Rogue Community College Theater Arts Instructor, Ron Danko, is directing the musical “Working”, which opens May 11, at the newly constructed Rogue Performance Hall on the Medford Campus. Danko has been visiting local construction sites and picking-up palates and spools to create the “no budget” set.
RD: The set’s a little grungy, but that’s what “Working” is. This play fits the times. It’s more apropos right now with what’s happening. It speaks on behalf of the people who work. It’s a diverse cast of thirty-five characters.
EH: What are the qualities that you look for in casting?
RD: Truthfulness, honesty, naturalness. With this show I don’t want them to come across as actors in the show. I want them to tell the story. The stories are all interesting, so you don’t have to embellish them.
EH: What makes this play great?
RD: I’m not sure you’d say this is a great play as such. It’s different than a play. It’s a collection of interviews. It is a theatrical event. What makes it great is that it deals with real people, not fictional characters. I tell the actors: “You don’t have to act. You’ve got to convey the inner core of that person.” It’s about average people who talk directly to the audience. We almost break the fourth wall. They are looking at you eyeball to eyeball and sharing their thoughts about their jobs.
EH: What’s the difference between professional theater and academic theater?
RD: With professional actors, it’s a job. Here, it’s not a job; it’s a diversion from “the job”. Some of the students are fast food workers. It’s assembly line. All it means is dollars coming in. It’s a means to an end, but with no sense of identity. Nobody says, “Oh, you’re really outstanding. Who are you?” So, to be an actor gives a sense of identity. As actors on the stage, students get respect which they probably don’t get in their jobs.
EH: What makes a good director?
RD: A good director here at Rogue Community College is doing a little bit of everything. You’ve got to motivate people to work and spend so many hours without getting paid. In my case, it’s going out to collect spools, being here to paint the set, being here for the lights, and to run the box office.
They’re looking at cutting the theater program. To build this complex, and then say, “We’ll let the community use it,” is okay, but the students should be the priority of using this space. There are a lot of community members who are going-to-bat for the theater. And the students have hundreds of signatures on petitions. We’ll see what happens.
We know how valuable the arts are. When the students are just taking classes, coming to school, and leaving, there is no sense of community. Theater brings a sense of students together creating something here that is fun and enjoyable instead of just going into a classroom. It makes it a college to have productions.
EH: What is the element that pulls the cast and crew together?
RD: It’s being creative as a group, not just creating as an individual, but creating something and building something, that is wholly interdependent upon all of us. We’re all going to create, but it will take all of us to create what we want. That’s excitement, when you get everybody working toward that piece. We can’t create the overall piece without everyone’s one hundred percent. That really brings us together.
“Working” (interviews from the book by Studs Terkel) plays May 11-27 at the Rogue Performance Hall, 131 E. 8th St., Medford. For information and reservations, call: 541-245-7585.
Evalyn Hansen is a writer and director living in Ashland. She trained as an actor at the American Conservatory Theatre and is a founding member of San Francisco’s Magic Theatre.