Coming attractions: theater in Portland

Portland is a city full of opportunities to see and be involved in theater, both large and small productions.

Portland is a city full of opportunities to see and be involved in theater, both large and small productions. Many of the smaller performances involve students or staff of our own Portland State University theater department, as do a few of the larger ones. In fact, this very week you can attend the Pulitzer Prize-finalist play Thom Pain in the 80-seat Studio Theater in Lincoln Hall, directed by PSU theater professor Devon Allen. It runs Thursday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $10, two for the price of one for students.

PSU’s next production in the Studio Theater is The Rope, written by the famous French philosopher and writer Albert Camus, and translated and directed by Theater Arts graduate student and resident Frenchman Nico Izambard. It is based on the true story of a group of Russian Socialist Revolutionaries/terrorists who assassinated a Grand Duke in 1905, and it explores the moral issues involved in such an undertaking. It opens Friday, Sept. 28 at 7:30 p.m. and continues on weekends through Oct. 5, with a 2 p.m. Sunday matinee on Oct. 30. The cost is only $3 for students.

On the Lincoln Hall main stage this term, PSU presents master wordsmith David Mamet’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play Glengarry Glen Ross, set in the cutthroat world of real estate agents. More tense than any episode of The Apprentice (and without Donald Trump’s awful hair), the play won four Tony awards originally and another for its 2005 Broadway revival. Professor Devon Allen directs this show, with many of the theater arts department professors and students involved in the show, on and off stage. The play runs the weekend of Nov. 9 and Wednesday to Saturday of the following week, with evening shows at 7:30 p.m. and a Sunday matinee at 2 p.m. Ticket prices have not yet been set, but students are generally offered a good discount. You can even audition for the play the first two days of classes, Sept. 24 and 25, from 4:30 to 8 p.m. (scripts are usually available on short-term reserve at the library).

November will also include a festival of new one-acts written by students, in day and evening workshop performances (possibly staged readings). During winter term the Studio Theater will feature a play about Irish and Italian immigrants in the Bronx. The main stage will feature a play Iranian author Salman Rushdie wrote in hiding following the issuing of a fatwah, or death decree, on him by the clerics of the Iranian government. Originally conceived as a bedtime story for his son, the play takes us on a magical journey with a real heart.

Of course, PSU is not the only place in town putting on great performances. Portland Center Stage has a strong season, starting with Cabaret (opens Sept. 25) and moving on to such classics as A Christmas Carol and Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, which will be presented side by side with a comedy about the true authorship of the Bard’s plays, and more. Portland Opera starts their “Great Women of the Stage” season with Carmen, and moves on to other classics such as Cinderella. Broadway brings us Lou Diamond Phillips’ Camelot, Twelve Angry Men, Sweeney Todd and Avenue Q.

There are many local Portland companies putting on great shows this year, as well. The Artists Repertory Theater ( is currently performing House and Garden and will start The Ghosts of Celilo on Sept. 27. Nationally renowned Imago Theater ( will be putting on a double feature of two original plays, The Father Thing (based on the Philip K. Dick story) and Serial Killer Parents, Oct. 4 to 27, and will once again present their classic Biglittlethings this holiday season. Hispanic-themed Miracle Theater ( is doing plays covering Zapatistas, the Day of the Dead and forgotten members of a well-known Mexican artists colony.

Anyone interested in taking part in the staging and performance of plays on campus can be a part of the Theater Arts Student Association, or TASO, as it is commonly referred to (you do not have to be a theater student to be involved). There are no dues or fees, and it offers the opportunity to be involved in a show as anything from a stagehand to an actor or director. They typically put on at least two shows a quarter. For those interested in more than just watching theater, this is a great opportunity to be a part of creating it along with your fellow students. TASO truly is PSU’s best-kept theater secret. You can e-mail [email protected] and ask to be put on their mailing list to find out about upcoming TASO shows.