Spring has barely sprung and we're already looking to the next season—arts season that is. This time of year marks the age ol' ritual of season announcements, and most of the major arts orgs have already had theirs, from Portland Center Stage's fancy, multi-media presentation to Portland Playhouse's fully participatory experience. We've compiled them all in one spot with short descriptions and intel (where we have it) for your planning pleasure. As other companies announce their seasons, we'll be sure to add them to this post, so check back regularly.
Artists Repertory Theatre
Artists Rep’s season announcement was co-hosted by outgoing Artistic Director Allen Nause, who has grown the theater over the last 25 years into a regional player, and incoming Artistic Director Dámaso Rodriguez. The two programmed the season together—“the overlap has been seamless,” said Nause—and volleyed the conversation back and forth like an Abbot and Costello skit. Perhaps the biggest applause came from the announcement that Nause will join Artists Rep’s ensemble as its newest Resident Artist.
The Big Meal
Sep 3–Oct 6
Written by Dan LeFranc; Directed by Dámaso Rodriguez
Eight actors play 26 characters and five generations, all intersecting through the tables and kitchen of a quintessential American restaurant. “This is what we do—new work,” said Damaso of what will be the West Coast premiere of this off-Broadway hit. “Sometimes it’s a world premiere, sometimes the second or third production.”
Mistakes Were Made
Sep 17–Oct 20
Written by Craig Wright; Directed by Michael Mendelson
A NYC theater producer navigates a comedic train wreck including agents, Middle East rebels, and an overweight fish in another off-Broadway success written by award-winning playwright-screenwriter Craig Wright, who penned such shows as Dirty Sexy Money and episodes of Lost.
Oct 29–Dec 1
Written by Dawn King; Directed by Dámaso Rodriguez
A sci-fi futuristic parable about totalitarian rule and an insidious fox infestation. Rodriguez saw this play in London and brought it in his back pocket from LA, snatching the US premiere before the play became a finalist for the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize.
Nov 26–Dec 22
A debauchery-filled double-bill for the holidays, The Reason for the Season and The Night Before Christmas, by two award-winning playwrights, Matt Pelfre and Anthony Neilson, respectively.
Jan 28–Mar 2
Written by Amy Freed; Directed by Art Manke
Another regional theater score, Rodriguez enticed friend, mentor, and country-trotting director Manke to direct this world premiere by a Pulitzer finalist about a megalomaniac architect who’s maniacal master plan is challenged by two upstarts.
The Motherf**ker with the Hat
Written by Stephen Adly Guirgis; Directed by Kevin Jones
The wildest applause of the night echoed after the announcement of this cuss-word embracing title about a recovering junkie’s search for the owner of said mysterious headwear. The play was nominated for a Tony and is a sensation at regional theaters with enough guts to produce a play with such a title.
The Invisible Hand
Apr 8–May 11
Written by Ayad Akhtar
This play about the kidnapping of a futures trader in Pakistan who potentially hands the means to wreak financial havoc to his guard was postponed from the current season to next in order to involve guest actors from Pakistan whose visas fell through.
The Playboy of the Western World
May 20–June 22
Written by J.M. Synge; Directed by Dámaso Rodriguez
This classic farce caused a riot after its 1907 debut. It’s rarely mounted today due to its difficulty, but it just happens to be Rodriguez’s favorite play, “and so I should be able to do it,” he said with a grin.
Read our full post about the Broadway season, including the return of The Book of Mormon.
On the Main Stage
Fiddler on the Roof
Sep 14–Oct 27
Music by Jerry Bock, lyrics by Sheldon Harnick, and book by Joseph Stein
Fiddler was the first professional production PCS artistic director Chris Coleman ever saw, meaning PCS fans likely owe it a pretty big debt. Let’s see if Coleman can make the classic, Broadway-run record-setter live up to his childhood memory, although if Sweeney Todd was any indication this season, we’re in for a lush opener.
The Second City’s A Christmas Carol: Twist Your Dickens
Nov 16–Dec 22
Written by Peter Gwinn and Bobby Mort
The paragons of contemporary improv and satire, Second City, blend, shake, and discombobulate Scrooge, his ghosts, and the classic Christmas cheer in this mélange of holiday sketches. Members of the famed company will come to town to stage the show (although it’s not yet determined if they will perform), and every night will feature a different local celebrity guest.
Jan 11–Feb 9
Written by David Henry Hwang
An American businessman gets flummoxed in translation when he heads to Asia for a contract but instead encounters challenges beyond his means. By the author of M. Butterfly and Golden Child.
A Small Fire
Feb 22–Mar 23
Written by Adam Bock
Despite following what appears at first glance to be the plotline of an after school special—a wife is struck by a disease that slowly snuffs out her senses, leaving her husband to care for her—Bock defies convention and character types to find incredible humor and meaning in the small, unexpected details of a relationship.
Apr 5–May 11
Written by William Shakespeare
Coleman said he’s not certain whether he’ll approach this tragedy of the Moor of Venice from a traditional or contemporary angle. Either way, hopefully it's more coherent than this season's Midsummer Night's Dream. Stay tuned.
Lizzie: The Musical
May 24–June 29
Written by Steven Cheslik-deMeyer, Tim Maner, and Alan Stevens Hewitt
The macabre musicals are getting a mighty run in Portland right now. Sweeney Todd, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, half of next season's operas (see below), and now the West Coast premiere of the new rock musical about Lizzie Borden, the ax-swinging Victorian girl who gave her parents 81 whacks, in the process becoming our country’s founding tabloid star. The play has been developed in part by Portland’s own Broadway producer Brisa Trinchero (although she won't be involved in PCS's production), with sights on taking it to the flashing lights of NYC (read our profile of Trinchero).
In the Ellyn Bye Studio
Aug 31–Oct 27
Written by Katori Hall
Room 306, the Lorraine Motel, Memphis, April 3, 1968. A surrealist fantasy about the last night of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life. Having premiered in 2009 at London’s Theatre503 (a sign?), this play went on to win an Olivier Award for Best Play and then be a Broadway smash starring Samuel Jackson and Angela Bassett. Shortly after it opens at PCS, the play will open in basically every major city in America. Kudos to PCS for being on the vanguard.
The Santaland Diaries
Nov. 26–Dec 29
Written by David Sedaris
You know what it’s about.
Feb 1–Mar 16
Written by Elizabeth Heffron
This play about a 13-year-old girl who’s abusive, somewhat ex-stepfather dies in her bedroom, leaving her and her mother to hide the body, was the blisteringly funny standout of last summer’s JAW playwrights festival. Kate Eastwood-Norris, who will reprise the role in the full production, plays all the characters in this charmingly morbid fever dream of Midwest magical realism.
The Last Five Years
Apr 26–June 22
Written and composed by Jason Robert Brown
About a couple’s journey through love and ultimate divorce, this sung-through musical is told in a most interesting fashion: the man, a successful novelist, moves through time chronologically, while the woman, a struggling actress, tells her story in reverse. While the play only received mixed reviews, it won a Drama Desk Award and has been performed often at regional theaters for the strength of its music—Brown has been heralded as a leading composer of his generation (he won a Tony for Parade before he was 30).
Portland Playhouse wins for the most fun season announcement party. They asked the audience to read scenes from the upcoming plays, which culminated in a dance off in the back of Mint.
Oct 2–Nov 3
Written by Lisa D’Amour; Directed by Brian Weaver
Having premiered at Steppenwolf Theatre, this darkly funny play captures the zeitgeist of the recession through two sets of couples living side by side in Detroit.
The Other Place
Nov 20–Dec 15
Written by Sharr White
This intense psychological character study of a medical expert who’s starting to breakdown herself just this month closed on Broadway, where it starred Laurie Metcalf and wracked up the gushing reviews. Way to score them fresh off the big stage, PP—and to cast local favorite Gretchen Corbett in Metcalf's role!
Jan 15–Feb 2
Written by August Wilson
Portland Playhouse has been slowly working through August Wilson’s Pittsburgh Cycle with solid, gripping productions. This season it takes on the 70s-set play, Jitney, about a small businessman who runs the only taxi service willing to serve the city’s black community.
The Light in the Piazza
Feb 26–Mar 30
Book by Craig Lucas, music & lyrics by Adam Guettel
Coming off the success of its first musical earlier this season, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, (plus pseudo-musical The Huntsmen), the Playhouse is ready to take on this big, lush musical about a transformative mother-daughter trip to Florence, with a special chamber orchestration and a company debut by Susannah Mars.
After the Revolution
Apr 30–June 1
Written by Amy Herzog; Directed by Tamara Fisch
This play about a daughter who defends her famously blacklisted grandfather, only to learn he might have actually shared secrets with the Soviets, will be the first Portland production of one of New York’s brightest young playwrights, Amy Herzog. It is an epic, semi-autobiographical drama spanning three generations, and is the play that made Herzog’s name in 2010.
Third Rail Repertory Theatre
Third Rail is on the up-and-up, adding another show to the season for a total of five this year—three at the Winningstad and two at Coho.
Sweet and Sad
Sep 27–Oct 20
Written by Richard Nelson
This season, Third Rail introduced us to the Apple Family—a fictional family whose story Tony Award-winning playwright Richard Nelson is telling over the course of four plays—with That Hopey Changey Thing, which felt less like a contained play unto itself and more like an introduction (read our review). Sweet and Sad picks up with the family while they gather for lunch and memorial services on the 10th anniversary of September 11. We can expect kerfuffles over politics, family dynamics, and, pure speculation here, another tickle attack.
Dec 6–Jan 5
Written by Michael Frayn
Rounding out what’s shaping up to be a rather refreshing holiday season, Third Rail promises “arguably the funniest play ever written” (Frank Rich backs them up, although hedging just a little, calling it “the funniest play written in my lifetime.”) A staple of national and local theater since it’s debut in 1982, Noises Off is a riotous backstage farce following a cast of actors as they try to mount a most dreadful sex-comedy called Nothing On.
Feb 21–Mar 15
Written by Johnna Adams
Having successful tackled the classroom in this season’s troubling Noble Failure (our review), Third Rail returns to the fraught setting next season (as well as returning to Coho Theatre). This time it’s a parent/teacher conference about a very troubled student, but it leaves no one unscathed in a wrenching exploration of the rank role of bullying, fear, political correctness, and intimidation in today’s culture. By another hot young playwright, Johnna Adams, Gidion's Knot premiered last year at the Contemporary American Theater Festival and was just selected as one of six finalists for the nation’s largest new play prize, the Harold and Mimi Steinberg/American Theatre Critics Association New Play Award.
Mar 28–Apr 19
This is not the Time-Based Art Festival. This is a slot waiting for a play.
May 30–June 22
Written by Will Eno
Taking inspiration from Our Town, Will Eno plunges into a small hamlet's quotidian relationships—but in his world, the townsfolk are finely crafted wordsmith philosophers able to penetrate deep issues as if they were commenting on the weather. The hit of PCS's 2009 JAW Festival, the play has since been staged by leading theaters to glowing reviews—according to the New York Times, “Middletown glimmers from start to finish with tart, funny, gorgeous little comments on big things: the need for love and forgiveness, the search for meaning in life, the long, lonely ache of disappointment." Right up Third Rail's alley.
The symphony season looks to be a classical doozy, featuring returning stars like Joshua Bell, Hilary Hahn, Arnaldo Cohen, Jeffrey Kahane, Inon Barnatan, and violinist Elina Vähälä; first time appearances by Christian Tetzlaff, Tanja Tetzlaff, Augustin Hadelich, and many others; favorites like Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 and Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade; not to mention 17 Oregon Symphony premieres. Cellist Alban Gerhardt will also return as Artist in Residence to take music to the people at venues like the mall.
But the symphony is also continuing to push into contemporary programming. Building on its collaboration with local bands (see our current Culturephile story about its concert with indie darlings Blind Pilot on April 27), it will program a new night called Portland’s Indies, featuring Black Prairie (with members of the Decemberists), Holcombe Waller, and Mirah. It will also feature returns by Pink Martini and then Storm Large, who will seduce a hall full of lovers for Valentine’s. Finally, in a show I couldn't be more excited about, it will team up with PICA’s Time-Based Art Festival to present a night with international kamikaze cabaret diva Meow Meow and Pink Martini’s Thomas Lauderdale.
The complete season can be seen at the symphony’s website.
Portland Baroque Orchestra
PBO's 30th anniversary season explores the meaning and forms of the concerto as it developed in the 17th and 18th centuries.
Bach Concertos: Violin and Oboe
Set over two weekends, PBO will perform and record 10 oboe and violin concertos by Bach highlighting leading period oboist Gonzalo X. Ruiz and artistic director/violinist Monica Huggett.
The Concerto Grosso
The new artistic director of the Oregon Bach Festival, Matthew Halls, directs PBO from the harpsichord through a series of concerti grossi by the likes of Handel and Muffat. The concerto grosso involves passing material between a small group of soloists and the full orchestra, versus the concerto, in which a single soloist is accompanied by the orchestra.
PBO joins with Cappella Roman in this perennial holiday hit.
The Classical Concerto
It generally takes PBO two or more years to book performances with beloved guest director Richard Egarr, so catch him here on a journey through the classical form beginning with Bach and ending with Mozart’s Musical Joke.
The Vocal Concerto
The PBO debut of legendary Dutch vocalist Harry van der Kamp performing the 17th century repertory that he helped introduce to modern audiences will tour the Northwest.
Featuring works by Vivaldi, Fasch, and Telemann involving unusual instruments.
With the theme “When Passions Collide,” Portland Opera’s 49th season, and General Director Christopher Mattaliano’s 10th, features four shows exploring passions pushed to the extreme.
Big Night Concert
The third annual operatic extravaganza features two important Portland Opera debuts—soprano Kelly Cae Hogan (the Metropolitan Opera regular will return in November to sing the role of Salome) and tenor Richard Furman (who also returns for Salome)—in addition to a lineup of classics performed by the opera’s chorus, resident artists, and orchestra.
By Richard Strauss
Strauss’s shocking 1905 masterpiece about the Judea princess who demands the head of John the Baptist will receive a new production directed by Stephen Lawless (The Marriage of Figaro, 2011)
Lucia Di Lammermoor
Jan 31–Feb 8
By Gaetano Donizetti
Starring globe-trotting coloratura soprano Elizabeth Futral in a production last seen in Portland in 2004, this masterpiece by Donizetti tells the gruesome tale of a woman forced into a marriage only to crack and descend into a bloody madness.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
By Benjamin Britten
This new production of one of the most wonderful operas of the past century marks the 100th birthday of Britten, as well as Portland Opera’s annual production at the Newmark highlighting its resident artists.
The Pirates of Penzance
By Gilbert and Sullivan
Oregon Shakespeare Festival Artistic Director Bill Rauch brings the staging from OSF’s playful 2011 production to the Keller stage. The comic tale about a young man trying to escape his employment with a crew of pirates features a number of returning opera stars: baritone Robert Orth as Major-General Stanley (Voltaire/Pangloss/Cacambo/Martin in Candide, 2012, and Nixon in Nixon in China, 2006, among many); bass baritone Daniel Okulitch as the Pirate King (title role in Don Giovanni, 2012), and tenor Ryan Macpherson as Frederic (Ferrando in Così fan tutte, 2010, and others).
Oregon Ballet Theatre
With the theme of “Tributes,” OBT restages a number of past favorites with particular homage to departed Artistic Director Christopher Stowell, plus two world premieres.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
A Midsummer Night’s Dream: Felix Mendelssohn / Christopher Stowell
Le Corsaire Pas de Deux: Adolphe Adam / Marius Petipa
World Premier Work: Anne Mueller
You saw the theatrical Misummer at PCS this season, you can catch the opera, and now see the ballet, with Stowell’s original NW-tinged choreography. Also of note is the world premiere by the ballet’s interim artistic director, Anna Mueller.
George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker
Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky/George Balanchine
You love it or you hate it.
Feb 22–March 1
Bolero: Maurice Ravel / Nicolo Fonte
Almost Mozart: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart / James Kudelka
Liturgy: Arvo Pärt / Christopher Wheeldon
World Premiere Work: Christopher Stowell
Spanning from the sublime to the explosive, this program revisits four favorites from leading international choreographers, and then showing that the ballet doesn’t have any hard feelings, a world premiere from Stowell.
Adin: Sergey Rachmaninov / Christopher Stowell
The Lost Dance: Owen Belton / Matjash Mrozewski
A New Work: Chosen by the New Artistic Director
This show transitions from OBT’s past, the first ballet every created by Stowell at the company, through the sexy and gorgeous standout of last season (read our review) to a new work chosen by Mueller.
In the Works
Looking to get a lot more intimate than the Keller and even the Newmark, OBT lands in BodyVox for a program of excerpts and new works by the dancers, mixed with artist talks and conversation. There was the “Know Your Dancer” PR campaign a couple years back. This is your chance to do it first hand.
Read our retrospective looking back at the past 15 years of White Bird Shows in preview of their 15th anniversary season finale.
White Bird Dance Series
Aspen Santa Fe Ballet
This will be the third visit by this major, ballet-based contemporary dance company. The performance will include the work of the exciting young choreographer Norbert de la Cruz, who has worked with Northwest Dance Project.
Compagnie Maguy Marin
“We first presented Compagnie Maguy Marin in ‘01/’02, and it was probably the most divisive experience our audiences ever had,” says Jaffe. “They basically had dancers in circles dressed in jeans who would walk over to electric guitars and make awful noises. Some audience left; other people said this was by far the best thing they’d ever seen. There were arguments afterward.” Jaffe says Salves, this US premiere by the important French choreographer, is like a rollercoaster into a house of mystery—and far more accessible.
Sydney Dance Company
Oz’s leading contemporary dance company returns after six years with a new artistic director, Rafael Bonachela, to perform in front of a pulsing LED matrix. “This is all out dance,” says Jaffe.
Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet
Feb 26, 2014
Called “the country’s most innovative contemporary ballet troupe” by the New York Times, Cedar Lake returns after a prominent appearance in The Adjustment Bureau, starring Matt Damon and Emily Blunt. The company will feature work by two choreographers White Bird audiences know well: Canada’s Crystal Pite, who runs the fantastic Kidd Pivot company that was at the Newmark last year, and Great Britain’s Hofesh Shechter.
Cloud Gate Dance Theatre
Mar 4, 2014
Based in Taiwan, Cloud Gate is the most important contemporary dance company in Asia. For what Jaffe sees as one of the most exciting event in the series, the company will fill the Keller stage with three-and-a-half tons of rice for a performance evoking a spiritual pilgrimage that is sheer, breathtaking spectacle.
Apr 30, 2014
Returning after a ten year absence, New York’s Ballet Hispanico, which focuses on dance from Spanish speaking countries, brings with it a new artistic director, Eduardo Vilaro, and company member Jessica Alejandra Wyatt, the daughter of one of Portland’s most beloved ballet teachers, Elena Carter.
Lucy Guerin Inc.
Having been presented by PICA twice, this aussie's company makes its White Bird debut (she did, however, have work in Baryshnikov’s White Oak show). “She’s amazingly innovative,” Jaffe says. “This piece is called Weather and is inspired by weather patterns.”
Phillip Adams Balletlab
Jan 23–25, 2014
“We’re calling this season an Aussie festival, because there’re three Australian companies,” laughs Jaffe. Inspired by the impact of the body under catastrophes and by crash victims, Adams’s dance-theater piece, Amplification, involves skidding, sliding, and crashing into a world of body bags, pain, healing, reality, and unreality. “It’s very abstract,” Jaffe continues. “It will push people’s buttons for sure.”
Stephen Petronio Company
Mar 6–8, 2014
For his fifth White Bird performance, Petronio will present his newest work, Like Lazarus Did. Exploring themes of death and resurrection, the piece will rise from Petronio’s athletic dancers, the Pacific Youth Choir, the composer Son Lux, and visuals from artist Janine Antoni.
Apr 10–12, 2014
Inspired by the 1960 Italian boxing film Rocco and His Brothers, the Amsterdam-based company will create a boxing ring on the Newmark stage and then give audience members an opportunity to sit ringside as four dancers perform as alter egos of the boxers.
White Bird Exclusive Events
Portland loves tango. This French tango company of mostly Argentinian dancer knows how to tango.
Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo
Apr 2, 2014
The men in tutus return to Portland for one night at the Schnitzer. “Inevitably they’ll do the Dying Swan and their version of Swan Lake,” says Jaffe. “They’ll also do riffs on Cunningam and Jerome Robbins. But really they do classical ballet, they do it well, and they make it very funny.”
What shows are you more looking forward to? Let us know in the comments below.