Silver Linings 

Things That Happened On (and To!) Portland Stages

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A LOT HAPPENED IN 2013. Some of it seemed bad at the time. Some doesn't seem so bad anymore, and some of it has always seemed pretty good! Here's what stands out.

Shane Torres won Portland's Funniest Person at the Helium Comedy Club's annual competition. He deserved it.

Badass Theatre Company made one of the boldest and most exciting debuts I've seen, with a production of Invasion! that was so compelling it saw some theatergoers leaping out of their seats to challenge the actors.

I called actor Tim True a "fucking local treasure" after his performance in Third Rail's terrific production of A Bright New Boise. He promptly moved to LA :(

The Bagdad Theater remodeled, installing a fancy new screen and beginning to book first-run movies. One casualty of this otherwise-aces remodel: No more live comedy shows.

The Hollywood Theatre continues to host terrific live events including the comedy series Funny Over Everything, which recently saw a triumphant headlining set from hilarious up-and-comer Emily Heller.

Local arts coverage took a hit when the Oregonian laid off its longtime theater critic, Marty Hughley. On the flip side, the bar for quality content continues to rise over at the invaluable Oregon Arts Watch (orartswatch.org), a nonprofit culture site committed to providing quality arts journalism.

While most of us local theater critics are stuffy types who wear monocles all the time, this year saw the addition of a couple of rowdy new voices on the theater beat: The podcast Five Useless Degrees and a Bottle of Scotch is a sharp, funny, and mercifully un-monocled weekly podcast, and local theater fans should be listening: 5uselessdegrees.blogspot.com.

Portlanders packed Cathedral Park for the last show in Trek in the Park's "five-year mission," an adaptation of the popular Trek episode "The Trouble with Tribbles." (While the beloved summer theater series is over, producing company Atomic Arts promises to return with original work.)

Most teenagers are terrible actors (SORRY BUT YOU KNOW IT'S TRUE), so it's noteworthy that one of the best performances of the year came from youngster Bryce Earhart in Third Rail's The Aliens, a show so good I bestowed up on it the coveted honorific "must-see."

Comedian Maria Bamford released the brilliant stand-up album Ask Me About My New God!, which she recorded at Portland's Helium Comedy Club in 2012.

Theater! Theatre! on SE Belmont closed its doors. Long a hub for Portland's theater companies, the closure left residents Theatre Vertigo and Profile Theatre scrambling for a home, which they found at the Shoebox Theatre and Artists Repertory Theatre, respectively.

Profile is one of a handful of companies now based at Artists Rep—in keeping with incoming Artistic Director Dámaso Rodriguez's promise to expand Artist Rep's offerings by seeking out partnerships and co-productions with other local theater groups.

Portland comic Ian Karmel moved to LA and promptly started working for Chelsea Lately. The local comedy scene continues to thrive in his absence; recently a handful of Portland comics including Gabe Dinger, Curtis Cook, and Barbara Holm were selected to perform at the selective SF Sketchfest.

Two of the year's most interesting shows were radically revisionist takes on classic scripts: Portland Experimental Theatre Ensemble's twist on Richard III, and Liminal's experimental reimagining of Our Town.

Which brings us to...

If I have one prediction for 2014, it's that the energy and quality on Portland's smaller stages will continue to surprise and impress. Happy New Year, everybody.

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