Fertile Ground is Portland’s answer to a fringe festival. This 11-day arts festival, January 23-Feb 2 will include over 100 new works, all generated in the City of Roses,include theatre, dance, comedy, visual arts, film and other arts media.
Among them is a new play from Hand2Mouth (H2M) Theatre entitled PEP TALK, created by the Hand2Mouth ensemble in collaboration with award-winning H2M playwright Andrea Stolowitz. This collaboration is funded in part by a Cultural Development grant from the Cultural Trust.
According to Jen Mitas Managing Director of H2M, “PEP TALK is a new performance that draws on sports culture and coaching to explore what it means to inspire an audience.” Starring four women and channeling historic and fictional sports coaches and players, PEP TALK rallies the audience around monologues, music, and special guests, while questioning audience expectations of traditional female decorum and the ways that our current social media-driven culture isolates us. The new creation was the brainchild of ensemble members Erin Leddy, Liz Hayden, Julie Hammond, Maesie Speer, Faith Helma and artistic director Jonathan Walters.
After it premieres at Fertile Ground, PEP TALK will run for two weeks at the West Gymnasium of the 100-year old Peninsula Park Community Center in North Portland. The production will also make a spring tour that includes Salem, Eugene and rural Clackamas County, with performances at Willamette University, University of Oregon, and Estacada Together. The company will do a 20 minute excerpt of PEP TALK at On The Boards’ Northwest New Works festival in Seattle. H2M is also actively working with Coffee Creek Correctional Facility, to do a production there and hoping to take its tour east of the Cascades. During the tour, H2M also hopes to hold theatre workshops for students.
“In bringing PEP TALK to audiences beyond Portland, we hope to build dialogues, deepen connections and open pathways for future theatre collaborations statewide,” said Julie Hammond, H2M’s executive director.
The Cultural Trust grant of $6,000 enabled H2M to be more ambitious about outreach, working with young people before the show and following up with them after the show. Said Mitas, the expanded scope of work made possible in part by the grant, “represented some of the ways we had wanted to work in the past but couldn’t.” One example involved integrating audio and video components early in the show’s development. “It allowed us to get technology in the room a lot earlier,” said Mitas.
Mitas praised the Trust grant as, “a very strong endorsement that we are a valued part of the larger ecology of Oregon, that we are being recognized for persisting for 13 years as theatrical experimenters,” she said.