Not to be missed this Christmas season is the Collaborative Theatre Project’s “The Snow Queen.” The music, staging, acting, and costumes are superb. Under Susan Aversa-Orrego’s direction, talented actors and musicians have come together to create this magnificent piece.
Director Obed Medina is a founding member of the project. We met in their new theater in the Medford Center, which includes Tinseltown.
Developers are revamping the whole complex and are trying to make it into an entertainment/arts destination, to bring in more restaurants and breweries. Once they get those in, it will become a nice little hub of entertainment.
EH: How did you get interested in theater?
OM: When I was 9 or 10, I saw a play at a community theater that really moved me. Then, I wanted to be a writer, but when I went to college, I got involved in theater. Theater did that same thing for me: You can do almost what a book or an essay can do, but in a compact and more powerful way. It’s got more impact because you’re watching the actor on stage. It’s not a movie, where you can just sit and think about what you’re hearing or seeing, you’re actually interacting with that actor. There is a connection with the actor and the audience, and every performance is different. Continue reading Collaborative Theatre Project aptly named→
Director-actor Ron Danko and musician-music Historian David Gordon have formed The Madrone Theatre Company to produce a new adaptation of the “Spoon River Anthology,” opening Oct. 7 in the Rogue Community College Performance Hall in Medford.
Published in 1915, Edgar Lee Masters “Spoon River Anthology” portrayed small town rural America through poetic portraits of numerous characters who somehow spoke from beyond the grave. Danko pulled 50 out of 240 vignettes and invited David Gordon to weave music into the production. I met Danko and Gordon one afternoon in Rogue Community College’s pristine black-box theater.
EH: How would you describe the “Spoon River Anthology”?
DG: It’s like a haiku or a miniature painting. It somehow condenses life down into its absolute minimal number of words or strokes. These are vignettes about life by people who are done with living. They don’t have to put on pretenses or lie any more. They can be totally honest about their successes and their failures. They admit their failures. To me, the mastery of it is that (sometimes in just a few dozen words) each one creates this little reality that has emotion in it.
Penny Metropulos directed and co-adapted (with Linda Alper) “Great Expectations” by Charles Dickens, now playing at Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Other OSF adaptations to her credit are: “The Three Musketeers,” “Tracy’s Tiger” and a musical version of “Comedy of Errors.” Metropulos originally came to OSF as an actor and singer in 1985. After three seasons, she turned to directing.
EH: Did directing come naturally to you?
PM: I went to a training program at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts. It was about collaboration. It wasn’t the “dog-eat-dog” kind of thing. I came back with this holy grail of “company,” and that never left me. The idea of being in a theater company has always been with me. And I have been lucky enough to do that.
Because of my background as an actress, I had done a lot of classical, contemporary and musical work. Right away, I was doing all different kinds of things. I guess it was right because the work kept coming. I took every job because I needed to learn how to do this. It was great. I knew it was right.
Desdemona Chiang is directing “The Winter’s Tale” opening June 19 on the Elizabethan Stage at The Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Born in Taiwan and raised in Southern California, Chiang “fell into” the Dramatic Arts Department at UC Berkeley as stress relief from her pre-medical studies. Then she decided medicine wasn’t her path. We met at Mix.
DC: It was spiritually hard to pursue the sciences in a way that a good doctor has to: to be able to look at someone and treat them as a patient, not as a person. I had a hard time looking at suffering, and having to turn myself off to it, in order to do my job well. Lack of compassion made me feel bad as a person. I’m too sentimental. I know that great doctors are able to be compassionate, have great bedside manner, and at the same time tell you, “I’m sorry, you have stage-four cancer.” I didn’t know how to do that.
I mucked around in Silicon Valley, for a while designing websites and programming. It was cool, innovative, creative and cutting edge. But it didn’t make me happy. We weren’t asking the humanistic questions, the big life questions that we ask in theater around: “Why?” and “What does this all mean?”
And then I decided I wanted to do theater professionally. I was looking at Berkeley Rep, ACT, at The Magic Theatre, and I thought, “There is a world in which people can do this as a job, and not the fringe thing.” I decided grad school was the way to go. I went to The University of Washington at Seattle. Jon Jory (the acclaimed director) was there at the time. He was my mentor for three years. A lot of my approach to rehearsal and to actors has a lot to do with his influence.
EH: Tell me about the world of the play.
DC: We’re taking a note from the original Shakespeare impulse. We’re making our own fairy tale based on certain cultural inspirations from Dynastic China and the Old West, set historically. It’s timeless in the way that, “Once upon a time there was a jealous king.” We place fairy tales in a time. We know they exist out of our time, but we don’t know in what time they do exist.
EH: There is an Oracle in the play?
DC: The Oracle is present in the play, but is not tangible material. You have to believe what you can’t see. There is so much in the play about seeing and not seeing. Once you see something, you have certainty. Once you’re certain of something, what’s the need for faith? That’s what’s so dangerous in religion now. Some say, “We’re certain of this.” Faith is in the space of certainty. That’s where that bridge is to get across. That’s where faith is necessary, “I don’t know but I believe, I hope and I believe.” For me, faith and certainty are opposites.
EH: Is this play tragicomedy?
DC: It’s one of Shakespeare’s Romances. “Cymbeline,” “Pericles,” “The Winter’s Tale” and “The Tempest” are the big four Romances where you start seeing magic. You see magic in “Macbeth,” but that is more of the occult. Here you have resurrection happening: People die and come back. You have the intervention of the Divine. You have playing with time. Nowhere else, in his other plays, does he jump time and generations.
There’s a lot of study around what it means for Shakespeare to be writing these Romances in the later years: That’s to be more spiritual, more existential.
Betsy Bishop is the theater director and producer behind Ashland High School’s outstanding theatrical productions. Plays are produced in collaboration with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, which provides directors and technical assistance.
Bishop spent her early years as a professional actress. She earned a master’s degree in education from Southern Oregon University and began a long teaching career. Now, as a mother of three grown children, she continues, as a full-time teacher, to mastermind this remarkable theater program. I met with Bishop one Saturday morning on the ASH theater stage.
EH: How did your partnership with OSF begin?
BB: When I was asked to teach theater, I had small children, and I had to be home at night. You can’t have a theater program without having shows. I told the kids, “I’m going to teach the classes, but we have to think of a way that other people can do the nighttime work.” My student, Matt Smith, went down to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and talked to Pat Patton (former OSF associate artistic director) and Pat Patton said, “Of course we’ll help the high school.” And that was the beginning of the partnership. Continue reading Ashland High students learn the magic in storytelling→
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.