Fertile Ground Festival is a lot to take in, and even harder to pin down.
On January 18, the ninth-annual edition of Fertile Ground will begin unleashing a cavalcade of works. The only qualification for performers and playwrights to participate is that their work is new and local, which means a dizzying mixture of disparate genres, stories and moods.
There are plays that are dramatic, funny, political or downright weird. There will be topical works directly aimed at the current administration, but there are also festival entries inspired by Edgar Allan Poe and Tennessee Williams.
Here are the Fertile Ground premieres and workshops that promise to be moving, entertaining or just delightfully bizarre.
Sex We Can! An Erotic Uprising (Fully staged world premiere)
Inspired by her time as a professional dominatrix in New York City, second-generation Portland actor Eleanor O'Brien has long been making theater about sex and sexuality, including her one-woman show Good Girls' Guide: Dominatrix for Dummies. Two years ago, she founded Come Inside, a sex and culture theater festival. Sex We Can! is almost a mini festival of its own—18 sex-positive performing artists, who, under the direction of O'Brien, will address the current political climate. Clinton Street Theater, 2522 SE Clinton St. 8 pm Jan. 25-27, and Feb. 1-2, 9-10 and 14.
The Doctor and the Devil (Fully staged world premiere)
Created by an ensemble cast and directed by Mac Kimmerle, The Doctor and the Devil leverages the myth of Doctor Faustus to examine how technology has warped our sense of self. Among other things, the abstract, experimental show will use magic tricks to update the 500-year-old story. New Expressive Works, Studio 2, 810 SE Belmont St. 7:30 pm Jan. 18-20 and Jan. 25-27.
Philip's Glass Menagerie (Workshop)
Tennessee Williams' The Glass Menagerie with clowns and Philip Glass music might sound like it could be a hot mess. But the bizarre mashup was created by the insanely reliable CoHo Productions, who is workshopping the show for Fertile Ground. The whole thing sounds just strange enough to work. CoHo Theatre, 2257 NW Raleigh St. 7:30 pm Jan. 18-20 and Jan. 25-27. 2 pm Jan. 21.
Rosa Red (Staged reading)
Broken Planetarium's feminist folk operas are a yearly highlight of the festival. Its first contribution to Fertile Ground was an all-woman, cabaret-style Frankenstein that addressed sexual assault. Last year, it premiered Atlantis, a dystopian musical set in a future Manhattan, flooded by global warming and populated by New Yorkers who've grown gills. This year, the company has decided to focus its lyrical storytelling on revolutionary socialist Rosa Luxemburg and the letters she sent from prison to fellow revolutionary Sophie Liebknecht. My Voice Music, 538 SE Ash St. 4 pm Jan. 20, 2 pm Jan. 21, 8 pm Jan. 24-25.
To Be Determined (Workshop)
Jess and Katelyn Ford's play about climate change will attempt to dodge the PowerPoint straightforwardness of An Inconvenient Truth and offer instead a mixed-media meditation on everything from alternative energy sources to changing oceans. Craftsman Theatre Company, Backyard Studio, 437 NE 79th Ave. 8 pm Jan. 25-28.
The High Captain (Workshop)
Joe Jatcko's play satirizes politics in the Trump era with its depiction of a democratic process hindered by gas huffing—a scenario that doesn't sound so far-fetched in 2018. Once the crew of an ocean barge becomes marooned on a deserted island, they're forced to set up a government while high from the ship's leaking petroleum tank. Clinton Street Theatre, 2522 SE Clinton St. 7:30 pm Jan. 18-20 and 2 pm Jan. 21.
SEE IT: Fertile Ground runs from Jan. 18-28. See fertilegroundpdx.org for the full schedule. Festival passes $50, individual tickets free-$50.