Every June, the Portland Drammy Awards highlight the season's finest theatrical offerings, recognizing actors, directors, set designers, choreographers, and more. This year, the two Outstanding Production Awards went to Lakewood Theatre's production of Into the Woods, and Broadway Rose's Les Misérables, two big suburban musicals that the Drammy selection committee presumably felt represented the finest theatrical offerings in all of (the greater) Portland (area).
In the crowd at the ceremony, ensemble members from Action/Adventure Theatre drank and milled and drank some more. Their show, Fall of the House, wasn't eligible for any awards—its episodic structure doesn't meet the Drammy's criteria of running the same show for at least eight consecutive performances. But Action/Adventure doesn't need recognition from the Drammy committee. With a fraction of the budget of most of the night's award winners, and an inclusive approach that resists privileging traditional theater over improv, music, film, or any other medium, Fall of the House has attracted a seriously addicted fanbase that's younger, broker, and (sorry!) significantly better looking than your average theater audience.
Now in its fifth season, Fall of the House follows a group of twentysomething friends on an eminently relatable course of hooking up, breaking up, and (sorry again!) toking up. The company is at a turning point—longtime cast members Patrick Alan Coleman (who daylights as the Mercury's food editor) and Yolanda Suarez are leaving, a few new actors are joining the cast, and plans are afoot to broaden the show's reach, as the company's flexibility allows them not only to adapt nimbly to cast changes and real-life events (the election was a plot point last season), but to take on challenges outside of the theatrical format.
"We're talking about filming this season of Fall of the House in a studio to be aired on television, and we also have a pilot written and a production team assembled for a web series, hopefully rolling out this fall, that would be a partner show for Fall of the House," Artistic Director Tamara Carroll tells me. "It's based on the theater company that produces Fall of the House, so it's a combination of the actors in the show, who will be playing themselves, and then [the production staff]—it'll be like fictionalized versions of the people who make up the company. It's going to be more scripted, less reality TV-feeling, more stylized."
Webisodes are a relatively under-explored local avenue—with Fall of the House's entrée into the fray, Portland will be home to a scant three hipster webisode series, including The Free Box (thefreebox.tv), and The Bicyclist (thebicyclist.tv). But Action/Adventure has no qualms about exploring the unexplored, and plans for a musical episode in collaboration with local bands are also being tossed around: "We've always dreamed of doing an original musical," Carroll says. "We're super interested in promoting local musicians, and we're trying to figure out more and better ways to do that. This time we've been able to feature bands more prominently by having them write covers of our theme song, which are going to be used in the opening credits."
Action/Adventure might not be earning "Outstanding Ensemble" Drammy Awards from the theatrical community—though, arguably, on a night when everyone's on point and all the jokes are hitting, they deserve it. They are, though, doing a better job than anyone else in Portland right now at reaching new audiences and generating excitement around theater. Too bad there's no Drammy for that.