Mission & Story
Portland Playhouse’s mission is to celebrate the complexity of the human experience.
Belonging: Portland Playhouse works to be radically inclusive onstage and offstage. We serve together. We rise together. We lead with kindness.
Gratitude: We are here by the grace and generosity of our community. We honor, join with, and are guided by those who came before us as well as current and future generations.
Courage: We challenge the status quo; we take risks. We listen and learn with an openness to change.
A PLAYHOUSE IS BORN
We envision a world awakened by the wonder of theatre.
MANY PEOPLE KNOW THE STORY
Nikki and Brian met in the back of a theatre at Shakespeare & Company in Lenox Massachusetts. Brian leaned over in the dark and whispered, “Who directed this play, it’s amazing?” and Nikki said, “I did.” Later that night, sitting across from a plasma globe their fingers touched for the first time and a literal SPARK formed.The spark grew into an idea- move to Portland, get married, start a theatre company, create a home. Two years later, they gathered around a woodpile with Brian’s brother Michael and somehow convinced him that starting a theatre company could be a “good business decision.”
In 2008, the trio moved to Portland, filed paperwork to create “The Portland Playhouse”, posted audition notices for a play (with no venue secured), planned a wedding (with a venue), and moved in together. During the wedding speeches Michael said, “Now I know all of you are here because you love Brian and Nikki, and that’s really great. And you traveled all this way. But I’m the only one who plans to LIVE with them!”
Soon the trio were off and running. They built the scenery themselves, begged and borrowed everything else. The audiences sat on sofas scrounged from Craigslist and the street. The first night two people came. The second night… no one. But on closing night, 122 people crowded around the makeshift “stage,” sitting on cushions, speakers, and four people on a piano.
AND THEN SOMETHING HAPPENED.
2010. August Wilson. Radio Golf. This play changed everything. It is a play about gentrification in Pittsburgh’s Hill District, a place not unlike Northeast Portland. The show sold out by the end of the first week. And then extended. And extended. And the people who came weren’t just avid theatregoers but people from the neighborhood. People who wanted to talk about issues and art and LIFE.
AND THEN SOMETHING SCARY HAPPENED.
In 2012, the City came calling. They said “Theatre” is not a legal use of a neighborhood church. A cease and desist order went up on the door. So began a yearlong struggle to remain in their beloved King neighborhood. They submitted a “change of use” request and were denied. The Church was vacant once again.
AND THEN SOMETHING ELSE HAPPENED.
Something… AMAZING. And unexpected. Not only did their neighbors come to see the plays, they wrote testimonials. Signed petitions. Volunteered their time. Gifted their hard-earned money. And the King Neighborhood Association led an appeal to City Council to overturn the closure. When it came time for Council to decide the fate of this theatre, people crowded into City Hall, and one after another they took their turns at the microphone to tell the commissioners that Portland Playhouse needed to stay. And the Council agreed.
AND HERE WE ARE
Comfy seats have replaced the tattered sofas. The scenery and costumes are designed by professional artists. And among the actors and directors who share their talents with us are national award-winners who have worked on Broadway and stages all over the world.
We continue to seek new ways to engage with our neighbors, and to deepen the relationship between what we do onstage and what’s happening in the lives of our audiences.
We bring the magic of theatre to a greater number of schools each year, providing young people with experiences that empower them with life skills they will value for the rest of their lives.
The past twelve years have changed Portland Playhouse, and the people behind it, irrevocably. With gratitude to our neighbors, and with humility for the support they have shown to us, we rededicate ourselves to making the Portland community, and our neighborhood specifically, richer for having the arts in their midst.