When Philip Cuomo, CoHo Productions’ revered producing artistic director, died of lymphoma last year, the grief of the Portland theater community was palpable. But Cuomo’s legacy lives on through the recently announced Cuomo Theatre Collaborative, which seeks to secure a CoHo theater on Northwest Raleigh Street as a permanent performance space.
After Cuomo died last November, CoHo teamed with Third Rail Repertory Theatre, and Portland Experimental Theatre Ensemble to form the CTC. Working with the Philip Cuomo Family Foundation, the CTC is devoted to “preserving and expanding the space on Northwest Raleigh,” according to a press release.
That plan was set in motion by Cuomo himself. Before his death, he negotiated purchase terms with the building’s owner, secured support from donors, and hired an architect to design renovations intended to transform the CoHo Theatre in “a multifunctional artistic center for the community.” The goal is to safeguard the theater against new development in Slabtown, which the company worries could threaten the space it’s occupied for 26 years.
Cuomo continues to loom large in other ways. He was involved not only with CoHo, but Third Rail Repertory and the Actors Conservatory, formerly known as the Portland Actors Conservatory. He also directed the CoHo Clown Cohort, a clowning-centric arm of CoHo that memorably spoofed The Glass Menagerie. Today, the cohort still hosts a monthly meetup for clowns and aspiring clowns alike.
CoHo is on the cusp of an exciting season. The company’s upcoming events include the Aug. 12 premiere of Orion Bradshaw and Phillip J. Berns’ The Bar[D] Party: UNPLUGGED, a unique Shakespeare riff featuring scenes, monologues, poems and a community mixer. On Aug. 19, it will be followed by Chasing Rainbows, a love story with a tragic twist that will be both written and performed by Bob Powers (whose many accomplishments include starring in the first interracial theater production in Malawi, Africa, a production of Guys and Dolls in which he played Nathan Detroit).