The Portland Playhouse

The Portland Playhouse is a nonprofit theatre company created by Nikki and Brian (last names unknown) in 2008/2009. They both shared a deep passion for theatre, which led them to buy an old Church in the King Neighborhood. This theatre stands out against other non-commercial theatres because of its use of its platform. Their mission statements, which can be found throughout their website, is to work to be radically inclusive on and off stage. They prioritize the needs of their community and use various events to help create a safe place free of discrimination and oppressive mannerisms. Because it is the generosity of their community that has saved them from cease-and-desist notices from the City. In 2012, the city gave notice their use of the church as a ‘theatre venue’ was not a proper use of such and they were kicked out; but because the Portland Playhouse has focused on the use of its platform to uplift the community, they all one by one petitioned against the City Council and fortunately got them to allow the theater company to continue operating at the church. Since then, they’ve had 14 Seasons, despite their first house opening only bringing in 2 members for Bobrauschenbergamerica by Charles Mee.

To label the Portland Playhouse as merely a theatre company is insulting to all the social services they’ve provided beyond their exhibition of smaller production films/plays. They incorporated their desires of helping their community through various programs like their educational programs, community events, emergence activist projects, and so much more. They even incorporate socially relevant issues in their plays, like their show Radio Golf by August Wilson in 2010; it emphasizes the significance of gentrification in Pittsburg’s Hill District, which is much alike Northeast Portland; the show was so popular it was extended for weeks after their end production date and brought in people outside the King Neighborhood. This show, like the intentions of their others, ultimately accomplished its mission; people wanted to talk about various art forms and how they have a large impact on revolutionizing a better world. To reiterate, the Portland Playhouse’s mission does not involve the promotion of their shows to be on a large-scale perspective but to create chatter throughout the audience about social issues that many individuals face, not just in the King Neighborhood, but in every social atmosphere.

This theatre company stands to be a role model for other noncommercial venues by promoting others to take inconsideration how big of an impact their platform use can on the community around them; many theatres can exhibit films or plays that have underlying socially relevant issues, but the Portland Playhouse seeks to take it one step further and give others the safe space they desire to address these issues. These collaborative efforts have created an everlasting effect on the surrounding lives. In summary, they use their platform to help uplift the community around them, as their intentions are not limited to just showing small productions, but to also change the perspectives around how a theatre company can be operating, and how should be using their platforms to raise the voices of the subaltern. Because the Portland Playhouse recognizes that it’s not just a theatre, but a place of gathering in labels them as a part of the King community.

In February 2015, the Portland Playhouse held a stage production called ‘How to End Poverty in 90 minutes'; it sought to challenge the audience on the issue of poverty–specifically in the Multnomah County where there is a large community of unhoused individuals, and to collectively work together against such. The audience is encouraged to explore different perspectives of how to properly allocate the $1,000 cash from the ticket sales that were made that night. This is wildly engaging as the theatre uses its platform to promote collaboration of the audience in properly addressing this issue, despite its eclectic and uncomfortable form. The Portland Playhouse seeks to take its platform and its reach to address the accountability we as a society hold in bettering the world through artistic forms. Not many theatres will address such uncomfortable topics, let alone let the audience collectively decide how the entirety of its production proceeds are allocated. The ad I’ve attached below is merely a physical literation of the countless services provided by the Portland Playhouse. Through the kindness and cooperation of the King community, the Portland Playhouse continues to prosper and address the necessary social issues that are uncomfortable. It is my hope through this blog post about this theatre and its impact on justice, that the reader feels these mannerisms should be upheld by other theatres as their platform has the potential to provide so much more than just the exhibition of films.




Newspaper Advertisement Citation

The Portland Playhouse. “How to End Poverty in 90 Minutes.” The Portland Observer, 15 Feb. 2015, p. 6.