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Thursday, June 18, 2009
Back Fence PDX
Let's say you're given eight minutes to go up on stage at the Mission Theater in front of hundreds of people to pour your heart out or to reveal a secret. What would you come up with? Would you go through with it? Especially when you have to work with a theme like "Caught Red Handed"? This was the task presented to eight performers at last night's Back Fence PDX, the bimonthly storytelling event/occasional swimsuit fashion show hosted by local writers Melissa Lion and B. Frayn Masters.
It was practically standing room only by the time I got inside the Mission. I opted to take a seat in one of the theater's dark balcony annexes with a group of people who spent the first five minutes of the show accidentally spilling beer on one another. They were awfully polite about the whole thing and managed to deal with the spills in hushed voices, as to not distract from Portland playwright Pema Teeter's story about a summer romance gone wrong and then right again fifteen years later.
Despite the related theme, the stories covered a wide range of topics. Illustrator Nicole J. Georges offered up an anecdote about the time her "separatist lesbian" ex-girlfriend decided she was going to kill one of her former lovers at a Stumptown Coffee art show. Eric Schniewind, a geologist told the audience about his attempts to make amends with a former teacher thirty years after he flooded his house with a garden hose. The owner of St. Cupcake, Jami Curl, revealed a sad story about her mother's bout with cancer.
But the most bizarre and perhaps most memorable tale of the night was presented by "Viva Las Vegas," a dancer at Old Town's infamous Magic Garden. She broke out a story about the time she came home in the middle of the night to discover her boyfriend "dead" in an upstairs bedroom and a mysterious buzzing sound coming from a location that I'll leave up to your imagination.
Back Fence PDX celebrated its one year anniversary last night. It's obviously come a long way since its first show in a venue much smaller than the Mission. It's a great event but I do have one complaint. Each performer is given eight minutes to present their tale but last night that limit wasn't enforced. I can't blame the hostesses for not wanting to cut off a story like Rael Dornfest's recollection of his years spent in segregated South Africa. Still, not enforcing the time limit completely defeats the purpose of having one and drains a lot of the drama from the event. Watching Dornfest rapidly wrap up his tender tale with a "and then we fled to Mississippi with a bunch of Krugerrands hidden in a tool box" would have been cruel but, hey, those are the rules, right?
Eh, maybe they should can the time limit when Back Fence PDX starts up again this fall. Or maybe I'm wrong and just bitter because I didn't win a Powell's gift certificate for knowing that the phrase "red-handed" was supposedly first printed in Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe. Dang blast it!