Richard Manley’s romantic comedy, “A Question of Words,” which debuted as a reading at the Ashland New Plays Festival in 2013, is now is now fully produced and playing at the Camelot Theatre in Talent until March 1.
After a successful career in marketing and design, Manley embarked on a writing career when he and his wife decided to leave their jobs, sell all of their possessions, and travel. We met at Ashland’s Café 116 on Lithia Way one winter afternoon.
Gwen Overland and Doug Warner wrote and directed the “Old Time Traveling Radio Show,” which continues with the Next Stage Repertory Company Friday and Saturday at the Craterian Theater in Medford.
With a doctorate in theater arts and clinical psychology and a master’s degree in music, Overland teaches psychology at Rogue Community College and works as an expressive voice coach. We visited at Boulevard Coffee in Ashland one afternoon.
Oregon Cabaret Theatre’s stunning production of “The Wizard of Panto-Land” was written, directed and choreographed by Artistic Director Jim Giancarlo. Based on “The Wizard of Oz,” it glitters with sumptuous scenery, dazzling costumes and extraordinary acting talent. Giancarlo and I visited over coffee in the theater’s posh restaurant overlooking the pop-out storybook stage.
EH: How was this theater formed?
JG: The whole thing started on this production of “Grease” at the Britt Festivals years ago. Paul Barnes was the director, I was the choreographer, Craig Hudson was the set designer. We founded this theater the following year. You look back on it, 28 years later, and it seems a little mythic. But at the time, you just put one foot in front of the other, like everything in life. It’s only in retrospect that you see a pattern or understand the journey, like Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz.” That’s a journey.
Ashland playwright David Hill is conducting a workshop with other Ashland writers to develop plays in the vein of “The Twilight Zone.” Participants are developing psychological thrillers to be presented in a dramatic reading by Ashland Contemporary Theatre on Halloween in the Gresham Room of the Ashland library. Hill was a student of Rod Serling, the originator of the iconic television series “The Twilight Zone.” We got together one afternoon at Boulevard Coffee.
EH: Can you tell me about the genesis of “The Twilight Zone”?
DH: Serling started “The Twilight Zone” because he wrote a television play about racial prejudice that generated a lot of controversy. The network executives made him water it down and change it so that the entire point was lost. He figured that the only way he could say what he felt needed to be said was to disguise it as science fiction. That’s how he got the idea for the television series. He wasn’t that interested in science fiction, but he felt if you’ve got spacemen and monsters in a script, the networks were not going to relate it to a political situation, even though it was.
Michael J. Hume, along with Jahnna Beecham and Malcolm Hillgartner, wrote “Dogpark: The Musical” now playing at Oregon Cabaret Theatre. The trio has written other musicals, including “Holmes and Watson Save the Empire,” which Hume directed. He is currently in rehearsal for “The Heart of Robin Hood” and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. We chatted one afternoon about the process of writing musicals with friends.
MH: It was like “Singing in the Rain.” Malcolm would be on the piano; we could just sit there writing songs and creating riffs. Then I’d come home and write, and we’d send computer stuff back and forth.
EH: It’s nice that you can collaborate; writing alone can be daunting.
Southern Oregon University associate professor David McCandless is directing the premiere of his play “Invisible Threads,” which opens Thursday in SOU’s Center Stage Theatre. We chatted in his office in the Theatre Arts Department.
DM: The premise is, a mysterious figure recruits some down-on-their-luck actors to apply their thespian skills to rescue some people from real-life crises. It preys upon that ethic angst that a lot of actors have: that they’re not contributing to the world; that they’re not really doing anything to help people; and that they’re just indulging themselves.
It explores the thin border between illusion and reality. It has to do with that theater and life continuum. It’s meant to be an examination of role-playing and identity, and the joys and the limits of theater.
Ashland playwright Molly B. Tinsley’s “Pompadour” will premier Saturday, Jan. 19, with Ashland Contemporary Theatre. Peggy Rubin directs, and Jeannine Grizzard plays the titled mistress of King Louis XV of France. Molly and I met at Bloomsbury Coffee.
EH: What was the inspiration for “Pompadour”?
MT: There was an exhibit at the Portland Art Museum called “La volupte du gout (taste of the voluptuous): French Painting in the Age of Madame de Pompadour.” I went through it three times. I was fascinated by the overripe, color-saturated, complacently allegorical imagery.