Ashland Contemporary Theatre’s recent production “Pankhurst: Freedom or Death,” directed by Peggy Rubin, is a theatrical tour de force written and performed by Jeannine Grizzard. Set in England in 1913, the play examines the history and issues involved in the women’s fight for the right to vote, finally granted in 1918. Grizzard had researched a speech by Emmeline Pankhurst (a leader in the suffrage movement). She decided to develop the material while attending a Social Artistry Workshop given by Jean Houston and Peggy Rubin. The challenge was: What project can you come up with to change the world?
EH: How did Emmeline Pankhurst make her mark on history?
JG: She created modern media coverage of activism. Technology had advanced to the point where they could take pictures of a protest and have them published in newspapers the next day. Staging events for the media to cover was her introduction to the twentieth century, which paved the way for Gandhi and Martin Luther King, making big demonstrations and relying specifically on the press. Continue reading Suffragettes pioneered techniques used by Gandhi, King
“The Diary of Anne Frank,” now playing at the Collaborative Theatre Project in Medford, is a powerful production. Last Saturday night’s performance, by a brilliant ensemble cast, left the audience in stunned silence until the characters had left the stage — then they rose to give an enthusiastic standing ovation.
I met with Director Susan Aversa-Orrego; Lisa-Marie Werfel, who plays Anne; and Stage Manager Joshua Martin at Boulevard Coffee in Ashland to discuss the impact of the play and the legacy of the story.
EH: Why is this play exceptionally popular year after year?
LMW: Because, when she’s writing the diary, Anne is between 13 and 15; it’s easily relatable for anyone, especially for young people. Something else that makes this story still relevant is that her words are so filled with hope and resilience. She is in one of the darkest situations imaginable, and she still finds light and happiness in small things that can give us joy through the darkness.
I think she is a good voice for the six million people killed, humanizing that number to make us realize the number of people was not just a number, but real living people. We have to learn from history, and as the present reflects history, it’s really important. Continue reading A one in six million voice
Southern Oregon Professor of Theatre Arts Jackie Apodaca directed “She Kills Monsters” by Qui Nguyen, now playing in the SOU Black Box Theatre. The play takes place inside the fantasy role-play game, Dungeons & Dragons, which first became popular in the 1970s.
Actors play two roles, fantasy characters (with special powers and attributes) and real-life high school students playing D&D. Then there are monsters, including leprechauns, harpies and scary dolls. I met with Aurelia Grierson, who plays Agnes; Assistant Director Carlos-Zenen Trujillo; and Apodaca in the SOU Library Coffee Shop to talk about the play and the game.
CZT: Dungeons & Dragons has become a popular activity. It’s not on a board or a computer; it’s just papers and dice. You pick a character, then you get to build your character (with your stats and skills) and then you have an entire adventure. But it’s all just people around a table telling stories. Continue reading ‘She Kills Monsters’ dives into ‘Dungeons & Dragons’
Asia Mark plays the Apprentice Poet in “UniSon,” Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s tribute to the poetry of August Wilson devised by UNIVERSES. While at Western Michigan University, Mark attended Lecoq acting training with the Arts University Bournemouth, England. She also auditioned for UNIVERSES and has been touring with them for the past two years. We met in the Hay-Patton Rehearsal Center on the OSF Campus.
EH: Tell me about UNIVERSES.
AM: UNIVERSES is an interdisciplinary theater company that fuses poetry, music, rhythm and dance; they do a lot of commissioned work. It started off in the NuYorican Poets Café on the Lower East Side of New York City: When you do slam poetry, you only have about three minutes on stage. Four poets combined their poetry, to have more time; they fused their poetry. That’s where the origins of UNIVERSES came from.
EH: What was your process of developing “UniSon”?
AM: It felt like were jumping into a world of poetry — a world of the unknown. It’s heavily written by UNIVERSES, with the support of August Wilson’s poetry. It is a linear play, but there are so many different aspects and poems. None of us knew what the play was, until opening night. We’re still figuring out things about this play, because there is so much to take from it.
Oregon Shakespeare Festival actor Lauren Modica, appears in “Henry IV, Part One” and “Henry IV, Part Two,” where she portrays multiple roles including Peto, the gal pal of Falstaff and Price Hal. Next season she will be playing in “Romeo and Juliet” and “Sense and Sensibility.” Modica is from Portland, where she developed her extensive resume by performing in many of the remarkable theaters there. She was hired after she submitted a video audition to OSF.
LM: Working here is the best education, in terms of who you get to work with and watch and learn from. It’s never an easy path for anyone who wants to act in theater. It’s a hard career to break into. It’s made all the harder if you are at all outside the norm; and I, as a 4-foot, 8-inch woman with dwarfism, who’s half African American, recognize now as an adult what some professors may have been trying to communicate: which is that any little thing makes it so much harder, makes your path so much longer, or more intense in terms of obstacles. But at the time, having some cold hard realities introduced, was so disheartening: Having something that I loved, that I was encouraged to do and explore — and having someone say there’s no way I could possibly make it as a professional actor. I’m very happy that I have the chance to prove them wrong. I’m just grateful for the chance to make a fool of myself, to learn, to grow. Continue reading Backstage: Inviting the audience in
The Collaborative Theater Project’s current musical, “Bonnie and Clyde” features Sabrina Hebert as Blanche Barrow. Hebert studied music at Southern Oregon University, and discovered her love of musical theater. I met with Hebert and CTP President Susan Aversa-Orrego at Boulevard Coffee in Ashland.
EH: Tell me about “Bonnie and Clyde.”
SA-O: I picked “Bonnie and Clyde” because it’s fun to do a newer show with a wide audience appeal. You want to do something new and exciting, but you also want to attract people to see your work, so that you can build your company.
SH: The play is very glamorous, but it’s pretty edgy. It really makes you weigh in on what’s right and what’s wrong. It takes place during the time of the Dust Bowl, a time when people were desperate.
SA-O: This is the backdrop for this show: a very painful time for most Americans. These actors are the ages that the characters would have been. Bonnie was 24 when she died; Clyde was 26. They actually had them lying in state. About 40,000 people came to see Clyde Barrow, and 50,000 came to see Bonnie Parker. They were like movie stars. The sad part is that they were kids. Continue reading The moral of the Bonnie & Clyde story
Oregon Shakespeare Festival actor Michele Mais plays Mistress Quickly in “Henry IV, Part 1” and “Henry IV, Part 2.” Next season she will again be playing Mistress Quickly in “Henry V.” Mais, a veteran of Broadway, has also performed with the Cornerstone Theater Company. We met at Hearsay in Ashland.
EH: Do you subscribe to particular style of acting?
MM: I don’t think there’s only one way of dealing with it. You do a little Stanislavsky; sometimes you do outside-in acting, physicality. The choices are: Do you hit the pillow because of some emotional need to hit the pillow? Or, while you’re hitting the pillow, is this emotional need coming out? That’s always the question. Sometimes it’s being in a certain costume or footwear.
EH: Tell me about acting at Cornerstone Theater with Bill Rauch.
MM: We did some weird shows. One of my favorite was when we did the speeches from “Everyman” in the mall. We had the shoppers follow us. We started out with maybe four people trailing along, and by the end of it, there were about 200 people. The audience was on the journey with us. They became “Everyman.” Continue reading Backstage: Acting can open doors to possibilities