Shakespeare seen on park and college greens

Culture comes to East Portland, once again! See how thousands of folks got their Shakespeare ‘fix’ – without an expensive trip down to Ashland …

The Earl of Northumberland, the senior Henry Percy (Curtis Hanson), finds his friendship souring with King Henry IV (Chris Porter).

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Celebrating their 40th season of “Shakespeare-in-the-Park”, the Portland Actors Ensemble and the Northwest Classical Theater Company presented “King Henry IV, Part One” at five venues throughout the summer – including Lynchwood Park in outer East Portland – before ending their season on Reed College’s front lawn.

“A couple of performances did get rained,” admitted Michael Streeter, who is with Portland Actors Ensemble and is the show’s artistic director. “Our show was scheduled to begin right when the rains were coming down the heaviest.  We have a lot of swordplay and stage action using really big, heavy hunks of metal – doing that in the rain could be dangerous.”

The artistic director for the play, Portland Actors Ensemble’s Michael Streeter, offers printed programs to patrons who came to see the show on the lawn at Reed College.

But on Labor Day itself, when East Portland News visited their production, the sun was shining and the crowd swelled before their performance began.

Says Shakespeare remains relevant
“The work of Shakespeare transcends time; it’s held up well over the past 400 years,” Streeter observed. “Shakespeare defined what it means to be a person, an individual. He still teaches and instructs us about how we should live our lives. Not to mention the fact that the plays are filled with exciting action and lots of great comedy.”

“King Henry IV, Part One” is about a young man’s relationship with his father, explained Streeter. “If it takes a village to raise a child; the question raised here is ‘Just who are the villagers, and what influence do they have on children they raise?’”

Prince Hal, the future King Henry V (Butch Flowers), crosses swords with potential rival “Hotspur” – a.k.a. Henry Percy (Ken Potts).

Like Ashland, but close by – and free
Being a volunteer organization, the actors and stage crew are compensated through donations at their performances. “We feel it’s important to provide people an opportunity to see Shakespeare – real classical theater, and theater that they would not otherwise be able to afford seeing. For whatever donation they can afford, people can get the theatrical experience many seek in Ashland Oregon, but without having to spend $400 for tickets, and having to travel some distance.”

The troupe presented only Part One of “King Henry IV” during the summer season, Streeter mentioned, because it runs about 2½ hours. “We’re offering Part Two indoors, at the Shoe Box Theater, in late October through November.” Learn more at

(From our front page) Nimbly playing two roles in the production: Actress Tamara K. Burgess portrays both Lady Mortimer and a whore, but not at the same time.

© 2009 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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