Doug Burns is Camelot Theatre’s interim executive director. He has a Master’s in Business Administration from Harvard Business School and a long career in theater and advertising. Burns recently returned to Ashland after an absence of 13 years. In the 1990s, Burns was the general manager of the Oregon Cabaret Theatre. We met at Noble Coffee.
EH: What is your attraction to theater?
DB: For me, it’s about the people. I really like actors, singers and musicians. I find these people incredibly creative and open-minded. It’s this traveling community. You bring a group of people together for an intense period; they create this community, and then they disperse. I love their camaraderie. I love their openness, their fun and their weirdness.
Theater itself is that magic of live energy between the performers and the audience. There’s one expression, “Audiences get the show they deserve,” because of their energy and their response to the show. If the audience is with the show, it can go to the heights. One of my raison d’etres for being in theater has always been to make sure the artists are taken care of.
Dennis Smith, Theatre Arts professor emeritus at Southern Oregon University, is the director of “Lucky Stiff,” a hilarious musical comedy currently playing on campus. Smith and I chatted in his small shared office at SOU.
DS: I’m semi-retired now. I was in charge of the Performance Program for about 26 years. When I was hired in 1985, we had about 45 Theatre Arts majors. Now we’ve got in the neighborhood of 250.
We are still in the same building that was designed for 60 students. The faculty has more than doubled, and the student body has quadrupled. Classes are taught in hallways. They will use restrooms as rehearsal space. We’re busting at the seams.
EH: What does a degree in theater prepare you for?
DS: If you graduate in theater, and you don’t make it in theater, you should probably go into the Diplomatic Corps. One thing that theater does teach you is how to work cooperatively.
Playwright Julia Sommer’s next production has the intriguing title “Death, Dogs, Dope and the Divine.” Sommer, a former journalist, rock and roll singer and Zen monk, is a self-taught playwright. She has been writing plays for the past five years. We visited in her charming Ashland home.
EH: What’s our attraction to theater?
JS: As a member of the audience, it’s magic. You see real-live 3-D, living, breathing people performing these incredible roles and you get totally caught up in it, and you’re moved. And sometimes you do have new thoughts and new ways of looking at things.
The show, the lighting, the costumes and the sound — you get the spectacle. And here you are in a nice comfortable seat, you’re totally catered to and there are the actors doing these incredible things. It’s stimulating. It’s entertaining.
I think the difference between the two-dimensional screen and the three-dimensional theater is you’re in the room with three-dimensional people, and they’re not being edited. It’s not all manipulated like it is on the screen.
It’s a miracle, in this crazy world, that we actually still have the wherewithal to put on these kinds of professional productions. That despite all of the ghastliness, all of the terrible things going on in this world, we can actually get it together to put on these incredible plays.