There are a couple of superstar stage managers, Karen Kuran and Kristen Mun, running Oregon Stage Works’ production of “Glengarry Glen Ross.” For those of you unfamiliar with the field, a stage manager is the pivotal person of a theatrical production, the coordinator of all of the elements and the liaison between the director, cast and crew of a play. She is also in charge of running the show after the play has opened.
Both Karen and Kristen came to Ashland while looking at prospective colleges and fell in love with Southern Oregon University. Both have been theater arts majors at SOU with an emphasis in stage management. We chatted over lunch at the House of Thai.
Anyone who has seen David Dials as the tragic/comic Shelley Levene in “Glengarry Glen Ross” (now at Oregon Stage Works) can see that David is an accomplished actor. But David fell in love with education early on. As we lunched at Geppetto’s, he told me how he combined a life of theater and teaching.
DD: I got my BA in theater with an emphasis in children’s theater, and then I got my teaching credential. I had a wonderful teaching career for 30 years. Just for fun, just recreationally, like you would play recreational softball, I’ve been in plays all the time, except for a period of time when my kids were at an age where I wanted to be at home with them.
Bill Langan is the director of David Mamet’s Pulitzer Prize-winning “Glengarry Glen Ross,” which opens Friday night at Oregon Stage Works. I have had the privilege of sitting in on rehearsals. The play is impeccably directed. Bill received his master’s degree from Yale School of Drama and has been acting professionally for 20 years, including six years in the acting company of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. We lunched on the terrace at Martino’s and discussed acting, art and politics.
BL: I couldn’t be more delighted by the quality of my actors. I love my guys. I’m so impressed. Now I can see from this “side of the table” the real meaning of the phrase, “directing is 80 or 90 percent casting,” depending on who you talk to and somewhat depending on the show. But this play is all about the actors; it’s all about the language, which I love.
As I visited with Shirley and Bill Patton in their exquisite Ashland hills home, I got to know two people who have shared a creative life together in theater. Their efforts led to the formation and success of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Shirley is now starring in “Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks” at the Camelot Theatre in Talent.
SP: Bill was the first person I met when I got off the bus.
BP: She came up to Ashland to audition in the summer of 1958 when I was general manager.
SP: Then he became the executive director. Bill’s position evolved over the years and as the festival grew. As theaters were added with more and more staff, his job description kept changing dramatically.
After an acting career spanning 30 years at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, playing such roles as Ophelia in “Hamlet,” Hermia in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and Bianca in “Othello,” Shirley Patton finds her acting talents delightfully in demand by Ashland’s alternative theaters. She is currently starring in “Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks” at Camelot Theatre in Talent. I visited with Shirley in her idyllic Ashland hillside home.
EH: How did you get to Ashland to begin with? How did this wonderful life come about?
SP: I was a student at Stanford. I kept hearing how wonderful it was to spend summers in Ashland, because you got to work with the greatest playwright ever in this four-play repertory. By a great fluke, at the last moment, I went on as Viola in “Twelfth Night” at Stanford. Angus Bowmer came down to see it and remembered me fondly from that.
After I graduated, I applied to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. I guess they were looking favorably on my application, but the last part of it got lost in the mail, so I didn’t hear anything from them. I wrote Angus a letter saying how one of my goals was to someday work in his company, and if he would be so kind as to tell me my areas of weakness, I would work on them until someday maybe I would be worthy.