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From Washington Irving to Peter Stark to Chris Coleman, Astoria never looked better.


History readers are a funny bunch.

They range from professional historians to hobbyists to just people looking for something to engage them.

Then there’s Chris Coleman, Artistic Director for Portland Center Stage at The Armory, and Director of Astoria.

What made him adapt the Peter Stark book for the stage? Is he a professional historian? Hobbyist?

Or an Art Director looking for the best plays to produce on his stage?

All of the answers, and more, reveal themselves in ASTORIA, PART ONE.

What’s the ‘and more’ stuff besides a lure to keep reading?

Astoria the play isn’t a history class to nap through.

Instead, it’s an adrenaline fueled drama of epic proportions leaving you spinning at the conclusion.

And that’s an understatement.

If you like being riveted to your seat during an awesome performance, see Astoria.

But bring these questions along with you:

1. Is a global trading empire possible?

2. How would a global trading empire tie Oregon to the U.S. in 1810?

3. Has the success of Hamilton created a template for epic historical sagas?

On #3, let’s hope so.

Will John Jacob Astor rap? See the play to find out.


Adapted from the best-selling book by Peter Stark, this harrowing dual journey — one over land, one by sea — will be told with an exceptional cast of sixteen actors. At a time when the edge of American settlement barely reached beyond the Appalachian Mountains, two visionaries — President Thomas Jefferson and millionaire John Jacob Astor — foresaw that one day the Pacific would dominate world trade as much as the Atlantic did in their day.

Can you say, “Pacific Rim?”

Animal fur, soft gold, and logistics, were the name of the game, not oil, ore, and high tech.

A rich man figured on raking in more with a fur empire. And the Columbia River was the intended target.

Control of the mighty Columbia meant control of the region for the U.S.

For those of us living here today with an “eh?” in our conversation, it was a good goal.


In 1808, two years after Lewis and Clark’s return to St. Louis, John J. Astor chartered his American Fur Company, and in 1810 he chartered a subsidiary unit, the Pacific Fur Company. By land and sea expeditions, Astor’s company established an American foothold at Fort Astoria in 1811.

Those three lines are what most read of the era, and it’s good.

After you see Astoria, the lines increase.

Remember about history readers being a funny bunch? Once they sink their teeth into one topic, they seek more to devour. That’s how they work.

If that’s you, click these names for more Astoria, more western expansion, more intrigue.

Patricia Limerick.

Stephen Dow Beckham.

Rex Ziak.

Great stories await you, history pal.

About David Gillaspie
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