“The Edjuhmuhcation Follies” is an evening of entertainment that comes with a disclaimer. Audience members are warned as they wait in the lobby that no matter how silly the material they are about to witness seems, it is all based in reality.
“What is that? Is that a Coke? This is a Pepsi-sponsored school,” rants one “security guard” as the other runs a “security wand” over a man entering the performance space, otherwise known as Toad City Middle School.
This is the introduction to Toad City Productions’ ode to the Portland public school system. For the next two hours, serious issues undergo a comedic makeover at the hands of 11 improvisational actors. The actors work from outlines, but each production brings new improvised twists. Topics range from budget cuts to managing children with prescription drugs to lackluster curricula.
The production is the brainchild of Toad City artistic director Adrienne Flagg, a teacher herself through Portland Parks and Recreation. Concerned about the state of schools but not sure what kind of action to take, Flagg decided to put together the show.
“It’s what I know to do about it,” she said.
To help shape the material, she brought together actors, educators and parents to discuss the most pressing issues. After a lot of research and practice, the show was ready to hit the stage. And so far, it seems the work has paid off.
“There have been a couple of teachers who have been so grateful,” Flagg said. “They said it’s nice to see it addressed in a joyful environment.”
The skits often take issues to exaggerated and bizarre ends. In one, Harry Potter takes on the “Four Molds of Whitaker,” defeating the writhing black blobs only to collapse from an asthma attack at the end. In another, a group of high school girls giddily anticipates a stripper who ends up being one of their teachers making some much-needed cash on the side.
Audience member Misty McIntyre, 25, not only enjoyed the playful interaction between actors, but also the way the message was presented. “It’s a new way of looking at it, a new perspective,” she said.
Flagg, who believes school problems are indicative of the community as a whole, would like people to come away from the production ready for action.
“I want them talking to each other. I want to begin a dialogue … and have them come away active,” she said. “If we begin to unravel this, we can unravel other issues.”
“The Edjuhmuhcation Follies” plays Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. through March 1 at Itisness, 3016 N.E. Killingsworth. Tickets are $12 at the door, $10 by reservation and $8 for students. For reservations, call Toad City Productions at 503-736-1027, Ext. 1.
More information about Toad City can be found on the Web at www.toadcity.org.