Peter Alzado (Oregon Stage Works’ former Artistic Director) is engaged in the creation of a new theater called the NEXT STAGE Repertory Company. One afternoon, we met at Medford’s Craterian Theater, where Alzado is currently in rehearsal for Lanford Wilson’s Pulitzer prize-winning play, “Talley’s Folly.” We then settled down with tea at nearby Grilla Bites.
EH: What makes a good director?
PA: I think great directors want an ordered world. They need to be able to have a real feeling for space, and how to communicate through space. They need to have an empathetic response to their actors. And they need to have a real sense of literature, and how to communicate those themes through the words that the writer has given them.
I’m not a big fan of, “Let’s do a concept.” I can see the value of it on occasion, but I’m much more aligned with getting out of the way and letting the material speak. If you find a way to allow the material to speak for itself the ideas that you have will enhance the material, and you’ll be dealing thematically with what the play is about. If you do that, I think you’ll have a real visceral impact depending on the writing and the themes. If you don’t do that, the impact and the audience response is intellectual and self-congratulatory. I sometimes find it off-putting. It’s like having somebody in an audience laugh at everything a friend does. I think that directing now is very much aligned to the technical aspects of the theater and less so to the acting.
Ashland Children’s Theatre, formerly with Oregon Stage Works, is now on its own and has found a new home at the DanceSpace in Ashland. Founded in 2004 by directors Eve Smyth and Kate Sullivan, Ashland Children’s Theatre is offering summer camps for young people ages 4-17 along with theater camps throughout the year. We visited by a cozy fire at Eve’s pristine cottage.
KS: Landing in the DanceSpace, which is a great performance space, has been a good fit.
ES: We feel really welcomed there. It is on that row where there’s Dance Works and Le Cirque, and it’s like the kids’ own”…
KS: It is kind of a kids alley.
ES: We’re bringing a whole bunch of different elements for them to get a taste of: improvisation games, puppets, stage combat and some Shakespeare. There are new friends to be made and all of that good camp stuff. We’ve actually scheduled everything into 2012.
KS: Our summer camp begins with a TeenProv class, all teens and all improvisation, with Eve. There’s a Showcase at the end.
ES: We follow that with Imagination Travelers and Spontaneous Superstars, which are almost like a theater sampler plate or potpourri.
KS: Our pièce de résistance is our teen Mystery Theatre. Within two weeks we give a performance.
Playwright Ruth Wire is a Member of the Board of the Directors of the Ashland Contemporary Theatre. Wire has written numerous plays and screenplays. Her latest full length play, “A Modern Woman” was produced by Oregon Stage Works. She also leads Haywire Writers’ Workshop in Ashland. We met at the Bellview Grange where she was making preparations for the theater to open the new comedy by David Hill, “Larry’s Best Friend”.
EH: What drives people to do theater?
RW: It’s an enhanced kind of living. What the playwright has done is to distill experience into a two-hour or fifteen minute glob, so that it’s all very pure, and it’s all very dramatic. Whereas you can go for years and nothing happens to you, then something big happens like somebody dies or they’re divorced or whatever. But in a play, it happens in two hours. And what I like about it is, if it’s a good play, it leaves you wringing wet; your heart’s pounding and you’re with those characters. You cannot leave them, It’s impossible. You’ve gone through an experience and you’ve learned something.
You may have seen actor Dayvin Turchiano in “Deathtrap” and “Glenn Gary Glen Ross” at Oregon Stage Works. Most recently he starred in “I Hate Hamlet” and will be appearing in “A Few Good Men” at the Camelot Theatre which opens February 2, 2011. Turchiano is also a computer software entrepreneur and an Asst. La Cross Coach at SOU. With his B.A. in Theater, Dayvin studied acting at the American Conservatory Theater and film acting at Yale. Turchiano chose to live in Ashland where he could enjoy family life and still be involved in theater. We met over lunch at Dragonfly in Ashland.
DT: My dream is to work with a company of actors in repertory, do different shows and perform a wide variety of work, even a small company. It doesn’t have to be a huge organization. I enjoy working with the same actors time after time, developing ideas in rehearsal, that’s the fun part.
“Hidden Agendas”, Oregon Stage Works Playwrights Unit’s next production, features “The Other Side” by veteran playwright Bob Valine. Bob met with early success, collecting numerous awards and fellowships. His play “Black Judas” was produced at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles before he followed the “spiritual path”. Now, winding down a long career in teaching, Bob is seeing his plays produced again. Outside on a sunny day, we chatted about his evolution as a playwright.
BV: It’s become a passion, now. It’s something I really need to do. My early playwriting was instinctive, a lot of anger and revolution. Now it’s different. It’s exploring who we are and what we’re doing here, and exploring human emotions, my own and others.
If you were lucky enough to see Oregon Stage Works’ Playwrights Unit’s last series of plays, “Seven Deadly Sins”, you saw seasoned Broadway actress, Gloria Rossi-Menedez, give delightful performances in six of them.
Gloria’s new restaurant, Blue – Greek on Granite, has been an overwhelming success. It’s a family enterprise, which she shares with her husband, George, daughter, Thea, soon to be joined by son, Alexi. As we dined on the outdoor patio of Blue, Gloria and I talked about the “Greek mystique”.
When Gloria and I were in our teens, we spent six months studying at the University of California’s Classical Theater campuses in Athens and Delphi, Greece. During our stay, the country was suddenly locked in a military coup, and we learned valuable lessons about politics and the power of theater.
Actress Helena de Crespo, last summer’s sensation in Oregon Stage Works’ “Shirley Valentine”, is spearheading a new project in the Rogue Valley. It’s called Intercambio, a multi-cultural theater project to integrate the arts and bring artists and audiences together, bridging the gap of ethnicity.
Fluent in Spanish and English, Helena has established theaters in Colombia, Costa Rica, and in the United States. Helena and I lunched at Pangea as she described her upcoming talent Showcase and the premier of a new play.
HDC: With the formation of this new organization, Intercambio, in the Rogue Valley, it seemed the best way to show the cultures to each other was to get them together, have a Showcase, and leave it up to them. And it’ll happen. It’ll be really exciting. There will be something from every age group, every ethnicity group, and everyone is welcome. We want to hear from everybody who thinks they can sing, dance, play a musical instrument, read a poem, do a scene from a play, anything that’s in the performing arts.