The moral of the Bonnie & Clyde story

The Collaborative Theater Project’s current musical, “Bonnie and Clyde” features Sabrina Hebert as Blanche Barrow. Hebert studied music at Southern Oregon University, and discovered her love of musical theater. I met with Hebert and CTP President Susan Aversa-Orrego at Boulevard Coffee in Ashland.

EH: Tell me about “Bonnie and Clyde.”

SA-O: I picked “Bonnie and Clyde” because it’s fun to do a newer show with a wide audience appeal. You want to do something new and exciting, but you also want to attract people to see your work, so that you can build your company.

SH: The play is very glamorous, but it’s pretty edgy. It really makes you weigh in on what’s right and what’s wrong. It takes place during the time of the Dust Bowl, a time when people were desperate.

SA-O: This is the backdrop for this show: a very painful time for most Americans. These actors are the ages that the characters would have been. Bonnie was 24 when she died; Clyde was 26. They actually had them lying in state. About 40,000 people came to see Clyde Barrow, and 50,000 came to see Bonnie Parker. They were like movie stars. The sad part is that they were kids.

SH: It’s heartbreaking and beautiful. They gave up on their dreams. They were the stars, but it did not turn out well for them.

SA-O: There’s a lot of food for thought within the overall structure of the musical, not to mention that the music is absolutely gorgeous.

EH: Is there a message for today?

SH: Lately, the American Dream seems to be having wealth, being able to take what you want — and a lot of people do. The whole show wavers on morality: Your morality and your happiness go hand in hand.

SA-O: The Barrows were dirt poor; they lived in tents and got kicked off the land. What does that do to somebody when you have everything taken away from you, and you don’t have any reason to be positive? Even now, when we talk about kicking someone off health care: If you’re ill, and someone denies you access to health care, what options do you have?

SH: You could let the system ultimately break you. There are similarities today resorting back to the way things were. Even with race and religion — I have had people come up to me and tell me to go back to my country. And I’m Native American. This is my native country.

EH: What is theater?

SA-O: Theater is man’s expression of his fears, hopes, secrets and dreams. Greek theater was there to show us the way to behave. All of the Greek plays, comedies and tragedies, had their moral component: If you behave this way, this is what could happen. Most things that we need to express are timeless, even with “Bonnie and Clyde.” How do you behave? What does society do to you? It’s all of the things that we want to express. It’s a way to put that out there and create community; and it’s a safe forum for that expression.

SH: It’s representation and recognition, embodying culture and history and emotions and feelings. It’s fulfilling for you and others around you.

SA-O: When you engage in live theater, you’re sharing that experience in real time. It is connection and community and a way to remind us of who we are. It’s like a gift you give yourself and others at the same time. Theater creates community.

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