Actress/writer Lyda Woods recently directed the remarkable series of theatrical pieces, “Ripe Harvest” performed at the Ashland Senior Center in October. Her Gumshoe Gourmet, an entertainment production company, partners with historical sights to stage murder mysteries. Her next production has the intriguing title of: “A Bed, A Baby, A Door, Detroit, and a Bowel Problem.” I met Woods at the Downtowne Coffee House in Talent,
EH: For you, what is the relationship of family to theater?
LW: I think theater gives me insight into my family, my family dynamics, all that kind of stuff. Theater is a way for me to explore my family, through the pieces I write. And theater, in a sense, becomes my family. I feel very close to the actors I collaborate with and a number of them have become like family members to me. We understand each other in a way that real family members don’t.
EH: How do you see theater as a political force?
LW: I think if you want to change somebody’s mind, make him laugh first; that’s probably a good strategy. I really love humor. I’ve never been involved in Agitprop Theater, although saw a lot of it in San Francisco, such as the San Francisco Mime Troup, and I admire what they do a lot. The Gumshoe Gourmet murder mysteries don’t tend to be political just because that’s my more commercial end, trying to bring clients in, and often they’re big corporations.
I bemoan the fact that there aren’t more roles for women in their forties and fifties. I guess my most political stance in my work , especially in Gumshoe Gourmet, I’m very committed to creating a lot of great parts for older women, that defy stereotypes: They’re fifty, they’re sexy, and they’re powerful.
EH: That’s what you brought out with the Senior Citizens in “Ripe Harvest”.
LW: It was interesting. There were three pieces about sex. I just loved the direction they were going, especially the one about the woman in her eighties who was going, “A sixty-two year old man wants to have sex with me, and I don’t know what to do.” I thought that was so cute.
And it’s wonderful to see people improve, and this group of Seniors, talk about commitment, these people don’t give up. They don’t give up easily at all. The show’s been over, and I’ve been getting calls asking, “When are we going to perform again?” I’ve been trying to figure out a way to create a small company and have limited touring. I would really love to see that take off.
EH: As an actor, what kind of parts would you like to play?
LW: I’d love to play Lady Macbeth, Queen Christina, powerful, screwed-up women, that’s the kind of part I’d like to play.
EH: What is it about the nature of theater that draws us so strongly to the medium?
LW: For me, I love the process of investigating what’ in the human soul and the human character, and I could spend my life in a rehearsal studio working on a play. I’m less interested in the glamour side of things. To me it’s the opposite of why I went into theater, which was all about internals, all about an actor being able to play anything and anyone throughout time. It’s something very central to what it is to be human.
Woods will per performing a solo performance piece in “A Bed, a Baby, a Door, Detroit, and a Bowl Problem” on December 18 and 19 at the Ashland Community Center on Windburn Way in Ashland. Other performers in the production are: Orion Bradshaw, Cat Gould, Samar Dawisha, and Cindy Rogan.