Portland Center Stage
There stands a building at 1037 SW Broadway St in Portland, Oregon that produces some of the finest theatrical performances that I have ever been witness to. It is called the Newmark’s Portland Center Stage. On the sixteenth day of July 2001, I attended of a play entitled “A New Brain”. What a superb play this was, written by a very controversial playwright from the New York area by the name of James Newglove. This young man’s plays are generally not “picked up” as they say in the business well into their fourth month of availability because of their nature. Usually Newglove writes with a draw to realism. He finds himself not being appreciated for being great, though he is well aware that his shows have an average seventy two percent auditorium fill rate. The problem with theaters usually resides with the board of sponsers, who have a very strong say on whether plays ever see a curtain.
During my research for this paper I found out that “A New Brain” also wasn’t picked up until the fifth month of availability because of its content. This play shows a period of time in the main character’s life, when he has a tumor in his brain and is going to die. The lead also happens to be a homosexual man, and there are a couple of scenes where I could understand the hesitation in picking up this play. A professor once told me that controversy is good in the theater business, and I believe she was correct. This play after the first two shows sold out all remaining six performances. The people at the controls of the theater had this to say when asked about the experience that Portland Center Stage has to offer. “Theater has the power to fascinate, stimulate and enlighten….in emotional and electrifying ways”. Theater brings us together, to sit near one another, to hear stories, to lift up our voices in song at times. I believe that the theater creates an atmosphere like no other; its intimacy can’t be duplicated in any other place in the world. Directed with insight and acted out with passion, elicit laughter, sorrow, astonishment, inspiration and suddenly we are no longer alone. The theater has a place for anyone at all; they need only love the purest form of expression (in my opinion that is.)
Portland Center Stage is celebrating fifteen years of entertaining the masses, and two years ago they committed to a new vision, new energy, a new attitude and all new works (and hopefully some classics too) so that we may be entertained and delighted. This theater thrives on sponsor support, at this time they are financially viable to the extent that they sometimes overbook shows and have to shuffle curtain schedules. This fact gave me a calmed and stable feeling because I greatly appreciate the theater and plan to be a bigger part of PCS in the future.
I spoke with Brooke Johnson who is the director of sponsorship for PCS, she gave me a rundown on the different classifications of sponsors, and benefits you can expect for your contributions. For a one year membership, all PCS sponsors get invitations to exclusive behind-the-scenes events, Single ticket discounts on any performance and gift stand merchandise. A producer is a contributor of fifteen hundred dollars or more, these are the benefits exclusively offered to a producer. Two complimentary season subscriptions, four complimentary tickets to a preview performance, and also offered are Invitations to all special events including opening night parties. Backstage tours and recognition on lobby plaque in the Newmark building. A benefactor contributes anywhere from five hundred dollars to fourteen hundred ninety nine dollars. They will receive two tickets to a preview performance, a backstage tour for them and up to ten guests, recognition in all playbills and discounts on prelude brunches. There are also other ways to sponsor available if anyone is interested. I know that once I am making a better living, I plan to be at least a benefactor and see a lot more performances. This paper has re-lit the flame that I have always had for the theater.
I also spoke to Chris Coleman who is a director for PCS, Chris has influence over what plays he chooses to do and he also directed “A New Brain.” I asked him what helped him to decide on directing that particular play and this was his answer. “When I saw the script that the talent (actors) read, I had tremendous problems with some fundamental elements of the character base. The writer’s name is James Newglove and I contacted him directly to get clearance for a few minor changes to these problems. He had no problem with a fresh character adaptation or amendment as long as I changed no dialogue, I assured him that that was no problem. After I met with him I had the artistic control that I needed so I started to cast parts.” From what I gather, directors are picky but do the job that they do because they have an absolute passion to be a part of the theater. I have a huge respect for them, mostly because they turn text into a living breathing work of art.
In my estimation this theater has a great long-term outlook as long as sponsors continue to give to the performing arts in Portland. In honor of the fifteenth anniversary season, PCS is offering youth tickets at twelve dollars per seat at any level. Youth is anyone who is twenty five years or younger. Sam Shepard, a Pulitzer Prize winning playwright wrote a production by the name of “True West.” A comedy, this play details the lives of two brothers on opposite ends of life’s fortune path. This show was the smash hit on Broadway last year and they’re bringing it to Portland. I plan to attend this performance on the first day of November for opening night, and possibly see some other shows this season as well. The greatest thing about the theater in my opinion besides the performances, is the fact that once you step through those cold, brass handled solid oak doors, there are no longer expectations on you as a human being. Inside those walls everyone is an equal, and there is an undeniable urge to share that with the person in the seat next to you be them friend, family or stranger. How exhilarating it is when the next scene is being constructed and you hear footsteps off somewhere in the dark, imagining what colors, characters, sets will emerge or when are the lights coming back on….then it happens, click go the lights and the world on that little stage has transformed once again, and while you waited no less. There is no greater feeling than to be a part of a live performance, it changes you and the way you feel about different issues sometimes.
In conclusion I would like to elaborate a little on why I think that the theater plays a very important role in society. I had a relatively low GPA in high school, it wasn’t that I wasn’t able to get a better average, it was simply that I had no incentive. Grades were simply on paper, and I hadn’t considered college as a viable option just because that wasn’t the example that was set for me. I joined theater as an elective course and planned to memorize some paragraphs and move on to art. The first script I picked up gave me chills because it was a chance to assume a different identity entirely for just a little while. To make a really long story short I was in four school productions after that first script. The point being that I found my motivation in the performing arts, and therefore I made the decision to become a better student hence an asset to my community.
The performing arts are also a good way to promote tolerance and diversity in the community where the theater stands. It is also a great cross cultural center where people not normally exposed to other cultures, can take some time and learn something new. At a time in our history when we all wonder how we can live together on this planet, our need for community feels more important than ever. When we gather in the theater, feelings are magnified, commonalities illuminated, prejudices challenged and our hearts open. Long live the theater!