Art Prof Uses Imagery to Teach

Jeffrey Scudder, assistant professor of art at Southern Oregon University, creates dynamic presentations with exquisite imagery for his lectures and performances. An internationally known figure in the art world, Scudder holds a Master of Fine Arts in Sculpture from Yale University. He teaches in SOU’s Emerging Media and Digital Arts program, telling stories with pen and paper, while instantaneously capturing and creating post-expressionist images, with a host of newly developed computer software. We met at Case Coffee Roasters on Siskiyou Boulevard.

EH: Tell me about your productions.

JS: Since I come from computer art, I do a lot of performance without computers, a lot of drawing and telling stories. I transform things. I change from one image to another: A morphing image with a morphing story. Lately, I have been doing a lot of drawing with sound. Performing while drawing and talking simultaneously. These are modernist ideas of connecting drawing and sound.

Sometimes in order to understand what’s happening with computers or technology, you have to use a different medium to describe it. You want it to be in the background so that you can focus on the conversation.

People don’t usually think of computer art as something that requires a physical presence. I’m spearheading a movement to create more intimacy through computer art. I’m often drawing on paper, but I’m talking about video games. I am creating a form of intimacy by not actually playing the video game. Instead I’m talking about ideas using another medium.

When I perform, I like to create a setting, like a chamber music performance. I use a lot of candles, there’s music playing, sometimes snacks. I like the audience to feel that they are part of the action so that people feel at ease, so that they are ready to take in images and let things happen.

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Ginger Eckert on voice and speech

Ginger Eckert is an assistant professor of theater at Southern Oregon University in the area of performance voice and speech. You may have appreciated her work with Oregon Center for the Arts productions of “Hedda Gabler” and “Angels in America Part Two: Perestroika.”

We met for a conversation in her office on the SOU campus.

EH: What is your approach to coaching voice and speech?

GE: There’s all the speech stuff: The phonetics and making sounds at the right times, in the right ways, in the right rhythms and patterns. Then we are working on being honest and revealing when we speak, so that I can feel you, and I can understand you in a very specific way.

EH: What are the dialects used in “Angels in America?”

GE: There’s Russian, British RP (neutral) accent, Yiddish; Roy Cohn has a Bronx New York, Jewish accent. We call his particular way of speaking an idiolect. In the world of accents, everybody has their own accent or their own way of speaking. Dialect follows a group pattern. The way a particular person speaks is called their idiolect. There’s a huge factor now of actors playing real people. Whether they capture that person’s speech patterns would be inside of that person’s idiolect.

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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.

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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.

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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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