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Amber Mitchells 7 Minutes to be performed at Fertile Ground


West Linn 15-year-old is youngest writer included in the Portland festival

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Amber Mitchell, 15, has written a 10-minute musical that will be performed as part of Fertile Ground, the city-wide festival of original works. The show opens Jan. 18.Portland’s city-wide Fertile Ground festival of new dramatic works features more than 10 days of world premiere works of art and dozens of Portland-generated arts events.

Many of Portland’s local writers create new and inspired pieces of art to share with Portland metropolitan theater enthusiasts before taking them on to larger, grander stages, or simply because they enjoy writing their piece. Now in its fourth year, Fertile Ground is a supportive creative environment which has seen musicals and shows of all types and genres. This year it offers something completely new: a contribution from a 15-year-old writer.

West Linn resident Amber Mitchell, a freshman at Jesuit High School, is one of several writers of a 10-minute musical for the 4x4=8 —a theatrical experience conceived by Mark LaPierre. The 4x4=8 segment is a collection of 10 minute musicals of all types and themes. The thing that separates these pieces from other 10 minute musicals is that they are performed on a single 4 foot by 4 foot platform.

Mitchell, the youngest writer on the team, has crafted a musical to sum up in a mere 10 minutes what it feels like to be a teenager: misunderstood, frustrated, and lonely and above all, awkward. Her piece, titled “7 Minutes” is a relatable experience for all ages. It is fun, hip and honest.

“The basic idea is to simplify it and strip it down to the very essence so that the story isn’t covered up by flashy sets or lighting designs,” said Mitchell who has spent the last six months working on the musical. “It’s been such an amazing learning process for me. I had so many ideas and themes I wanted to incorporate.

“I had to learn that you might have the greatest idea in the world, but it may not work for a 10-minute musical. My musical is about how hard it is to be a teen in modern day with all these stereotypes and social expectations and sexuality and the awkwardness of being a teenager.”

Mitchell wrote her first musical, “The Girl in the Mirror,” last year “just for fun.” She invited LaPierre to attend a reading of the script. He was obviously impressed. A few weeks later he asked her to create a piece for Fertile Ground.

“He has been so supportive of me,” Mitchell said. “He taught me to come up with a really good relatable story, how to write sheet music and use all the computer programs, which are incredibly complicated and really time consuming and many a time I wanted to just throw my computer out of the window! It’s a lot harder than it sounds.”

But Mitchell persevered and “7 Minutes” will open Jan. 18 at 7:30 p.m. in the Brunish Theatre at the Portland Center for the Performing Arts. The 10-minute musicals will be presented through Jan. 27.

“Fertile Ground is an amazing opportunity for so many writers to try their crazy ideas,” Mitchell said. “It’s been fun. It’s been one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done.”

Tickets to the 4x4=8 performances are $28.25 each. To view the complete Fertile Ground festival guide and calendar or to purchase tickets, visit fertilegroundpdx.org. Fertile Ground opens with the 4x4=8 performances and continues through Feb. 3, 2013.