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Darleen Ortega

Stories by Darleen

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Powerful Musical ‘Rent’ Takes Stage

Portland ensemble shows love for iconic play

For some audience members, a revival of “Rent” sells itself—the iconic musical is a cultural phenomenon, and its many ardent fans will jump at the opportunity to see it where it belongs, live on stage

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Playhouse Celebrates Black Experience

“Bella’ a playful pushback to erased histories

Portland Playhouse celebrates the Black Experience with “Bella: An American Tall Tale’ a playful pushback on erased histories.

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Dealing with the Truth

Portland play holds mirror to racist impacts

Whatever is true is true; it doesn’t stop being true if we ignore it, deny it, dress it up, rewrite it, appropriate it, or defend against it.

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With Humor and Tenderness

Cast connects in "Freestyle Love Supreme"

Artists riff, rhyme, improvise and connect with an audience in “Freestyle Love Supreme,” now playing at Portland Center Stage.

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A Window into Our History

August Wilson play beautifully told

“Gem of the Ocean” helped me to feel the further importance of experiencing August Wilson as a chronicler of American history and present.

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Basketball Binds Cultures in The Great Leap

“The Great Leap,” now playing at Portland Center Stage, also opens up space for us to wonder across space and time,

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‘Thurgood’ opens on Portland Stage

Civil rights icon elevated in one man play

Thurgood Marshall’s work as a ground-breaking civil rights attorney for the NAACP, and most prominently as the lawyer who argued Brown v. Board of Education is profiled by Portland Playhouse.

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Urgent, Funny and Intense

“Gloria” deserves to be seen live

In a time when folks may feel hesitant to reenter the world of theater, Profile Theater's excellent production of "Gloria" offers as good a reason as I can imagine. It's urgent, unnerving, funny, intense, and deserves to be experienced live.

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Holiday Show a Return to Stage

Shakespeare via the Marx Brothers brings the laughs

Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s return to indoor theater is itself a break with tradition: its first holiday show, a comical send-up of holiday shows and Shakespeare via the Marx Brothers.

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Our Ancestors and Our Legacies

Films explore fatherhood

What does it mean to be a father? A man? A black man? A person? What does it mean to offer a legacy to one’s children that honors the truth in all its complexity? Two documentaries at the recent Portland Film Festival offered courageous ways into these questions.

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Two Inspiring Documentary Films

Beauty and variety in places we don’t think to look

Two documentaries are especially worth a look in the current line-up for the Portland Film Festival

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Films Lift Silenced and Diverse Voices

Portland Film Festival's run of independent films begins

The Portland Film Festival is here, a chance to explore independent films that fight to find an audience even though they often deserve it most.

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Challenging Conventional Thinking

Play documents life at the margins

Profile Theater has chosen a challenging but somehow fitting offering with “The Oldest Profession.”

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A Worthy Production for Live Shows Return

“Fannie: The Music and Life of Fannie Lou Hamer”

This production, birthed during a time of struggle, is best received and internalized as a call to action.

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‘Summer of Soul’ – Much to Savor

Film beautifully portrays 1969 celebration of Black culture

'Summer of Soul' teaches us about our collective selves--what it takes for Black artists to gain recognition in this country, and the losses that accompany every hard-fought gain.

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Films Bring Laughter, Tears, Impact

Two new screenings outside lines of dominant culture

Two new films find truth, humor and beauty outside the lines of dominant culture and convention.

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My Top 10 Films for 2020

Best films help you see world in another light

These are the films that stayed with me, that changed me and helped me see beyond my circumstances, as the best films do.

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Illuminating the Black Power Movement

New films explore FBI’s historic obsession with Black leaders

New documentary films shed light on the intensity of the FBI’s historic obsession with bringing down Black leaders.

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Recognizing Pearls Others Would Miss

Black women bring strength, vulnerability to film ‘Ash Land’

The new short film, "Ash Land," to premier on the Oregon Shakespeare Festival's digital platform this Friday is a gift from Black women in a moment of crisis. .

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Powerful Screening to Move Body & Heart

Filmed version of Oregon Shakespeare Festival play unmissable

Filmed version of world premiere of "The Copper Children" is absolutely unmissable.

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Getting Creative with Films to See Online

Two new independent films worth checking out

Film distributers and theaters get creative about online access to films whose planned theatrical release were thwarted by the coronavirus pandemic.

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Final Days of PIFF Canceled

Impacts four days of screenings

Online viewing an option after festival canceled

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Scores of International Films to See

The 43rd Portland International Film Festival (PIFF) opens Friday, March 6, and runs through March 15. The festival runs a full week shorter than in prior years, but with more mid-day screenings.

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Exploring Life at the Margins

Theater in Portland this past weekend saw the opening of two terrific co-productions by important American women playwrights exploring questions of identity and life at the margins.

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Far Better Films than the Oscar Nominated

Alternatives to the more white, more male and less original Academy picks

The nihilistic "Joker" and Quentin Tarentino's bit of Hollywood narcissism top the list of this year's Oscar nominees.

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Brisk, Funny ‘Mean Girls’ Tackles Skin Color

Opinionated Judge by Darleen Ortega

What makes teenagers so exasperating to live with, and such fascinating story subjects, is that they reflect back to us what we least like to see in ourselves.

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Humanity Shines in ‘Sweat’

A timely insight into today’s economic woes

As the world of the union workers begins to crumble, we see how easily they can be pitted against each other

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Hedwig and the Angry Inch at the Armory

Local actors front award-winning rock musical

For the uninitiated, "Hedwig" is a gritty, glittery drag-punk musical centered on two characters.

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‘The Two Popes,’ a Compelling Drama

Film approaches questions of faith with nuance and respect.

Those who are not religious may not immediately be drawn to this material, but the filmmakers help you understand why you should care.

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Good Cheer for Miss Bennet’s Christmas

Christmas play at the Armory

Play builds on the old and familiar notes of a Regency romantic comedy, picking up where Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice" leaves off.

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Steeped in African Consciousness

Pulitzer prize winning play at the Imago Theater

Play tells the story of Mama Nadi, whose brothel serves soldiers and includes women brutalized by the Congolese war.

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Confronting the Erasure of Women in Juarez

New play bears witness to heartache

Since 1993, the women of Juárez, Mexico have been disappearing and no one has solved the mystery

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Race and Truths Unfold in ‘Redwood’

Play looks at deep questions about race

Dramatic action punctuated with hip-hop dance moves

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Play Inspired by AIDS Chaos

Profile Theatre makes the writers of original plays its focus

This production will keep you laughing and leave you with lots to chew on

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Something for Every Taste

Oregon Shakespeare Festival season near complete

As the long season of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival nears it close, I don’t want to miss the opportunity to offer five more reasons to head to Ashland

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Road Trips of Cultural Connections

Ashland plays brings richness of Latinx experience

One diverse and largely Latin American cast performs two plays at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival this season, offering opportunities for them, and us, to explore the complexity and richness of Latinx experience.

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Black Voices Ring with Clarity, Integrity

It's a play about black people apart from the white gaze; they suffer but the play is not about black suffering. It's about love.

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Diverse Play Explores Jewish Identity

In an age when synagogues face a resurgence of deadly violence, Paula Vogel’s beautiful play about Jewish identity, “Indecent,” grapples with themes of outsiders facing threats to their freedoms and basic human rights.

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Inspiring Homage to a Destroyed Culture, History

I had no idea about the exciting pop rock scene that flourished in Cambodia just before its magic was utterly destroyed during the Khmer Rouge genocide in 1975 to 1979, a topic explored in the marvelous new play, "Cambodian Rock Band," now playing at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland.

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Native Comedy Packs Hard Hitting Truths

“Between Two Knees” at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland is a feat of theater magic so satisfying that, after seeing it three times, I am determined to savor it at least twice more before it closes in October.

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Diverse Films Stand Out

Seeing so many films together functioned as a sort of world tour of cinematic language, style, and culture that set my brain humming.

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Feasting on New Documentaries

I managed to catch 25 films at the Seattle International Film Festival in May and June--my idea of heaven!

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Two Films Not to Miss

“Seahorse” rocked my world. It follows the journey to parenthood taken by Freddie McConnell, who, as a trans man, is one of a limited number of human males who can, like male seahorses, undergo pregnancy.

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Films Speak to Race and the Environment

"Mossville: When Great Trees Fall" tells the story of a once-proud and independent Louisiana community founded by formerly enslaved African Americans whose once-lush farmland has now been decimated by petrochemical and industrial plants.

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‘Amazing Grace,’ a Fitting Tribute

The film's release all these years later feels, if anything, more impactful; we have the opportunity to watch the young queen of soul singing black gospel music in exactly the setting and with the exact community where such music is meant to be played, and the film conveys something of the music's genuine meaning for her.

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Peele Delivers Again on Scary

"Us" is more disorienting than Peele’s first film, "Get Out." Although I found that film very scary, I identified the fear specifically with racism. "Us" is more subtle.

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Film Fest is Window to World

A few of the Portland International Film Festival films that have finished their festival run are worth watching for in theaters or online.

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Films to Watch or Avoid at PIFF

Now that the Portland International Film Festival (PIFF) is in full swing, here is a sampler of films to watch for (or avoid, depending on your perspective).

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Films from All Over the Globe

The Portland International Film Festival (PIFF) begins two weeks of screening films from all over the globe this Thursday with its opening night film, "Amateurs," a cross-generational comedy from Sweden.

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A Moving Portrait of Life on the Margins

‘Roma’ is my favorite film of 2018

Unless we prioritize the perspective of those who are relegated to the margins, our understanding of reality is bound to be hopelessly flawed and incomplete.