The Unexpectedly Timely Radio Golf


"It's frustrating to see such a young, energetic company producing work that feels as though it's catering to my parents instead of me."

Because RADIO GOLF is a very traditional play, I can see how you would think that Portland Playhouse is catering to your parents. But the exceptions (WILLOW JADE and BINGO AND THE INDIANS) you mentioned comprise half their season. I thought the decision of a theater company run by three white people to stage a play with all African American roles was pretty ambitious and given the proximity of the theater to gentrification on Alberta, pretty inspired.

If you want to break their season down by demographics it might read WASP play (FICTION), twenty or thirty something play (BINGO AND THE INDIANS), young adult play (WILLOW JADE), African American play (RADIO GOLF).

As for theater-goers of your generation, do they still have the free beer?
Last season, too, was fairly staid: After Ashley, Marituus, bobrauschembergamerica (I probably spelled that wrong—but that play, while "experimental," is a very bland kind of experimental, to my mind). What I intended to get across in the piece, and what I hope comes through, is that I think this season was bolder than their first, and I hope their next one will be bolder still.

And yes! there is free beer.

I'd argue that the risk and edginess in this production is that they did it at all - and with a white director. What, we always get to see black theater here in Portland? Black experience is soooo overdone? Every theater in town is beating us over the head with *sigh*, another black script? Oh, this story again? - Yawn. I don't think so. This story is vibrant, contemporary and relevant to our lives here in Portland - especially North, in the neighborhoods surrounding the theater.
Well... August Wilson is kind of the go-to for black theater, so in that sense it's not a particularly interesting choice.
Also, can someone explain why I'm supposed to think it's edgy and ambitious that a white person is directing black actors...?

mercury writers such as yourself are always tearing good things apart because they aren't hip enough to suit your tastes. and you don't even mention the legacy of august wilson or how a production of this particular play resonates in the the north portland community, a community that continues to face the same type of problems surrounding race and gentrification as the hill district depicted in Radio Golf. i guess it would have been too much effort for you to take any of the historical weight of the playwright or this particular community into account when writing your review. i also have to say that if bobrauschenbergamerica came across to you as blandly experimental, you might have somebody check your pulse to make sure you are still with us. seattle is calling you home sweetheart.
I don't think it's edgy but I think it is ambitious whenever actors founding a company put expanding their audience ahead of finding plays with roles they'd love to play. And even if it's August Wilson, it's recent August Wilson. I think it's also great that they've been building alliances with the fine actors at Third Rail Rep. I don't know what I think of bringing Adam Rapp's brother in for a reading of "Bingo" after a performance of "Rent" when it came through town but I don't think they were doing it for your parents.
"Also, can someone explain why I'm supposed to think it's edgy and ambitious that a white person is directing black actors...?"

The point is NOT that a white person directed black actors. It's interesting that was all you seemed to take away from the post by - I Got An Opinion About that Too.

What can be deemed edgy and ambitious (for Portland) is that a white Artistic Director selected an August Wilson piece, cast local African American actors, co-produced with a new local African American theater company and reached out to the community that is victim of gentrification. A show that entertains, educates and illuminates.

Being that August Wilson is the "... go-to for black theater" exactly how many August Wilson plays have been produced in Portland? I'll spot you 10 years. I'll even allow the show's that PCS shipped in from out of town.

Portland Playhouse... Please, Please, Please! Do Not, for the sake of catering to Alison and her crowd, produce plays for the purpose of being "edgy and ambitious." You've already broken barriers that PCS, ART or Third Rail have yet to approach. Keep up the good work.
It's admittedly difficult for me to have a respectful conversation about art when I'm being addressed as "sweetheart," but I agree with many of the points being made here, actually. (BC97211's point about expanding audiences is particularly well taken.) I think it's great that Portland Playhouse is working with BaseRoots and Third Rail, as I have said in this review and others. I think Portland Playhouse is talented and energetic and promising. I also find their taste in shows on the conventional side, and I didn't find Radio Golf as stimulating a script as you guys did. Yes, it's about gentrification, and Northeast Portland has experienced gentrification. I get that. And yes, the show itself is held in a converted church, newly the home of a theater company whose white founders moved here from out of town to produce art. I get that too—though I'm not sure Portland Playhouse directly addressed that particular irony. But the script relies too heavily on golf metaphors for my taste; Wilson's lyricism feels strained; you can call the plot's resolution at intermission.

My taste might be less conventional than that of the Weavers', but that's fine—I push them on it because I like so many other things about the company; it's frustrating to go to their shows and love everything BUT the material they've chosen. I also think Portland Playhouse knows that about themselves, and about me, and I think they're comfortable with it—there's a reason that when they approached me to cover Bingo with the Indians, it was with the explicit "this is the play we're producing this season that will most appeal to Mercury audiences." Because frankly, most people I know don't go to the theater. When I say I want less conventional theater, I mean that I want theater that will feel relevant to my peers—but selling tickets to people my age (I'm 27) is probably not going to float a theater company. I understand that. I still find it frustrating.

And to answer your question, Mom and Dad (and I ASKED you not to comment anymore): Once in the last five years, to my knowledge. But how many plays exclusively or mainly cast with black actors have been produced in that time? I can think of about five, though my memory is pretty terrible, and the most relevant to my mind was Many Hats' Mutt, an original production that directly explored issues of racial identity. It was a great show, it was an ambitious show, it was a relevant show, it's one of a handful of shows that has set the standard for the type of theater I want to see more of in this town. But then, I'm just one person with a megaphone...
"Alisons" Parents, though they need a lesson in punctuation, are right about begging Portland Playhouse not to "produce plays for the purpose of being 'edgy and ambitious.'" Case in point: Willow Jade. Nerds and gaming are kind of overplayed, and besides, the script was just not that good. Kudos to Portland Playhouse for choosing a local playwright in order to tie in with the Fertile Ground festival, and I get that he's a playwright with a built-in draw, but seriously. Also, the free beer is great, but it kind of sucks having to pay for water. All in all, they're a great theater company and it's really cool to see them pushing the envelope so much. I don't even hate their performance space. There has certainly been something for everyone (at every level of taste and sophistication) on the list of offerings this year.
It's edgy in the sense that August Wilson himself said that white directors should not direct his plays. They're not qualified, he declared.