I got handed an unusual gig earlier this year. Triangle Productions hired me to research Storefront, an old Portland theater company, and give a pair of lectures about it. This is a bit outside my normal wheelhouse. I am very much a local history nerd, but most of what I get into has to deal with things like problems with street numbering and terrible buildings. Diving into this kind of cultural history was new for me, but I jumped at the chance to dive into a bunch of musty old documents and do a series of interviews.
Beginning in the early 1970s, Portland’s Storefront Theater performed original work, sketch comedy, burlesque, variety shows, and sundry weird shit. One person I interviewed for this project, Bob Hicks, a critic for the Oregon Journal and Oregonian, characterized their work as ranging from“genius” to “god awful,” but emphasized that it was always different and interesting. Their first performance was a production of (Aristophanes Lysistrata, a show about women going on a sex strike to get men to stop a war) that featured copious amounts of nudity, and that very much set the tone for what Storefront was about. The theater’s original space was a tiny, cramped room in North Portland. Eventually Storefront moved to 3rd and Burnside to the Paris Theater (which now shows porn) and eventually to the Winningstad, and then dying.
On Sunday, April 19th, and again on May 17th I’ll be at the Widmer Brothers Brewery and Pub (929 N Russell, and site of the original Storefront Theater) to talk about theater history in Portland, radicalism, weird shit, and what happens when a small, upstart theater company tries to move into the more “established” world (slight spoiler: it does not go well).
The talk is free and it’s in a bar, which is objectively the best way to consume history. See you there!