Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Memoirs of a Reverend Billy Comrade by Georgina Young-Ellis

Georgina Young-Ellis is a longtime friend and supporter of Reverend Billy & the Stop Shopping Choir and now lives and writes in Portland. Boom Arts asked her to tell us a little about her experiences with the Reverend and the Choir.

Memoirs of a Reverend Billy Comrade
By Georgina Young-Ellis

I met Reverend Billy and his wife, Savitri, officially, in the summer of 2004, when the Republican National Convention was about to cast is gloom over New York City. Bush was president and we were at war with Iraq. We had been protesting the war, marching for peace, but now we were building up for a huge protest of the RNC. At the time, I was attending St. Mark’s Church-in-the-Bowery, a radical, social-justice and arts-oriented space in the East Village of NYC, that historically had hosted artists like Allen Ginsburg, Sam Shephard, Patti Smith, Isadora Duncan, and more. I’d seen Rev. Billy and his Church of Stop Shopping Gospel Choir perform a few times at St. Marks, they having formed a relationship with the El Salvadoran priest-in-charge there, Julio Torres.

Billy, Savi, Julio, and another activist priest from St. Mark’s, Father Frank Morales, and I met one afternoon to discuss the possibility of housing the protesters that would be coming from all over the country for the convention. We all agreed that St. Mark’s and its large, open gathering spaces would be perfect for housing the activists, and that the duration would be about four days. Well, it evolved into something bigger and greater than we could have imagined.

A day or so before the convention, a few of the protesters arrived at St. Marks, and were welcomed. The day of, I marched with my own family, along with Billy and his contingent, from Union Square to Madison Square Garden. As we marched, the crowd grew and grew. We never got quite as far as MSG because of the vast throng, so we just stayed in place with our signs and chanted slogans. There were more protestors than anyone had imagined, and, somehow, word got out about St. Mark’s’ offer of refuge. We had originally decided to call the event, “Four Days of Sanctuary,” but that soon changed to eight days, then ten, then twelve. There were so many protestors they were camped out in the yards of the church, in the actual sanctuary, the parish hall, everywhere. Billy, Savi, and Frank Morales stayed more involved, helping to feed and provide for the people, than I did, because I had my own family to tend to at the time.

That was the start of many actions I participated in with Rev. Billy and choir, usually with my husband and young son in tow. We did one in the train station of the World Trade Center, as the site was beginning to undergo new construction, wherein a group of us meandered about, pretending to talk on cell phones, while really muttering the 1st amendment under our breath. Then, on cue, we began coordinating our muttering until we were all reciting it together, loudly, over and over, kind of like a flash mob before such things became popular.

Another time a beautiful, historic home near my house in Queens was being torn down to be replaced by apartment buildings. Many, nearly two-hundred-year-old trees were ripped out of the ground as a result. We’d tried protesting this demolition, but to no avail. So, resigned, I asked Rev. Billy and group if they would come out to Queens to perform a “Funeral for the Trees,” at the site, in order to make the neighborhood aware of what really happened there. They did, Billy preaching about the tragedy of it all, and our blindness to the earth and what it was trying to tell us. The choir gathered at my house afterwards for a meal, some twenty of us or so crammed into my tiny home.

There are so many more stories of actions, and protests—Billy’s Green Party campaign for Mayor in 2008—Occupy Wall Street—some things I was a part of and some not. I taught Billy and Savi Spanish for a while, until just after their daughter, Lena, was born; basically, my family and I would just jump in to help or participate whenever we could, seeing so many of their performances I’ve lost track.

Now, we live in Portland, many miles from NYC and the Rev’s HQ, but they come to town once or twice a year, and we always see them when they do. We stay in touch via email, phone, and social media, and I continue to watch them making change and impacting the world with their radical, pro-earth and anti-consumerist message. As Billy might say, Change-alujah, Portland-alujah, and Earth-alujah!

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Boom Arts Welcomes Associate Managing Director Janet Oh

Boom Arts Welcomes
Associate Managing Director Janet Oh
We are thrilled to announce that Janet Oh is joining Boom Arts as our first Associate Managing Director. Ms. Oh will join founding Curator and Producer Ruth Wikler-Luker as the organization’s second full-time staff member. Starting in mid-May, Ms. Oh will help Boom Arts launch our sixth season bringing timely, cutting-edge theatre and performance from around the world to diverse audiences in venues around the Portland area; expand Boom Arts’ visibility and community impact; and develop our infrastructure. This new position was made possible in part through a capacity-building grant from the Oregon Community Foundation as well as significant gifts from individual donors.

“We are thrilled to welcome Janet to Boom Arts,” says Board Chair Cheryl Grossman. “We're confident that her wide-ranging expertise will help our organization to grow and flourish.” Curator and Producer Ruth Wikler-Luker is also looking forward to Janet’s arrival: “I’m proud to have founded and led Boom Arts for the past five years—but I can’t wait to see what we’re able to achieve with two times the womanpower.”

Janet Oh comes to Portland from New York City, where she has been serving as Institutional Giving Manager at New York Live Arts, a premier presenter and champion of contemporary performance and the artistic home of the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company. Previously, Ms. Oh served as Proposal Writer at Phillips Auctioneers; Manager for Lectures and Performance Programs at the Art Institute of Chicago; and a freelance writer for publications including Art in America, ArtSlant, and Interview. She also assisted in the organization of the exhibition Alexander Calder: The Paris Years, 1926-33 at the Whitney Museum of American Art. Ms. Oh is a graduate of the MA in Modern Art program at Columbia University and received a BA in Art History with a piano concentration from Northwestern University. She is thrilled to be on board with Boom Arts and looks forward to what next season has in store.

Please help us welcome Janet to Portland and into the Boom Arts family! Stay tuned for upcoming opportunities to meet  her in person and to learn about our '17-18 season!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Story of an Urban Intervention

In April & May 2016, Boom Arts presented

TeatroSOLO (LONETheater) Portland, a creation of Argentine interdisciplinary artist Matías Umpierrez, consisted of five solo plays performed for one audience member at a time in five sites around the city of Portland, Oregon.

& view Mario Gallucci's stunning photographs, shot on location in Portland:

WITNESS (Testigo)
was performed on the Portland Streetcar by guest actress April Sweeney
SON (Hijo) 
was performed at Portland Tennis & Education in the St. Johns Racquet Center by actor Paul Susi

WISH (Deseo)* 
was performed at the offices of Watershed Communications in the Pearl District by actress Alex Leigh Ramirez

PORTRAIT (Retrato)
was performed at the Portland Art Museum by actress Nancy Ellis (not pictured; see below), &

MYTH (Mito) 
was performed at the Multnomah County Library's Central Library by actress Paige McKinney (not pictured; see below)
*World premiere pieces written just for Portland by Mr. Umpierrez

Nancy Ellis (L) and Paige McKinney (R) joined the cast of TeatroSOLO (LONETheater) Portland after the above photos had been taken:


And Steven Smith Teamaker provided in-kind supported the project by sponsoring the tea served in all performances of WISH (Deseo). Thank you!

Audiences shared their reflections on TeatroSOLO (LONETheater) in survey responses:

"The level of intimacy and inclusion created by the actor felt like it was created just for me."

"It's a completely different way to experience theater."

"It was such a quick jolt out of ordinary life."

"I absolutely loved it! it was such an emotional experience, so intimate and wonderful!" 


c3:initiative, an artist residency center in St. Johns neighborhood, was our primary producing partner for this project. In its gallery, c3:initiative hosted a first-ever photo exhibition on TeatroSOLO (LONETheater) and its seven global iterations, from its beginnings in the tiny Pyrenees town of Graus, Spain to the mega-urb of São Paolo, Brazil. The exhibition included photos from each city as well as Mr. Umpierrez' series of video trailers and subtitled footage of audience reactions from around the world. 

To offer context and bring community together around this unique project, Boom Arts and c3:initiative welcomed guests to free public programs inside the exhibition, which was on view from April 16-May 14, 2016. An artist talk with Mr. Umpierrez himself opened the exhibition: 
(L to R: Shir Ly Grisanti, Director, c3:initiative; artist Matías Umpierrez; and Ruth Wikler-Luker, Curator & Producer, Boom Arts)

A conversation between theatre artist and scholar April Sweeney, who joined us for the project from New York, and social practice artist Patricia Vazquez of Portland was a vital opportunity for audience members to reflect on their experiences:

And an Open House/Closing Reception, designed by Patricia Vazquez Gomez and held in conjunction with the St. Johns Bizarre (a neighborhood-wide fair) offered audiences a chance to connect with more of our TeatroSOLO artists and community partners:

As well as to participate in an interactive reflection exercise on the value of intimacy in today's world, created by Ms. Vazquez:

And to enjoy live music by Colectivo Son Jarocho de Portland:

And, later on the outdoor St. Johns Bizarre stage, Bajo Salario:

Thank you to everyone who participated-- artists, partners, audience members-- for being part of this unique project!

Boom Arts thanks project partners c:3initiative, Portland Art Museum, Portland Tennis & Education, and Watershed Communications, and in-kind sponsor Steven Smith Teamaker. 
This project was made possible with support from c3:initiative; Boom Arts Season Sponsor Ronni Lacroute, the Boom Arts Board, members of the Boom Arts Founding Circle, and many other supporters; and by grants from the Jubitz Family Foundation, the James F. and Marion L. Miller Foundation, Oregon Community Foundation’s Small Arts and Culture Program, Spirit Mountain Community Fund, Oregon Humanities (OH), a statewide nonprofit organization and an independent affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, which funds OH's grant program.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Reflections on Free Outgoing

Essay by Marlon Jiménez Oviedo, Student at Lewis & Clark College/Boom Arts Intern

The artistic success and high audience engagement of Free Outgoing by Anupama Chandrasekhar validated Boom Arts' mission of bringing international theatre that speaks to and attracts diverse Portland audiences. Brilliantly directed by LA-based theatre artist Snehal Desai, the piece challenges clear distinctions between universal vs. local, and private vs. public. The play places the action in the living room of a three-person household in Chennai, India, but the themes of accessibility to digital information, adolescent sexuality and parenthood are issues most societies grapple with.

In this small orange living room, designed by Stephanie Kerley Schwartz, we witness how societal norms and personal morals collide as Malini tries to ‘salvage’ the lives she and her children have so diligently fought for. The non-forgiving society is represented by the school principal, the neighbors, the media and the crowds of people that invade Malini’s colony. Their presence and condemnation were palpable in the Studio Theatre of Lincoln Hall, due in great part to the stellar cast who made it impossible for the audience not to feel the extenuating pressure that Malini and Sharan experience throughout the play.

The main role (Malini) was played by Anna Khaja, whose performance can only be characterized as a feat. During the performance, Ms. Khaja carries all the weight of her children and of being a widow in a society that does not economize on ways to shame her daughters’ sexual act, while thousands of people continue to download the evidence in the form of a video. In one of the most striking moments, we see the shadow of Malini behind orange fabric as she pounds on the door of her daughter’s room, begging her to come out if she wants to do one thing right in her whole life. The audience, however, does not ever see her daughter (Deepa).

On the day I saw the performance, post-show guest speaker Priya Kapoor, Associate Professor of International Studies at Portland State University, discussed Deepa’s absence onstage as a clear symbol of how the victims of situations like the one depicted in the play are often the ones without a voice. Deepa does not get a chance to speak for herself, which is direct commentary on how girls’ and women’s bodies and sexuality continue to be seen and talked about through misogynist ideals. Boom Arts’ post-show discussions have become a hallmark of our productions, and they amplify our impact by offering audiences the chance to process and meaningfully discuss crucial issues in our society.

As we welcomed audience members on the third and fourth nights, we had a person come to ask if we still had tickets available, because a friend had told them that Free Outgoing was a must see. Fortunately, Boom Arts continues to present theatre that Portlanders should be excited to watch!

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Reflections on Noise in the Waters

Essay by Marlon Jiménez Oviedo, Student at Lewis & Clark College/Boom Arts Intern

The performance of Noise in The Waters achieved the magical thing of bridging geographical distance and fostering an empathic understanding of people in different continents. Directed by Cristi Miles, the one-man performance brought to life the images, confusion, risk and urgency experienced by African and Middle Eastern refugees as they attempt to cross the Mediterranean Sea under extremely precarious and life-threatening conditions.

The music by Ryan Anthony Francis placed us amidst overpowering and constant waves of sound, absorbing the audience into the world of the show. Similarly, the large scale video projections, by Stephen Miller, occupied the two lateral walls of the auditorium. These sea like video projections put us in an almost trapping atmosphere that rang true to the urgency and the tragedy of the text.

Actor Bobby Bermea skillfully played an Italian admiral, and also embodied many other characters as he told stories about the calamities these people went through during their fleeting to Europe. Bobby generously gave us an emotionally charged and personal look into the refugee crisis. It is refreshingly illuminating to go beyond the usual statistical reports of human lives in extremely difficult circumstances. The text, by Marco Martinelli/Teatro delle Albe (Ravenna, Italy) and translated by Thomas Haskell Simpson, does take us through a list of numbers (each number being a person, a refugee).  Yet, it breaks away from the numerical accounts when the audience gets to hear about how some of those individuals made it across the Mediterranean Sea. Many numbers, nevertheless, stay as impersonal characters or untold accounts that the records fail to tell us anything about. Throughout the piece, these numbers become an incessant reminder of all the lives that get lost in the sea waters.

Following its mission of producing work centered on the artist/audience encounter, Boom Arts organized a pre show lecture and a post show discussion. The pre show lecture, by Jamie Surface, doctoral candidate in the Public Affairs and Policy Program at Portland State University, provided the attendees with historical information regarding the roots and state of affairs of the current refugee crisis. This was then complemented by the personal accounts of two Mercy Corps workers who have worked in Greece in the last year, helping the refugees who make it to Europe. Mercy Corps has stations in different islands and at the coasts where they provide things such as meals, wifi and general information about how to get to different countries, where people are heading to in search of asylum. 

As we listened to these humanitarian workers, the Boom Arts program brought us even a step closer to this pressing humanitarian crisis. Many, including this author, could not hold in the tears in response. As an audience member commented, and I paraphrase, the program was the perfect combination of right and left brain activity. People reported learning new things and also having to contemplate on their role in the refugee crisis.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Preshow Music & Comedy Lineup for ASKING FOR IT

Curated by Jen Tam of Am I Right Ladies?, the Asking For It music & comedy preshow features distinctive female voices from Portland’s flourishing music and stand-up comedy scene! Performances begin each evening at 7:30pm (Asking For It starts at 8:30pm). Admission is included in your ticket. Preshow artists will include:

·    Thursday, October 15
Music by Haley Heynderickx
Comedy by Laura Anne Whitley
and Belinda Carroll

·    Friday, October 16
Music by Johanna Warren
Comedy by Dinah Foley
and Andie Main

·    Saturday, October 17
Music by Brannon Rockwell-Charland
Comedy by Dinah Foley
and Coor Cohen

·   Wednesday, October 21
Music by Oro Azoro
Comedy by Laura Anne Whitley
and Bri Pruett

·   Thursday, October 22
Music by Sara Renberg 
Comedy by Barbara Holm
and Bri Pruett

·   Friday, October 23
Music by LEO
Comedy by Whitney Streed
and Barbara Holm

·   Saturday, October 24
Music by Lucia Fasano
Comedy by Barbara Holm
and Coor Cohen