To the Theatre, and Beyond.

I somehow find myself on the guild of Profile Theatre.

This surprises me.

I have had little previous exposure to theatre and have typically failed to connect with the live performances that I have seen. I preferred the slickness and distance of cinema, needing, oddly, an element of detachment in order to immerse myself fully. The intimacy of theatre was distracting to me. I pictured the actors applying their make-up, waiting in the wings, and was unable–I thought–to take the imaginative leap required.

I felt that I lacked a certain kind of intelligence or discernment. I didn’t feel badly about this. I figured it just wasn’t my medium.

I rarely dismiss a thing entirely. When my friend Stephanie asked me to see a play with her about two women in 1970s South Africa, I was interested. She and I did the same Gender and Women’s Studies Masters program in Ireland (though we were only introduced and met once I moved to Portland) and it’s been nice to have someone to share and foster my feminist leanings with here.

So I gladly accepted her invitation to see Athol Fulgard’s The Road to Mecca but my hopes were hardly high. I expected to be intellectually interested in the play’s subject matter and its themes. I thought I might learn something new about race and ethnicity and gender relations. What I did not expect was to openly weep. I did not expect to see myself so painfully in an elderly Afrikaner widow. I did not expect that I would be touched on an emotional level that night and haunted for days to come.

In short, it was one of the most transformative and affecting ‘artistic’ experiences I’ve ever had. I’m not sure if it can be replicated but I’m going to go and find out.

The Road to Mecca

I was planning to keep an eye on upcoming plays at Profile but it is just happenstance that I heard about the Guild at a fundraising event last month. I still feel like as though I’m yet to really find a place for myself in Portland. I’m sort of stretching my arms out in all directions, figuring out who I am here, where I will belong and develop and thrive. I’m excited about this new thing in my world. I think it will help my writing, particularly the revelation of character through dialogue. And it feels good to participate in Portland life and hopefully help some.

The aim of the guild is to promote the theatre and greater community participation. I am a quiet person and not one to proselytize, but I hope that I can convey to folks how thankful I am for the experience I had through Profile, and how glad I am that I didn’t dismiss the theatre entirely. I just needed that one breakthrough moment, and I encourage anyone who has felt a similar disconnect to remain open. Accept all invitations.

Here’s a couple to start with:

On November 13th, Portland’s Hollywood Theater is showing a special screening of Fool For Love, written by and starring Sam Shepard and directed by Robert Altman. Profile Theatre will host a beer and popcorn reception in the upstairs lobby from 6-7pm and  Artistic Director, Adriana Baer, will talk briefly before the film about Profile’s upcoming season of Sam Shepard.

As always, Profile’s season of plays is devoted to a single playwright and 2014 will be the year of the often strange but compelling Shepard.

Sam Shepard

The season will showcase three large-scale but rarely-performed productions, as well as a festival of one-act plays, and a series of lectures, dialogues and further explorations of the playwright’s work.

Consider checking out one or all of what’s to come. You’ll be hearing me talk about it a lot; I’m curious and excited and still have no idea what theatre is really all about but, like everything in life, I guess we learn by going.

Profile Theatre


8 thoughts on “To the Theatre, and Beyond.

  1. Are they going to show Shepard’s one-act “Cowboys”? That’s a small bit of wonderfulness. I too love the theatre, and also the cinema, but for right now my especial love is opera, on the Met Opera on Demand screen of my computer. I investigated getting this service after a friend of mine showed me how much opera meant to her, and she and I attended an opera together. I had seen quite a number of operas as I was growing up, in a sort of hit and miss fashion on PBS, but now I am learning some of the stars and some of the lingo, and a little bit about the staging, and etc. I watch and listen to a different opera every few days now, and I’m deliriously happy with it. So, as a former theatre major, I know what you are talking about, anyway. Both experiences, the drama stage and opera, are so much bigger than cinema, so extra-large in life terms, that I can see why you are moved. But since I can’t afford to do opera live, even at the filmed Met performances which show at selected theatres, I’ll have to make do with the computer for now. And I think that’s what cinema helps to do for the stage, too, provide a possibly more inexpensive venue for drama so that the audience is wider and broader, and more people can share the experience. Viva la drame!

    • Sorry, now I think of it, I can’t be sure that one-act by Shepard wasn’t entitled “Indians”! At any rate, it played off the old “cowboys and indians” racist scenario and was very interesting as a piece of theatre. I still remember sitting quietly in the dark basement studio where it was being put on, and seeing the two characters who played cowboys hiding behind a sand dune, or some rock formation. It’s a good read too, if they aren’t showing it there.

      • P.P.S. There’s also a play by Arthur Kopit called “Indians,” so that now I am thoroughly confused about what my memory is telling me I saw. Sorry, I didn’t mean to mess up your tribute to Shepard–I know the show I saw was by him, and I’m sure it had something to do with this topic, so I’ll look at Wikipedia for a bit (the worst thing about getting older is what it does to your memory!).

    • I completely agree. It’s such a bind. Theatre is expensive to attend regularly and cultivate a deep knowledge of. Even the movies are tough for me these days, I tend to see second runs or put things in my Netflix queue.

      I wish it was more financially accessible but I fully believe that people deserve to be paid, and fairly. I don’t know what the answers are. It’s a complex question and I’m sure I’ll address it more as the year goes on and come to see it from many different perspectives.

      As for the one-act plays, I don’t know if they narrowed them down yet. There’s so much to choose from, Shepard is so prolific!

  2. This sounds interesting and worthwhile, Deborah. I’m intrigued and will put the 13th on my calendar. Shepard’s work is often disturbing but never dull. I hope you find your time with the Guild to be compelling and fascinating.

    • It would be nice to see you there Ellison. (We also need to get a second cup of coffee by now don’t ya think?!)

      Full disclosure though – the movie also stars Kim Basinger. I didn’t mention it before because… well… because I want people to come.

  3. Our local Dunedin Theatre is in a converted church and is called The Fortune Theatre.
    It is beautiful and the ability of those acting to sweep me into the world they create within moments is pure magic some nights.
    I hope ‘The Road to Mecca’ comes our way.
    I buy the ticket and then figure out what to go without. Not a financial planners dream!

    • I, too, am from the Desiderius Erasmus school of financial planning:

      “When I have a little money, I buy books; and if I have any left, I buy food and clothes.”

      Sometimes I worry about that, but I never do anything differently so I mustn’t be too concerned deep down…

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