Tag Archives: SOU

The art of storytelling in a dystopian setting

Michael J. Hume directs Southern Oregon University’s “Mr. Burns, a Post-Electric Play,” Anne Washburn’s dark musical comedy, now playing in OSF’s Black Swan Theatre. The play envisions a post apocalypse world set in Northern California.

Next year Hume will be in his 26th season at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, with roles in “Romeo and Juliet” and “Sense and Sensibility.” We met downstairs at Mix in Ashland.

EH: How did SOU choose: “Mr. Burns, a Post-Electric Play”?

MJH: SOU wanted to celebrate the art of storytelling. We are doing this play, about people telling the story of The Simpsons, in repertory with Mary Zimmerman’s “The Arabian Nights,” about Scheherazade and a thousand and one tales.

EH: Is the play science fiction?

MJH: It’s dystopian fiction as opposed to science fiction; there’s not much science in the play. It’s about surviving and not uncomfortably. “Mr. Burns” begins with very basic storytelling: Folks sitting around a campfire obsessing about The Simpsons “Cape Feare Episode.” The great irony is that: What if these same people were obsessing about “King Lear” or “Moby Dick,” some great classic piece of literature, as opposed to what some people would call trivial or pop culture? I’m not a huge Simpson’s fanatic, but I am a fan. In terms of social commentary, I think it’s brilliant.

I would argue for The Simpsons that they’re smart. That they are a dysfunctional stupid American family is actually very telling — in terms of who we have become. It becomes a new mythology. We have Simpson’s scenes, we have Simpson’s characters: It’s not “The Simpsons on Ice,” or anything like that. It is human beings talking about The Simpsons and eventually putting on Simpson’s plays to make money. Capitalism is all over this. Continue reading The art of storytelling in a dystopian setting

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Backstage: What’s the value of a theater arts education?

Southern Oregon University Professor Eric Levin has been awarded a Fulbright scholarship. Levin will teach for the 2017-18 academic year at the University of Ireland in Galway and participate in the University’s International Eugene O’Neill Conference. I met with Levin in his office on the SOU Campus.

EH: Tell me about your Fulbright project.

EL: The purpose of the Fulbright is to increase academic interaction internationally and to exchange cultural views. We’re trying to create relationships with schools in Europe. I’m hoping to travel in Britain and the Continent to sample some of their theater techniques. I’m going to explore the Abbey Theatre in Dublin, and I want to meet with the Accademia dell’Arte School in Italy. There are lots of possibilities; I just have to lay groundwork for all of them.

Hopefully we’ll be able to bring people from Europe to teach and students to learn. At the same time, our students will have opportunities to get support from European colleges — professional internships — where they can go overseas and study. Continue reading Backstage: What’s the value of a theater arts education?

A glove-maker’s son’s words reveal worlds

Scott Kaiser’s new play, “Shakespeare’s Other Women,” will be presented Feb. 16 to 19 at Southern Oregon University. We met in his office on the Oregon Shakespeare Festival campus, where he is director of company development. This is the second of a two-part column. The first was published on Dec. 26.

EH: You’ve written several books?

SK: Most of my writing has been deeply inspired by Shakespeare.

EH: Why do you find the study of Shakespeare so compelling?

SK: He understood human existence better than any other writer. As you move through stages of life, different characters, plays, scenes, situations and moral conundrums start to read differently. “Romeo and Juliet” is a great example of this. When you’re a teenager, you totally understand Juliet: the passion, the love. But as you get older, you start to look at the parents and what they’re going through; the death of children; hatred towards a rival faction; a prince that is trying to make peace and simply can’t do it. Continue reading A glove-maker’s son’s words reveal worlds

Getting to know ‘Shakespeare’s Other Women’

Author/Director Scott Kaiser has written a new play, “Shakespeare’s Other Women,” to be presented Feb. 16–19 at Southern Oregon University. Kaiser, who first came to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival as an actor in 1985, is now OSF’s Director of Company Development. We met in his office at the new Hay-Patton Rehearsal Center on the OSF Campus. This is the first part of a two-part column. The second will be published on Monday, Jan. 9.

EH: How did this project come about?

SK: I do a lot of auditioning and teaching. For women, there are few Shakespeare monologues. Young women in particular are often forced to use the same monologue over and over. Most of the monologues do not represent the full range of the female experience. I started to write speeches to try to expand the canon of material for women to use. It’s meant to be a new collection of monologues for women. I’m writing them in verse, the way that Shakespeare would have written them.

These are characters mentioned by Shakespeare (but who don’t appear), historical characters and mythological characters that are invoked. I have drawn from the canon, characters that you are curious about and given those women a chance to have a full appearance. Continue reading Getting to know ‘Shakespeare’s Other Women’

Backstage: Program notes aid in understanding, appreciating music

Ed Wight delivers pre-concert talks and writes program notes for the Ashland Chamber Music Concerts, the Oregon Repertory Singers, and the Rogue Valley Symphony (which now can be read on-line.) For a decade, Wight taught music history and music appreciation at Southern Oregon University. We visited over lunch at the Standing Stone Brewing Company.

EH: What does a piece of music have to have, to make it a great piece of music?

EW: Not much. Think of “Amazing Grace,” just a simple melody works. People have forgotten what arrangers do: You’ve heard this melody a hundred or a thousand times, but the arranger can change anything about it except the melody. You look for rich chords. A good arranger can change the chord, the mood, the tempo. I love to hear strings in pop music, let alone in classical music, backing simple melodies or simple themes. A theme is just a high-fluting musical history word for the melody.

Do you want slow, lyrical ballads? Do you want that powerful dramatic movement? So often, the best works will have both. That’s why symphonies and string quartets will have more than one movement; they give you different moods to respond to. And that’s what’s nice too: In a symphony, a string quartet, a piano trio, you’ve got three or four movements, each in a different mood. Who ever thought that up, did it right, long ago. That’s been with us since the Renaissance. They would have a fast dance and a slow dance on the same tune, or sometimes they would be different tunes, but they would pair dances of different moods. That’s when we started getting the concept of a single work having very different components. We’ve run with it ever since, thank goodness.

EH: How does one develop an understanding of classical music?

EW: Find things that you like and start moving out from there. That’s the trick. It’s tougher now because classical music has basically disappeared from media. It’s not part of the popular culture any more. The Chamber Music Series gets the world’s best string quartets, piano trios, piano soloists, and so on.

I try to ride two horses in the notes that I write, and the talks that I give, because I’m always conscious that there might be someone who doesn’t know much about classical music. I keep my language simple. I also want to surprise people who have heard Beethoven’s Fifth a hundred times — to find a little nugget, that maybe they don’t know about Beethoven that influenced that work.

If you really like a piece of music, and want to understand it, and start breaking it apart: “What chords does he use? How does he shape the melody? What’s the overall shape of the piece?” You are documenting an interest. You are documenting a love affair.Ed Wight

Ed Wight

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SOU digs deep into ‘The Winter’s Tale’

Esau Mora and Aleah Zimmer
Esau Mora and Aleah Zimmer

Southern Oregon University’s extraordinary production of William Shakespeare’s “The Winter’s Tale” is filled with passionate performances, skillful direction and dynamic staging. As the play opens, King Leontes, falls into a jealous rage over his wife’s interest in his best friend; the tragic and comic consequences drive the rest of the story. I chatted with play director David McCandless and actors Esau Mora (King Leontes) and Aleah Zimmer (Queen Hermione) on the mezzanine of the Southern Oregon University Student Union.

EH: The Shakespearean verse was so clearly delivered, what was your process of putting the play together?

DM: We began around the table for three days going through the play, going through the verse, talking about what things meant in a sort of micro-sense. Some of the language is rather obtuse, especially Leontes’ lines; the syntax is so tortuous and the meaning is really allusive. Continue reading SOU digs deep into ‘The Winter’s Tale’

Jacky Apodaca

Jackie Apodaca
Jackie Apodaca

Jackie Apodaca directs “The Drunken City” by Adam Bock, now playing at Southern Oregon University’s Center Square Theatre. Cesar Perez Rosas and Samuel L. Wick play Frank and Eddie, two young bar-crawlers who hook up with three girls on a bride/bachelorette party binge. Perez Rosas and Wick are both in their fifth year at SOU, pursuing bachelor of fine arts degrees. Both will be interns at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival next fall. The three of us met at Starbucks near the SOU Campus.

EH: Tell me about the play.

JA: Thematically, it’s about identity, what happens when you’re on a path, and you realize that it’s not the right one. Occasionally, the role that you’re playing will smack up against who you are or what you really want to do. In this case we’re looking at bride-mania.
I believe that now, women in our culture are under a great deal of pressure to play the role of being a bride, walking down the aisle and bringing everyone’s expectations to life as they fulfill that role. Although I did discover that spending on weddings has not increased over the last five or six years, from about 1989 to about 1995, there was a huge run-up where it quadrupled. Now on average, in this country, people spend about $22,000 on their wedding. It was about six or seven grand in the late ’80s, so it did a big jump, but now it has sort of settled. Continue reading Jacky Apodaca

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