock musical evokes the common humanity of mothers around the globe today. On one side of the stage, Moses’ anguished mother sacrifices her infant son by placing him in a basket and sending him floating down the Nile. On the other side, a princess exalts over the arrival of her new child. Eastside Jewish Commons, 2420 NE Sandy Blvd. 4 pm Sunday, April 14 and 21. $10 in advance.

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