Jahnna Beecham and Malcolm Hillgartner are the masterminds behind the smartly conceived and composed “Holmes & Watson Save the Empire,” a musical mystery playing at Oregon Cabaret Theatre and directed by Michael Hume.
Beecham and Hillgartner are married with two children and have developed a successful writing partnership. We visited together in their charming and whimsically decorated Ashland home.
The couple met in the 1970s, when they were actors at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.
JB: We acted a lot in regional theater, but continued to write wherever we went.
MH: We didn’t feel restricted, that we could only do theater, but we always felt that if you could find an opportunity you should take it. We learned early on that you have to have lots of balls in the air because as soon as you think that one thing is going to go, that’s when suddenly there’s a change in administration. And the new theater producer or editor is saying, “I’ve got my own friends I’d like to hire.” Then you have to network a new way.
This is the third show that OCT’s done of ours. The first show, “Chaps,” was a British radio show/cowboy musical. The second show, “They Came From Way Out There,” was written with Michael Hume.
Diane Nichols plays Sylvia, the hip homemaker turned religious crusader, in “End Days,” Ashland Contemporary Theatre’s up-to-the-minute comedy playing at the Bellview Grange. A veteran of theater, films, voice-overs and commercials, Nichols is also a writer. We met at Noble Coffee Roasting early one afternoon to talk about writing, acting and “End Days,” which I directed.
EH: You’re a writer as well as an actress?
DN: I write mostly comedies. I’ve written a lot of one-acts. Right now, I’m working on three full-length plays at the same time. I’m finishing a novel; and I write poetry all the time.
EH: How does being in theater affect your family life?
DN: We just have a theatrical family. From a very early age, my son would stand up after dinner and start making up songs on the spot. Or, for the entire dinner, we would all be speaking in Irish accents. It’s a very free environment, and the kids are always free to experiment. They always had art materials and puppets out, and we would make up games and screenplays. It’s sort of an ongoing play, so it didn’t seem separate to me.