By MK Scott
If you have lived in Portland for the past 40 plus years, you may have heard of the late great musical theater director, James N. Erickson, who was a staple at the Lakewood Center as well as the now defunct Portland Civic Theatre, Sylvia’s Class Act Dinner Theatre and the Musical Company. Plus he produced Breakfast with Santa for Meier and Frank for over 30 years.
Erickson was also the head of the Beaverton High School Theater Arts Department for 29 years from 1970 to 1999, and was an enduring mentor for many of Portland’s thriving theater scene from Jay Horenstein, Greg Tamblyn, Dale Johannes, and John Oules to Broadway stars such as Brooks Ashmanskas and Shoshanna Bean.
After Erickson’s retirement in 1999 and sudden death in 2004, the Beaverton High Drama Department struggled for over a decade up until last year, when Shannon Dery stepped up to lead a new generation of theater (and queer) students.
To gain some support, I contacted my celebrity friends and was able to get Olivia Newton-John to do a small shout out to ask people to help save the school’s 2016 production of “Grease.”
We raised over $3,000, and as a bonus, many alumni that hadn’t visited their high school in decades came back and pledged their support for Erickson’s successor.
So how do we top Olivia Newton-John? It was luck that Beaverton chose Terrence McNally’s adaptation of the classic film of “Catch Me If You Can,” which made its world premiere at Seattle’s famed Fifth Avenue Theater, which I have a connection to. They encouraged me to get in touch with the composers, Marc Shaiman and Scott Whitman (Hairspray), who agreed to record the shout-out — and totally surprised me with a cameo by the king of Broadway himself, Lin-Manuel Miranda (Hamilton)!
We need volunteers and contributions to give these kids the professionalism and the support that only the legacy of Erickson can provide.
Check out our Campaign video at www.gofundme.com/support-bhss-musical-fund.
Scott is the chair of the James N. Erickson Legacy Project and is a Seattle-based blogger. Check out his blog at outviewonline.com.