THEATER

THE LONGER HORIZON

Chris Coleman

PORTLAND CENTER STAGE


The financial straits of the past two years have taught Chris Coleman a lesson he can sum up in two words: "be nimble."

When Coleman took over Portland Center Stage 10 years ago, he planned a transformation in two acts: build a new theater, then fill it with a company that would be "a national voice of new work." PCS’s new home, the Gerding Theater at the Armory, opened in 2006, but now sags under a $346,500 annual interest payment on $4.3 million in debt. And with last year’s layoff of PCS’s literary manager (the person who searches for, reads, and develops new plays), the "national voice" hope remains a dream. "That was hard," says Coleman wistfully. "We’ve had to recalibrate how fast we’re moving forward."

PCS was hardly alone among theaters nationally, or arts institutions locally, in making tough decisions. Fresh from attending a national theater conference, Coleman says PCS’s peers, on average, cut their budgets by 17 percent. But at home he finds bright spots amid the carnage. PCS’s season tickets and attendance last year were the second highest in its history, Coleman notes. Since 2007, the theater has tripled its number of donors, adding major players like Dan Wieden and Umpqua Bank.

Coleman’s recipe? "Put on something someone who really loves theater can’t say ‘no’ to," he says—namely, a Big Show. Another ingredient: bite. Last year’s musical opener, Ragtime, was both a hit and a poignant nod at Portland’s long-standing racial tensions. This year’s opener, Sunset Boulevard, promises all the fun of Billy Wilder’s fashionable send-up, but with a subtext befitting our own time, what Coleman calls “the hypnosis that can happen in pursuit of the American dream." —RG

SHOWS TO KNOW

CHESAPEAKE
Nov 3-21 Profile Theatre dedicates its 14th season to contemporary Minnesota playwright Lee Blessing, whose work includes A Walk in the Woods and Going to St Ives. Here, he’s penned a monologue about an ambitious performance artist, a conservative politician, and the latter’s dog, a Chesapeake Bay retriever named Lucky. Among Blessing’s recurring concerns are the nobility of reconciling opposing viewpoints and seeking the elusive mutual understanding. Call for showtimes. $15–28. Profile Theatre, 3430 SE Belmont St. 503-242-0080. profiletheatre.org

AH, WILDERNESS
Sept 7-Oct 10 Artists Rep stages its second Eugene O’Neill production in as many months. After the harrowing familial nightmare of Long Day’s Journey into Night, O’Neill’s lone foray into comedy offers the amiably palate-cleansing plot of a poetic, love-struck teenager in early 20th-century New England who nearly blows his chance with the pretty girl next door. Wed–Sun at 7:30; Sun at 2. Call for additional Wed showtimes at 11. $25-47. Artists Repertory Theatre, 1515 SW Morrison St. 503-241-1278. artistsrep.org

KISS ME LIKE YOU MEAN IT
Oct 8-31 British playwright Chris Chibnall’s brisk and fervently heartfelt tale takes flight as two couples collide at a drunken cocktail party. The older couple, Don and Edie, have an electric zest for love and life that kindles sparks in nascent lovers Ruth and Tony, whose emerging attraction for each other is somewhat muted by their mutual unavailability. Reluctant romantics may want to memorize some of the more motivational speeches. Thu-Sat at 7; Sun at 2. $28-32. World Trade Center Theater, 121 SW Salmon St. 503-235-1101. thirdrailrep.org —JC