BY BILL VARBLE
Joan Freed has a
thing for chocolate. The Portland singer and
playwright grew up on See’s, moved up to
Belgian dark and now obsesses over
“I guess I’m
promiscuous,” she says.
So she created
Coco Bliss, a chocoholic alter ego and the
central character of “Chocolate
Confessions,” Freed’s one-woman musical
comedy about love, life and, oh yeah,
perform the show Friday, July 23, through
Monday, July 26, in the first Solo Festival
at Artattack Theater in Ashland. She’ll be
joined by three other women
playwright/performers, each of whom will
present her own solo show each day. Show
times are at 2, 4, 6 and 8 p.m., with each
performance moving to a different time slot
co-artistic director Nicole Isaacson-Hill
says the goal of the festival is to present
an empowering image of women in performance
and to inspire others. The theater is even
helping to organize groups of high school
girls and college women to attend
performances. Isaacson-Hill says Artattack
received dozens of video entries when the
selection process began last summer but
settled on four West Coast entrants
The others are
Nina Wise of San Francisco, Erica Lann-Clark
of Santa Cruz, Calif., and Shelly Goldstein
of Los Angeles. Each will perform four time
in four days, and each will lead a workshop
in which audience members can take part.
Freed’s piece is slated for 8 p.m. Friday, 6
p.m. Saturday, 4 p.m. Sunday and 2 p.m.
Freed has an
unlikely background for a funnywoman. She
earned a master’s degree in math from the
University of California, Los Angeles and
worked as an actuary, but she like to sing
and always did a lot of public speaking. She
eventually got involved in musical theater.
After about five years of performing, she
quit her day job with a financial firm to
devote full time to writing and performing.
she completed a class in stand-up comedy.
different from what I do,” she says. “I have
this sense of what works, but I wanted to
break it down and understand. It’s extremely
hard to write funny.”
Her first big
one-woman piece was “Make Mine Mocha,” which
was set in a coffee shop.
“I don’t drink
coffee,” she says. “So for my second show, I
thought, ‘What’s more true? Geez. I gotta
put it in a chocolate shop.’”
And that’s where
Coco Bliss came in. Freed says Coco is “a
bit of a wiseguy.” She’s also in a position
to interact with a string of zany customers,
all played by Freed.
enjoys her customers’ confessions,” Freed
says. “She gets the juicy tidbits, their
From the likes
of cover girl Lynn Tizzy, a ditzy blonde
with a thing for romance novels. Freed says
the romance novels are props, and she
officially refuses to speculate whether they
are linked to chocolate in the real world.
“But it seems
there’s a logical connection,” she says.
The other shows
in the festival are “A Midsummer’s Eve: An
Improvised Performance,” by Nina Wise (2
p.m. Friday, 8 p.m. Saturday, 6 p.m. Sunday
and 4 p.m. Monday), “Songs for Lovers and
Those They’ve Dumped” by Shelly Goldstein (4
p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. Saturday, 8 p.m. Sunday
and 6 p.m. Monday), and “Don’t Ask,” by
Erica Lann-Clark (6 p.m. Friday, 4 p.m.
Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday and 8 p.m. Monday).
Each show has
its own set, meaning four stage set-ups a
day. Freed’s chocolate shop is probably the
most elaborate – and the most fantasized
about. Just don’t try to talk her out of the
wares in the truffle section.
clay,” she says.
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