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→
Peter Alzado co-directs and stars in Ashland Contemporary Theatre’s production of John Logan’s “Red,” playing March 26 through April 3 at the Ashland Community Center. Alzado (who served as artistic director of Ashland’s Oregon Stage Works for seven years and Talent’s Actors’ Theatre for another seven) is a brilliant actor. I saw “Red” on opening night. Alzado as Mark Rothko, the abstract expressionist painter, and Reece Bredl, as his assistant and artistic foil, deliver a dynamic two-man tour-de-force.
EH: I saw you in “Portlandia.”
PA: I think more people saw what I did in “Portlandia” than saw all of the work that I did here for 15 or 16 years.
James Edmondson is directing Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible” at Southern Oregon University opening this Friday, Feb. 26. The play is based on the witch trials that took place in Salem, Mass., in 1692. This is the centennial of Arthur Miller’s birth. Many productions of his plays are being produced internationally.
James Edmondson has been an actor and director with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival since 1972, where he performed 60 roles including the title roles in “Richard II” and “King Lear.” He directed 30 productions for OSF, most recently, “Rabbit Hole,” and “The Diary of Anne Frank.” Edmondson has directed and acted for the American Conservatory Theatre and numerous other nationally known theaters.
Actor Rodney Gardiner is currently playing Nathan Detroit in Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s production of “Guys and Dolls.” Previous notable OSF roles include the two Dromios in “The Comedy of Errors” and Guy in “The Imaginary Invalid.” Gardner earned a BFA from State University of New York and is a founding member of New York’s Waterwell Theater. He has been performing Shakespeare since the age of 14. He is married to choreographer, Sarah Lozoff; they have two lovely children. We visited at Café 116 in Ashland one beautiful day.
EH: How did you get interested in acting?
RG: I did oratory contests as a kid. I didn’t turn to acting until ninth grade when I heard about a school in downtown Miami called New World School of the Arts. I’d heard that it was a performing arts high school, like “Fame,” that I had seen on television. We did two hours of arts at the end of every day. That school completely changed my life.
Bruce A. Young plays Lefty, the loveable urban street person, in “The Happiest Song Plays Last,” currently playing at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Last season, he played Gonzalo in “The Tempest.” Throughout his acting career, Young has been involved in creating remarkable and innovative theater. We visited over lunch at the Standing Stone Brewing Company in Ashland.
EH: When did you first become interested in acting?
BY: When I was in grade school, I was walking by a community theater, the stage doors were open. They were rehearsing and painting outside. I wandered in with big eyes, and said, “Can I help?” It was such a great little community theater, they were very inclusive. Continue reading Bruce Young→