Portland Playhouse Returns to Local Wonderland Shorts

There is something joyful about short films. For each of them, you get insight from an artist’s point of view – and since shorts often represent a creator’s first steps, there’s a good chance their point of view will be new, even when presented with rough edges. You can always go to the cinema to catch a nifty blockbuster, but shorts are where the filmmakers of tomorrow are born.

Although it’s a theater, Portland Playhouse, the community-focused nonprofit in Portland’s King neighborhood, also elevates local cinema. In 2020 they held a virtual film festival called Wonderland which featured four local short films from different artists. Now they’re continuing that with a new episode, Return to Wonderland, which will screen a collection of shorts from four new filmmakers.

“Yes, we do plays,” Portland Playhouse production manager Charles Grant told the Mercury, “but we asked ourselves: how else could we have a direct impact and respond to the issues that arise in our communities? »

Presented in a single program, the shorts are just over an hour long and range in genre from documentary to fiction and music. There are a number of recognizable local movers on the list, like La’Tevin Alexander and Poet Lady Rose. Here’s a bit more about each court:


Larry and Joe-Joe by La’Tevin Alexander

Taken from a larger play, this short is one scene in a series centered on would-be Kingpins of a crime syndicate who still find themselves grappling with the injustices of white supremacy and police brutality. The short’s main conversation centers around a man named Otis (Victor Mack) who is desperate for justice. He comes to the incumbents Larry (Elijah Sims) and Joe-Joe (Isaiah Sims) to ask for their help. The scene serves as a showcase for Mack, in particular, who delivers an extended monologue that overflows with quiet rage.

“One of the things we never had was someone to stand up for us,” the short’s director La’Tevin Alexander said in a video announcing the short. “Larry and Joe-Joe raises the question, what if we had someone to defend us from these racial attacks and police brutality?


walla walla by Hayley Durelle

The most expansive of the four shorts, walla walla follows the characters Tori (Afomia Hailemeskel) and Kayla (Sammy Rat Rios) on a long road trip from rural Twin Falls, Idaho, through eastern Oregon to Walla Walla, Washington.

Talking and joking with each other, their natural chemistry juxtaposes a heavy journey to access abortion care. Comparing walla walla to Kelly Reichardt’s early work isn’t overdone, as it approaches the story with a poetic minimalism that masks a melancholy while still being something of its own.

“On Thursday, August 25, while Kirk and I were working on the final cut of the film, Idaho’s trigger law went into effect, moving the film’s premise out of the realm of speculative fiction. Now it more literally reflects the political reality of that time and place,” Durelle said in an artist statement. “I wish I had an orderly way to make sense of these events – something, for example, that would put an insightful button at the end of this story. But I don’t know, not yet. In the meantime, I’m grateful to the opportunity to share with you the short film walla wallacreated for Return to Wonderland at the Portland Playhouse.


Return to Kingsley: A Retrospective FALL OF KAMRYN

Return to Kingsley: A Retrospective by Kamryn Fall

Grant described Kamryn Fall Return to Kingsley as a “hybrid documentary with a music video format, commentary and interviews”. Both joyful and sentimental, it delves deep into the creative process of filmmaking and simultaneously serves as a farewell to the Portland musician Kingsley – who will soon be moving to London – giving her an opportunity to reflect on her career and her work.


Petals and thorns: a journey through speech by La’Toya Hampton (aka The Poet Lady Rose)

This documentary traces the journey of four high school students, as they participate in a week-long writing and speaking workshop with artist La’Toya Hampton and give a performance at the end.

“Although my word has been used in other film projects by other creators, it gives me the opportunity to put it all together for myself,” Hampton said of his film. “The impacts of world events on our young people have been largely ignored and underestimated. I want to offer young people the opportunity and the platform to not only center their voice, but to validate and elevate it.


Back to Wonderland screens at the Portland Playhouse, 602 NE Prescott, Saturday, Sept. 3, 7 p.m.; Sun, Sept. 4, 2 p.m.; Fri Sept 9 & Sat Sept 10, 7 p.m.; Kennedy School, 5736 NE 33rd, Sept. 8, 7 p.m.; Cinema 21, 616 NW 21st, September 10, noon; ticket prices are decreasing with a suggested price of $15, tickets and information here. Video on demand available for purchase between September 10 and 25.


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