Keshav Eldurkar, Isabel Strongheart McTighe, Zoe Brouwer join exclusive Portland theatre group cohort
Portland Experimental Theatre Ensemble (PETE) is a company of artists based in Portland that finds new ways to make plays and performances in an innovative and collaborative way. The Institute for Contemporary Performance (ICP) in PETE is a training center that features short-term workshops and a one year long training program. Both Keshav Eldurkar ’23 and Isabel Strongheart McTighe ’22 are part of ICP’s 2022-2023 cohort.
The ICP program is 31 weeks of instruction and support focusing on the ideas of composition, creativity, awareness, connectedness and art. Everyone goes to class every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Sunday. In the fall, the cohort works on different acting techniques, and is given an opportunity to create a performance completely designed by them in the spring.
“I think that the thing that I really appreciate about this program is that it’s all about self-produced work,” said Strongheart McTighe. “And making something that you’re interested in and not waiting for anyone else to have to cast you or give you an opportunity, making those opportunities for yourself.”
According to Eldurkar every week focuses on learning different theater techniques that enhance acting and performance, whether it is bringing out intensity and focus or whether it is learning about one’s body and what a body can do through very specific grounding techniques, whether it be going really slow or really fast.
“So every week pretty much in the past we’ve had, or even still today, spend a week, which is about 3 to 4 classes, learning different theatre techniques that help our acting and performance,” Eldurkar said. “Whether it is bringing out our intensity and focus, or whether it’s kind of learning about your body and what your body can do through very specific techniques.”
According to the PETE website, in the fall term they begin by learning practices such as Viewpoints, Suzuki, Clown, Alexander Technique and Devising. The Alexander Technique is a reeducation in not doing anything and is based on the idea of centering your body and breath, while getting rid of harmful tension. Eldurkar mentioned that one of their more recent classes entailed the practice of Clown. Clown is centered around connecting with the audience by emphasizing character, relationships and improvisation.
Eldukar says that what he enjoys most about these activities is that they allow him to foster a sense of connection with others.
“In Viewpoints and a bunch of other things you are connecting with the people around you,” Eldukar said. “Honestly, the things I’ve learned about connecting in ICP have been most helpful because I just feel so connected, even outside of theater, with people.”
Similarly, Strongheart McTighe really appreciates the opportunity to connect with a new group of people in a new space. She said that it is really nice to get out of the Palatine Hill bubble and meet people from all over Portland to see what they are working on.
Eldurkar said that ICP is giving him a chance to take everything that he has learned at LC and apply it to his own individual art style. While he does not have as much experience as everyone else in the cohort, he said that every person’s input is valuable at ICP.
“Everyone has something to offer, and no matter which community you join, you are just as important and knowledgeable as anyone else there,” Eldurkar said.
Strongheart McTighe urges people to trust themselves when they are making art or trying something new.
“I would just really encourage anyone to like to go out and self produce their work and make it happen like in a classroom or outside somewhere,” Strongheart McTighe said. “But you shouldn’t have to wait for anyone to give you permission to make the art you want to make.”.Both Strongheart McTighe and Eldurkar said that they got involved in PETE by working with Associate Professor of Theatre and Department Chair Rebecca Lingafelter. Lingafelter is co-artistic director of PETE. Eldurkar encourages people who are interested in theatre to work for PETE. For more information and to apply for next year’s cohort visit petensemble.org.