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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Conversation with OSF actor K.T. Vogt

Oregon Shakespeare Festival actor K.T. Vogt is playing the Clown in “All’s Well That Ends Well” and a myriad of other characters in “Hairspray” this season. Vogt has been a member of the OSF acting company for 12 years. She played a hilarious Falstaff in “The Merry Wives of Windsor” in 2017.

We visited one afternoon in the Bill Patton Garden on the OSF Campus.

EH: How do you deal with the uncertainty of the acting profession?

KTV: As an actor, you always say “yes,” and forget about it if you want to have a happy life. In my 20-year career in Los Angeles, I heard from the range of, “We don’t even need to see anybody else, you’ve got the part” (and never even get a call back), to feeling like you blew it, (and then getting hired). In one week’s time I heard from different auditions: “You’re too old,” “You’re too young,” “You’re too large,” “You’re too small.” I heard all that, and I was free. I got that message: It’s all arbitrary and illusory. That was my beautiful blessing. So, have a happy life, and when it’s right, it will happen. Continue reading Conversation with OSF actor K.T. Vogt

The origins of Christopher Cerrone’s music

Composer Christopher Cerrone’s percussion quartet concerto, “Meander, Spiral, Explode,” will be performed with Third Coast Percussion at the opening concert of the Britt Festival Orchestra season, which runs July 26 to Aug. 11.

I chatted recently with Cerrone about the origins of his music.

CC: I think I’ve had music coursing through my veins as long as I can remember. My mother told me a story of her giving me a 45 rpm record player. And I used to listen to the same Lionel Richie song over and over again. That was in about 1986, when I was 2 years old.

I’ve studied all kinds of music. I initially studied classical piano. Then, as I got older, I learned electric guitar, which was a very suburban angst thing to do — to be in a rock band. Then I learned jazz piano. And then I eventually came back to classical music. I became interested in orchestral music, playing the double bass in my high school orchestra. At the same time, I began dreaming of composing. Continue reading The origins of Christopher Cerrone’s music

Former Russian prodigy preps for piano series

Dr. Alexander Tutunov, Southern Oregon University’s Professor of Piano and Artist in Residence, is now preparing for his Tutunov Piano Series beginning Oct. 11. The Series features seven internationally acclaimed virtuoso pianists.

At age 6, Tutunov was recognized as a prodigy by the Russian government and was enrolled to study piano in the Music School of the Moscow Conservatory. We visited in the Music Building on the SOU Campus.

AT: That boarding school was a fantastic place. We were all freaks of nature, but we didn’t know that, so we didn’t develop an ego or an inferiority complex. Our favorite pastimes were to read through an opera, or play duets with each other, or sing. And it was instilled in us that having talent plus superb training goes with a responsibility: that we’ve got to share. That’s how I see my mission now, and I do my best.

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A new stage for performances

Jim Pagliasotti directs Play4Keeps, Ashland New Plays Festival’s recently launched website featuring audio recordings of new plays. The latest works by promising and prominent playwrights, dramatized by top local actors, are now available by subscription and as free podcasts at: Play4Keeps.org. The website was developed by Project A. I chatted with Pagliasotti one afternoon at Growler Guys in Ashland.

JP: In the time that I have been involved at ANPF, I have been aware of all the challenges playwrights face. It’s incredible what they have to go through. It seems like the aperture is getting smaller and smaller, through which everybody is trying to pass. There are agents, and not many theaters have the curatorial resources to sort through new works. I’ve also seen how hard playwrights have to work to promote themselves, to keep their name and their work out there.

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A deep look at 1980s epidemic

james-edmondsonJE: The scope of the play is huge. I assigned the cast to study subjects such as: Civil Rights; the House Un-American Activities Committee; Roy Cohen; the history of drag, and leather bars in America; the early medical and political response to the epidemic; Rock Hudson; the plagues of the 13th and 17th century. The Angel brought in charts of the structure of heaven. It’s been interesting to research the clothes of the early ’80s, and how strange they were.

The play is interesting because it is so political, so religious, so compassionate and so despicable. The range of experience is great. It’s so enormous in its scope: that you’d have ghosts and fantasies, and historical figures. Kushner was very daring to put all that into the same world.

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