If there’s one word that describes Fertile Ground, it’s “raw”.
Since its inception in 2009, the annual New Works Festival has become the best place in town to experience theatre, film and dance that has not been forgotten in the studio – an art that exists at the intersection of imperfection, vitality and risk.
Fertile Ground has never lacked courage — it’s the festival where a naked performer covered himself in dirt in front of an audience at the Clinton Street Theater — but the pandemic demanded a different kind of courage. An event built on the bustle of live audiences filling venues across the city was suddenly faced with the daunting prospect of forced reinvention.
By going virtual in 2021, Fertile Ground risked becoming small and shrunken. Yet the festival has been supported by visionaries who have dreamed up everything from a therapeutic baking podcast to a deeply moving reading of a play about Fezziwig, a character often overlooked in A Christmas Carol.
While Fertile Ground 2021 may have set high standards for virtual performance, 2022 has the potential to surpass them. It’s hard to imagine a subject that isn’t tackled by this year’s edition of the festival, which will unleash works on sex, love, politics, puppets and pirates.
It’s never easy to narrow down the festival’s offering to a list of must-see events, but here are some of the shows that seem likely to keep that raw Fertile Ground spirit alive.
Anca Hariton and David Woodin, the masters behind Leaven Dream Puppets, return to Fertile Ground with a fable that draws on the Czech tradition of socially engaged puppetry and ruminates on communism in Eastern Europe. Streams from 5 p.m. on Thursday, January 27 to 8 p.m. on Sunday, February 6. Donations are accepted.
Apple hunters! and Dorothy’s Dictionary
Few things are as exciting as the prospect of a new piece by EM Lewis, especially for fans of his Antarctica saga. Magellanica. This year, she presents two new works at Fertile Ground—Apple hunters!which relates a hunt for a lost variety of apple, and Dorothy’s Dictionary, about an unlikely friendship between a high school student and a librarian. Apple hunters! airs at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, February 1. Free. Dorothy’s Dictionary streams 7 p.m. Thursday through Sunday, January 27 through February 27. 6. Donations Accepted.
Fans of Milwaukie-based dance company TriptheDark should seek out this Chad Dickerson musical, which is choreographed by resourceful TriptheDark co-creative director Corinn deTorres. Broadcast from Thursday to Sunday from February 3 to 6. $10. Also plays Chapel Theater, 4107 SE Harrison St., Milwaukie. 7:30 p.m. from Thursday to Saturday and 2 p.m. on Sunday from February 3 to 6. $20.
Milagro legend Ajai Tripathi created and produced this two-part showcase, which uses the play of shadows to tell the story of the origin of the universe. Streams Thursday-Sunday, Jan. 27-Feb. 6. Donations Accepted.
The cult of cunnilingus
Sex-positive superstar Eleanor O’Brien is back with an erotic comedy that stems from her sultry, moving and thunderous ensemble show Sex, we can! Stream at 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday from February 3-6. $20.
Crossroads in Chambersburg
Playwright and director Fred Cooprider dramatizes a real-life encounter in an abandoned stone quarry in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, between Frederick Douglass and martyr abolitionist John Brown. Streams Thursday-Sunday, Jan. 27-Feb. 6. Donations Accepted.
There’s nothing quite like Sara Jean Accuardi’s writing – she’s lucid and unafraid of grief, yet bold in her embrace of compassion and optimism. For this audio drama, she teamed up with the Vertigo Theater to tell the story of a single mother set in the final days of the 2020 US presidential election. Streams Thursday-Sunday, Jan. 27-Feb. 6. $20.
The knowledge of good and evil
Legacy, spirituality and morality are the themes that define this short film about a clash between two African-American brothers, written and directed by poet and playwright Valerie Yvette Peterson. Broadcast at 6 p.m. from Friday to Saturday, January 28 and 29. Donations accepted.
The Misadventures of Missy Black: A Pirate Play
Who doesn’t crave maritime action? This piece promises to satisfy our collective appetite for hacking, with a twist. Riley Anna wrote the screenplay about a young woman who defies an arranged marriage and joins a mutiny to become a pirate queen. Streams 7 p.m. Sunday and 7:30 p.m. Wednesday-Thursday, January 30 and February 2-3. To free.
Ro & Jo: A Tale of Misfortune
The daughters of two rival politicians fall in love in this contemporary riff on Romeo and Juliet. Streams 7 p.m. Tuesday-Friday and 4 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, February 1-6. Sliding scale from $5 to $25.
The City of Many Names – Wild West Digital Edition
Never underestimate the exhilarating experimental theater of Hand2Mouth. This western, created by students from the company’s Youth Summer Design Residency Program, was born from an intriguing question: “What would westerns be like if they weren’t all created by old white men?” Streams 7:30 p.m. Friday, February 4. Pay what you want.
SEE : Fertile Ground Festival, fertilegroundpdx2022.org. Thursday-Sunday, Jan. 27-Feb. 6.