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’→
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→
Jeremy Johnson has been with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival for eight seasons. He was a superb Sky Masterson in OSF’s 2015 production of “Guys and Dolls.” This season he will be portraying Doctor Caius in “The Merry Wives of Windsor,” and M. D’Arque in Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast.” This is the second of a two-part interview. The first was published on March 6.
EH: Is there a common quality that all actors share?
JJ: The vast majority of actors I have met have been very warm: outgoing, even if a little shy. There’s that stereotype that actors need a lot of approval, and I’m sure that’s true sometimes. But actors have also been, in my experience, unbelievably generous and open-hearted.
EH: Do you have a theory of acting or method?
JJ: I went to Northwestern University. I studied with David Downs. He would focus on: How can you be clear and understood and believed on stage from a purely technical point of view? How do you build a character physically? If you start with a role, and you say, “Who is this person?” How do you go about creating that character in a meaningful believable way?
Actor Jeremy Johnson of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival directed Steven Sondheim’s “Sweeney Todd,” now playing at Ashland High School. With a talented cast of 22, a full orchestra, and a towering revolving set, the production is a fantastic musical delight.
For decades the Oregon Shakespeare Festival has contributed to Ashland High School productions, with company members making time to direct, design and choreograph shows
Johnson discovered acting at age 10 and decided to become a professional actor early on. He majored in theater at Northwestern University and acted in New York and Los Angeles before coming to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival 10 years ago. Johnson played Sky Masterson in OSF’s production of “Guys and Dolls” in 2015. We met near the fireplace at Mix. This is the first part of a two-part interview. The second will be published on March 20.
EH: Tell me about “Sweeney Todd.”
JJ: It is a classic of musical theater, a 1979 Tony Award Winner with eight Tony Awards. It is a masterwork of construction and composition. And it is endlessly satisfying in its complexity: In the questions that it raises, and how it seeks to answer them. It is also just a lot of fun. Continue reading OSF actor directs ‘Sweeney Todd’ at AHS→
Peter Alzado and Jessica Sage, as co-producing artistic directors, are re-launching Oregon Stage Works as the lead — and only — actors in a production of “Annapurna.” Directed by Liisa Ivary, the play opens Friday, Oct. 28, at Temple Emek Shalom in Ashland.
Oregon Stage Works, with Alzado as its artistic director, closed its doors in 2010 after six seasons in its charming black box theater on A Street in Ashland. Sometimes thought of as an off-Broadway theater, it produced plays ranging from Samuel Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot” to Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” and “The Great American Trailer Park Musical.”
While relying mainly on volunteer actors and crew, the theater focused on developing the actors and the text to stage creative and challenging theatrical works while providing the community with affordable high quality theater.
Alzado recently directed and performed in the highly acclaimed production of “Red” at Ashland Contemporary Theatre. Last spring, Sage directed Ashland High School’s winning production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”
Benjamin Bonenfant plays Pip in “Great Expectations,” now playing at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. This is his first season at OSF. Recently, Bonenfant was Prince Hal in Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s productions of “Henry IV: Parts 1 and 2″ and King Henry in “Henry V.” This is the second in a two-part column; the first was published on Aug. 8, 2016.
EH: How does theater relate to politics and society?
BB: Right now, in our political arena, there is an on-going theater of the grotesque that is really unsettling. We see revolutions, fascism and these regime-toppling ideas being tossed around, rather than any sort of discourse between two moderate sides. It’s horrifying. It feels like a spectacle.
How theater relates to social issues? There’s a lot to be said for what theater can accomplish and how it can be relevant. I love the diversity and inclusion initiative in this company. For example: There is a preexisting narrative that the world of Dickensian London was a predominantly white place. That is part of a false narrative. There were people of color all over England in Dickens’ time. We have a production of “Great Expectations” that is very diverse. We introduce a diverse world of Dickens to the minds of people who didn’t know there was one. We also reflect more authentically a cross-section of the human experience. It broadens the capability of this story to apply to everybody. This is the kind of narrative we need in this country. Continue reading Theater can serve church-like life role→
Benjamin Bonenfant plays Pip in Charles Dickens’ “Great Expectations,” now playing at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Bonenfant came from the Colorado Shakespeare Festival where he played such roles as Henry V in “Henry V,” Prince Hal in “Henry IV” Parts 1 and 2, and Ferdinand in “The Tempest.” We visited over iced coffee at Mix. (This is the first part of a two-part column. The second will be published Aug. 22.)
EH: How do you approach a role?
BB: It’s different for every role, for instance, doing a Shakespeare versus doing an adaptation of a novel. A Shakespeare play has all the necessary information in the lines. The time, place, what’s happening in the world, the way people feel, and the qualities of the characters, all of that information, you get by studying the text of the play. You look for every reference to your character from all of the other characters. Shakespeare gives it all to you, so you get the fullest picture. It’s all in the words. Continue reading Translating ‘Great Expectations’ from page to stage→