Portland’s theatre scene Summer 2013 l i n f i e l d m a g a z i n e - 2 1 Shoebox Theater in Southeast Portland, the leads in George Bernard Shaw’s Arms and the Man, a timely satire of military ideals, told us how they found the humor in Shaw’s social critique. At the Gerding Theater in the Pearl District, the sole actor in I Love to Eat, a one-man show about the Portlandborn food celebrity James Beard, let us taste his homemade onion sandwiches, adapted from Beard’s own recipe. Many of these bonus experiences came from connections to Linfield alumni in Portland. Jeff Seats ’77, the resident set designer at Artists Repertory Theatre, showed us the fabulous circus panels he’d created for The Lost Boy, a world premiere about the media frenzy over America’s first case of kidnapping for ransom. Another Linfield graduate, Bailey Maxwell ’12, served as assistant stage manager for that production and gave us a backstage tour after the show. At Portland Center Stage, Mandy Morgan ’06 shared how she’d gone from studying psychology at Linfield to managing the marketing program at a professional theater. “I loved the practical aspect of what we were learning,” Hillary Krippaehne ’14 told me after the class ended. “We got to meet people and create connections that will help us when we graduate.” Other benefits came from our Portland location. Since Linfield’s campus is around the corner from the Willamette Week, Portland’s alternative paper, the drama critic popped by to offer a workshop on reviewing plays. We met the critic for The Oregonian at the lobby of a theatre up the street from his office to talk about drama as an agent for social change. Students who had never written a theatre review before the course got to discuss the craft with professionals – and when I passed a few student reviews along to the theatres, the directors told me that they were among the most perceptive appraisals they’d seen. Our students were finding their voices in a civic conversation about the power of drama. They were finding their feet in the big city as well. For the first theatre outing, I gave students a detailed route map, nervous that they’d get lost, but by the end of the month, they were venturing off on their own to see experimental theatre at Portland’s Fertile Ground festival. One student, Alex Everakes ’16, chose to spend his afternoons volunteering at a homeless shelter. He had come to Linfield from Chicago in part for the prospect of being near Portland, and now he was getting a chance to explore its urban offerings. After our course ended, Mariko Kajita ’15 returned to a leading role in the spring Linfield play; Wesley Allegre ’14 told me that after working so hard on his weekly play reviews, he was now getting praise from his anthropology professor for his prose style; and Hillary got back in touch with the Willamette Week critic to discuss post-graduate plans. “This class pushed me outside of my comfort zone,” Hillary said. “And I am very thankful for that.” The students grew tremendously in their understanding of drama and its potential to inform contemporary debates. They became more independent as they gained confidence navigating a city. And they learned from our alumni about a range of career options that would allow them to draw on their liberal arts training. This is an experiment I’m eager to repeat. – Daniel Pollack-Pelzner Daniel Pollack-Pelzner joined the Linfield faculty as assistant professor of English in 2010. He has a bachelor’s degree from Yale and a master’s and Ph.D. from Harvard University.
Linfield Magazine #27
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