The Canticle of the Black Madonna: Sept 5–6
Given the extraordinary cost of an opera, it’s not every day an indie production makes it to the stage. Oregon composer Ethan Gans-Morse recruited Portland directer Kristine McIntyre (her credits include the Metropolitan Opera) and first-rate singers for the ambitious story of a US soldier returning from Afghanistan with PTSD. Newmark Theatre.
Literary Arts’ 30th Birthday: Sept 8
Portland’s premier literary nonprofit celebrates a big birthday with a performance from the Decemberists’ proudly bookish Colin Meloy, an appearance by Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat Pray Love, The Signature of All Things), and a return of the first-ever Portland Arts and Lectures guest speaker, New Yorker writer Calvin Trillin. Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall.
Artists Rep's Intimate Apparel: Sept 9–Oct 5
In Pulitzer-winner Lynn Nottage’s most celebrated play, a young African American woman in 1905 New York works as a seamstress, sewing lingerie for both midtown shops and downtown brothels. She hopes to make enough money to open a beauty shop, but her search for love threatens to derail her dream.
Owen Pallett: Sept 10
Pallett has toured with Arcade Fire, garnered an Oscar nod for his compositions on Spike Jonze’s Her, and arranged for everyone from the National to Taylor Swift—yet he’s still got creative energy left to pen the intricate, lyrically bold, electro-baroque pop for which he gained acclaim as Final Fantasy.
XOXO 2014: Sept 11–14
XOXO’s lofty ambition: take the head-in-the-clouds ideation of TED Talks, the fun-loving party vibe of SXSW, and artists, programmers, entrepreneurs, and writers from around the country, and cram it all into Southeast Portland. If you didn’t score a ticket, you can stream the festivities online afterwards. 2014.
Portland Center Stage's Dreamgirls: Sept 20–Nov 2
This Tony-winning Broadway musical is (unofficially) based on the story of Diana Ross, the Supremes, and their manager Berry Gordy’s quest to bring Motown to the mainstream. You might also know it as a little movie starring Beyoncé Knowles and Jennifer Hudson.
Portland Playhouse's The Piano Lesson: Sept 24–Nov 2
Given the company’s outstanding record producing the work of playwright August Wilson, it’s surprising Portland Playhouse hasn’t yet tackled the play many regard as Wilson’s finest. The Pulitzer Prize winner tells the story of an African American family in 1930s Pittsburgh and its members’ disagreement over what to do with an heirloom piano.
Third Rail Rep's Middletown: Sept 26–Oct 19
Taking inspiration from Our Town, playwright Will Eno plunges into quotidian life in a small hamlet—but in his world, the townsfolk are clever wordsmiths who philosophize on life’s big questions. The play was the hit of the 2009 JAW Festival. Winningstad Theatre.
Time-Based Art Festival: Sept 11–21
Every September the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art’s TBA Festival washes over Portland in a tsunami of performances, art, glitter, and late-night soirées, attracting artists and audiences from around the world. Dive in with one of these anchor events.
Halory Goerger and Antoine Defoort: In the US debut of Germinal, four performers build a civilization from scratch on stage, reinventing language, culture, and the wheel in an absurdly hilarious show that literally deconstructs the theater—and has consequently become one of the world’s most-talked-about works.
Mammalian Diving Reflex: This Toronto-based company makes art from its audiences. At TBA seven years ago, it tested trust and vanity by putting volunteers in the barber’s chair in Haircuts by Children. This time, it stages All the Sex I’ve Ever Had, a piece made and performed by a group of elderly Portlanders looking back at their sex lives. Not your grandma’s ... oh, never mind.
Tanya Tagaq: This vocal shape-shifter mixes grunts, growls, and rhythmic breathing from Inuit throat singing with electronica to reach a global audience, performing alongside the likes of Björk and the Kronos Quartet. At TBA, she’ll provide a live score to the controversial silent film Nanook of the North.
Cynthia Hopkins: Hopkins made her name with a trilogy of over-the-top works mixing musical theater, vaudeville, comedy, and costumes. For the West Coast premiere of A Living Documentary, she pares down the scale—but not the insightful dark humor.