While Portland has no shortage of community theater, we aren't well known for experimental performances—which is a shame, because it's our town's smaller, black-box theaters where new, interesting things are happening. Pavement Productions' End of the Pavement Festival is both a celebration of this new work and, unfortunately, a swan song.
Pavement has been on the Portland scene since 1990, producing mostly new work in both staged readings and full productions. But Pavement's co-artistic directors are going in different directions, and the road has come to an end: Lisa L. Abbott is moving to Savannah, Georgia, for a tenured teaching position, and Steve Patterson is going to focus on his own playwriting. Eighteen years is a hell of a run for any small theater company, and it's completely fitting that, rather than letting the company peter out, they've decided to have one last hurrah.
"We wanted to return to our roots once more," Patterson wrote in an email interview, "focusing on new works presented at affordable prices... and anthology shows." End of the Pavement is a "micro" new works festival, jamming readings of 11 off-the-wall plays into a four-week run.
The festival's first two weeks included Nick Zagone's The Muffin and Matthew B. Zrebski's Rubber 'n' Glue. Coming up this weekend is Patterson's Farmhouse, co-directed by Abbott and Angela Hughes. The final week closes things out with eight short plays inspired by Alfred Jarry's Dadaist masterpiece Ubu Roi. Says Patterson, "That's it for Pavement. It's been a great run with some very memorable times, and it's a good, satisfying way to say good-bye."
It's a shame to see Pavement go, but the players who've been involved are still around and working—and they were an important part of laying the... pavement... on which other local companies are now able to tread. If you want to find yet another perfunctory production of a play that's already been produced to death, you can find it in Portland. But if you want to find something more interesting, look a little harder and take a chance on the little joint behind the coffee shop, the basement black-box, or the drafty warehouse building—because that's where the real rewards are.