Pamplin Media Group – Lakewood Productions Online for Fertile Ground Festival 2022

New and experienced artists write Lakewood’s productions for the annual festival

Although they can’t sit in front of the stage as part of a live audience, theatergoers can still catch two new Lakewood Center for the Arts productions as part of the 13th annual Fertile Ground Festival beginning January 27.

Due to ongoing health risks from COVID-19, Lakewood’s Fertile Ground productions will be available online for the second year in a row.

Over the past 12 years, Fertile Ground has presented hundreds of productions, play readings, theater workshops, ensembles, dances, and multi-disciplinary works of art by Portland-area artists.

The two plays Lakewood will include in the festival this year are the Young Playwrights Festival, a collection of five short plays written by local students, and “White Rabbit” by renowned screenwriter and playwright Cynthia Whitcomb.

Matt Zrebski, program director for the Festival of Young Playwrights, explained that because it was not possible to fully produce the five student plays, each of them will be read aloud as concert readings.

“The actors are on the stands and we really focused on the acting and the language so the writers can assess that,” he said. “It’s a simple presentation, so we’re really focused on the script.”

This allows the writers, actors, Zrebski and Whitcomb, who serves as a mentor for the Festival of Young Playwrights, to focus their attention on helping each writer improve their script.

Young playwrights for this year’s festival include Eli Carey, a Portland native pursuing a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Comedy Arts from DePaul University; Eli Mohr, a senior at Ida B. Wells High School; Karli Longquist, a student at Jesuit High School; Nico Vilches, a senior at Ida B. Wells and Niku Edlund-Farsad, a junior at Lincoln High School.

Carey’s play “Decimation of Character” deals with the gender roles of two people on a first date in a dark and humorous way.

Mohr’s absurd “Light of my Life” centers on a young couple and their argument about walking a dog, but turns into a tragic parable about their relationship.

Lonquist wrote “Gloaming,” a poetic and surreal dreamscape about a young woman falling in love with a boy and how her world falls apart around that relationship.

Vilches’ “The Ball” focuses on the relationship between father and son and the behavioral expectations of men.

Edlund-Farsad’s “End Times” is a comedy about a cult.

“These are not pieces that would translate easily into a movie,” Zrebski said. “They’re really meant to be in a theater, so I’m really proud that they’re embracing the stage medium, which begs the audience to use their imagination. I think they’re using the storytelling power of theater in really cool ways.”

COURTESY IMAGE: LAKEWOOD THEATER - Actors from the Festival of Young Playwrights perform a reading concert.

Whitcomb’s “White Rabbit” takes place in 1971 in the back hallways and editing rooms of the UCLA film school.

Whitcomb said that she was a film student at UCLA in the early 1970s and that one of the two characters in the play is based on her.

“I was this idealistic teenager who gobbled up all kinds of movies and tried to make 8-millimeter movies,” Whitcomb said.

The other character, he explained, is a mysterious guerrilla filmmaker in his 20s who sneaks around the film school and tries to make his movie while no one else is there.

“It’s a romance, but it’s really about life and art and trying to make art for no money in a tough time,” Whitcomb said.

She said the idea for “White Rabbit” came to her in a dream in July.

“I would wake up in the morning hearing these two people talking to me and the conversations they might have had,” Whitcomb said.

Once his ideas were written down, he began to refine the script. When Lakewood agreed to take the script from the festival, the readings with the actors began.

“One of my favorite things about writing dramas is being in the room with the actors and hearing them come to life and being able to make it better and better,” said Whitcomb.

Whitcomb began his career as a screenwriter and wrote several movies and miniseries over the years. He has also written 22 plays, five of which have been produced, including two at Lakewood.

“White Rabbit” and Young Playwrights Festival will be available to stream on Lakewood’s website from January 27 to February 2. 6. The shows are free, although donations are encouraged.

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