Renee Hewitt

Renee Hewitt
Renee Hewitt

Renee Hewitt plays Rona Lisa Peretti, the successful lady Realtor and former spelling champ, in “The 25th Anniversary of the Putnam County Spelling Bee,” now playing at Oregon Cabaret Theatre.

A mother of two young boys, Hewitt credits her “great husband” for her ability to balance her family life and theater.

“I always say that my success is my support system,” she said.

We met for supper at Dragonfly restaurant one evening before a performance.

EH: How did you get started in theater? Was it high school?

RH: Actually it was. I have been singing since fourth-grade. My mom has always sung around the house and been involved in choirs now and then. That’s kind of where I get the singing from is her. I took dance for 20 years, but I don’t consider myself a dancer. I didn’t actually start acting until my junior year in high school. I just fell in love with it. I just absolutely revel in getting into characters, and figuring out somebody’s head and how they work and why they respond the way they do.

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The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee

From left, top row: Rebecca Denley, Tim Homsley, Chris Carwithen. bottom row: Rachel Seeley, James David Larson, Beatriz Abella
From left, top row: Rebecca Denley, Tim Homsley, Chris Carwithen. bottom row: Rachel Seeley, James David Larson, Beatriz Abella

A zesty combination of improvisation and musical comedy, “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” now playing at Oregon Cabaret Theatre, presents a surprising and endearing event steeped in laughter.

Pre-teens naturally see themselves as eccentrics, misfits and outsiders as they navigate the painful path through puberty to adulthood. The vulnerability and youthful angst of 10- to 12-year-olds are magnified with raucous results when energies are focused on the goal of winning a national spelling contest.

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Do Talk Back

Peter Alzado
Peter Alzado
Jeff Golden
Jeff Golden

During the play series “Things We Do” at Oregon Stage Works, there were lively audience post-play discussions surrounding issues related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I met with director Peter Alzado and moderator Jeff Golden at the theater to discuss the nature of “talk-back” theater.

JG: I think this is a terrific use of theater. This is really exciting. I think it is timely (and not just for this topic) because most forms of media are trying to figure out how to be interactive. We are in a massive cultural shift from experts telling us how it is and lecturers revealing the truth to us and top-down transmission of knowledge and entertainment to interactivity. And you see it everywhere, most obviously on the Web. I think it’s healthy that we’re transcending division between audience and performer. It’s easier in some media than in others. I feel very strongly about this. It aligns with a new world where we no longer have a select group of experts who can tell us how to do everything. We have to solve what’s coming up collectively, with effort, and thought, and investment from everybody. That’s part of Obama’s “Yes We Can.” I see it everywhere. This was a really good way for this theater to take a step in that direction.

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‘Things We Do’

Peter Alzado
Peter Alzado

The recent series of plays at Oregon Stage Works, “Things We Do,” portrayed the effects of suspicion, prejudice and the tragedy of war waged upon civilians in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

I met with Peter Alzado, artistic director of Oregon Stage Works, in the theater’s store front office on A Street. Peter spoke to the controversy surrounding the presentation of “My Name is Rachael Corrie,” one of the plays in the series, which included “The Jewish Wife” by Bertolt Brecht, “Masked” by Ian Hatsor and “A Tiny Piece of Land” by Mel Weiser and Joni Browne-Walders.

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