• Many Hats, "Truth and Beauty"

I wrote an article about Fertile Ground in this week's paper (indelicately headline "Get Fertilized"; sorry guys, I was on deadline), but it's more an overview of the festival than specific picks. So, here are some specific picks, in no particular order:

Willow Jade: This script premiered at JAW in 2008, and will see its first production courtesy of Portland Playhouse. This thing's got "nerd" smeared all over it: It's about Dungeons & Dragons, orcs, and a hot chick named Willow. Info here.

Truth and Beauty: I'm really interested to see what Many Hats does with their adaptation of Ann Patchett's novel. I loved the book, about Patchett's friendship with the disabled poet Lucy Grealy, and I'm intrigued by Many Hats' promise to translate the language of the book into movement. Info here.

Road House: The Play: This will get a fully staged treatment in March, but you can check out a staged reading at Fertile Ground’s Hothouse staged reading series. Lots of funny people are in this, including the Liberators' Shelley McLendon and the 3rd Floor's Ted Douglass; that's Thursday, Jan 28 at 10 pm, $10. (And the following weekend, catch Road House at the Bagdad, at Cort and Fatboy's Midnight Movie. So much Swayze!)

Pinnochio: The "classic story about noses," as Intern Jane described it, gets a steampunk twist from the Northwest Children's Theater. Info here.

Tandem: A romantic sketch comedy show from the founders of the Curious Comedy theater—I don't know much about this one, but I'm interested to see these two longtime comedy vets flex their chops. Info here.

Pulp Diction: The organizer of Pulp Diction told me he's really trying to create an intimate, afterparty feel with this late-night pulp reading series; I'm quite curious to see how well it succeeds. Interested, too, in Pulp Diction's collaboration with nascent comics outfit Hypno Komix—one of the scripts is an adaptation of a comic by Hypno Komix founder Jason Squamata. Info here.

While I appreciate that Fertile Ground has an open-door policy regarding participation in the festival—and I think it's really motivated artists to pull their work together—I'm frankly feeling a little overwhelmed by the sheer number of plays and staged readings happening over the next ten days, and the lack of any kind of curatorial focus. If anyone has any other thoughts on stuff not to miss, drop it in the comments.