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.
“Les Miserables,” directed by Renee Hewitt and playing now at Camelot Theatre in Talent, is a stunning production. Lasting more than three hours, with 33 cast members, the production is so powerful that you barely notice that all of the dialogue is sung.
Although she is an accomplished actor, this is Hewitt’s maiden voyage as a director. We visited at the Camelot Theatre one Sunday afternoon.
EH: How did you get such great performances from your cast?
RH: It’s such an incredible story and it is very moving. I think that I let myself be vulnerable and I let them see how much intention I have. It’s such a great cast. They’re such great people.
In Camelot Theatre’s musical production of “The Producers,” the role of Ulla Inga Hansen Benson Yonsen Tallen-Hallen Svaden-Svanson, the stunning Swedish singer/ secretary/ receptionist, is played by Kelly Jean Hammond. The production features a number of stellar performances and a great ensemble cast.
Hammond, a graduate of Ashland High School, earned a bachelor’s degree in music from Notre Dame de Namur University and did some post-graduate studies at American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco before returning to Ashland, where she now works as a buyer at Paddington Station by day and performs musical theater at night. We met at Starbucks in downtown Ashland.
In The Camelot Theatre’s production of “The Producers,” Nathan Monks plays Franz Liebkind, a volatile former Nazi who wrote the “worst play ever written,” “Springtime for Hitler.” A trained actor and singer, Monks is new to Camelot Theatre. We met at Starbucks on Crater Lake Highway in Medford.
NM: I’ve been fortunate enough to be cast in multiple shows for the upcoming year. I’m very excited about that.
EH: What was the audition process like?
NM: We were asked to prepare about a 2-minute monologue and 16 to 32 bars of a song. Then they gave you a slip of paper with just a single musical line on it and the starting pitch. They asked you to sight read it: a little testing of your overall ability to read music.
Camelot Theatre’s next production features Shirley Patton and Steven Dominguez in the Pulitzer Prize-winning play “Driving Miss Daisy.” The play explores the growth of a friendship between an elderly white Southern lady, Miss Daisy, and her African-American chauffeur, Hoke Colburn, during the 1960s and ’70s.
Patton came to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival at the invitation of Angus Bowmer in 1958. Her career as an OSF actor spanned 30 years. Before coming to Ashland, Dominguez spent 20 years as a professional actor in New York City. One afternoon, the three of us chatted at Boulevard Coffee.
Camelot Theatre Company’s musical “Jekyll & Hyde” opens this week and features exquisite choreography by Renee Hewitt. An exceptional actress, dancer and singer, Hewitt has played numerous iconic roles throughout her career. We met in the Excalibur Room at the Camelot.
EH: Why have you spent your life in theater?
RH: It’s my passion. That’s the only way I can explain it. If I were to have to live without it, I don’t know what I would do. It’s how I express my soul; it’s how I express the deepest parts of me. I’m finding out now, that not only can I do that by being on stage, I can actually do that through choreography. I’m more anxious, more nervous, and more excited about this opening than I am when I’m a performer.
Daniel Stephens plays Poole in “Jekyll and Hyde,” the provocative musical opening June 21 at Camelot Theatre in Talent. A freelance choreographer and teacher, Stephens is equipped with a bachelor’s degree in theater arts and a master’s in dance. Until 1997, he spent nine seasons with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival as a dancer, choreographer and actor. Stephens has performed in 10 shows at Camelot.
EH: What is the difference in performing in the old Camelot Theatre building versus the new facility?
DS: I think the main difference is that you don’t have to go outside the building to get to the other side of the stage. One winter, we did “Brigadoon” and I was running between scenes, in the snow, in soft shoes and a kilt.