Susan Aversa-Orrego is managing director of Collaborative Theatre Project, now in its third year in the Medford Center. We met at Boulevard Coffee to discuss CTP’s 2020 season.
SA: We wanted to have an interesting, more intriguing, and happier season. It’s an election year, and people are already overly stressed. Why not do something that alleviates stress? We start with Ken Ludwig’s “Sherwood: The Adventures of Robin Hood.” It’s a true swashbuckling epic. It fits into this fun, quirky season that we’re shaping: a combination of new and classic plays.
EH: What effect does live theater have on a community?
SA: I think it starts conversations. It’s a place where people who don’t know each other can experience the same thing at the same moment in time. Then you see the conversations happening in the lobby, strangers starting to talk to strangers. Theater and the arts create a community. Our lives are very bare without them.
EH: What makes CTP different from the other Rogue Valley theaters?
SA: Our playing space is unique. It’s like a black box, so people are right up front and involved. You don’t have any distance from what’s happening in front of you.
We work hard to get outstanding directors. A good director shapes everything to make a cohesive package. You have a lot more experimentation and more depth when plays are grounded in directing.
To develop a new audience, we’ve written grants for funding to bring students in for preview nights at no cost. We invite Kids Unlimited and other groups to see the show for free. We reach out to younger members of the community who wouldn’t be able to afford to go to live theater, to have them experience what that is.
Theater has to have a place in the community as well as on stage. If you work within four walls, and you expect people will come in to see what you do, then you lose your ability to connect to the others who might not be able to come. We bring theater outside for free: We perform theater in the parks through the Medford Department of Parks and Recreation.
We do things a little differently in terms of reaching out to the youngest members of the community. We’ve started the Saturday series for small children, as their first exposure to theater. That’s a $5 ticket. It’s a 40-minute show on a Saturday morning. That also gets the parents involved. Somebody has to bring them; they usually can’t drive at the age of 3. Those things work together.
It’s not just reaching out to the senior population, which is typically the supporter of live theater. It’s also to bring in and mix in other community members so that they can see theater and understand why it is important.
EH: What brings you to a life in theater?
SA: Joy. It’s just joy. I love directing. When the show is running, I can stand back and watch how people respond to it. That is just fun.
It’s opening up hearts and minds to receive new information. In our society, where people are connected to their iPhone (with their heads down texting), theater brings their heads up and looking out.
Being involved in the arts can change people’s lives. That’s always going to be valuable.