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Rent comes to Portland with Anthony Rapp and Adam Pascal

June 24, 2009 1 comment
Rent: The Broadway Tour

Rent: The Broadway Tour

Over the past thirteen years, Rent has transformed from a smash hit Broadway musical into something much bigger. The show, which is based on Giacomo Puccini’s opera La Boheme, tells the story of a group of New York youth struggling with the challenges and grim realities of becoming adults. Rent takes place at the apex of the AIDS crisis when twenty-somethings not only had to worry about what they wanted to be when they grew up, but the constant fear of catching the deadly virus and dying.

Johnathan Larson, who died tragically before the show’s original debut, captures the electricity of this time and combines it with a score that features a number of ensemble pieces that are nothing short of outstanding. When I saw the original production of Rent on Broadway, the performers closely mirrored their characters: they were young and struggling to make a name for themselves. The original show snapped with a spark of energy that is unlike anything else I’ve ever seen on stage.

Flash forward thirteen years to a touring production of Rent staring two of the original performers, Adam Pascal and Anthony Rapp. No longer struggling performers, Rapp and Pascal have become inexorably tied to their roles in Rent. After the show a huge crowd met the two at the stage door with a wave of camera flashes and screams. The two have become something akin to rock stars.

So how do two performers revisit the roles that made them famous thirteen years later? Surprising well. From the opening scene between Mark and Roger you get the sense of excitement and enjoyment. But Rapp and Pascal aren’t trying to recreate their original performances; they both seem to embrace the reality that they come at the piece from a different space. The result of this is intriguing. Anthony Rapp plays Mark with a much sharper edge, a more grounded and mature performance that places Mark at a greater distance from the people around him. Pascal’s change is more subtle and seems to come out in his scenes with Lexi Lawson, who plays Mimi. The duet Light My Candle gets a new life with Roger’s rebukes of Mimi’s advances taking on a different tone. The number between Pascal and Lawson is an absolute highlight of the show and an example of how a show, even thirteen years into its run, can find new life and space.

Adam Pascal and Lexi Lawson

Adam Pascal and Lexi Lawson

A more difficult task perhaps is asked of the newer performers, expected to inhabit iconic roles established by some of theater’s most respected performers. Some of the touring cast does this well, and some do not. Lexi Lawson, who left this season of American Idol to take part in the touring production, does a fantastic job of breathing fresh life into her character of Mimi. Lawson is best in the duets, but the solo Out Tonight seems a bit too big for her. The raw talent is there and Lawson’s chemistry with Adam Pascal is simply fantastic. Another real highlight of the touring company is Haneefah Wood who plays Joanne. Her duet Tango: Maureen is one of my favorite moments of the touring production. It may be blasphemy to say this, and I’m sure I’ll hear from “Rent-heads”, but I actually preferred Haneefah Wood’s interpretation of Joanne to the original production. Wood captures the dichotomy of being a strong and accomplished woman who still lets Maureen wrap her around her finger. I also really enjoyed Nicolette Hart as Maureen. Almost more than any of the other non-original Broadway cast members Hart makes the role her own. She throws out the original performance template of Maureen and finds her own path to the incredibly attractive but ultimately batty character.

I didn’t have the same level of affection for some of the other members of the touring company. Jacques C. Smith’s performance of Benny is by far the weakest as Smith seems lost in the role. This is most apparant in the transition between Christmas Bells and Over The Moon, which is a complete mess, partly attributed to Smith’s performance. I was also disappointed with Michael McElroy’s performance of Tom Collins. During the first act I felt that McElroy’s performance was a little listless and that his vocal range felt limited. He completely shattered these perceptions with I’ll Cover You: Reprise where McElroy pulls out a performance that is fantastic. This made me even more frustrated about his first act work, knowing that he has the goods but wasn’t bringing them until the second act. I felt the same way about Justin Johnson, whose first act performance of Angel was lacking something and whose second act work was again phenomenal.

The rest of the company who fills in the spaces of the show were really strong. The ensemble numbers were best when everyone was standing still, like with Life Support or Seasons of Love, however when the ensemble tried to sing and move the result ended up being a lot more muddled and chaotic as it was with Christmas Bells and La Vie Boheme (which was one of the only corner stone songs of the show that didn’t seem to hit its mark).

Rent in Portland

Rent in Portland

But, I feel silly complaining about some of the minor details of this show. It’s like complaining about the frame on the Mona Lisa. Rent is a masterpiece that resonates as well today as when I first saw it on Broadway. It’s a show whose universal relevance places it firmly as a ‘classic’ that is sure to be played for generations to come. The show exists in a lot of forms, from the less than stellar Christopher Columbus film version to a Reunion Broadway performance on Blu-Ray and DVD. Nothing can compare to seeing Rent live. It’s an absolute gift to have Adam Pascal and Anthony Rapp reprise their original roles and the supporting touring company is well above the quality of most touring companies. I’d even go as far to say that Rent “The Broadway Tour” is the best touring company I’ve seen perform in Portland.

If you’ve never seen Rent, you owe it to yourself to see this show live. I doubt we’ll see Rapp and Pascal in these roles again, so there probably won’t be a better version of this show out there than this. If you love Rent, I’m happy to report that this production does the show justice, and odds are you already have tickets.

Rent runs at the Keller Auditorium through June 28th. $20 day of show tickets are available. Also of note is that the Portland Opera is opening their 2009-2010 season with Puccini’s opera La Boheme in September, so this is a rare opportunity to see Rent and La Boheme within months of each other, something that will enrich the experience of seeing both.

For more information on Rent at The Keller:

Categories: Theater Tags: ,

Rumble at The Roseland 44 MMA Action in Portland

June 14, 2009 7 comments
Rumble at The Roseland 44 MMA

Rumble at The Roseland 44 MMA

Rumble at The Roseland 44 may have been the most consistently entertaining night of MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) action I’ve seen. With sixteen action packed fights, the evening was never dull and it moved along at a terrific pace. The evening saw its share of upsets and victories. Female fighter Jody De Simone (who we interviewed here prior to the fight) was defeated by new comer Jana Piper and Chris Nelson was rocked by a Jay Shaffer in an outstanding prize fight upset. But it was Jake Morris who delivered most solidly to expectations in one of the most dynamic and entertaining fights of the night.

Here’s a rundown of the bouts at Rumble at The Roseland and my thoughts on them.

Jay Pense v. Jeff Yost – when you think of the words “amateur MMA” a fight like this probably comes to mind. Two relatively inexperienced fighters wildly hitting, kicking and grappling, neither with any finesse or strategy. The bout ends 2 mins and 12 seconds in the second round with Jeff Yost catching Jay Pense in a triangle. In all the worst fight of the evening.

Ron Lane v. John Garcia – a solid fight with two fairly evenly matched fighters. Garcia goes for arm bar after arm bar attempt against Lane but never can quite lock it in. The fight goes a full three rounds with Garcia putting the exclamation point towards the end with a dominating finish that earns him the decision.

Jester Arnold Vs. Shane Smith – the fight explodes out of the gate with a fast an furious folly of punishes. Smith dominates once the fight moves to the ground and brings the fight to a climatic finish 1 minute and 12 seconds into the fight via rear naked choke. It’s a short fight but Smith showed a ton of promise in this match.

Sean Murphy v. Greg Shelby – Murphy came to weigh in dressed in a suit and tie as he had just come from his college graduation ceremony. He wasn’t going to let the day’s glory end there as he had an extremely solid showing and got Murphy with a nice choke. After the bout he brought his wife on stage and exclaimed “This is why I fight!”

Brandon Pitts v. David Lloyd – Pitts looked like he was in amazing shape facing the much huskier Lloyd but he struggled with dominance through out the fight. A strong arm bar attempt in the first round leads to Lloyd’s escape and then Lloyd came back strong and won by an early second round tap out by choke (1min 14 seconds in the second round).

Blake Brown V. Sean Miller – Miller had huge fan support, the crowd at the Roseland was so loud when he made his entrance it was deafening. The first round was pretty even with both fighters giving as good as they got. Punches, kicks and take-downs are evenly exchanged until 2 minutes and 59 1/2 seconds when Miller delivers and explosive knock out. Brown hits the canvas, lights out as the horn sounds. A dramatic finish to a great fight. Sean Miller moves to 3-0 and shows he’s a fighter to watch.

Jeremy Disbrow vs. Luke Shepard – Disbrow came in the ring covered in sweat, he jumped, leaped and beat his chest. In contrast Luke Shepard came in cool, calm and collect and quickly dispatched him with an early round arm bar. Shepard’s cool composure and the way he dispatched Shepard makes him a fighter to watch.

Dylan Loriaux v Brian Cook – Dillian grabbed and choked Cook early and then hung on and rode ‘the bull’ for 38 seconds until Cook tapped out.

Lincoln Joe v. Joe Kyle Werner – a great example of contrasts, two extremely looking and fighting fighters who delivered an entertaining fight. The first round Werner delivers a ton of punishment to Lincoln who keeps on fighting. The second round has two stoppages for Lincoln delving knees on the ground to Werner (something that’s permitted in the league he usually fights in), but the stops don’t stop Lincoln who delivers a punishing ground and pound to finish the fight.

Jody De Simone (photo Rich Kadwell, Kadwell Brothers Xtreme Sports Photography)

Jody De Simone (photo Rich Kadwell, Kadwell Brothers Xtreme Sports Photography)

Janna Piper v. Jody De Simone – high expectations met this match-up of the female MMA fighters and the two fighters seemed to realize that. The first round showed some strong exchanges from both sides and tough responses showing the each fighter could take a beating. The fight moves to the second round with Janna topping Jody and then nearly choking her out. Jody recovers and seems to have Janna on the run when Janna delivers some power blows. The fight is stopped after the second round (between the 2nd and 3rd round) because De Simone had issues seeing out of her left eye.

Here’s the video of the Janna Piper v. Jody De Simone Fight:

Eric Hurt v. Jeremy Morse – a solid fight with Morse dominating most of the first round from the top. The bout ends in round two when Hurt delivered a monster knee to win the fight.

Nick Huff v. Brandon “Buzz” Alderman – an interesting match-up that pitted a new fighter (Huff) against a veteran (Alderman). The fight is packed with a ton of action as each fighter exchanges a volley of punches and kicks, each fighter nearly missing with some huge shots. Round two has some explosive action when Huff unloads on Alderman, but Alderman shows he can take it and then Huff gasses out. The fight is stopped between Round 2 and 3 as Huff is too exhausted to finish the fight.

Darrin Starks v. Kevin Fox – Fox is a monster in this fight and it seems like Starks can handle the punishment, but as the round keeps going the punishment gets more and more brutal until Fox knocks Starks out cold. It takes a while for Starks to get up and recover from such a resounding pounding from Fox.

Everett Walker v. Mario Rossi – a fight filled with tons of action and turns of dominance. Rossi seems to have Walker on the ropes more in a close first round. The second round has Walker dominating with a choke hold that seems like it’ll end the fight, but Rossi survives and Walker seems worse for the wear after expending so much energy on the choke. The fight is stopped due to a vanishing mouthgaurd and Rossi gets a point deducted for losing the guard. The third round is filled with exchanges with Rossi pushing the tempo and controlling more of the fight than Walker. Even with the point deduction Rossi takes the fight by decision.

Jake Morris (photo Rich Kadwell, Kadwell Brothers Xtreme Sports Photography)

Jake Morris (photo Rich Kadwell, Kadwell Brothers Xtreme Sports Photography)

Lance Ford v. Jake Morris – one of the most anticipated fights of the night, Jake Morris continues to prove he’s the ‘real deal’. At just a few months past eighteen, Morris shows he’s got the explosive power to handle anyone that he’s matched up with. Ford gives Morris a fight with a few big lead changes in the first round but it all comes to a dramatic end with a monster choke hold that knocks Ford out. Like a pro wrestler Morris dances around the ring celebrating, and with just cause, he’s on a road that leads to higher places in the MMA world.

Here’s the video from the Lance Ford v. Jake Morris fight:

Chris Nelson v. Jay Shaffer – the 205lb Superfight bout was one of the highlights of the evening. Shaffer who is 40 looked in great shape against Nelson who seemed like the favorite from the start. Nelson snagged Shaffer in a long deep choke early in the first round but Shaffer kept his cool, used his legs and body and escaped the choke. After the escape Shaffer made Nelson pay for the choke with some thunderous punches. Round two found Shaffer executing a pitch perfect strategy. Literally every move he made was spot on, all of it leading to a thunderous knockout that bloodied Nelson’s face. Shaffer showed he was the better fighter with his patience, tact and precision, beating a guy much younger than him.

Jay Shaffer's Knock Out Punch (photo Rich Kadwell, Kadwell Brothers Xtreme Sports Photography)

Jay Shaffer's Knock Out Punch (photo Rich Kadwell, Kadwell Brothers Xtreme Sports Photography)

Sixteen action packed MMA fights filled an evening that delivered an extremely strong bang for the buck. The only downside of Rumble at The Roseland is that it seems to rely too heavily on the people who know the fighters to turn out. This is great in terms of crowd reaction but the downside is people who love MMA in Portland may not be all that aware that such fantastic fights are going on in this town. With promising fighters, some of which will find their way to professional careers I’d expect Rumble to seek out more press and coverage for their fights. I was shocked to find that I was one of the only reporters allowed in to the fights this time around and hope Rumble will connect with more press to get the word out on this fantastic event.

If you’re a fan of MMA and haven’t checked out Rumble at The Roseland, you owe it to yourself to check it out. The July 25th fights will feature a Jake Morris’s first shot at a title and for that reason alone it’ll be worth the price of admission.

For more information about  Rumble at The Roseland:

Categories: MMA Tags: ,

Choffy – A Coffee Alternative Made From Chocolate

June 12, 2009 No comments
Choffy Ivory Coast Cacao - Medium Roast

Choffy Ivory Coast Cacao - Medium Roast

One of my great frustrations is the fact that my body just doesn’t tolerate coffee very well. I love the taste, texture and aroma of coffee but it trashes my digestional system, wires me out and gives me massive headaches when I get hooked on it.

Portland is one of the worst places in the country not to be drinking coffee.  My salvation has been tea. Between the numerous tea houses in Portland and my time with Heaven’s Tea I’ve been able to help fill the coffee void.

In addition to tea I’ve also enjoyed drinking chocolates (which is really hot cocoa for adults) and Chai (which I think could be put in its own class of deliciousness).

Then I discovered Choffy, a unique coffee substitute which uses roasted and ground cacao beans to brew a very coffee-like drink.

I think it’s important to be clear right off the bat that Choffy isn’t coffee. It doesn’t contain coffee, doesn’t have the same aroma or taste and wouldn’t win a blind taste test against some of Portland’s finest.

The Ground Choffy

The Ground Choffy

Choffy is, however, one of the single best coffee alternatives I’ve ever tried.  Rich and slightly bitter, Choffy embodies some of the very same elements of roasted goodness that are characteristic of coffee, and what it’s missing, it fills in with dark sweet chocolate notes that make it akin to drinking a drip version of a mocha than anything else.

Unlike drinking chocolate where you’re consuming the chocolate itself, Choffy is brewed like coffee so you only consume the essence of the beans. This cuts way down on the caloric weight of the resulting cup.

There’s some semantical debate around the caffeine content in chocolate. While chocolate doesn’t have caffeine it does contain theobromine which is also a stimulant. So you do get a boost from drinking Choffy, but it isn’t the same as from coffee.

I noticed a nice smooth and easy increase in energy and awareness and an even tapering off of that ‘boost’ within an hour or so.  I didn’t find Choffy to be physically addictive like I do coffee and I didn’t get any headaches from it.

Brewing Choffy

Brewing Choffy

Choffy may not be physically addicitve, but it is extremely tasty!  All my tests with Choffy were with the same drip coffee maker my wife uses to prepare her cup of joe.

Choffy is sold in 12oz bags of grounds. You use approximately 4 tablespoons per 12 oz cup. The down side of this is that it is VERY easy to blow through an entire bag of Choffy in a week and priced at $15.00 per 12 oz bag it is considerably more expensive than coffee.

That being said, the resulting drink is worth the expense. I tried Choffy several ways  – straight up, with soy creamer and agave, over ice and blended with ice, creamer and sweetener in the blender.  Choffy held up extremely well in each scenario, producing an extremely drinkable and tasty cup.

Choffy is sold in three varieties including: Ecuadorian, Nicaragua, and Ivory Coast. I tested the Ivory Coast and look forward to comparing it to the other varieties.

Based out of Vancouver, Washington, Choffy is using Portland as one of its key launch pad markets. Orders from the Choffy website are shipped locally by co-founder Jason Sherwood and Choffy can be purchased locally from Food Front Coop.

Be sure to read our interview with Choffy’s Co-Founder.

The Final Result of Choffy

The Final Result of Choffy

For more information on Choffy:
Categories: Food Tags:

Choffy Interview

Portland is one of the major launch pad markets for Choffy, a new coffee alternative made from roasted cacao beans. I sat down with the co-founder Jason Sherwood to find out what exactly Choffy is and how Portland fits into its equation.

How did Choffy get its start? (and what’s your role in the company)

Our company started based off of a dream and a passion to help people live healthier lives. We started in a kitchen in Henderson, NV, roasting on cookie sheets and grinding in small food processors. We eventually graduated to roasting Choffy on our bar-b-ques (even after the fateful day when the shed burned down), and now using industrial roasters and a custom grinder we developed.

I am the co-founder and Executive Creative Director of Choffy. Since we are small, we all wear a lot of hats, but my primary responsibility is our brand, marketing, and support to our distributor services.

Choffy GroundWhat exactly is in Choffy and what are the different varieties?

Choffy is Brewed Chocolate or in other words, it is 100% Cacao, that is roasted and then ground.  It is a product that brews like coffee in all of it’s different formats, but provides a new and unique flavor. We currently have two varieties. We work directly with growers in Ecuador, and the Ivory Coast. Our Ecuadorian Choffy is the most Chocolaty and according to some the lightest. Ivory Coast has a deep cocoa flavor with a hint of earthiness. We are always working on new varieties from other single cacão estates around the world, and showcase them at various times of the year.

How does Choffy differ from ‘Hot Chocolate”?

Most notably Choffy is not an instant drink like hot chocolate. We use a minimally invasive processes during production to ensure that our customers are drinking the purest form of brewed cacao.  As a result Choffy retains a lot more of the compounds that are naturally occurring in cacao. The roasting and brewing process is what gives Choffy its distinct robust flavor. Since Choffy does not contain any sugar or instant creme like most hot chocolates. Though like coffee, many people add things (like creamers) to their Choffy to give it their own personalized taste.

So I’m drinking chocolate, how many calories is in it?

Remember, your are drinking only the very essence of what chocolate is made from, so you are going to have a drink that is extremely low in calories. There are only 20 calories in 8 oz. of brewed Choffy. 0 sugar, 0 fat, and 3 grams of carbs.

What’s been the biggest challenge so far for Choffy?

I think that the biggest challenge as been launching a company in this tough economy.  People are worried about money. They are not buying as much as they once were, and that has made it a little more difficult than we originally anticipated. Choffy is a unique product. It has its very own properties. No caffeine like coffee, but no sugar and fat like traditional chocolate. People are often interested in how it tastes. Once people try Choffy, they realize that this is a great tasting product with great health benefits, and we hope we have gained another fan.

Is Choffy based in Portland?

Although we started in a little kitchen in Henderson, NV, we quickly realized that the northwest and more specifically Portland was the place to be.  We love being in the Portland area, and the opportunities that it brings to share this product with others. Technically our location is in Vancouver, WA. But we consider ourselves a part of the larger Portland community. It is a community that  loves brewed drinks, they care about healthy, organic foods, and want to make the world a little better each day.

How does Choffy compare to coffee?

Well, It does brew like coffee, and some might say that the taste is somewhat similar, but that is about as far as it goes.  Choffy tends to be less bitter than coffee and the flavor profiles are different. The health benefits are quite different as well.

Is there anything in Coffee that’s bad for people?  Is there anything in Choffy that’s good for them?

If you are asking if coffee is bad for you, I would say that is a sticky question for people in the Northwest, but actually yes, there are elements of coffee that are bad for the body. Caffeine is one of those elements.

On the positive Choffy is packed with a different stimulant that is good for the body.  It is called Theobromine.  It affects the body by opening the vascular system up and helping to produce an increase in blood flow and help the heart work more efficiently. Choffy is also packed with antioxidants. Cacão has more antioxidants in it per volume than any other food on the planet. One 8 oz. cup of Choffy has more antioxidants in it than 2 full servings of blueberries. Choffy acts as a super-detoxifier, helping your body rid itself of the toxins that tax your system

Choffy also naturally contains some essential minerals that help promote good health:

Magnesium: Cacão appears to be the best source of magnesium of any food. Magnesium is one of the great alkaline minerals, helping to support the heart, brain, and digestive system.  In addition, Magnesium balances brain chemistry and builds strong bones.

Iron: Cacão contains a significant amount of iron per serving. Iron, a critical mineral in nutrition, is part of the oxygen carrying protein called hemoglobin that keeps our blood healthy.

Are any coffee shops in Portland serving Choffy?

No coffee shops here in Portland yet, though many have shown interest. We have some in other states. We hope many other locations will do the same.

Where can you buy Choffy Now?

We have a number of individual distributors here in Portland. They are a great resource for Choffy. Choffy can also be purchased online at drinkchoffy.com. We are happy to say that Food Front Co-op grocery has just started selling Choffy in their grocery store.

What’s next for Choffy?

We hope to continue to grow. We hope to be able to share Choffy with more people. We hope to continue to add distributors to our family, and hope that many other locations will be interested carrying Choffy. We don’t believe that Choffy will cure cancer, or that you will suddenly gain 78% more effectiveness in your day, but we firmly stand by fact that Choffy is truly good for you. It is the reason we built this company, “to champion healthy living and wellness in body, mind and spirit for people everywhere.”

Be sure to check out our Choffy Taste Test.
For more information on Choffy:
Categories: Food Tags: , , ,

Interview with MMA Fighter Jody De Simone

June 10, 2009 14 comments
Jodie De Simone

Jody De Simone

Rumble at The Roseland is one of the top, most consistently entertaining Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) events in Portland. Every month a packed crowd is treated to a full evening of fights (typically 13-15 bouts). Fighters come in at a wide range of experience levels and fighting styles.

One of the great strengths of Rumble at The Roseland is that it’s become a showcase for some of the most young and promising fighters in the area. It gives Portlanders a unique opportunity to see some of the future UFC, WEC or Strikeforce fighters up close and personal as they begin to make their name in the sport.

Jody De Simone is one of these bright and talented fighters on the rise. Her debut in December was an explosive fight that left a strong impression on the crowd and snagged her a cover on the Willamette Week.   De Simone returns to the ring on Saturday June 13th 7pm at The Roseland Theater for Rumble at The Roseland 44.  Expectations are high and her opponent Jana Piper is a tough one.

On Portland interviewed Jody as she prepared for this important fight:

How did you first get started in MMA?

I wanted to fight a long time ago. I was offered a sponsorship for underground fighting years ago but it was too dangerous. Back then they fought until someone got knocked out. The cage fighting that is going on now is much safer. I have been interested in martial arts for a long time. I have pictures at age seven in a ninja outfit. I was using nun-chucks by age eight, I competed with them by age 12. My brother Daryl was the one that brought martial arts into my life. Daryl got a ninja outfit so I had to have one. Daryl used the nun-chucks so I had to learn them. Daryl could use throwing stars and blow dart guns so I had to learn how to. I had to be like him for some reason… he’s still my hero.

How did you select the gym that you fight with and what kind of impact does a gym have on how you train and how you fight?

It’s funny that you ask this question. Two months ago I wouldn’t have had an answer but now I do.I was a member at G.I.RL.S Gym for about six months. I found an add on Craigslist for an all girls gym and contacted Sarah Oriza the coach/owner of the gym. The reason I selected this gym was because Sarah offered me free lessons if I would fight for her. I also did all the marketing, brand identity including the logo and made rash guards (t-shirts) for them. I hate taking something for nothing so I felt like I had to do something in return that’s why I did the marketing.

Long story short Sarah and I were two completely different people with way different communication styles and Sarah did some things on her end that were extremely unprofessional so I left G.I.R.L.S Gym (the same week that four other girls left) and went over to Rise Above MMA. I have had to unlearn a ton of bad techniques that I was taught. I have never had such a great coach as I do now! Ron at Rise Above MMA is incredible he has a very unique teaching style. Ron is able to communicate in multiple styles and teach in a way that leaves everyone in the gym understanding what he’s doing. If I had done anything different I would have attending multiple gyms before selecting one. If I had done that I would have never picked G.I.R.L.S Gym.

What’s been your biggest challenge as a fighter to date?

Well I have had to learn that a lot of people don’t understand the fighter lifestyle. I lost a relationship because I was spending a ton of time training. No one seems to understand the not drinking or strict eating lifestyle. My friends complain they don’t see me often enough. So my biggest issue is just finding people who understand or support this lifestyle.

photo David Lawrence

photo David Lawrence

How was the experience of your first fight. Walk us through the thoughts and emotions.

Well my right shoulder was hurt and I knew I only had ONE good take down in me, I was nervous about it hurting. I got to weigh-ins and when I got my vitals taken the guy kept commenting on how calm I was for a first time fighter. I always get calm when I should be all amped up… it’s strange. I spent the next hour staring across the room at Janna Piper thinking she was Christa Shaffer. I had no idea what Christa looked like so I just assumed Janna was Christa. I mentally prepared myself to fight Janna and then they called Christa’s name for wheigh-ins and she wasn’t in the room. I was so confused for a second and then after another half hour Christa came in and it took me a second to readjust my thoughts. Then I digested the fact that Christa was a giant and went home to eat some fish and vegetables!

I was calm most of the day then got back to the Roseland for the fight. I didn’t really warm up or anything I just sat downstairs and watched everyone prepare. My coach didn’t bring any pads or anything for me to warm up with. The hardest part was that is was my first fight so I never knew what to expect next.

When they called my name I had a moment of terror and then it passed. I heard my music playing and my heart started to race. I kept feeling like I had to go the bathroom which must be a nervous thing? Then the moment I had spent so much time being scared about… the cage door closing! I was so nervous of being locked in the cage?

photo: David Lawrence

photo: David Lawrence

The fight started and Christa circled me a bit then threw her first punch it was in slow motion in my mind. I remember thinking throw another one because I’m taking you down. Then she threw the second punch and I took her down and landed in mount. I started punching and she slowly turned (everything was in slow motion in my head). All of a sudden I though she’s giving me her back it’s OVER! The next moment I remember was reminding myself to get my hooks in then the ref was telling me to let go and it was over. I started jumping up and down and then realized she might be hurt so I was concerned. She got up and it was all over.

The best moment was when I went downstairs and no one was around Christa came up and genuinely told me good fight. It was at that moment the I realized I wanted to be like her… a good sport no matter what happens in the ring. Christa left me with something… a good example it was really motivating.

There are still naysayers (like Matt Lindland) who aren’t convinced that women’s MMA is equal to the level of Men’s MMA.  What do you say to those critics?

Keep watching me!

Do you notice that compared to a male MMA fighter that you have to do things differently because you are a woman, In terms of eating, training, making weight, etc?

The only difference is the monthly friend. When a girl is on her period she can gain five pounds overnight. Gaining weight like that can make weigh-ins kind of tough. Other than that the hardest part is just being taken seriously. Sometimes guys go really easy and I have to say hit me harder. I have a great team around me so I don’t have to deal with most of this stuff.

Jody De Simone in Action

Jody De Simone in Action

When you take a bruising after a hard workout or fight, how do you pull yourself together the next day and not look like you were in a brawl?

I don’t mind looking like I’m in a brawl. I put my Tussle Fight Gear shirt on… the one that says “I’m not abused I’m an MMA fighter” and I go out feeling proud of myself. As far as the pain I have a great masseuse and fantastic chiropractor. My doctor is amazing too! Like I said I have a great team around me.

What advice would you give to other women who are thinking of possibly fighting in MMA?

I would tell them it’s a HUGE time commitment if you want to fight and win. It takes a ton of time and sacrifice. I don’t really go out anymore. I’m in bed on Friday and Saturday nights getting ready for the next days workouts. If you have a family make sure that they are willing to support the neglect that they are going to receive. In order to be good you have to be selfish with your time. If you’re not working out you’re usually tired or sore so you’re not 100% for anyone else. I would say get a good strong team around you… you’ll need the support.

You do a tremendous amount as a semi-pro fighter to promote yourself, you’re on Twitter, Facebook and do meet ups.  What impact has this had on you and your career?

I have met a ton of people who support me and that is an absolute necessity. My fans keep me motivated when my mind is fighting with me. My fight has been the biggest promoter of my career. So long as I point people to my fight I seem to get a positive response. It is so important to do self promotion because women are easily overlooked in MMA. Promotion has really helped me establish myself as a serious female MMA fighter. It has also gotten me a lot of sponsorships! I met the most amazing man through this, he owns Tussle Fight Gear and he and his wife have supported me immensely.

After Saturday’s fight at Rumble at The Roseland, what are your plans professionally?  What’s the career path for a female fighter?

I want to go pro in the next year. I will fight four to six more fights and then when my coach Ron gives me the go ahead I’ll go pro! The career path isn’t set in stone for a female MMA fighter. The possibilities are TV shows and an established name in female MMA. I would love to coach at some point as well! I teach fitness boxing at LA Boxing in Hillsboro on Mondays and Fridays so coaching isn’t that far fetched.

What’s you favorite thing about fighting in MMA?

Punching people in the face and the physical challenges I get to face on a daily basis.

Rumble at The Roseland 44 is on Saturday June 13th 7pm at The Roseland Theater. Tickets can be purchased at TicketsWest.com.

For more information about Jody De Simone and Rumble at The Roseland:

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SoupCycle – Local Organic Soups Delivered

Jed Unloads The Soup

Jed Unloads The Soup

I’ve seen a ton of great business ideas come and go.  Some of them were ahead of their time, others were great ideas poorly executed. Most often though, great ideas go down in burning flames because people aren’t patient enough to let their ideas blossom and grow. They want to get from small to huge in a blink of an eye.

SoupCycle is a fantastic example of a great business, based on a fantastic idea that is getting the time and space it needs to really grow. The entire SoupCycle company is comprised of just three people. (Pretty mind blowing when you hear other local start ups like Forkfly have 16 employees!) Owners Jed and Shauna handle every aspect of the business from soup to nuts (quite literally) with some help from one other part time delivery person. The impact of this is a business whose owners are extremely in touch with the actual business and its customers. For example, as part of SoupCycle’s regular weekly email to their customers,  there is a request for feedback on each week’s soup. SoupCycle makes changes to their line-up based directly on that feedback.

SoupCyle - Soup Salad and Bread

SoupCyle - Soup Salad and Bread

The SoupCycle service is a pretty simple concept.  Every week SoupCycle delivers a container of soup, a box of salad and some bread. If you’ve got a bigger family they deliver two containers of soup, and two boxes of salad.  One of the things that sets them apart from other food delivery options is that they deliver this soup entirely by bicycle.  SoupCycle ‘s soup selections are entirely based on ‘what’s in season locally’ and their bread is baked at a small local bakery (Little T American Baker).

For my first SoupCycle delivery I was greeted by owner Jed Lazar and handed two quarts of Potato Kale soup (the vegan option) along with four big slices of french baguette and two boxes of salad.  Jed rides a recumbent bike with an electric assist. By the time he delivered our soup he had already clocked an impressive sixteen miles.

The soup is delivered cold and SoupCycle recommends you put out a cooler if you expect to be away for more than three hours during their delivery days. Many people get the soup delivered to their office so they can take it home from there.

SoupCycle's Amazing Soup

SoupCycle's Amazing Soup

The evening of our first delivery we heated up the Potato Kale soup and had dinner in moments.  The two quarts of soup easily fed my family of five (two adults and three children) with about one serving of soup left for leftovers. The Potato Kale soup was delicious, well spiced, perfectly cooked and brimming with flavor.

I had heard a lot about SoupCycle’s salad dressing (which is also impressively vegan) and so was eager to see if it lived up to the hype. It does. The salad is a nice mix of fresh greens, shredded carrot and cranberries but elevates to something entirely amazing with the dressing. With SoupCycle’s soup being so good it’s hard to say that you should try their service out just for the salad dressing, but it is THAT good.  The bread from Little T was soft and flavorful and I recommend you try dipping it in the dressing!

SoupCycle offers three different options for their soups: vegan, vegetarian and an option with meat.  Jed indicated that their most popular selection is vegetarian even among people who eat meat.

Here’s an example of two weeks of their selections:

The Cumin Chihuahua (vegan)
A flavorful cumin-infused tortilla and corn soup.

Cream of Spinach (veggie)
Your mouth will approve of this tasty soup that’s full of nutrients. Made with coconut milk.

Chicken Noodle (meaty)
One of the best chicken noodle soups you’ll ever taste. Savory chicken, wide noodles, plenty of celery and carrots and just the right spice.

French Lentil (vegan)
Hearty lentil soup with flavorful vegetables, the distinctive taste of red wine vinegar and a touch of Dijon mustard.

Who Framed Ginger Rabbit (veggie)
Sweet and savory carrot soup with a strong punch of ginger.

Clam Chowda’ (meaty)
A creamy clam chowder so tasty you’ll think you’re dining in New England.

To order SoupCycle, you sign up for a SoupScription on SoupCycle’s site which sets you up for a weekly delivery of the soup style of your choice.  SoupCycle bills you the Wednesday of your delivery and you can make changes to the following week’s delivery (vacation hold, adding or dropping your level of soup or going a la cart without salad and bread) by Friday at midnight.  SoupCycle soupscriptions start at  $18 for 1 quart of soup + bread and salad (which serves 2 people) and goes all the way up to dinner for 6.

The soup, salad and bread for 4 at $30 ended up feeding 5 of us for a net cost of $6 per person for fresh, local and organic soup delivered.  A pretty affordable option for such a tasty meal.

I knew I liked the concept of SoupCycle but I’m frankly surprised by just how much I enjoyed the whole SoupCycle experience.  It’s refreshing to deal with a company so committed to its customers with such a high quality product.  SoupCycle’s soups are just plain fantastic and when you combine that with their truly exceptional salad dressing you’ve got a combination that just can’t lose. I highly recommend SoupCycle!

For more information on SoupCycle:

Tea and Poetry in Portland

Heavens Tea Teahouse

Heavens Tea Tea House

Portland is home to some truly special places. Things happen in this town that simply don’t happen anywhere else. One example of this is Heaven’s Tea, run by “Tea Monk”  Paul Rosenberg (he’s actually a Tea Master but far too modest to say so). Located at the base of Mt. Tabor, Heaven’s Tea  holds tea ceremonies in both an outdoor tea house as well as an attic tea space.  Each location could easily be classified as a “sacred space”, adorned with ancient Tibetan art with design and construction work by some of Portland’s most talented artisans. Tea ceremonies are often accompanied by fresh cut flowers and local chocolates creating a truly remarkable environment.

As majestic as the setting is, the tea ceremonies would be nothing without Paul Rosenberg, one of the foremost practitioners of the art of tea on the west coast.  From 30 year Pu-erh to Phoenix Tea from 400 year old tea trees, you never know what Paul will pull out and serve at one of his tea sessions. Paul is a tea maestro and he brews and serves rare teas you simply can’t purchase anywhere else.

The rare teas served at Heaven’s Tea have very a deep and profound impact on your state of being. If you’ve ever practiced yoga and felt yourself drift into another ‘space’, you’ll start to get an idea of what drinking tea with Paul is all about. If your image of tea involves ripping open a tea bag and plunging it into a cup of water, or a brightly colored iced bubble tea that you slurp through a fat straw, prepare to have your mind blown.

Heaven’s Tea has a wide range of events every month, from tea classes to tastings, tea and meditation, and even private one-on-one tea sessions. This week I attended an evening event called “New Moon Tea and Poetry”.  Sitting in the outdoor tea house with five other people, we sampled a wide range of rare teas, sipped sake, read and wrote poetry. Although I am a writer I tend to be a little shy when it comes to writing poetry, but the evening was so inspiring that the words just flowed.

Take a deep breath
While you may not see the road ahead, it is there
You cannot control the direction of a river
Neither can the rain
So breathe my friend
The journey is long  and you have just begun.

Heaven’s Tea offers a unique experience in both tea and getting in touch with the sacred spaces within all of us. Paul’s work is absolutely not denominational in any way and he tailors each session to the people in attendance. One thing is absolutely guaranteed: you’ll never forget the experience.

For more information about Heaven’s Tea:

More Info on Tea in Portland:

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SoupCycle Interview

Soupcycle Delivers

Soupcycle Delivers

One of the things I love about Portland is the way people follow their passion. Portland isn’t just a town of great ideas, it’s a place where people put their ideas into motion. One such great idea is SoupCycle which serves fresh, organic and locally made soups by bicycle.  I was so intruged by this business I decided to talk to one of the companies founders Jed Lazar about SoupCycle (a full review of the service with pics will come soon).

How did you get the idea for Soup Cycle?
We heard about someone in Texas who tried to deliver soup by bicycle. He made it work for a while, but eventually switched to delivering by truck. To Shauna and I – this was the perfect challenge. We knew it could be done and wanted to prove that bicycles are a feasible form of cargo transportation within cities.

Why Soup?
Because it’s perfect! There are great, tasty soups for every season of the year that use local vegetables.

Why Portland? Does SoupCycle fit Portland better than other cities?
Definitely. This city values healthy foods and healthy lifestyles. We all want to eat scrumptious foods that are good for us, but who has time to put together healthy meals every day? SoupCycle is a Soupscription- it’s one healthy meal a week that our customers don’t have to worry about. Plus, the city’s bicycle network makes bicycle-delivery possible.

How does the expense of a Soupscription compare to other dinner options people can order?
A Soupscription is almost always less than going out to a restaurant, and a lot of times it’s less than cooking for yourself. When you make a recipe at home you typically have to buy a lot of new ingredients. If you’re like me, you go to the store to shop for dinner and end up spending way more than you meant to. Our soups are $9 for two full servings, or $18 for soup, rustic bread and fresh salad for two people. And that’s for organic foods made with local ingredients and delivered by bicycle to you! It doesn’t get better than that. Our prices are low because we don’t rent an expensive retail space. We just do deliveries, and that keeps our costs down.

How far in advance do you determine what soups you are going to make?
Two weeks in advance.

Do your customers ever submit soup recipes?
They do! I’ve got a great recipe for hearty chicken and potato soup I’ve been meaning to make that a customer sent me recently.

What’s your favorite soup? Why?
My favorite soup is The Democratic Republic of Peanut Chicken. It’s an African peanut chicken stew that’s hearty beyond belief and full of tasty goodness.

What’s been the biggest challenge for SoupCycle so far?
We’ve been working for a while on a project to switch the containers we use. Right now, we’re using recyclable plastic containers, but we’d really like to be using more durable containers that we can reclaim from customers each week, wash and reuse. We’ve had some difficulty finding a good solution that meets all our needs, but we haven’t given up yet.

Has there been a moment that’s made you feel that all the hard work is all completely worth it?
Honestly, I feel like that most of the time. This is a great city to own a small business. People bike by us on the Hawthorne Bridge and tell us they like what we’re doing. Our customers love the soups, and it makes my day when I get an emails like the one I got last week: “We love the soup! My family always looks forward to Tuesdays”. A few weeks ago made our 3,000th bicycle-soup delivery and we feel really good about that. Yep, it’s a lot of work to own a small business, but there have been plenty of rewards.

Right now you deliver Soup, Salad and Bread. Any plans to deliver other kinds of products along with the soup?
We may eventually. We love to hear recommendations from your readers.

Where do you get your ingredients from?
We get most of our ingredients from Ladybug through Organically Grown Company.

How many people do you currently have delivering soup?
Just myself and our delivery Souper Hero Jen.

What kind of bikes do you use?
I’ve got a recumbent with an electrical assist.   Jen uses a regular upright bicycle.

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SoupCycle delivers locally made organic soups on a weekly basis starting at $18 (including fresh bread and salad). They offer vegan, vegetarian and meated options all delivered by bike!

More info on SoupCycle:

Live Blog From Portland Opera's Opening Night of Rigoletto

Rigoletto at The Portland Opera

Rigoletto at The Portland Opera

The only thing worst than a theater critic is a theater blogger. Good criticism is well thought out, reasoned and considered. I have mere moments to jot my thoughts about a production which dozens of people have toiled weeks and even months on.

Given that caveat, I can only really give my first impressions of Portland Opera‘s production of Rigoletto. Performance wise Mark Rucker is putting forward a very strong performance as Rigoletto pretty much eclipsing Richard Troxell, but both men are clearly upstaged by the sheer vocal beauty and presence of Sarah Coburn as Gilda, Rigoletto’s daughter.  Coburn elevates ever scene she is in. For me the high point so far has been the duet between Gilda and Rigoletto.

I’ve had a few issues so far with the Portland Opera’s production of Rigoletto. The stage is murky and dimly lit. I understand what they are going for, but it doesn’t work. The dim stage seems to mute some of the performers on stage and in the second part of the first act after the opening number the chorus never quite is able to break out of the shadows.

The stage is also an issue. There was a huge pause between the first and second scene. Long at the point of being too long.  After touring the huge stage I can understand the issues they have with it. Hopefully the transition will go smoother the next performance.

But the Opera itself is enjoyable. I kept thinking about how Rigoletto gets cursed at work in the course of doing his job, how the issues of his work follow his home and impact his home life. Somehow this feels oddly timely. Should Rigoletto be punished for doing his job as a court jester? He’s hates the fact that he has to ridicule for a living and yet at the behest of the Duke he is forced to do it. Punished for a job he doesn’t want to do…But as a fool Rigoletto seems to be pretty sharp. Compare him to the fool in Hamlet and realize that Rigoletto is in fact a reluctant fool.

Perhaps Rigoletto is more the fool for thinking he can imprison his daughter and keep her from the world. Perhaps its this sin, the one of trying to control her that he’s ultimately punished for. Does his proximity to the Duke color his view of the world? Does he see all men as lecherous?

Like I said, these are the first things that run through my head as I watch this opera. I’ve found that I’m not reading the subtitles as much as listening and watching what’s happening on stage. I realize that I’m really drawn in when the emotion and presence of the actors is more important than ever word they say. Heck I can’t understand half the lyrics of songs I listen to on my iPod, why this need to have every word clearly defined.

The Opera is compelling and I’ll be interested to see how the next few acts are…

ACT II

The rough scene change of the first act clearly threw the performers off their game as the second act is noticeably stronger. Realized I totally forgot to mention the stellar performance by Keith Miller as Count Monterone. He’s on stage for mere moments and he’s simply fantastic. But the show is all about the duets between Rigoletto and Gilda. The opera revolves around them and the union of Mark Rucker, Sarah Coburn and conductor George Manhan is the real reason to see this opera.  Richard Troxell was much better in the second act with admittedly more to work with.

I feel remiss for not mentioning how much I’ve enjoyed the orchestration, the musical performance has been really solid. George Manhan makes you forget he’s there, nice to see a conductor so pitch perfect and so humble.

Story wise I find it interesting how Rigoletto sheds his role as the fool and tries to assume power, he shoes all the lords away and threatens his revenge on the Duke. The chorus says how you have to indulge children and madmen sometimes, but is Rigoletto either? Is the fool really able to have power? In the first act he sits on the Duke’s throne in mockery, but in act II he seems to have some real authority over the other men who seem mortified that the practical joke they plaid on him was not with his mistress but with his daughter. I love the moment they realize this, it’s the best moment with the chorus who all collectively seem to feel the same feeling at the same moment. Wish there had been more of that at the end of act I.

I love the line that Rigoletto delivers that talks about how much can change over the course of a day. What would have happened if Rigoletto just left well enough alone, listened to his daughter and accepted her love for the Duke? Is his undoing pride here?  At the top of the act it’s almost impossible to feel any sence of empathy for The Duke who thinks his love is gone, Are we being asked by Verdi to want the Duke to be dead. When you really think about it all Act 2 is pretty subversive. The Fool becomes the force of vengence and the Duke becomes the fool…  You know it doesn’t end well and yet when Rigoletto and Gilda sing together some how you wish that it could….

ACT III

The final act has all the juicy moments you go to opera for. It’s big and tragic. The one issue I have is that Richard Troxell never makes us believe that the women of Rigoletto would literally love the Duke to death. When Gilda dies in place of the Duke all I can ask is WHY? I mean she knows full well that the Duke is a womanizer. La Dona e mobile is practically an insult to women in general and the Duke professes his same “love” to Maddelen as he does to Gilda and yet she dies in his place. I can understand her trying to save her father from Sparafucile’s knife but The Duke?

Perhaps if the Duke were played more electrically we’d understand. But Troxell moves through the third act without the charisma we need to believe. He sings La Dona e mobile like it’s a greatest hits he’s had to sing over and over, but would rather be singing something else. It’s a critical moment lost. We’ve seen him profess his love to her in the first act and we needed to see him be both despicable and utterly irritable here. Maddelen sells it, Gilda sells it but the Duke doesn’t.

The high point of the third act for me is the quartet between Rigoletto, Gilda Sparafucle and Maddelen. Portland Opera’s staging of Rigolleto really comes alive outside of the solos. Heck it comes to life any time Sarah Coburn steps onto the stage.

I find myself asking… what if Rigoletto hadn’t waited to exact his revenge? He asks Sparafucile to wait to set up the hit on the Duke, is this a nod to the indecision that faced Hamlet. Had Rigoletto hired him in act one then Gilda wouldn’t have died!  And ultimately Rigoletto pays the ultimate price for his attempt at vengeance… Is Verdi siding with the royalty or covering up the subversive subplot, and what happens next?  Will Rigoletto have what it takes to face the Duke himself or is Gilda’s death his literal ruin.  A lot of stuff to chew on…

What strikes me the most is how in an opera mostly populated by male roles (and an all male chorus) it’s the women performers who shine the brightest. Both Sarah Coburn as Gilda and Jossie Perez as Maddalena are superb. While their characters fall blindly in love with the Duke, while Gilda is kidnapped and ‘ravished’ and ultimately killed, she’s still the strongest of the bunch…

In all, I enjoyed Rigoletto very much. I did have issues with the lighting, but in the face of everything else it feels like a nit. The show is worth seeing for no other reason than to see the union of Sarah Coburn, Mark Rucker and the Portland Opera orchestra. If Richard Troxell can up his game as The Duke during the run (and I truly believe he can)  it could really morph into something special, he’s the key to elevate this very good production to a really great one, if he can make us believe then it becomes something much bigger and profound.

Here are links to my fellow Portland Opera Bloggers and their take on the evening:

Other Portland Opera Rigoletto Links:

Categories: Theater Tags: ,

Back Stage at Portland Opera's Rigoletto

Here are photos and video (almost) live from backstage at the Portland Opera’s production of Rigoletto:

Back Stage Tour of Portland Opera’s Rigoletto – Part I:

Back Stage Tour of Portland Opera’s Rigoletto – Part II:

Back Stage Tour of Portland Opera’s Rigoletto – Upstairs on The Stage:

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