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.”
Before becoming Artistic Director of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Bill Rauch was the Artistic Director of Cornerstone Theater Company. Cornerstone is a multi-ethnic theater ensemble, based in Los Angeles, which produces new plays nationwide.
BR: We started Cornerstone because we heard that only 2 percent of the American people went to professional theater on a regular basis. We thought, “Even if we’re lucky enough to be successful in the professional theater, we’ll have only performed for 2 percent of our fellow citizens. That’s not good enough.”
We went to isolated rural communities and put on plays with the people who live there, because we could learn more about what interested people, and re-invent theater from the ground up. We would move to very small towns, anywhere from 200 to 2,000 people — Towns that would make Ashland look like a giant metropolis.
Bill Rauch, Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s artistic director, acted and directed theater throughout his childhood and academic career. Rauch became an Artistic Director of Cornerstone Theater Company in his early 20s, which he guided for 20 years, while also directing for theaters including South Coast Repertory, Yale Repertory Theatre and OSF, before becoming OSF’s Artistic Director in 2007. This is the first of a two-part column.
BR: Libby Appel, my predecessor, was really generous with me. For five years in a row, she invited me in to work in all three theaters, to do all different kinds of work, so when I applied for the job, I knew the organization, the town and the audience, and was able to speak about them with some passion.
EH: Any surprises when you got here?
BR: I was surprised how supportive the audience was. For instance, I felt that OSF’s incredible company of actors could put their own stamp on musicals, from the wonderful way that they interpret stories. When we did “The Music Man” in 2009, we thought, “This is a Shakespeare-loving audience, and they may turn up their noses at a classic American musical.” The fact that all the musicals we’ve done have been so embraced by the audience was delightful. Continue reading First thing: Take care of the audience→
Livia Genise, former artistic director of Talent’s Camelot Theatre Company, is now directing the musical “Chess” for Ashland Contemporary Theatre. It opens in September.
Genise, a veteran actor of Broadway, off-Broadway, regional theater and Hollywood, first came to Ashland in the 1980s. She raised her children and earned a degree in music from Southern Oregon University before she took on the directorship of Camelot Theatre.
During her 10-year tenure at Camelot, Genise fostered the enormous growth of the organization and mentored a generation of young theater artists.
Valerie Rachelle is now in her second year as artistic director of the Oregon Cabaret Theatre. Her husband, Rick Robinson, the managing director of OCT, is also a playwright and film director. Rachelle, who received her MA in directing from the University of California at Irvine, also enjoys a successful freelance career as a director and choreographer. Rachelle and Robinson bought OCT in 2014. One afternoon, I met Rachelle in the Cabaret Theatre.
EH: How did you get involved in theater?
VR: I started dancing when I was 3, and singing soon after that. My very first professional production was when I was 7. I was in “Annie” with a theater company at the Hult Center in Eugene. I was with the Eugene Ballet. I was a ballerina and a singer. My parents were professional magicians.
BRAVA! Opera Theater Artistic Director Willene Gunn, is directing Gluck’s “Orpheus and Eurydice” at the Camelot Theatre in Talent. Gunn, an accomplished performer herself, directed the Opera Program at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music for 30 years, and served on the faculty of the University of California at Santa Cruz. Last year her direction of “Breasts of Tiresias” was stunning. Early in her career, Gunn performed at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. We visited at the Downtowne Coffee House in Talent.
EH: How did you find your life in opera?
WG: I always sang, loved music, played all kinds of instruments. By the time I left the University of Montana, I knew I was going to go into opera. When went back to New York, my teacher arranged for a sponsor for me. He said one of the reasons was: I had talent, yes, but also, if I got kicked and knocked down, I got up again.
Kyle Haden, the new artistic director of the Ashland New Plays Festival, follows the legendary Doug Rowe, who retired after spearheading ANPF for many years. Haden served as an actor and educator at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and a faculty member in Theater Arts at Southern Oregon University.
EH: What is your interest in developing new theatrical works?
KH: I want to tell a story in the most interesting way possible. The playwrights are the genesis of that. What we’re focused on at ANPF, is helping the playwright find that story. We are the first step on that journey.
The main focus of ANPF is our Fall Festival. We solicit scripts from playwrights around the world. This year we had a cap for the first time: We took the first four hundred that submitted. We have a ton of volunteer readers. Each play is read by several people. Folks get together in small groups and discuss the plays.