Fun Home Kate Szrom

Fall is the best season of all, because not only does it mean this godawful smoky haze will (probably) abate—it also means that peak theater season is here! Pour yourself a hot beverage, dust off your nicest light jacket, and get out your calendar, because these are just a few of the finest plays and performances the city has to offer over the coming weeks and months, from Portland Center Stage’s splashy opener, Fun Home, to a rare chance to see Bertolt Brecht IRL at (where else?) Shaking the Tree. Suck it, summer. We’ve got better ideas.

They, Themself, and Schmerm

During the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art’s 2017 Time-Based Art Festival, Becca Blackwell’s one-person show makes its west coast premiere at Artists Repertory Theatre, and it’s one you should see. They, Themself, and Schmerm is a play that takes on trans identity, challenges woefully limited traditional notions of gender, breaks down that tedious binary, and asks nicely what your pronouns are before making any assumptions. It’s also a document of Blackwell’s experiences as an adoptee in a Midwestern family who grows up socialized as a girl, survives molestation, and is drawn to the idea of being a man before ultimately landing comfortably between genders and adopting “they” pronouns (thanks for asking). A previous showing was so winsome that it prompted art historian Amber Power to write her BOMB magazine review in the form of a weirdly poignant letter written to Blackwell from the perspective of former child actor Corey Haim. If there is a more effusive endorsement of a play than that, I’m unaware of it. Artists Repertory Theatre, 1515 SW Morrison, Fri Sept 8-Sat Sept 9, 8:30 pm; Sun Sept 10-Mon Sept 11, 6:30 pm, $25


This month, Milagro Theatre is launching a new annual festival highlighting the work of emerging Latinx playwrights. Selected plays are developed and workshopped with a culminating festival performance. This year’s featured playwrights are Guillermo Reyes, Monica Palacios, Treviño Orta, and Monica Sanchez, presenting work that explores a wide swath of varied experiences among Latinx characters living in the United States, perspectives not represented nearly enough in American theater. Milagro Theatre, 525 SE Stark, Fri Sept 8 7:30 pm; Sun Sept 9, 2 & 7:30 pm; Sun Sept 10, 2 pm, FREE

Fun Home

For their annual ~*theatrical*~ kick-off, Portland Center Stage is producing the musical adaptation of Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home, and, okay, this seems challenging given that Fun Home is about death, family secrets, closeted dads, closeted daughters, thwarted acting careers, and, you know, a funeral home. Not exactly the stuff of jazz hands and manically grinning chorus lines. Or maybe it is? The Broadway premiere of Fun Home ran off with five Tony awards, which, combined with the brilliance of Bechdel’s original graphic novel, is enough to pique my interest. US Bank Main Stage at Portland Center Stage, 128 NW 11th, Thurs Sept 16-Sun Oct 22, Thurs-Sun 7:30 pm, Sat-Sun 2 pm, Thurs noon, $25-55

Support The Portland Mercury

Shaking the Tree

The Caucasian Chalk Circle by Bertolt Brecht

We can always rely on Samantha van der Merwe’s creations at Shaking the Tree to be experimental in a mostly good way, and this season, the company ups the ante with a production of German modernist Bertolt Brecht’s The Caucasian Chalk Circle, about a baby adopted by a peasant lady who’s a better parent than the child’s bougie bio parents. Brecht can be a forbidding playwright beloved by hardcore academics—think Philip Seymour Hoffman’s aimless, pretentious theater director character in Synecdoche, New York—but his basic approach to theater is actually quite simple when you break it down. Brecht believed that the audience watching a play shouldn’t identify with the fiction progressing onstage, but that the play should instead trigger the audience to reflect on their own lives and experiences. See? Brecht’s not actually scary. But chances to see his work are rare. Take this one. Shaking the Tree, 823 SE Grant, Fri Oct 6-Sat Nov 4, Thurs-Sat 7:30 pm, Sun 2 pm, $15-30

Reverend Billy & the Stop Shopping Choir

BoomArts can always be relied upon to deliver weird, high-brow theater and performance, and it looks like this fall is no exception, because the documentary theater organization is kicking of its season with a performance from Bill Talen’s anticapitalist preacher character, Reverend Billy, and his Stop Shopping Choir. Reverend Billy is banned from Starbucks for his attempts to exorcise the company of a demon. (The demon is capitalism; surprise!) The Guardian has described Reverend Billy as “Elvis meets Billy Graham.” If anyone can save me from my Target impulse buying habit, surely it’s Reverend Billy. Let’s put his anti-consumerism gospel to the test. The Old Church, 1422 SW 11th, Fri Oct 6-Sat Oct 7, 7:30 pm, $20

SLAY Film Fest
In person at the Clinton St. Theater 10/29 & 10/30