We did two Portland activities in August, one to count for that month and one to make up for June. I'm compiling them together due to a lack of photographs, and because they coincidentally involved the same guy. The Shakespeare play was about three weeks prior to the tour; upon arriving for the tour the guide looked familiar, but I could not place him at all, so I figured he just had one of those faces. Near the end, though, I found out Abe had also been trying to place him, and finally realized that he had been in the play!
Original Practice Shakespeare
This theater group performs Shakespearean plays in the manner in which it appears they were originally performed: Rather than spending weeks rehearsing, the performers of that time had to do multiple plays each week, as the live theater would be akin to our movie theater, they had to keep coming up with new showings to keep the audience coming back.
Instead of memorizing and perfecting roles, the actors practice but have scrolls (with their own parts, and cues, not the entire script) to rely on as needed. There's an emcee type role also participating in the performance, outside the story. He gives prompts to the actors as needed, and otherwise keep things moving along.
The actors were very engaging and interacted with the audience (entering/exiting the stage area via the audience area, as well as some audience participation). The emcee gave the occasional prompt but also interrupted with some basically improv scenes related to what was happening in the occasional script.
The setup is low key, with the above-pictured tents being the backdrop (the curtain in between an option for entrances/exits). The audience sat on the grass, bringing blankets and chairs, and many, as we did, brought a picnic dinner.
It was a really entertaining and engaging show (especially for being free! though they passed a basket for donations, definitely worth dropping in something)! I've never enjoyed reading Shakespeare, but as one should probably suspect, I'm finding that performances really do bring the language alive. Writing this post reminded me to go like the group's facebook page so I'll know when they're performing again next summer!
Portland Underground Tour
Though an entertaining and informative tour, to call it an "underground" tour is a bit of a the misnomer. I assume the branding is intended to create some intrigue and keep up with similar tours such as for Seattle where there are extensive underground tunnels.
It is "underground" is the sense of discussing the seedier side of history, and it was all very fascinating. The tour guide (an actor by trade, he was one of the leads in the Shakespeare play) did a great job incorporating history with humor. We went on a Monday, when I took an extra day adjoining a trip, so it was a small group, easy to stick together on though the streets and always hear the conversation.
Spoiler: the tunnels consisted of going into the tour office's basement, and the guide stepping "as far into the tunnel as it's possible to go"... stepping into a nook in the basement that was really a walled off tunnel, maybe 3 feet deep. Not just because of the "tunnels", but in general given the scope and value of the tour, I'd say it's a bit pricey for what it is - $19. I'd say it's worth more like $10, if you found a groupon or something to bring it down I'd recommend it, whether you're local or visiting, but it is a bit much to swallow for its standard tourist price.