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New Theater Company For Millennials Launches in Portland

Wednesday, August 27, 2014



Overunder Arts Members

 Portland’s vibrant theater scene now has a place for millennials. Overunder officially launched this year at the end of May, but has worked with other groups in the Portland area for the last three years. 

This brand new theater company comprises four millennials who met during their time at Reed College.

According to their website, Marisa Kanai is a senior at Reed who is interested in nontraditional narrative, Autumn Dobbins is drawn to the relationship we have with the internet, Erika Kurth believes she is a soldier for God, and Alan Cline is a defender of good against evil, and evil against good.

"We formed Overunder as a way to empower our individual creative efforts with a group of like-minded theater makers who believed that theatre could do something rather than just being something," says Cline.  

The company will focus on providing experimental theater to a generation that came of age with the Internet. “We are really targeting people who are 18-to-29-year-olds, but anyone can show up," says Dobbins. "The works that we are making have ideas that affect everyone.”

Millennials are defined as anyone born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s. 

Showcasing diversity

They also hope to provide a platform showcasing diversity and original pieces to the blooming Portland theater scene.

“Sometimes it’s difficult to be seen as a new group because there are power players," says Dobbins. "We aren’t trying to compete with these power players: instead of cranking out Shakespeare plays exclusively we are creating all new original pieces.

"We are asking the questions (such as) how do we as a group help create spaces that show LGBT, class, race and disability issues?”   


First Project “Who Made This Art”

 Overunder’s first piece, "Who Made This Art," is a short film discussing the lack of diversity in casting and play choice in Portland’s theater scene. They set up a space in front of the Drammies (Portland regional theater awards) and asked attendees trivia questions.

One question was: “What percentage of the nominees for the Drammies are white?” Many of the attendees estimated far lower than the actual percentage, which is 96 percent. They also got a wide range of responses, showcasing the different assumptions and attitudes people bring to the subject.

“Portland is a very gentrified city and a lot of minority kids go straight to work and don’t do extracurricular work that is arts based,” read one response; another noted that “If you can’t wrap your head around someone being of a certain color, then you just narrowed down all of the art that you are going to come in contact with.”

Their upcoming show, "Freak Flag Phenomenon," will explore four different themes, each being presented in 10- to 15-minute segments. Kanai's solo piece tackles the sex industry in Japan, while Dobbins' solo segment will focus on small-town life. “I come from a poor rural area, and will be commenting on what it means to be making an art form that the community I come from wouldn’t appreciate."

Other themes Freak Flag will delve into include queer neo-mysticism (“gender and sexuality through movement”) as well as how the media influences us today.

Cline says "My piece in The Freak Flag Phenomenon, titled "Everything I Know About Everything I Learned From Everything," deals with the advent of mass data--both on the personal level (think: Facebook, Google, Amazon, wholesale government surveillance) and the global level. 

"My piece is about sorting through the noise and forcing the audience to choose what they think is most important."

It doesn't get much more millennial than that.

Freak Flag Phenomenon will be at Performance Works Northwest, in Southeast Portland. Visit Freak Flag Phenomenon for tickets and more information.     


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