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Behind the Scenes Team: Astoria – Portland Center Stage at The Armory



Chris joined Portland Center Stage at The Armory as artistic director in 2000. Before coming to Portland, Chris was the artistic director at Actor’s Express in Atlanta, a company he co-founded in the basement of an old church in 1988. Chris returned to Atlanta in 2015 to direct the world premiere of Edward Foote at Alliance Theatre (Suzi Bass Award for Best Direction, Best Production and Best World Premiere). Other recent directing credits include the Off-Broadway debut of Threesome at 59E59 Theaters; a production that had its world premiere at The Armory. Favorite directing assignments for The Armory include Fun Home, Constellations, A Streetcar Named Desire, Ain’t Misbehavin’, Three Days of Rain, Threesome, Fiddler on the Roof, Clybourne Park, Shakespeare’s Amazing Cymbeline (which he also adapted), Anna Karenina, Oklahoma!, Snow Falling on Cedars, Crazy Enough, King Lear, Outrage and The Devils. Chris has directed at theaters across the country, including Actor’s Theater of Louisville, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, ACT Theatre (Seattle), The Alliance, Dallas Theatre Center, Pittsburgh Public Theatre, New York Theatre Workshop and Center Stage (Baltimore). A native Atlantan, Chris holds a B.F.A. from Baylor University and an M.F.A. from Carnegie Mellon. He is currently the board president for the Cultural Advocacy Coalition. Chris and his husband, Rodney Hicks — who recently appeared on Broadway in the musical Come From Away — are the proud parents of an 18-lb Jack Russell/Lab mix and a 110-lb English Blockhead Yellow Lab. For the past three years, Chris has had the honor of serving as the director for the Oregon Leadership Summit.



Born in Wisconsin to an adventurous family and a father with a passion for the history of the fur trade, Peter Stark studied English and anthropology at Dartmouth College and received a master’s in journalism from the University of Wisconsin. Using Missoula, Montana, as a base, he took off for the remote spots of the world, writing magazine articles about travel and adventure in places like Greenland, Tibet and Africa. This fueled an interest in wilderness and the history of exploration, resulting in a number of books, including the book on which the play Astoria is based: ASTORIA: John Jacob Astor and Thomas Jefferson’s Lost Pacific Empire, A Story of Wealth, Ambition, and Survival. He and his wife, the intrepid dancer, choreographer and writer Amy Ragsdale, and their two children have periodically lived abroad, most recently in a small town in Northeast Brazil.


Scenic Designer

Tony Cisek has collaborated with The Armory on the productions of Astoria: Part One, Ain’t Misbehavin’, Sex with Strangers, Our Town, A Small Fire, The Whipping Man, The North Pool, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, The Christmas Story and Frost/Nixon, as well as the premieres of A Feminine Ending and Sometimes a Great Notion. Tony’s work has been seen Off- Broadway and regionally at Roundabout Theatre, Guthrie Theatre, Goodman Theatre, Arena Stage, Alliance Theatre, Ford’s Theatre, South Coast Repertory, Milwaukee Repertory Theater, Cincinnati Playhouse, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Center Stage (Baltimore), Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, Indiana Repertory Theatre, Syracuse Stage, New York Theatre Workshop, Cleveland Play House, Folger Theatre, The Kennedy Center, Round House Theatre, Signature Theatre and others. He has received four Helen Hayes Awards in Washington, five Drammy Awards in Portland, and two Barrymore Award nominations in Philadelphia.


Costume Designer, Astoria: Part One

Broadway: Come From Away, Amazing Grace, Lucky Guy, The Scottsboro Boys, Finian’s Rainbow, Chita Rivera: The Dancer’s Life, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, King Hedley II, One Mo’ Time, The Wild Party, Marie Christine, Footloose, The Tempest, Twilight: Los Angeles, Angels in America: Millennium Approaches and Perestoika, and Jilly’s Last Jam. Awards: a Tony nomination, three Drama Desk nominations, six Lucille Lortel nominations, Hewes Design Award, Irene Sharaff Young Masters Award and the 2009 Obie Award for Sustained Excellence in Costume Design.


Costume Designer, Astoria: Part Two

Alex recently relocated to Portland from Chicago and is thrilled to make his Portland design debut with Astoria: Part Two at The Armory, where he is also the costume shop manager. While in Chicago, Alex designed costumes for TimeLine Theatre, Next Theatre, Organic Theatre Company, Famous Door Theatre, Shattered Globe Theatre, Classical Kids Live and received a Jeff Award nomination for The General from America at TimeLine Theatre. He also managed the costume shop at Loyola University and taught costume design and costume construction. Other credits include costume designs for Montana Shakespeare in the Parks and Monomoy Theatre in Massachusetts. Alex holds an M.F.A. in costume design from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts and a B.A. in theater design from UNC Asheville.


Lighting Designer

Diane Ferry Williams is pleased to be returning to Portland. Diane has worked for many theaters around the country and abroad. Her most recent design is a national tour of How to Succeed … beginning in Beijing, China. In the U.S., her work has been seen at The Marriott Theatre, The Alliance Theatre, Theatre Under the Stars, Goodspeed, Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, Goodman Theatre, Pittsburgh Public Theatre, ACT-Seattle, Alabama Shakespeare Festival, Ford’s Theatre, Hubbard Street, Regional Dance America and elsewhere. Other international work includes The Harlem Gospel Singers (Paris and the European tour) and Die Shone Und Das Biest (Berlin and the European tour). She has also lit several national tours and premieres. Awards include a Jeff Award, an After Dark Award, a Carbonelle Award, Drammy Awards – including the 2015 Drammy for Ain’t Misbehavin’ – and seven Jeff nominations. Diane has an M.F.A in theatrical design from Northwestern University.


Dialect Coach

Mary McDonald-Lewis has been a professional artist since 1979. She resides in Portland, Oregon, and is an international dialect coach for film, television and stage. She also works as a voice actor, on-camera actor, stage actor and director. Astoria: Part Two is MaryMac’s 30th show with this company. You can also hear her work at Artists Repertory Theatre, where she is the resident dialect coach, and on other stages around town. She is deeply grateful to the patrons and audience members of The Armory, whose support allows the theater to provide her services to the actors. MaryMac holds her M.F.A. in directing from the University of Portland. She loves what she does, and she thanks Finnegan, Sullivan and Flynn for always wagging their tails when she comes home.


Music Director/Vocal Arranger

Rick Lewis has music directed over 25 productions for Portland Center Stage at The Armory, most recently the acclaimed production of Fun Home. He is also the creator of the hit Off-Broadway musicals The Taffetas and The Cardigans (NYC Bistro Award for Outstanding Musical Revue); music supervisor for the West Coast premiere of Next to Normal (Artists Repertory Theatre); assistant conductor/vocal director for the pre-Broadway workshop of Cy Coleman’s The Life; music director/arranger for BelloVoci; writer/arranger for Disney Live Family Entertainment, American Hawaii Cruises and American Classic Voyages; developer of The Cinnamon Bear Cruise; and founder/artistic director of Bridgetown Conservatory of Musical Theatre.


Sound Designer

Off-Broadway: The Public Theater/New York Shakespeare Festival, 59E59 Theaters and Lincoln Center. Regional: Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, Milwaukee Repertory Theater, St. Louis Repertory Theater, Delaware Theatre Company, Arena Stage, Ford’s Theatre, The Kennedy Center, The Smithsonian, Philadelphia Theatre Company, Barrington Stage Company, Contemporary American Theater Festival, Signature Theatre, Studio Theatre, Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, Olney Theatre Center, Round House Theatre and Theater Alliance. Film and television: The Hero Effect, Death in Time, Elbow Grease, Blue, Epix Drive-In, From Hell to Here, The Good Ways of Things and The Long Road. Nielson is a founding member of the audio theater company The Audible Group and creator of the audio web series Troublesome Gap. He has won several Helen Hayes Awards and various film festival awards for his work in theater, film and television. He is currently running Sound Lab Studios, a recording studio and post-production house.



Astoria is Randall’s sixth collaboration with Chris Coleman, following Othello, Anna Karenina, Shakespeare’s Amazing Cymbeline, The Imaginary Invalid and Snow Falling on Cedars. He was also the composer and sound designer for Apollo at The Armory, directed by Nancy Keystone. He received a Garland Award and an Ovation Award nomination for Apollo at the Kirk Douglas Theatre. Other productions with Keystone include Ameryka (2016 Ovation nomination), Suzan-Lori Parks’ The America Play (The Theatre @ Boston Court), Antigone (The Armory, Drammy Award), The Ahkmatova Project, Dr. Faustus, The Rover and Measure for Measure. Other recent credits include the music score and sound design for Baby Doll, directed by Jenny Sullivan, and Macbeth, directed by Jonathan Fox, at New Vic Theatre; Hamlet, The Winter’s Tale, the vocal score for David Hare’s version of Mother Courage, and music and sound design for The Glass Menagerie, all directed by Jessica Kubzansky.


Assistant Director

Brandon is a director and producer in Portland, Oregon, and is thrilled to be returning to the world of Astoria! Credits include: A Christmas Memory/Winter Song, Mary’s Wedding and Sex with Strangers (The Armory); Luna Gale (spring, 2018), International Falls and The Few (CoHo Productions); The God Game (self-produced); The End of Sex (Theatre Vertigo); Dial M for Murder (Bag&Baggage Productions). Brandon has worked on multiple shows at The Armory as an assistant director (Astoria: Part One, LIZZIE, The Whipping Man, Red, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and A Christmas Story). He has also collaborated with Michael Curry and Oregon Symphony on Persephone, which will travel to Seattle in the spring, Third Rail Repertory Theatre, Broadway Rose Theatre Company and Live On Stage. Brandon is the associate producer and JAW co-producer at Portland Center Stage at The Armory. Much love to Sean.


Fight Director

John is an actor and fight director who has been choreographing violence for more than 25 years. He is based in Portland, where he choreographs for many local theater companies and teaches throughout the region at colleges, high schools and middle schools. John’s work has been seen regularly on stage at The Armory, Portland Opera, Artists Repertory Theatre, Oregon Children’s Theatre, Miracle Theatre and many others. John’s work has twice been recognized within the Portland theater community for Best Fight Design.


Production Dramaturg

Benjamin Fainstein is the literary manager at The Armory and JAW: A Playwrights Festival. He is currently developing plays for The Armory’s NW Stories series with writers Lauren Yee, Mary Kathryn Nagle, Dan O’Brien and James Beaton. Previous dramaturgy credits include Sarah Sander’s Golden (MIDD Summer Play Lab), Kevin Artigue’s The Forcings (JAW), Meg Miroshnik’s The Tall Girls (Carlotta Festival of New Plays), and Marcus Gardley’s The House That Will Not Stand (Yale Repertory Theatre and Berkeley Repertory Theatre). As a playwright, director and collaborative artist, Benjamin has created numerous original works, including Carnival/Invisible, The Body Politic, Cat Club, Iphigenia Among the Stars, Prototype 373-G and Paradise Sets In. He is a former founding artistic director of Whistler in the Dark Theatre, managing editor of Theater magazine, and artistic coordinator for Yale Repertory Theatre, where he supported the development of over two dozen new plays.


Consulting Dramaturg

Barbara Hort, Ph.D., has maintained a private practice in Portland for over 25 years, working primarily from the psychological perspective developed by the Swiss psychoanalyst Carl Jung. At the invitation of Chris Coleman, Dr. Hort has served as a dramaturg on The Armory productions of Sweeney Todd, Clybourne Park, the 2013 JAW festival, Fiddler on the Roof, Othello, Dreamgirls, Threesome, Three Days of Rain, Ain’t Misbehavin’, A Streetcar Named Desire, Astoria: Part One, Fun Home, and now, Astoria: Part Two, providing material on the psychological dynamics of the play that can be used by the artists who are creating the production.


Stage Manager

Imagine being in a room full of artists, watching the birth of an idea, a movement given purpose, a sentence, phrase, scene, act given life. Then imagine that room translating to the stage with lighting, sound, costumes, scenery and props, then you can imagine what Mark’s job is like. Special thanks to the phenomenal stage management apprentices, Jordan Affeldt and Katie Nguyen, and production assistant, Will Bailey, who help keep the vision attainable. Prior to The Armory, Mark toured nationally and internationally with musicals including Dreamgirls, The King and I with Rudolf Nureyev, How to Succeed …, Grand Hotel, The Phantom of the Opera, Rent and Jersey Boys. Other Portland credits include several summers with Broadway Rose Theatre Company in Tigard. Regional credits include Alley Theatre (Houston, TX), La Jolla Playhouse (La Jolla, CA) and Casa Mañana Theatre (Fort Worth, TX).


Assistant Stage Manager

Kristen is originally from Hawaii and holds a B.F.A. from Southern Oregon University. She is excited to return for her fifth season at The Armory. Previous credits at The Armory include production assistant on Fiddler on the Roof, LIZZIE, Threesome, Three Days of Rain, Forever, Each and Every Thing, A Streetcar Named Desire, Hold These Truths and His Eye is on the Sparrow; stage manager for Constellations; and assistant stage manager for Fun Home. Outside of Portland she has worked at Idaho Repertory Theatre, Actors Theatre of Louisville and Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Kristen is forever grateful to Adam and her family for supporting her dreams.


Production Assistant

Will is excited to be returning as a production assistant at The Armory, where he last worked on Astoria: Part One and The Oregon Trail. Other recent credits include assistant stage manager for Sweeney Todd and The Italian Girl in Algiers with Portland Opera. Will has worked as a production assistant and props master at Artists Repertory Theatre, including production assistant credits for Ithaka, Mistakes Were Made, X-MAS Unplugged, The Monster Builder, The Motherf**ker with the Hat, Intimate Apparel, Exiles, Blithe Spirit and The Invisible Hand. Will has also worked as a production assistant for Profile Theatre, Portland Shakespeare Project, Portland Playhouse and as a stage manager at Milagro.


Production Assistant

Katie Nguyen is a stage manager from Fairfax, Virginia, and a recent graduate of Virginia Tech. While pursuing a degree in business management, she served as a stage manager, festival producer and production manager for Virginia Tech’s School of Performing Arts. She is humbled to be at The Armory as one of two stage management apprentices for the 2017-2018 season. Prior to moving to Portland, she co-founded a non-profit theater collective in Washington, DC (Who What Where Theater) and worked as a summer camp teaching artist for Acting For Young People in Fairfax, Virginia.

Portland Center Stage’s Astoria Part One and Two ticket and schedule information here.

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