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‘Project 50’ theater play mirrors PCC’s 50 years
Story by James Hill. Photos by Russell Banks.
Portland Community College has teamed up with a celebrated local theatre director to produce a play that is about the college’s last 50 years.
Jonathan Walters of Hand2Mouth Theatre and PCC theater students have conducted a range of interviews with the college community to produce the winter play, “Project 50: From the Ground Up.”
The cast has met every two weeks since PCC’s kickoff celebration in October to piece together parts of the play through their own interviews of PCC people. This sort of theater journalism culminates into the main stage play in March. Walters said that it will feel like a play, but the difference will be is when the audience sits down they will be involved in a myriad of interactive activities.
“We will give you this head-spinning and dizzying amount to information of all the lives that came through here and all the history that went on and tie it all together to a much deeper question being asked.” Walters said. “It’s very humanistic story.”
“From the Ground Up” will be shown at 7:30 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays, March 2-3 and 9-10, and a special Tuesday showing on March 20. There will be a “pay what you will” performance at 11 a.m., Thursday, March 8 and a matinee at 2 p.m., Sunday, March 11. All showings are in the 400-seat Performing Arts Center, Sylvania Campus, 12000 S.W. 49th Ave. Tickets are available at the PCC Sylvania Bookstore or a half hour before performances at the center. Tickets are $10 for general admission, $8 for seniors, students, and staff, and $5 for groups of 12 or more.
For more information, visit: http://www.pcc.edu/about/theatre/, or call (971) 722-4949.
“In this process of what were doing there is whole lot of research,” Walters said. “We didn’t go in and say, ‘It’s PCC at 50 so here’s the story we want to tell.’ First we said ‘Let’s try to cast as wide of net as possible.’ We had some themes of what we thought might be interesting. We let the material and the real life of the campus and the interviews tell us what the play was going to be.”
Walters founded Hand2Mouth Theatre in 2000 and serves as its artistic director. He co-creates and directs the bulk of Hand2Mouth shows, and works closely with guest writers and the ensemble to develop original theater work. Hand2Mouth has received multiple Portland “Drammy” Awards, including two for Outstanding Ensemble Performance. It has toured across the country, Latin America and Europe.
“The fact we are doing a play about the college and to bring back an alum to produce the play couldn’t have been better,” said Patrick Tangredi, Theatre Arts Program director. “More so, he developed a kind of cutting-edge theater format that he has done in town and internationally, something that is valuable to us, the students and to the entire community. He is part of PCC and we wanted to use this resource.”
Walters graduated from the Theater Arts Program in the mid-1990s. That’s where, he said, he developed the techniques that have won him and Hand2Mouth plenty of awards and grants. Now, he’s enjoying sculpting a play that is dedicated to telling stories like his.
“PCC came to me with the theme of ‘Project 50’ and I was like, ‘This theme is perfect. I love it,’” Walters said. “I started developing this technique here and PCC made me able to do it so now I can use this special thing to make a play about the community here where my career began.”