Saturday, February 1, 2014

Pep Talk—Hand2Mouth Theatre at the Peninsula Park Community Center—N. Portland

A Lesson in Living

The is part of the Fertile Ground Festival and the show is created by the Hand2Mouth team of actors (coaches), Julie Hammond, Liz Hayden, Erin Leddy and Maesie Speer, and co-writer Andrea Stolowitz, as well as the director, Jonathan Walters.  It will be playing in the West Gym area at the Center, 700 N. Rosa Parks Way through February 16th.  For more information go to their site at or e-mail to

I suppose it is time for a pep talk to Congress, our local politicians, our society…anyone that’s still out there listening!  (Is that cricket chirping I hear.)  Tell them to ‘fess up and apologize for what they’ve done wrong, find out who/what they admire/believe in, what scares them, and what they want to be “when they grow up.”  Want a lesson in how to do that?  Might want to check out Pep Talk by the aforementioned coaches.

This is improvisational in style, interactive in method, and educational in content.  It is not your traditional play with a plot.  There is no story, as such, it’s more like a psychology lesson led by some impressive motivational speakers.  It is a journey of the mind and, perhaps, the heart…a history lesson (personal and general) of heroes and heroic deeds…how one gets from here to there, by putting one foot, at a time, in front of the other.

My early years in theatre were honed by doing Improvs in coffee houses and interactive children’s theatre and I know how tough and draining this kind of art can be on the actors.  You have to be at the top of your game all the time.  And these four actors are up to the challenge—in spades!  Their fearless director is equally impressive, as he snakes the cast and audience toward some understandable “truths.”

You begin your journey as soon as you enter the lobby.  You are ask to fill out a sheet, answering such questions as your heroes, what you think you need to apologize for, what you fear, what you want to do with your life, et. al.  There are no right or wrong answers but they will be used later in the play, no authors attached.  Then you are led into a gym where, for the next 90 minutes, you will discover, to put it in simple terms, that we all, essentially, in the same boat, looking for dry land, and the best way to get there is by helping each other.

The “coaches” are there to motivate us, explore our world in a safe environment, and know that we are not alone in the struggle to find our purpose.  It is a multi-media environment, with mikes, computers, drawings, music, costuming (for the cast, as well as the viewers), and audience participation, in which some people are picked to motivate and be motivated to/by others.  Audiences generally are passive when viewing a production but, in this one, you are active, alert and willing to accent the positives and move forward.

In this day and age, this show just might be “what the doctor ordered.”  At its least, it is entertaining, at its most, it is enlightening.  Over all, it is enchanting.  And each show is different, depending on the audience.  What I took away from it, is that…Failure is not in Losing but, in Never having Tried.  Echoing, in the back of my mind after seeing this show, are the Bard’s immortal words, such as “All the World’s a Stage and the men and women, merely Players…” and “We are such stuff as Dreams are made on….”  With this production, when you enter, you take away what you put in and exit, hopefully, more aware.

This would be an appropriate show for schools, as future generations need this kind of boost.  And many thanks must be issued to the Portland Parks and Recreation for recognizing the importance of and housing the performing arts.  I recommend this show.  If you do go, please tell them Dennis sent you.

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