Tag Archives: AHS

Backstage: Some serious work goes into a farce

Liisa Ivary is directing David Ives’ version of Georges Feydeau’s “A Flea in Her Ear,” opening Wednesday, May 3, at Ashland High School. There’s a cast of 20 student actors and a good deal of technical support from Ivary’s colleagues at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, including fight director U. Jonathan Toppo.

Ivary spent seven seasons in the Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s acting company. She has also performed in Shakespeare Festivals and regional repertory theaters all over the nation. She recently directed “Annapurna” for Oregon Stage Works. We met one afternoon at Noble Coffee Roasting in Ashland.

LI: This is something I wanted to do, because it’s important for these talented acting students to be mentored by OSF veterans, showing them style — and teaching them precision, timing and how to physically commit to a style that is split-second and dangerous.

It’s a large cast. It’s a lot of language and a lot of fight moves: kicks, punches, chases, slaps, rolls and jumps — every kind of slapstick; but it has to be timed perfectly, with intricate threading of props and costumes, because it’s a play of mistaken identity. It’s setting the style, the world and staying consistent. Continue reading Backstage: Some serious work goes into a farce

Jeremy Johnson: Embracing the new and old

Jeremy Johnson has been with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival for eight seasons. He was a superb Sky Masterson in OSF’s 2015 production of “Guys and Dolls.” This season he will be portraying Doctor Caius in “The Merry Wives of Windsor,” and M. D’Arque in Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast.” This is the second of a two-part interview. The first was published on March 6.

EH: Is there a common quality that all actors share?

JJ: The vast majority of actors I have met have been very warm: outgoing, even if a little shy. There’s that stereotype that actors need a lot of approval, and I’m sure that’s true sometimes. But actors have also been, in my experience, unbelievably generous and open-hearted.

EH: Do you have a theory of acting or method?

JJ: I went to Northwestern University. I studied with David Downs. He would focus on: How can you be clear and understood and believed on stage from a purely technical point of view? How do you build a character physically? If you start with a role, and you say, “Who is this person?” How do you go about creating that character in a meaningful believable way?

Continue reading Jeremy Johnson: Embracing the new and old

OSF actor directs ‘Sweeney Todd’ at AHS

Actor Jeremy Johnson of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival directed Steven Sondheim’s “Sweeney Todd,” now playing at Ashland High School. With a talented cast of 22, a full orchestra, and a towering revolving set, the production is a fantastic musical delight.

For decades the Oregon Shakespeare Festival has contributed to Ashland High School productions, with company members making time to direct, design and choreograph shows

Johnson discovered acting at age 10 and decided to become a professional actor early on. He majored in theater at Northwestern University and acted in New York and Los Angeles before coming to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival 10 years ago. Johnson played Sky Masterson in OSF’s production of “Guys and Dolls” in 2015. We met near the fireplace at Mix. This is the first part of a two-part interview. The second will be published on March 20.

EH: Tell me about “Sweeney Todd.”

JJ: It is a classic of musical theater, a 1979 Tony Award Winner with eight Tony Awards. It is a masterwork of construction and composition. And it is endlessly satisfying in its complexity: In the questions that it raises, and how it seeks to answer them. It is also just a lot of fun. Continue reading OSF actor directs ‘Sweeney Todd’ at AHS

Ashland High students learn the magic in storytelling

Betsy Bishop
Betsy Bishop

Betsy Bishop is the theater director and producer behind Ashland High School’s outstanding theatrical productions. Plays are produced in collaboration with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, which provides directors and technical assistance.

Bishop spent her early years as a professional actress. She earned a master’s degree in education from Southern Oregon University and began a long teaching career. Now, as a mother of three grown children, she continues, as a full-time teacher, to mastermind this remarkable theater program. I met with Bishop one Saturday morning on the ASH theater stage.

EH: How did your partnership with OSF begin?

BB: When I was asked to teach theater, I had small children, and I had to be home at night. You can’t have a theater program without having shows. I told the kids, “I’m going to teach the classes, but we have to think of a way that other people can do the nighttime work.” My student, Matt Smith, went down to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and talked to Pat Patton (former OSF associate artistic director) and Pat Patton said, “Of course we’ll help the high school.” And that was the beginning of the partnership. Continue reading Ashland High students learn the magic in storytelling

Doug Ham

Doug Ham
Doug Ham

Designer and director Doug Ham’s recent work has included some remarkable set designs.

At the Craterian Ginger Rogers Theater, his design for “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” consisted of colossal, colorful, multi-dimensional pyramids on which were played wide-ranging scenes in far-flung locations. The Next Stage Repertory Company’s “Tally’s Folly” was set in an exquisite, delicate and decaying boathouse to portray a pervasive psychological landscape. “Chicago,” at Ashland High School, was placed in a cavernous speakeasy with an orchestra on bleachers center stage.

Ham is preparing to direct “You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown” at the Craterian theater, and is designing sets for “The 39 Steps” at Ashland High School. Last week, we chatted at Bloomsbury Coffee.

EH: What makes a good stage set?

DH: If an audience can look at it, understand it, accept it, and know where they are, then it becomes a backdrop for the actors. The most important thing is that the set is an establishment of the location but doesn’t overtake the show. Every show is a new challenge: to do the research, figure it out and understand how it’s going to work for the space. In a small space, you have to be imaginative to make a show work. I designed for a professional company in California with a 50-seat theater. I put a two-story set in there. You have to be creative.

When I read a script, I start imagining where it’s at, what it looks like and what I can do to give the director a lot of choices. As a director, you want different areas, different levels on which to place the actors for a more dramatic scene. If you just have a plain stage and you don’t have a way for them to move to another level, the stage pictures can get boring.

For “You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown,” there are six characters, but I will add an ensemble of 12 more, all Charles Schultz’s characters, like Pig Pen and Peppermint Patty. It will be visual choreography — some fun stuff. It will have a pen-and-color feel to it. I want it to look like the comic strip. There will be a level stage, but upstage I will have a stair unit for the glee club scene. When they’re at the ball game, I can use it as bleachers.

Continue reading Doug Ham

Orion Bradshaw

Orion Bradshaw
Orion Bradshaw

“I’m a local and proud of it,” Orion Bradshaw said as he sipped his powerhouse smoothie on the porch of Rogue Valley Roasting Company. A graduate of Ashland High School and a graduate of Southern Oregon University, class of 20O7, Bradshaw, with his bachelor’s of fine arts degree in theatre arts, “did an internship right out of school” at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Since then he has been continuously employed.

EH: What does an OSF intern do?

OB: An internship is essentially an unpaid position. It’s a learning experience; you get academic credits through the school. You experience the rehearsal process and then you are in a show or two. It opens your eyes to the repertory theater experience.

The interns take on one or two understudy roles, attend performances,and take notes (so that they learn how to effectively shadow someone else). It’s really important to be keyed-in and keep up with your work, because there is such a great domino effect. When one person goes out, there is a potential for five actors to be switched around.

Continue reading Orion Bradshaw

John Stadelman

John Stadelman’s hilarious performance as the obsequious yet self-important Vice Principal Douglas Panch in the “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” is truly unique. I was curious as to how he prepared for the role.

John sings with the Southern Oregon Repertory Singers. He performed at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival for six seasons. He has directed theater up and down the West Coast, at Ashland High School and the Oregon Cabaret Theatre.

A Stanford graduate, John graduated from law school at the University of Southern California before pursuing a career in film and theater. John is also a landscape designer; the name of his company is Green Man Gardens.

We met in the Oregon Cabaret Theatre’s elegant restaurant section on a weekday afternoon.

Continue reading John Stadelman