The Fertile Ground Festival of New Works continues through Sunday, and this weekend marks the opening of one of the shows I'm most looking forward to: Hand2Mouth's Something's Got Ahold of my Heart. New work from Hand2Mouth is infrequent; these guys spend months or years on a show and often presenting several versions of a project, giving the audience a chance to see how a work evolves over time. Sometimes this pays off in a big way: My Mind Is Like an Open Meadow, an incredibly moving and personal show based on company member Erin Leddy's interviews with her grandmother, only got stronger after it opened at 2011's Fertile Ground.
I guess this is where I admit that personally, I'm not a particularly adventurous Fertile Ground-er. I appreciate that performers use the festival as something of a deadline to motivate themselves to put new work out. But I've been writing about performance in this town since 2005 (can "fuck, I'm old" be today's Blogtown theme?), and so I'm a little leery, maybe too much so, of the idea that a fully-formed production from people I've never heard of is going to be... competent. When flipping through the Fertile Ground catalog, I look for names I recognize, and actors, writers, and producers I trust. Fortunately for me, there are plenty of those this year.
Portland Experimental Theatre Ensemble's production of R3 is a great example: I'm not sure I would've talked myself into an experimental version of Richard III had I not been familiar with some of PETE's company members from their time in Fever Theater. R3 is a mature, thoughtful work from theater professionals who know what they're doing. Many Fertile Ground shows are. But ironically, given the uncurated nature of the festival—whose admirable goal is to inspire the creation of new local performance—I think I'm actually less likely to take a chance on a totally new-to-me production company during Fertile Ground, given that time and column inches limited. Presumably other audience members are more adventurous, though, given that smaller ventures keep on paying their FG application fee and putting out new work.