‘Vanport The Musical’ puts history on stage

Cast members, left to right, Simone Miller, Syairah Sims, Gideon Nartey-Tokoli, Elijah Sims and Viola DeVigal sing the song ‘If You Can Come To Work’ as part of ‘Vanport The Musical’.

Shawnte Sims, courtesy of World Stage Theater

The town of Vanport was hastily built to accommodate workers migrating to Oregon to work in shipyards during World War II. After the war, many white residents of Vanport moved to Portland, but discriminatory banking and real estate practices prevented blacks from buying or renting in most areas of the city. Thus, the population of Vanport has become increasingly African American over time. In 1948, a catastrophic flood destroyed the entire city.

Growing up in the Portland area, The Sims of Shalanda never heard of the lost city of Vanport. As an adult, she learned that her great-grandmother had lived there before the flood. Sims is the Executive and Artistic Director of the World Stage Theatre, and she drew inspiration from the stories she heard from Vanport survivors to create a show that she hopes will continue the town’s history. “Vanport the Musical” is part of the Vanport Mosaic Festival. Tickets are available through the Northwest Children’s Theater for weekend performances through June 5.

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