A deep look at 1980s epidemic

Jim Edmondson is the director of “Angels in America: Millennium Approaches,” by Tony Kushner, now playing at Southern Oregon University’s Main Stage Theatre. A magnificent hallucinatory fantasy, the play offers a deeply personal look at the victims of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s, a time of sexual promiscuity and social oppression. I met with Edmondson in the theater during a technical rehearsal.

JE: The scope of the play is huge. I assigned the cast to study subjects such as: Civil Rights; the House Un-American Activities Committee; Roy Cohen; the history of drag, and leather bars in America; the early medical and political response to the epidemic; Rock Hudson; the plagues of the 13th and 17th century. The Angel brought in charts of the structure of heaven. It’s been interesting to research the clothes of the early ’80s, and how strange they were.

The play is interesting because it is so political, so religious, so compassionate and so despicable. The range of experience is great. It’s so enormous in its scope: that you’d have ghosts and fantasies, and historical figures. Kushner was very daring to put all that into the same world.

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Love and gender take center stage in ‘Twelfth Night’

Cil Stengel directs Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night,” opening May 17 in the Rogue Performance Hall at Rogue Community College in Medford.

Stengel has assembled a stellar production team including composer Sue Carney, choreographer Suzanne Seiber, acting coach Eileen DeSandre, and costumes by Emily Ehrlich Inget.

I met with Stengel and her Malvolio, Marshal Gluskin, at Rogue Valley Roasting Company in Ashland.

CS: The resurgence of theater is happening at RCC. We now have a great black box theater. The cast is made of mostly students and about 20 percent community members. Continue reading Love and gender take center stage in ‘Twelfth Night’

Transitioning between film and stage

Actor Andrew Perez played Klaus Kinski both in film and live performance during the Ashland Independent Film Festival. Klaus Kinski was an explosive, eccentric German actor, who was directed by Werner Herzog in a number of films including: “Fitzcarraldo,” “Nosferatu the Vampyre,” and “Aguirre, the Wrath of God.”

The film “My Dinner with Werner” is an uproarious spoof, directed by Maverick Moore, portraying a murderous battle between, Klaus Kinski and Werner Herzog. Perez’s one-man theatrical performance, “The Second Coming of Klaus Kinski” is a thrilling tour-de-force, written by Perez, and impeccably directed by Eric G. Johnson.

I met with Perez and Johnson at the Schneider Museum of Art where we viewed the Apocalypse exhibit.

EH: How did you construct “The Second Coming of Klaus Kinski?”

AP: The logic of it is that he is dying. It is a platform for his redemption, where his soul is doing battle in his moment of passing. It’s like a dream. His demons start ambushing him, and he’s defending his life, which leads him into the past. Continue reading Transitioning between film and stage

Characters who want more out of life

Anne and Gary Lundgren’s feature film “Phoenix Oregon” recently premiered at the Ashland Independent Film Festival. It was the Lundgen’s fourth feature film, and it was filmed in rural Oregon. Their other films were “Black Road,” “Redwood Highway” and “Calvin Marshall.” We visited at their studio on East Main Street in Ashland.

EH: Are your films thematically linked?

GL: I think they all are. There’s definitely a main character that is unhappy, not being fulfilled by life.

AL: I think there is a lot of grace and love for all of these characters. They have passion and are wanting more.

GL: Wanting more out of life or wanting certain doors to open that are not opening. I think “Phoenix Oregon” is the same kind of story. A midlife crisis: two guys feel the clock ticking. They are not living the life they want, so they have to do whatever they can to change it, and take those risks.

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Bayard explores apocalypse in video exhibit

Bruce Bayard will present his video collage, “Triptychs,” in “Apocalypse,” a media art exhibition curated by Richard Herskowitz and Scott Malbaurn, at the Schneider Museum of Art during the Ashland Independent Film Festival. I met with Bayard at his Studio on A Street in Ashland.

EH: How does your film relate to the theme of apocalypse?

BB: There is the underlying theme of apocalypse in all of my work. There are concerns with climate change, and what kind of damage we are going to be facing over the next few decades. There are elements in the work that are bringing up what we’re doing to the planet and the environment. I call it fouling the nest. I think that climate change that’s going on could potentially be apocalyptic, if we don’t start throwing some serious effort at mitigating what’s going to be happening.

The film that I’m showing is non-narrative, stream of consciousness, and as you look at it, you’ll have to put together your own sense of what’s going on in the film. I’m not creating the film with an exact narrative in mind, and I’m also letting things evolve randomly. The images that I’ve chosen have to do with our environment, our situation, our relationship with that environment, and the climate change that is coming at us. Continue reading Bayard explores apocalypse in video exhibit

The craft of a solo performance

British actor John Rainer is preparing for his poetry recital honoring the British Poets Laureates, opening at the Ashland Library on Saturday April 6th. Rainer’s recent solo performance “Prufrock’s World” featuring poems by T.S. Eliot played to sold-out audiences. Those of us who were lucky enough to see it were astounded by the brilliance of the poetry and the talent of the man. I chatted with Rainer at the Pony Espresso Café.

EH: What was your theatrical training?

JR: At the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts: speech, scene study, you name it, the usual background. Really, my whole training was in British Regional Theatre. I toured England with various companies, and then did West End shows, the traditional route, which isn’t really traditional anymore. There really isn’t the training ground for young actors, where you really do get a chance to experiment with finding your own techniques. The repertory system, which was such a glorious training ground, isn’t really there anymore. Continue reading The craft of a solo performance

Backstage: Character revealed by movement

Suzanne Seiber is the choreographer for Brava! Opera Theater’s “Hansel and Gretel.” Seiber holds a Master of Arts degree in dance from the University of Oregon with a focus on movement training for actors. She teaches dance and choreographs in numerous settings including the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, the Oregon Cabaret Theatre and Southern Oregon University. We chatted one morning at The Growler Guys in Ashland.

EH: How do you choreograph plays?

SS: A lot of it is character movement. As a theater choreographer you work with, “Who is this?” “What kind of movement is going to show who they are?” “What’s the mood of that particular moment?” and, “What’s going to make it pop?” It’s also about getting into patterns, to give a sense of the time, the place, the character, and then embody the music.

Suzanne Seiber is the choreographer for Brava! Opera Theater’s “Hansel and Gretel.” Seiber holds a Master of Arts degree in dance from the University of Oregon with a focus on movement training for actors. She teaches dance and choreographs in numerous settings including the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, the Oregon Cabaret Theatre and Southern Oregon University. We chatted one morning at The Growler Guys in Ashland.

EH: How do you choreograph plays?

SS: A lot of it is character movement. As a theater choreographer you work with, “Who is this?” “What kind of movement is going to show who they are?” “What’s the mood of that particular moment?” and, “What’s going to make it pop?” It’s also about getting into patterns, to give a sense of the time, the place, the character, and then embody the music.

Continue reading Backstage: Character revealed by movement

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