Wednesday, January 24, 2007


Portland Center Stage
Posted by Followspot January 23, 2007; closes February 4, 2007

Admittedly, I’m no cultured, Shavian scholar, but this is what I perceived: broad orations drawn out even thicker by what seems a noticeably American hand. For me: a few laughs, a few nods, but no fizzy contemplation of the fine lines that distinguish class or equality. Handsome set, costumes, lighting.


David said...

I think this is about right. I also enjoyed the show, perhaps more often than did Followspot. I felt embarrassed about my own ignorance after reading the WW review--since I'm sure James Walling is absolutely right about Coleman's (perhaps unwitting) misappropriation of Shaw--but I laughed a lot. I particularly enjoyed Aled Davies as Lord Summerhays and Kenneth Albers as Tarleton. They each showed restraint amidst the histrionics going on around them. It was also nice seeing local actors stretch their legs on that big proscenium. Spencer Conway manages to be impossibly handsome, dorky, and dignified all at the same time--a neat trick, which he pulls off by straight-up actor honesty (in general, I like both Spencer's work AND his completetly upbeat attitude!) Amanda Soden l has a blast. Darius Pierce lets out full-throttle, sacrificing subtlety for vaudeville--yeah, I'll agree, and he might have been better served by another director--but he works in some marvelous beat changes, moving back and forth between sympathetic and butt-of-the-joke (perhaps too much of the later). And, it IS a handsome set.

About PCS shows in general: another actor made the observation to me that, in her view, PCS shows tend to reach the level of competence we'd expect from a well-funded LORT house, but they rarely do more than fulfil expectations. They entertain us, but they don't stop us in our tracks. They don't surprise us. My friend thinks that performances at PCS too often have too many of the burrs sanded off of them by the director, especially by Chris Coleman. We get competence but not genius. ART's shows are often rougher around the edges, but seem to hit deeper, more often. This seems right to me. Too often, I come out of a PCS show feeling I 'got my money's worth,' but little more.

Anonymous said...

Basically we're talking about watered down mediocrity which is what we get from just about every angle and everything in our society now-a-days...nice bland and easy to swallow in all fields and disciplines is pretty much where we're at....

I've seen Spencer and Darius is several producitons over the years..Spencer is always handsome and dorky THAT"S what he does...he's honest but it's always the same no real distinquishable charatcers there...and Darius is ALWAYS over the top vaudeville...he does it well but THAT'S what he does always the know what you're going to get with both actors.

Anonymous said...

This has nothing to do with Misalliance...well, I guess something to do since Darius is a member, but where the heck is your review of Escape from Happiness? I know you are a big fan of the ensemble..have you even seen the show? I am hearing great things about it, it is causing a bit of a stir in the community. I wanna hear what you thought!

Follow Spot said...

RE: Escape from Happiness ... I *so* want to see it, but my schedule may not permit; we'll see. I do think Frenchglen has seen it, so I hope there will at least a thread at some point. Sorry for the delay ....

qk said...

I laughed. I would agree that there were a few obnoxious moments of really forced comedy, but also a lot of very subtle and witty moments that made it pretty funny. Like "David" says, it didn't really "stop me in my tracks," but it did provide a pretty entertaining evening at the theater. Act II was a huge improvement over Act I, so don't get discouraged and leave at intermission.

David Loftus said...

> Spencer is always handsome and dorky THAT'S
> what he does...he's honest but it's always the same
> no real distinquishable charatcers there...and
> Darius is ALWAYS over the top vaudeville...he does
> it well but THAT'S what he does always the
> know what you're going to get with
> both actors.

I haven't seen enough of either actor's work to be able to defend them on this point, but I wanted to raise the possibility that what you have seen might not be evidence of their limitations so much as their effort to do the job they were specifically hired to do. None of us wants to think our physical appearance is our destiny as an actor, but if directors cast you to type, then how much choice do you have? How many of us have turned down a role because "I've done that kind of character before"? What do you think the chances are that Spencer will get cast in a Darius role and vice versa?

Anonymous said...

Re PCS's "acceptable competence/mediocrity," I think I tend to share the attitude of most posters here, but perhaps we should consider the pressures on them -- given their new digs, debt, other financial commitments, etc., to fill their houses. They undoubtedly need to establish a track record and a loyal audience of subscribers and regular attendees. A more subtle way of putting the question might be: Does PCS specifically choose this route for the time being, or ar they incapable of seeing or doing something different? Will PCS take greater risks as time goes by and they develop a steady audience? Will we keep seeing multiple one-person shows that are inexpensive to stage, each season?

Anonymous said...

I have wondered if the new venue wasn't acquired out of need so much as ego...

Bob said...

They weren't doing knock your socks off work before they moved. It was their choice to make this move and take on this debt and add this pressure. This is exactly the type of work they want to do. The first year in a new space with so much buzz is the time to try to knock people out and show them what you want to do, because the novelty factor will bring people to see the space that wouldn't normally come to the theater. The sad thing is, this is what they want to do and they think they are doing great work. That’s what frightens me. Get ready for more.

Anonymous said...

I just want to add that I think this thread is one of the more rational and fair assessments of PCS I've seen in awhile. They are the biggest show in town - (define 'biggest' however you like) - and they are clearly serving the needs of SOME audience out there. But, by and large, much of their work is underwhelming to many of us who consider ourselves more well-versed 'than your average bear'. . . or at least more exposed.

I appreciate the recent posts on this particular thread because they aren't inflammatory or argumentative - rather just a matter-of-fact way of really speaking to the fact of the matter - PCS has chosen to put itself 'center stage' (sorry.), so there is a microscope effect. . . of course we nitpick. But I think - in a truly objective sense - it's quite fair to say that they are not living up to potential. We all have opinions about why that is. Interesting that most come back to direction. I think that the egos (well, ego - singular) at PCS make for some poor artistic choices, and that is unfortunate. I hope that the latest spate of tepid feedback causes some change in that area. And I further hope that it doesn't drive them to hiring more and more out of towners - I don't see that as the answer.

Question for a new thread: If a theatre is selling a lot of tickets on a consistent basis, does that trump all of our pretentious armchair philosophies about what is good and what isn't? If there is an audience, does that make it OK? Of course this is an argument that can be taken to the extreme on both ends - all the way from the extreme avant garde experimental performance art with one audience member all the way up the entertainment-slash-art gamut to the packed houses of the professional wrestling circus. Is there room to just allow things we personally can't stand to have their own 'genre' and still be called 'theatre' and worthy of our respect on some level?

(the connection here, for those who wish there to be one, is the notion that PCS has a consistent and somewhat loyal audience base, so does that validate their artistic choices despite what we all think?)

Anonymous said...

In my humble opinion, a large part of their 'loyal base' are Portland's monied social elite who would buy a high-priced season ticket to the biggest show in town no matter what it was, as long as they felt like they were getting 'art'.

Charles S. Whitman said...

...and then there are the rest of us who attend so we're not left out of the loop - we shell out the money (or try to find a friend with a comp) so we can talk out our. . .um. . . bottoms. . . at the drama-nerd water cooler.

Anonymous said...

I've been looking at audience demographics lately, and I can tell you that PCS has younger subscribers than OSF, and (anecdotally) than ART, Profile, or anything by Don Horne.

So I think the moneyed elite aren't the only ones gobbling it up.

What PCS does have is an excellent PR machine that makes them far more visible to the casual audience member than any other company in town.

Not to mention an Artistic Director with an ego bigger than the King Dome.

Anonymous said...

ok, i'll bite. . . where is you're demographic data coming from?

(P.S. The monied elite certainly does not exclude the trendy young pseudo-cultured set who want to be seen in artistic settings but who haven't a clue about theatre. . . not sure if age is the best delineator)

Anonymous said...

Interesting I must say...your new Aristic Director there in Portland had the very same rep over here in Atlanta....a friend told me to check this out...well glad to see it's not just Atlantians who felt that way.

Anonymous said...

I would have to say that a consistent audience is defintely a mark of a well run doesn't neccessarily mean that the work is fantastic BUT if the people paying to see your work CONTINUE to pay there money to see your work...then at least on a practical are doing something very well.

Anonymous said...

I think this is exactly the kind of work PCS wants to do.

Let's just hope those audience members keep coming, regardless of how good the work is. Otherwise the City of Portland is going to be left holding the $17M bag (or whatever the loan amount is). And it will be chalked up as yet another public subsidy to the real estate developers.

There's a very interesting story waiting to be told on this one.

Anonymous said...

A question for Atlantian: what was Coleman's reputation there? For ego or for mediocre work or both?

Bebe said...

I know at least a couple high-profile professionals who are season subscribers to PCS -- their firm may even buy the subs for them -- and they go, and they usually yawn, but they keep going back because, especially on opening nights, it is a who's who, especially in business. So it's no different than the old days when you don't go to see, you go to be seen. And I suspect that plays true among the creative class as well--at least those with power and money or their associated wannabes.

To me, drawing that crowd is kinda like selling your soul. What's worse than to be presenting watered down work to a disinterested crowd who have never set foot inside a theater outside of downtown?

David said...

.... On the other hand, there's certainly nothing WRONG with getting people into the theater! In the PCS audiences, I do see many young couples on dates and groups of non-artsy people out to experience a little 'Broadway' in their lives. They're excited, dressed up, chatty about the play and other plays they've seen, and thrilled not to be at the multiplex (the younger couples I see in the ART audience tend to be more seasoned theater-goers, or at least, 'artier.') A well-constructed, polished presentation is a wonderful experience for these people, and it is undiminished by PCS's failure to present more than that. We just all know that it can--and should--do more.

Anonymous said...

So here is a question for everyone out there. Is it that you don't like Chris Coleman? or PCS? Because PCS is doing something big for this's getting people around the country talking. Now don't get me wrong, I love and respect every company in portland that continues to grind out work, good or bad, for us all to learn from, but very few of these companies(as far as I know) are getting the kind of publicity that PCS is getting.

I know. You're thinking, "But that's not the kind of publicity we want as a city." Well, why then? What do you want. Obviously I agree that Chris Coleman is not the greatest director. It's mostly spectacle with very little story telling, but the company itself works its tail to the bone to balance out the question, "Are we merely here to entertain our audiences, or are they paying us to see what it is that we're up to?" It's a tough position to be in and a hard question to answer.

In defense of PCS, they ARE taking risks this season. I've heard that The Pillowman already has subscribers dropping out of the show in anger. I Am My Own Wife, had it not been played by Wade, who was a draw in and of himself, could have been a very risky mistake if they were only playing to the elitist richies who have no care for art.

I guess what I'm really saying is that I agree, we need a change at PCS, but not in a time of transition for the company. Shakespeare was so successful in his time because he wrote plays that the groundlings could laugh at while the richies went to be seen and listen to the poetries beauty. Hopefully PCS can strike that same balance sometime in the near future.

Until then, we're gonna have to live with their choices.

David said...

Actually, I LIKE their choices--e.g., I loved Pillowman in NYC and think audiences here will love it--it's how they're directed, we're all talking about, I think.

I like the observation that Coleman's work is "mostly spectacle with very little story telling." That seems to nudge closer to the interesting issue.

Anonymous said...

... story-telling ...

Yes, whether "art" or "entertainment" there must be good story-telling at the core of either one, and so often that's the piece that seems to be missing, not just in Portland but whenever good theatre is less than we hope it could be.

David said...

"...story telling..."

So, how does Coleman's work manage to short-change the story-telling (if it does)? Does emphasizing spectacle necessarily mean that the story-telling is short-changed? This is an honest--not rhetorical--question. I watch a PCS show and I can FEEL the spark is missing--I think I sense it in the directing--but, not being a director, I can't name the problem. The closest I've been able to come is to say that actors seem to be pushed to the safe middle of their range rather than to something more raw or more immediate....

Anonymous said...

Even after all is said and done, how many of us wouldn't leap at the chance to work at PCS if the opportunity arose ... They must be doing something right.

Anonymous said...

Yes, they pay well, give you EMC points, and a nationally recognized resume credit.

Anonymous said...

I definitely agree that none of us would turn down a role at PCS. Its a beautiful, professional theatre that has name recognition across the country and also a steady audience base. It's also a guaranteed paycheck. But that's not what we are talking about. What I'm getting from this thread is that something IS missing from the shows at PCS. I believe it is important to be extra-critical when we see these productions because they are supposed to be the "best theatre in portland". I am quite frankly, sick of leaving their shows thinking, "well it was o.k....but..." Everytime I see somehing there, I desperately want to walk out of The Armory, feeling that rush of adrenaline you get when you see REALLY good theatre...that spark that makes you sit around for the next 3 hours over coffee discussing the issues of the play, and not whether so-and-so was misdirected. If Portland ever wants to be taken seriously as a "theater-savvy" city, there is a lot of work to be done.

Third Rail is off to a great start, I am defintely excited about the future of their company. They are magnificent "story-tellers". I remember leaving Recent Tragic Events thinking, at last! I believe they are challenging themselves and their audience with their choices.

I don't feel that challenge from PCS. West Side Story is one of the most, beautiful and moving musicals around. I cry just listening to the soundtrack. I left PSC's production feeling cheated somehow. If I wanted a fluffy musical I would have gone to Lakewood. Or a high school, for that matter. I am not sure what Coleman's purpose was. Who is he targeting? Why does he constantly miss the potential to create a raw and honest piece of theatre? People were going to fill the seats for that show even if he had a bunch of monkeys on stage throwing poop at each other. It lacked so much focus, I was practically laughing during some of the more serious scenes. He missed the heart of the story, and THAT is what, I believe is missing in their shows. You leave, thinking, "who cares". I felt the same way about Misalliance. Laughed a litte, yawned a lot. But I would have rather seen Darius do a one-man stand-up routine than spend 3 hours of my life "sort-of" having a good time.

Everything there is safe and predictable, which is exactly what theater shouldn't be. My friends have season tickets there, and because I know they are "average theater goers" and not as critical, I always want to know what they thought of each show. Their reaction is ALWAYS the same..."it was good". Okay. Why? "Oh, I don't know, it was funny." "The music was nice". "Wade McCollum is talented". That's it. Nothing challenging, nothing gained.

I applaud PCS for their hard-working staff and production value, but not their mediocre artistic choices.

Ben Waterhouse said...

I don't think it's fair at all to say that PCS is never effective. 36 Views is still one of the best theater experiences I've had in Portland, and JAW/West is turning into a training ground for some of the best playwrights on the West Coast.

Then again, this is the same company that put Jenny Chow on the main stage.

As I understand it, the problem at PCS is that Chris is an excellent publicist and fund-raiser who looks great on television, but consistently makes embarrassingly bad directorial choices. I don't need to go into them here--you've all seen a few.

But a tendency to favor fluff doesn't mean that he always disappoints. His Bat Boy was every bit as food as the London production. As long as he stays away from serious material, he's fine. It's just too bad he won't do that.

I imagine there's a great tension in the offices at the Gerding between Coleman and Edith Love, pushing for lighter, salable material, and Rose and Mead, pushing for better art.

Of course, a company as big as PCS isn't going to do anything really risky as long as it has to depend on 70-year-olds and corporations for the bulk of its funding.

As for Pillowman, PCS is going to more than make up for stodgy subscribers with single ticket sales. They sent a letter out to all subscribers warning them about the show, and offering them extra tickets to other shows. With the anticipation built up around this show, it's hardly a risky production.

David Loftus said...

Well, I enjoyed the show. A lot. Did I feel like giving it a standing O? Did I feel uplifted and dazzled, such that the world looked different when I stepped out of the theater? No.

But I certainly felt I got my money's worth: the set is glorious, much of the acting -- especially by the older vets from out of town -- was terrific, and you can't beat the script. (I think it's hilarious that people have repeatedly complained that PCS wasn't hiring enough local people, and then when you get a cast that's roughly half locals -- certainly a goodly mix of folks we have had multiple opportunities to see before -- posters to followspot dismiss several of them!)

And though I'm no Shavian scholar, I'm puzzled by the lambasting the production got in Willamette Week. Is it not possible that the director chose to minimize the themes of class distinctions and racism because they are no longer as relevant (or, in the case of the former, even intelligible) to today's audience in Portland, Oregon -- in favor of the more lasting subjects of marriage, relations between the sexes, and economic haves and have-nots?

I think a critic needs to acknowledge the audience for whom a show is pitched, as well as his own audience of readers; is the purpose of this production to impress and please a few hundred scholars of Shaw across the U.S.? Is it supposed to confirm the most knowledgeable readers of Shaw in their conceptions of him, or to educate less-educated theatergoers about his objective and aesthetic preferences? Not really. Does Waller always object when a director updates Shakespeare? I would hope not. PCS is not giving a Shaw seminar, nor should it be.

To defend some "authoritative" version of Shaw, especially based on the playwright's personal prejudices as expressed in letters, makes theater little more than a series of patented ballet steps. What we have is the text; director and actors get to work with that. Stravinsky too was possessive and dictatorial about how his music should be played, but he's dead now, and conductors and symphonies can interpret a bit. (More instructive, if you listen to different recordings of Stravinsky conducting Sacre, he didn't do it the same way each time, either.)

The review states that this production makes its audience laugh at socialism and the New Woman. From what I could see, Shaw encourages us to laugh at everyone. Yes, Lina is an intriguingly strong female character, but to make her a Polish acrobat is already to imply there's something unreal, farcical, almost impossible about her. I would have thought a 1909 audience would have viewed her as such. And I felt some pity for the young anarchist; it wasn't all just vaudeville.

I could imagine perhaps one or two roles POSSIBLY being done better by other actors in this town, but not those of the three oldest characters, and I doubt any theater company could have done a better job overall. So what's so terrible about that?

I think the only aesthetic choice that seemed to ring somehow wrong for me was the ragtime piped in before the show, during the intermission, and afterward. I just don't associate ragtime with Shaw.

David Loftus said...

> I doubt any theater company could have done a better job overall

. . . any theater company IN PORTLAND, I meant. I'd be happy to be proved wrong, however.

Anonymous said...

David, thanks for the thoughtful, insightful comments. Great to find some well written, patient arguments and points made here.

Deb Lund said...

So much sour grapes.
Is it as easy as you make it look, to pick on something you know nothing about?
In all frankness, I would rather work at PCS as a walk on with one line, at the same pay as Portland Actors Ensemble than with any other company in this town. Too many local companies think unreasonably high of themselves and wear a pretentious veneer of psuedointellectualism that helps them justify not liking anything they didn't have a hand in making.
It boggles my mind how much vicious sniping takes place among the less professional companies. More so than the dread WW.
I am ashamed of you. You pollute this town.

PCS is professional in their behavior toward everyone they work with. They are generous beyond any other group in town. (and it's not because they have bank- they pinch like everyone else-they just don't bitch about it) They reach out to the theatre community which in large, only bites back. BAD DOG!

I have worked with Chris Coleman many times. I am disgusted by the earlier post about his ego. That comment was uncalled for and couldn't be more wrong.

OK- you didn't like his direction. You probably never saw Outrage, The Devils, Celebrity Row or any of his other "successful" productions. If you did and still don't like his direction/vision, quit going to his shows. It's as simple as that. OR are you just totally brain dead.

As for Atlanta, I had a friend look into Chris' reputation before he took over at PCS and the only quote I got was...Chris left Atlanta saying:"I'm going somewhere where they care more about theatre than barbeque." I asked Chris about that and he doesn't recall saying it. So, I guess people made up shit about him there too.

I have a question for those of you who seem to be bitterly throwing stones at PCS: What qualifies you to demand that PCS please your palate? If you've already decided that your nose is going to turn up at their shows, why are you going? Either save your hard earned money or give the comp to someone who enjoys what you call mediocrity.

David said...


Speaking for myself, I'm not expressing sour grapes. I respect PCS a great deal and gladly spend my ticket money there. I don't know Chris Coleman. He seems like a nice guy. He is certainly an accomplished director and highly skilled. I consider myself among the audience for PCS.

And, as a member of it's audience, I nonetheless find something missing from a lot of the work I see there, especially this season. It's a reasonably subtle something--the difference between 'good' and 'great'--for which I'm asking. PCS already does good work, as measured against the best of other regional or NYC stages. The only wee little thing I want is "great." That's all.

PCS gives me my money's worth. But, the three shows I've seen there this season, so far, leave me wanting more than that. This is not snobbery. It's hunger for the good stuff.

Anonymous said...

"Outrage" was awesome.

Deb Lund said...

my comments were not directed at you. I tend to get angry at anonymous posters who never have to be held accountable for the crap they write about people who don't deserve such speculation.

You are very clear about where you are coming from. I agree with your points. I want to see great as well. Do I ever see great? Not much. But if I saw great more frequently, I'd cease to find it great and start considering it mediocre, wouldn't I?

I am moved to defend PCS because I feel they have been undeservedly wronged by the "sour grapes" comments. Don't kid yourself, you annonymous snipers. It IS sour grapes.

PCS may not always wow me, but not much does. That is what makes the things that do wow me, more special.

Anonymous said...

So in order to clarify what you are saying Deb, if PCS was doing truly great work all of the time, we, the audience, would become numb to it?

I don't think so.

I think greatness is inspiration to create MORE great work within smaller theaters in our community. I think it is a great place to learn from professional artists from across the country, and the world in some cases.

I don't think too many people are saying that they hate PCS or want to attack Chris Coleman personally. He is a lovely man with a very difficult task.

I think most people commenting on this blog would like to see PCS be "the best" it can be.

Or maybe everyone IS just bitter.
or psuedointellectualists.

Who knows. All I know is that I wouldn't dare post my name here for fear that people like you would point fingers and call names, or even go as far as to say that my opinion "pollutes" this town.

This community is way to small to have enemies...especially if we want to continue working.

Deb Lund said...

the opinions don't pollute.
the speculation that one is motivated by ego becomes rumor and rumors become truth to the members of the community who don't investigate the truth.
I have no problem with opinions. It's the only thing a person can be right about without question.
Hell, I throw my opinions out all the time. I have no fear of opposing points of view. If I lose respect from people who can't respect my opinion, I certainly don't want to work with them anyway.
I have always voiced/written my opinion regarding badmouthing behind anonymity. I believe it to be cowardice.

Dan (Ruiz, just in case that was never quite evident) said...

:::All I know is that I wouldn't dare post my name here for fear that people like you would point fingers and call names, or even go as far as to say that my opinion "pollutes" this town:::

Oh dear, I don't like that thought. But I suppose it's true. Anonymous posting is often mistrusted as sour grapes, biased attacks, or utter ignorance when we don't know where the person posting is coming from in the context of our community. But If we are honest, constructive, and trying to serve a greater good by offering up what didn't work for us, why in the world do we have to fear for our careers for only expressing how we feel? And really why do we then have to do it in the style of Zorro or The Invisible Man.

I love what Adrienne posted on Backstage and I will use it as a credo in the future. It is so true, and it made me think hard about the concept of tone (Adrienne, you helped me grow!) While the intention to help is always there, my tone may not always be read in the same way as it was intended. However, if I stay kind, try to keep an objective mind, show a genuine interest in wanting to be a part of some kind of growth, and if I do not personally attack any one person or "entity" (ie. generalizing the work of an entire theatre group), then I, as responsible artist, should feel no fear in sharing my thoughts. I'd also love to help cultivate the kind of environment where this fear to express criticism does not exist. We cannot do without it, but I do agree it is about trust. Who do we trust to give us feedback? If we do it kindly, constructively, and with good intentions, there's no reason not to trust the word and really no reason to hide without a name.

I guess its the idealist in me that wishes anyone who creates art in this town can be trusted with offering their view on someone else's work while also taking into consideration one's own differences in tastes and how that might affect our varied points of view. And you know, if you dislike me for being a bit of a humanist idealist with a pension for didactic exchange of art and culture, then so be it. If you don't want to work with me because I am honest and believe in cultivating growth through constant assessment, then that's how it is going to be, I suppose. BUT the idealist in me also believes the notion of blackballing is a myth perpetuated by fear and not an actual precedented occurance that perpetuates fear.

I will better my tone. I will strive to stay objective and constructive. And I will strive to refrain from generalizing or labeling. But I will not stop posting my thoughts... though a good lot of you have already started to skim or skip alotgether over posts bearing my moniker, for I know full well I have no concept of brevity. Some things never change... Love you all! Even the snarky shits who stab behind a face mask. Because the blogosphere would not be the same without you.

Anonymous said...

Deb Lund said,
"I want to see great as well. Do I ever see great? Not much. But if I saw great more frequently, I'd cease to find it great and start considering it mediocre, wouldn't I?"

Deb, would you mind elaborating on this thought? It could be a very interesting discussion. More so than another anonymity thread, which I truly hope we can avoid.


Anonymous said...

"Really Great Theatre" is hardly done ANYWHERE that's how you know it's REALLY GREAT ---it's rare. Not because the practioners are bad --because it's hard to make REALLY GREAT theatre...IN my over 20 years of going to the theatre all over the world I can think of exactly 2 shows that I would say were REALLY GREAT theatre...isn't that the point? If everybody did REALLY GREAT theatre all the time this would be UTOPIA and there'd be no war and everyone would have health insurance and never go hungry....

I think we all need to quit acting like just because some company didn't make it to the top of Everest they must be hacks....most companies don't make it to the mountain top most of the time.

Anonymous said...

"Art is long, life is short, and success if very far off."
--Francois Villon--

deb lund said...

When I was in grade school, I went to the Jr High's production of Peter Pan. THAT (to me at 7 yrs) was great! By the time I got into Jr High, I no longer thought the Jr High School did great theatre, but the High School was so much more great. The trend has continued throughout my life. Into college, local fringe theatre, OSF, NYC and London.
I expected the London show to blow me away. Well, I was both let down and empowered. They weren't offering anything that I couldn't see in Portland. The New York Theatre Workshop blew me away with their production of Itamar Moses' "Bach at Leipzig". It was a combination of casting, material, direction and design. Not one weak link.
I truly believe that it is highly improbable to produce show after show without flaws or weak links. But when it does happen, it creates something great.
If great becomes commonplace, it ceases to be great and simply becomes the norm.

Anonymous said...


I couldn't possibly disagree more with what you say about great becoming commonplace. Third Rail consistently does great work. Am I numb? Do I feel they are commonplace? No. Through nothing other than their hard work, they have elevated themselves into an area of Great Expectation. Since Recent Tragic Events, which was MY first mind-blowing theater experience in Portland, I have continued to expect high things from them and I am always pleased with what I take away from their shows.

I also would like to add that, despite the acting being high-schoolian, I went to Jesuit to see 42nd Street and it was an AH-mazing production! Had you transposed professional actors into their production, you would have had a piece of theater that we all would have been talking about.

Every company has a potential that they define themselves by reaching beyond what is expected of them. I just feel that PCS is happy to settle for what is expected of them, rarely (not never) reaching beyond to discover their full potential. I do commend them on their move, however, as well as the beautiful space they have created which is awe-inspiring and everything you would hope for in a night out to the theater.

However, I still refuse to settle for mediocrity and I am asking for more, from everyone, including myself. I truly don't feel there is any harm in that.


Anonymous said...

Keeping in mind, of course, Zorro and Deb and everyone else that what each of us considers Truly Special or Great, or well done is totally subjective....b/c I, in fact, find Third Rail to be slightly indulgent in regards to their acting style....does that mean their not good? Of course not...but as we all know sit 5 folks down in the theatre at the same time and they will see 5 different shows....and isn't that the point? We all love the theatre it inspires us and keeps us reaching for something beyond our simple material's all pretty cool if ya ask me.

Anonymous said...

Nicely put.


Dan -ka said...

Rock on, Zorro! Atleast there's now a moniker to associate you with. Keep it up. That's a good step. For those of you who feel the understandable need to post anonymously, why don't you come up with a regular name so at least we can follow your train of thought as we journey through this thing.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous wrote: "what each of us considers Truly Special or Great, or well done is totally subjective...." No, it is not -- not totally. Largely subjective, mostly subjective, often subjective, yes; but not totally. Most of us, most of the time, can agree on the utterly wretched; and less often -- but often enough -- on what is transcendently brilliant. So let's not destroy the potential for useful discussion by employing the sweeping adverb "totally."

anothermous said...

So let's not destroy the potential for useful discussion by employing the sweeping adverb "totally."

Huh? I would think that if something was totally subjective, that would make it all the more reason to discuss it. And unless you are discounting any one group or person or culture, totally is the correct word because largely, mostly and often assume that there is no possibility as a single opinion.

Anonymous said...


I don’t know about the rest of you, but I don’t exactly know how I’m going to live the rest of my life without collapsing in overwhelming, trembling fear, barely able to control my bodily functions, with the thought that I may never achieve all these lofty standards. How, O Lord, may I be worthy? How may I transcend my base, beastlike, inherent weakness and, but for a brief instant, strive to touch the light burning brighter than all the suns that have ever shown? How long must I wait, O Lord? What sacrifice may I, a mere creature of soot and clay, proffer to scale these Olympian heights? I weep, weep tears bitter as wormwood, under the weight of my utter, impotent…mediocrity. I gnash my teeth. Gnash, gnash! I rend my soiled garments.

Or something like that.

Follow Spot said...

Seems like we're straying a bit from the show at hand ...

Misalliance, anyone?

Anonymous said...

Oh. Sorry...didn't see it.

Anonymous said...

Okay, back to the show:

People are getting on Darius for his performance and COMPLETELY ignoring the face-pulling, mugging, uninteresting BS that was Ben Steinfeld's performance. If anyone should be slapped on the hand it should be him. And Chris for allowing it to happpen.

Mark said...

Yeah I kind of expected him to break out in song-and-dance.

David Loftus said...

So let's not destroy the potential for useful discussion by employing the sweeping adverb "totally."

Huh? I would think that if something was totally
subjective, that would make it all the more reason to discuss it. And unless you are discounting any one group or person or culture, totally is the correct word because largely, mostly and often assume that there is no possibility as a single opinion.

Ehhmm . . . MAYBE that would give it all the more reason to discuss it. I'm just worried about a tendency, when someone says "it's all subjective," to make the logical leap that there can therefore be NO standards for judgment whatsoever. From what I've seen, "it's all subjective" often seems to mean "I hereby invalidate everything you've said, simply because I disagree with it."

I don't think it's as simple as objective v. subjective, period -- no matter what we're talking about. There is such a thing, I believe, as shared subjectivity; that is, humans have a tendency to react to stimuli in a similar manner, whether heat or cold, the colors red or blue, high volume or a whisper. And discussion tends to bring out the similarities as well as the points of disagreement.

Obligatory "Misalliance" comment: I agree, Steinfeld's mugging seemed out of place and a bit over the top for this show.

Anonymous said...

This is based on a preview of "Misalliance" seen on Jan 7.
There is a good reason Shaw is still produced and it's not just that it is royalty free.
The guy is funny. As for this mounting: Upside: The supple lighting, charming costumes and deep casting.
On the downside: The McMansion set, the perfectly dreadful piano music (which abosultely killed the curtain line in Act 2) and the often aimless direction which has actors fingering various props at length for no reason at all.
Back on the upside: The direction is at times sharp and the actor worth the price of admission and the only one with true Shavian concert pitch energy: Darius Pierce. (And he is never over the top)
God bless him and God bless G. B. Shaw.