‘If you can touch people’s souls … then you’re doing something’

Actor/director Peter Alzado plays Joe Keller in Arthur Miller’s “All My Sons” now playing at the Camelot Theatre in Talent. A veteran actor of Broadway, television and film, Alzado spent five years as artistic director of the Actors’ Theatre (now the Camelot Theatre) before founding Oregon Stage Works, where he served as artistic director for 10 years. We met at Pony Espresso one sunny afternoon.

EH: Why is “All My Sons” pertinent today?

PA: It’s about responsibility to the greater good. Just being responsible to yourself and to your family doesn’t cut it. Individually, we have a responsibility to the world. If we disregard that responsibility, then it wreaks havoc. You’re creating a world of divisiveness, hatred and anger. And it’s a world that doesn’t have basic equality to it. Eventually it wreaks havoc on the people you’re trying most to protect, which is your family and people you love.

EH: How do you develop a play?

PA: To my mind, it’s all about words and action. There are themes: One has to be aware of what those themes are, and how to interpret those themes, so that they are accessible to everybody. What often happens now is, directors are layering things on top of the script that have absolutely nothing to do with the script whatsoever. It’s just coming out of what they think could be creative, but it doesn’t take into consideration the writing. People recognize subliminally (and sometimes consciously) that they are not being told the truth. That “truth” is found in the writing, and if you start layering things on top of the text, people stand up, applaud, say that it’s great, and it meant nothing. It’s an intellectual pretense. That’s not the effect that you want to have in the theater or in any of the arts. Continue reading ‘If you can touch people’s souls … then you’re doing something’

Advertisements

Backstage: Out of many poetic threads, one UNIVERSE

Asia Mark plays the Apprentice Poet in “UniSon,” Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s tribute to the poetry of August Wilson devised by UNIVERSES. While at Western Michigan University, Mark attended Lecoq acting training with the Arts University Bournemouth, England. She also auditioned for UNIVERSES and has been touring with them for the past two years. We met in the Hay-Patton Rehearsal Center on the OSF Campus.

EH: Tell me about UNIVERSES.

AM: UNIVERSES is an interdisciplinary theater company that fuses poetry, music, rhythm and dance; they do a lot of commissioned work. It started off in the NuYorican Poets Café on the Lower East Side of New York City: When you do slam poetry, you only have about three minutes on stage. Four poets combined their poetry, to have more time; they fused their poetry. That’s where the origins of UNIVERSES came from.

EH: What was your process of developing “UniSon”?

AM: It felt like were jumping into a world of poetry — a world of the unknown. It’s heavily written by UNIVERSES, with the support of August Wilson’s poetry. It is a linear play, but there are so many different aspects and poems. None of us knew what the play was, until opening night. We’re still figuring out things about this play, because there is so much to take from it.

Backstage: What makes a good play?

James Pagliasotti

James Pagliasotti, president of the Ashland New Plays Festival Board of Directors, recently served as board vice president of the Schneider Museum of Art. Before moving to Ashland, Pagliasotti served as a trustee of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver, Colorado. We chatted over coffee at The Growler Guys in Ashland.

EH: What makes a good play?

JP: Like all art, you want something that generates reaction in people; you want something that touches them, for better or for worse. The first thing that I look for is something that people find emotionally or intellectually compelling. I think a bad play is one that people are bored with. If it generates a response, I think it has done its job. Continue reading Backstage: What makes a good play?

The four questions actors deal with

Actor G. Valmont Thomas brilliantly portrays Sir John Falstaff in “Henry IV, Part One,” now playing at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. He will also play Falstaff in “Henry IV, Part Two.” This is Thomas’ 14th season with OSF. A native of the Pacific Northwest, Thomas took time out from his acting career to earn an MFA in Directing for the Theater from Pennsylvania State University. We met at Boulevard Coffee in Ashland. This is the first of a two-part interview. The second will be published on June 26.

EH: Why do people make their life in theater?

GVT: It’s different for everybody, but most theater artists have an altruistic streak. I don’t find what we do that much different from psychology, psychiatry or religion, because we are dealing with these four questions: “Who am I? What the heck am I doing here? What am I supposed to do when I’m here?” and “How do I know when I’m doing it right?” Those are the things that we deal with everyday. I believe that I’m helping the world deal with itself. A lot of theater people feel that they can help heal. We feel that we are the agents of healing. And right now, it’s very prevalent among us. Continue reading The four questions actors deal with

Backstage: ‘I love a great story told honestly’

Vilma Silva has portrayed such iconic characters as Portia in “The Merchant of Venice,” Julius Caesar in “Julius Caesar,” and Katherina in “The Taming of the Shrew” during her 23 seasons at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

After graduating from Santa Clara University, Silva performed with El Teatro Campesino and the American Conservatory Theatre before coming to Ashland for her first OSF role in “Blood Wedding.” This season, she is Armida in “Mojada” and Mistress Page in “The Merry Wives of Windsor.” We got together at Bloomsbury Coffee House in Ashland.

EH: How do you create such real people on stage?

VS: I always start with what’s on the page. Then, it’s looking at the people who you’re going to be saying these things to. There are going to be clues — in how to make them see things your way — to make them do what you want them to do. That’s going to come from the other actors. And certainly, there are things in one’s life that you can draw upon. Continue reading Backstage: ‘I love a great story told honestly’

A horror puppet musical for adults

Puppeteers for Fears are currently touring their latest extravaganza, “The Trilogy of Terror” written by Artistic Director Josh Gross. I saw a technical rehearsal of the first play of the Trilogy, “The Mummy’s Purse.” It features a rock band, extraordinary puppets, projections, and profound hilarity. I met with Gross and his puppet designer, Brook Sharp, at Mix.

EH: What was the genesis of the puppet musical?

JG: I got into writing plays, but I’d played music all of my life, and I wondered if I could write a musical. Not everything works as a musical. It has to have certain themes and a certain ridiculousness for people to spontaneously burst into song. Puppets and horror are absurd enough for a musical.

I searched for the least appropriate topic for a musical to make it as ridiculous as possible. I did some on-line polling and somehow settled on serial killers. I decided “Ritual Murder, The Musical” was going to be the topic of this first piece. That went really well.

Puppets can seem bigger than they really are. People accept a certain level of ridiculousness with them. If you have good writing, and you make it fun, you can get away with a lot. Continue reading A horror puppet musical for adults

Backstage: Some serious work goes into a farce

Liisa Ivary is directing David Ives’ version of Georges Feydeau’s “A Flea in Her Ear,” opening Wednesday, May 3, at Ashland High School. There’s a cast of 20 student actors and a good deal of technical support from Ivary’s colleagues at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, including fight director U. Jonathan Toppo.

Ivary spent seven seasons in the Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s acting company. She has also performed in Shakespeare Festivals and regional repertory theaters all over the nation. She recently directed “Annapurna” for Oregon Stage Works. We met one afternoon at Noble Coffee Roasting in Ashland.

LI: This is something I wanted to do, because it’s important for these talented acting students to be mentored by OSF veterans, showing them style — and teaching them precision, timing and how to physically commit to a style that is split-second and dangerous.

It’s a large cast. It’s a lot of language and a lot of fight moves: kicks, punches, chases, slaps, rolls and jumps — every kind of slapstick; but it has to be timed perfectly, with intricate threading of props and costumes, because it’s a play of mistaken identity. It’s setting the style, the world and staying consistent. Continue reading Backstage: Some serious work goes into a farce

Ashland is the place for Theatre