Category Archives: Interview

OSF actor Chris Butler on TV and theater

Chris Butler’s superb performances at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival — Othello in “Othello” in 2018, and Griffin in last Season’s “How to Catch Creation” — prompted me to ask him for an interview.

Among other achievements, Butler earned his MFA in theater from the University of California at San Diego, and he played Matan Brody in 21 episodes on “The Good Wife” TV series. We visited over Cobb salads at Standing Stone Brewing Company.

EH: Tell me about your training as an actor.

CB: At UCSD, where I got most of my training, they didn’t subscribe to one particular school. They would give you a sprinkling of everything to see what resonated with you. They weren’t trying to make you a specific type of actor. They would let you bring what you had to the table and try to give you something to help you succeed. I’ve had a little taste of all of it. I approach the character from character background, character history and, “Who is everybody else in the play, and how do they interact with me?” And a little bit about, “Where did my character come from before he started the scene?” I have a personal method, but it doesn’t strictly come from this person or that person.

Continue reading OSF actor Chris Butler on TV and theater

Third takes on many meanings in ‘Third’

Livia Genise and Jeannine Grizzard have banded together to produce “Third,” now playing at Carpenter Hall through Nov. 24.

The play, written by Pulitzer Prize winner Wendy Wasserstein, centers around an accusation of plagiarism by Laurie, an aging female professor, toward Third, a young male college student. She sees him as a stereotype rather than recognizing him as a unique individual.

“Third” is an intricate and intriguing play. It takes place at a small New England college at the beginning of the Iraq war. The conflict centers around two interpretations of “King Lear.” Hers is feminist, and his is Freudian. Those themes resonate throughout the play.

“Third” is skillfully directed by Grizzard, with powerful performances by Genise and a strong supporting cast, including Renee Hewitt, Adam Kilgore, Beth Boulay and Sig Dekany.

I chatted with Genise and Grizzard over lunch at Sesame Asian Kitchen.

EH: What is the main thrust of this play?

JG: The play is about intellectual honesty.

LG: And integrity and rediscovering your integrity, if you’ve lost track of it.

Continue reading Third takes on many meanings in ‘Third’

Designing the scene

Sean O’Skea, professor of scenic design at Southern Oregon University, designed last spring’s brilliant production of “Angels in America: Millennium Approaches,” directed by Jim Edmondson. “Angels in America Part Two: Perestroika” will play Nov. 14-24 in SOU’s Main Stage Theatre. I met O’Skea in the lobby of the newly expanded Theatre Arts Building on the SOU campus.

EH: What’s your process of designing a play?

Sean O’Skea: It’s the same with all the designers, actors and directors. We start with the text and get a sense of what the play is trying to say. Designers are always sort of subordinate to the director’s vision. There are an infinite number of possibilities of ways that a play can be interpreted, especially good, rich, meaty plays. In an ideal situation, it becomes a nice collaborative back and forth. I’ll show some imagery, and the director will respond to it, and I’ll have a second pass at it, and we’ll go through that.

It’s always different depending on the venue, where it is, the time frame and budget. It changes a lot. There are so many variables as to how you get from the idea of the set to the actual set, and only some of those have to do with your artistic vision. If you go in with your dream of what that show wants to look like, and the director has an entirely different direction, it can be heartbreaking sometimes. It’s all part of the process.

Continue reading Designing the scene

Discovering the truth can be quite exciting

Rogue Theater Company Artistic Director Jessica Sage is in rehearsal for the company’s next production: Marsha Norman’s “’Night Mother.” The Pulitzer-prize winning play, directed by Caroline Shaffer, opens in Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s Black Swan Theater Nov. 1. Sage plays Mama, and Andrea Hochkeppel plays her daughter, Jessie. We all met one morning at the Rogue Valley Roasting Company.

EH: What attracts you to this play?

JS: There are so few plays for women by women that are this magnificent.

CS: The play is fundamentally about a relationship between a mother and a daughter, and it’s a complicated relationship.

Continue reading Discovering the truth can be quite exciting

Choosing the right role

Actor Marshall Gluskin is preparing for the Southern Oregon Theater Auditions now being held at The Oregon Cabaret Theatre. Gluskin played Malvolio in Cil Stengel’s brilliant production of Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” at Rogue Community College. He recently toured in Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot.” We visited over tea at the Rogue Valley Roasting Company.

EH: What’s an ideal director?

MG: A good director keeps things on a nice calm level, does not get too personally involved with the work, and carries through the intentions of the author. He has to know the craft and how to treat actors to get the best performances out of them. If everybody treats each other with respect and you have a situation that is relaxed, everybody can be themselves. Then you’re free to be the character. Rehearsals are places where you have to be able to fall on your face, and not worry about being embarrassed or called out for it. You’ve got to have that relaxation, professionalism, knowledge, and experience. It all comes into play.

Continue reading Choosing the right role

SOU theater program: ‘We train people well’

Deborah Rosenberg, professor in costume design at Southern Oregon University, is enjoying her 20th year as a faculty member of the SOU Theatre Program. Rosenberg acted in college and found herself in costume design, when she admitted to a director that she knew how to sew. I visited with Rosenberg in her office in the university’s newly expanded Theatre Building.

D.R.: I discovered that costume design gave me some distance from the stage pictures, whereas with acting, you’re in the middle of it. I found that my temperament was better served by being able to see the whole picture rather than the immersion experience from within. I could easily see that costume is too light, and that costume’s too dark, and I need more red on the rest of the stage.

We often get students who are interested in performance and discover lighting design for the very first time. It’s a glorious thing to watch a young person say, “I didn’t even know about this. And now I must know everything.” Or we have someone who comes in as a quiet, very shy person, and we watch them just grow in confidence, strength, skill and interest, and they’re standing center stage. It’s fun to watch the transformation of young people, of where they come from, mentally, emotionally, physically, to where they get to in just a few short years.

Continue reading SOU theater program: ‘We train people well’

Robinson can’t imagine a life doing anything else

Rick Robinson directs “Dancing at Lughnasa,” now playing at the Collaborative Theatre Project in Medford. Robinson is also managing director of the Oregon Cabaret Theatre. We met at Forage Coffee in Medford to talk about Brian Friel’s Tony Award-winning play.

Rick Robinson: This is a memory play along the lines of Tennessee William’s “Glass Menagerie.” It’s a narrator telling about his childhood, and has that dreamlike feel.

The authenticity of the piece is what drew me to it. There is warmth and humor, and there are these wonderful human beings that collide. The characters feel very real. You really love these human beings. It’s lush, it’s real, and it strikes that nerve that informs us of what it is to be human.

Continue reading Robinson can’t imagine a life doing anything else