ABOUT THE PLAYHOUSE
To create a space where people of ALL backgrounds can come together to celebrate the complexity of the human experience.
A world awakened by the wonder of theatre.
- BELONGING – Portland Playhouse is a space where everyone is welcome. We foster a feeling of belonging for artists and audience alike.
- GRATITUDE – Portland Playhouse is here by the grace and generosity of our community. We are grateful for the goodwill and support of the many people who make our work possible.
- GRIT – We do what we need to do to create great work. We operate as a team, and no one is above rolling up their sleeves and working hard.
- AMBITION – We tackle large and complex plays and education programs with a refreshing ignorance to all reasons why we should fail.
Our education programs further our mission. We encourage students of all ages to explore human behavior in a safe and nurturing environment. We commit ourselves to strengthening the voices of tomorrow through the immersion in the dramatic arts, a visceral learning experience. Our programs build confidence, challenge perspectives and foster empathy through storytelling.
Portland Playhouse (PPH) began in 2008 when a group of artists found a re-purposed church in which to realize a dream of creating topical, relevant theatre in an intimate, community setting. PPH has evolved into a lively center of the arts in the King Neighborhood in NE Portland, a community rapidly gentrifying from its roots as a primarily African American neighborhood. The community has truly embraced PPH and its efforts to present important works from well-known, culturally diverse playwrights like August Wilson and Tony Kushner, to new work by emerging voices like Mia Chung, Tarell Alvin McCraney and Idris Goodwin.
Since its inception, PPH has grown exponentially, from an audience of 850 its first season to 10,000 last year. We’ve mounted 36 successful productions and earned 27 local awards. And we’ve gained national attention, too. As a 2015 and 2016 American Theatre Wing “National Theatre Company Award” recipient, PPH was recognized as “integral to the fabric of the community and furthering the national cultural conversation in exciting ways.”
In our 2011-12 Season, when the Bureau of Land Development asked PPH to vacate it’s building because of a zoning issue with our landlord, the community rallied. Hundreds of neighborhood residents wrote letters of support and showed their commitment to the Playhouse by filling City Council chambers on the day of the hearing. Barbara Conable, a local resident, articulated her support for the Playhouse that day:
"I took to see [August Wilson’s] MA RAINEY’S BLACK BOTTOM, a neighbor friend of mine. I’ve lived in Sabin four years. She’s lived there all her life… When it was finished she grabbed my hand and shook it over and over and said, “They got it right. Barbara, they got it right…” Now, in our neighborhoods, there is an ‘it’ to get right, and this facility, this institution, addresses that, and we need it” (3/1/12 City Council Hearing).
PPH employs 12 staff, 75-125 artists/theatre professionals, with a volunteer staff of 175. Together, we present four productions per year, reaching 10,000 audience members and serve 8-12 schools via after school programs and in-school residencies. We also offer our space to community partners for events in the neighborhood.
Our Education Programs
In 2009, PPH launched our Fall Festival of Shakespeare program with a goal of introducing young people to the joys of theatrical performance. This 10-week after-school program links students’ first encounter with Shakespeare’s prose to the thrill of participating in live performance. The program stresses three ideals: a spirit of collaboration, an aural method for learning the texts and an active engagement between audience and actors. In 2015, the Fall Festival of Shakespeare served 6 schools (over 300 middle/high school student participants) and reached over 2,500 audience members.
Need for the Program
PPH is filling a need. Oregon's graduation rate is one of the worst in the country. For far too long our schools have endured significant budget cuts, forcing many administrators to cut arts programs. PPH is committed to restoring these opportunities for students.
Shakespeare is a key component of high school curriculum across the country. Even so, for many students, the plays are difficult to understand and enjoy. Our program helps make the meaning of Shakespeare’s work accessible and relevant. Theatre is an influential factor that not only inspires the imagination and self-expression, but it also improves academics and teaches valuable life skills. Staging and performing a show promotes teamwork. Learning lines and reciting them on stage builds public speaking skills and self-esteem.
Participants have shared that they often feel estranged from their peers and disenfranchised at school, but have found a sense of belonging and acceptance in our program; students feel they “fit in” someplace for the first time. One Franklin student put it this way: “I learned that I am valuable, I belong, and I am important.” Another 9th grader expressed: “I had a rough day once, and I was racially insulted, but what happened when I got to rehearsal was lovely. Everyone helped me, comforted me, and supported me. Especially the director. It's a safe environment that can change everything; one's mood, one's thoughts and more.”
Fort Vancouver High School teacher Jennifer McIntyre shared: "This program is phenomenal! [...] For some students, the Festival is the highlight of high school for them. For some, it's a life saver." To see the Fall Festival in action, please visit: https://vimeo.com/120205380
In an effort to expand our work with schools, we have extended our program beyond the Fall Festival of Shakespeare. In 2016, St. Andrews Nativity School's 6th graders created a performance piece after studying Maya Angelou, Charlayne Woodward, Afro-American Folktales and Yoruba Myths. We also partnered with two other schools to perform Shakespeare plays in the spring.
Know a school that might want to get involved?Contact Co-founder/Education Director Nikki Weaver at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.
Since 2010, PPH has welcomed a small group of pre-professionals for a year of training, serving as a bridge between the university and the arts profession, helping each to develop skills by working alongside professional artists. 37 artists have benefited from this program with 97% having gone on to work professionally in the arts – locally, nationally and internationally.
Commitment to Diversity/Equity/Inclusion
Diversity/Equity/Inclusion are at the heart of our work. We embrace inclusion because diverse people and ideas create innovation and artistic excellence. We are better equipped to explore new ideas on stage and connect to others.
We believe all people should have access to creative expression and we actively look for ways to remove barriers that may keep people from engaging with our programming. Relationship building is the cornerstone of success in building community. Creating meaningful, sustainable relationships with diverse participants is not unlike making new friends. It takes intention, curiosity, and time. It also takes realizing that we cannot make new friends without being changed by the experience.
Our Diversity & Inclusion Vision is to build an audience that reflects our neighborhood’s diversity in its many expressions. This bold vision outlines the philosophy that forms the foundation of our commitment to audience development and will be used to guide our core values, behaviors and attitudes.
Each year, we serve 10,000+ audience members from the Portland/Vancouver region through our main stage productions. While our audiences generally reflect the Portland community as a whole, we have a particular focus on underserved populations, especially those with limited access to theatre. To reach these communities, we participate in the "Arts for All" program ($5 tickets for people living in poverty) and offer complimentary tickets to students and organizations that work with disadvantaged youth.
Our education programs serve 500+ middle and high school students from a mix of schools that are from both affluent and at-risk communities in the Portland/Vancouver region. Schools are recruited for the program through our personal relationships/networks. This season, we will serve Franklin High, Fort Vancouver High, Ridgefield High, Hockinson High, De La Salle, Communications & Arts Magnet Academy, Boise-Eliot Elementary, Martin Luther King, Jr. School, Metropolitan Learning Center and Da Vinci Middle School.