Category Archives: Interview

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Celebrating two decades of The Hamazons

The Hamazons, Warrior Princesses of Improv, are preparing for “The 20th Anniversary Show” at Ashland’s Mountain Avenue Theatre, Saturday, Sept. 28th. Hamazons: Cil Stengel, Eve Smyth, and Kyndra Laughery will be joined by Hamazon alumni for an evening of improvisation and glamour. I met with Stengel, Smyth and Laughery to discuss their art of improvisation.

EH: How do you prepare for improv?

KL: It’s like a sport: you practice your skills; you run drills; you build your improv muscles.

EH: What are ‘improv muscles?’

ES: Improv muscles might be: staying present; not planning ahead; establishing character relationships, your environment, and an objective. There are certain foundational elements that help improv scenes, whether they are narrative driven or game driven. As long as you have these foundational elements: knowing who the characters are, and what their relationship is, those scenes can take off. You have to develop those skills.

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Comedy brings joy, therapy

Writers Cynthia Rogan, Diane Nichols, and Mark Saunders are producing the Oregon Jest Fest, a 10-minute play festival, to be presented at Ashland’s Belleview Grange opening in late January 2020. The deadline for entries is Aug. 31, 2019. One afternoon, we laughed a lot and chatted about writing and comedy.

EH: What has writing brought to your life?

DN: I can’t afford therapy, so I sit down by myself, analyzing my strange situations. Creatures come in and talk, and characters come and have things to say. I find myself enjoying the process of bringing that story to life, then I feel better.

CR: I’ve always tried to figure out why people do what they do. If you understand why somebody does something to you, it makes it somehow easier to take or to fix. I write in self-defense maybe? (to DN) You don’t even type with all your fingers.

DN: I type with one finger. This finger has typed a Master’s thesis.

MS: It’s a magic finger.

DN: It thinks so.

MS: It’s the educated finger.

DN: You have to say, it’s the pointer finger. I don’t want to write with the middle finger, it comes out all wrong.

MS: We’re just storytellers. That’s how we give ourselves therapy, and also to understand the world around us. For me, it’s always about the humor. It’s definitely hard work sometimes. Peter De Vries said, “I love being a writer. What I can’t stand is the paperwork.” It’s just to be able to sit down and create these characters out of nothing, and then they come alive. I think writing is fun.

DN: It’s the most fun.

CR: It’s rewarding, because there is a blank sheet of paper, and …

MS: You create a world.

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