Juliana Huxtable

FALL IN PORTLAND is a time of year I look forward to with the bright-eyed excitement of a mid-'90s seven-year-old with a shiny new Lisa Frank Trapper Keeper—and for similar reasons. As local theater companies announce their upcoming seasons, and lineups for festivals like PICA's Time-Based Art Festival and the All Jane Comedy Festival finally arrive, the fall arts season is a delightful, jam-packed grace period before the tyranny of holiday plays and doldrums of January.

It’s also overwhelming: In such a frontloaded season for arts and culture, where do you even begin?

We’ve made it easy. We’ve crafted a helpful guide to under-the-radar fall theater offerings too good to miss. We weeded through all of the Oregon Symphony’s gimmicky programming (Pokémon? really?) to find the classical music essentials you’ll actually enjoy listening to. We talked to two of the women responsible for this year’s Time-Based Art Festival about what it means to have a new, permanent space in a city of transient arts organizations, and we sat down with the three hilarious people behind one of the city’s newest, funniest comedy showcases. We even checked in with Wordstock to find out what the city’s biggest books festival is doing differently after last year’s high-volume relaunch.

After Labor Day, a deluge of art arrives in this town. You can’t see everything. But you can see a lot—and get a lot out of it—if you have a game plan. Here’s ours.