Pink Martini knows how to put on a good show and Oregon! Oregon! was no exception. The group combined forces with the Oregon National Guard 234th Army Band, sandwiching the theater portion of the performance (a “sesquicentennial fable”) and a 15-foot beaver between acts by both groups.
After discovering the original three-act production of Oregon! Oregon! on a vinyl recording, Pink Martini’s Thomas Lauderdale worked with a team of Oregonians (including Metro President David Bragdon and the writers of Livewire!) to transform the production into a performance event and add a new fourth act.
The original production was written for radio. This made the performance somewhat less visual and less engaging in person than it would have been on air, but these shortfalls were surmounted by the energy and talent of the performances by the 234th and Pink Martini. By far the most conceptually accessible and family-friendly event at this year’s TBA, it was encouraging to see all ages and personalities represented at the event. Especially in a time when arts funding is in crisis, it is important for a city-wide arts festival to have some inclusive programming, and Oregon! Oregon! fit the bill.
The performance raised issues of national and local identity. Portland is a loved city but is separated from much of the rest of the state by cultural and socioeconomic challenges. Oregon! Oregon! playfully addressed these issues and asked us as citizens to celebrate our state, over-sized beavers and all. As a transplant from another western state, I love Portland and by extension, Oregon. The performance was not particularly intellectually rewarding, but did offer some heartwarming moments. More than anything, it was a pleasant experience to be part of a group celebrating something we love together. It underlines a fact that transplants and natives alike should remember: separately we can’t serve each other’s needs, but together Oregonians can build a state we believe in.