Director-actor Ron Danko and musician-music Historian David Gordon have formed The Madrone Theatre Company to produce a new adaptation of the “Spoon River Anthology,” opening Oct. 7 in the Rogue Community College Performance Hall in Medford.
Published in 1915, Edgar Lee Masters “Spoon River Anthology” portrayed small town rural America through poetic portraits of numerous characters who somehow spoke from beyond the grave. Danko pulled 50 out of 240 vignettes and invited David Gordon to weave music into the production. I met Danko and Gordon one afternoon in Rogue Community College’s pristine black-box theater.
EH: How would you describe the “Spoon River Anthology”?
DG: It’s like a haiku or a miniature painting. It somehow condenses life down into its absolute minimal number of words or strokes. These are vignettes about life by people who are done with living. They don’t have to put on pretenses or lie any more. They can be totally honest about their successes and their failures. They admit their failures. To me, the mastery of it is that (sometimes in just a few dozen words) each one creates this little reality that has emotion in it.
Benjamin Bonenfant plays Pip in “Great Expectations,” now playing at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. This is his first season at OSF. Recently, Bonenfant was Prince Hal in Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s productions of “Henry IV: Parts 1 and 2″ and King Henry in “Henry V.” This is the second in a two-part column; the first was published on Aug. 8, 2016.
EH: How does theater relate to politics and society?
BB: Right now, in our political arena, there is an on-going theater of the grotesque that is really unsettling. We see revolutions, fascism and these regime-toppling ideas being tossed around, rather than any sort of discourse between two moderate sides. It’s horrifying. It feels like a spectacle.
How theater relates to social issues? There’s a lot to be said for what theater can accomplish and how it can be relevant. I love the diversity and inclusion initiative in this company. For example: There is a preexisting narrative that the world of Dickensian London was a predominantly white place. That is part of a false narrative. There were people of color all over England in Dickens’ time. We have a production of “Great Expectations” that is very diverse. We introduce a diverse world of Dickens to the minds of people who didn’t know there was one. We also reflect more authentically a cross-section of the human experience. It broadens the capability of this story to apply to everybody. This is the kind of narrative we need in this country. Continue reading Theater can serve church-like life role→
Benjamin Bonenfant plays Pip in Charles Dickens’ “Great Expectations,” now playing at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Bonenfant came from the Colorado Shakespeare Festival where he played such roles as Henry V in “Henry V,” Prince Hal in “Henry IV” Parts 1 and 2, and Ferdinand in “The Tempest.” We visited over iced coffee at Mix. (This is the first part of a two-part column. The second will be published Aug. 22.)
EH: How do you approach a role?
BB: It’s different for every role, for instance, doing a Shakespeare versus doing an adaptation of a novel. A Shakespeare play has all the necessary information in the lines. The time, place, what’s happening in the world, the way people feel, and the qualities of the characters, all of that information, you get by studying the text of the play. You look for every reference to your character from all of the other characters. Shakespeare gives it all to you, so you get the fullest picture. It’s all in the words. Continue reading Translating ‘Great Expectations’ from page to stage→