Josh Gross, artistic director of Puppeteers for Fears, has written a new horror musical comedy, “Robopocalypse: the Musical!” which opens Oct. 20 at Pioneer Hall in Ashland. It features live puppets, a live rock band with synthesizer, puppet rap battles, a light show, and multimedia backgrounds. I met Gross at Case Coffee Roasters on Siskiyou Boulevard in Ashland.
JG: A core part of our mission has always been to create new art and new pieces that come from a local voice. No one will have ever seen a puppet show quite like this one. We want to make theater for people who’ve never been given a reason to like theater. They’ve never seen a show that speaks to them, and they’ve never seen it in a place that they feel comfortable. There’s a whole untapped market out there.
EH: What are you saying with this musical?
JG: We should all be very afraid of artificial intelligence. Technology is now progressing faster than our understanding of its implications: It’s, in many cases, operating outside of a moral framework. It’s barreling along so fast, that we don’t know what we’re doing with it. The core of the musical is just a family drama, and how you cope with loss.
EH: How does this relate to politics?
JG: Our politics are not addressing the real threats that we face. We’re dumping money into military defense, and yet we’re actively at cyber war and little to nothing is being done about it. It’s this slow-moving disaster, where the groundwork is being laid, and no one sees the threat until it’s too late to do anything about it. We have integrated technology into our lives, but we aren’t thinking about, “What happens if it fails?” There are serious consequences that are worth serious consideration and careful policy. But I wouldn’t say that that’s the major emphasis of the musical. Continue reading Adult-themed puppet show tackles ‘Robopocalypse’
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
Ashland Independent Film Festival Artistic and Executive Director Richard Herskowitz has put together a stunning festival, bringing in numerous films, filmmakers, panel discussions, interviews, live performances, gallery exhibitions and interactive events for a four-day run that concludes this evening, April 16. We visited at Bloomsbury Coffee House to discuss his vision of independent filmmaking and festivals.
RH: A film festival is inevitably a potpourri of things. It’s got to reach a lot of different tastes and audiences. I create a kind of a meta film out of a lot of different movies by creating themes and connections between them. At the same time there is scholarship and education involved.
One of the major themes of the festival this year is the importance of classic film — preservation and exhibition. Without the knowledge of classic film, emerging filmmakers lack a foundation. Being exposed to films done in the past makes you realize that there are alternative ways of doing things than films done in the present. I’ve seen filmmakers, inspired by classic films, do things in a different way. The way we do things now has evolved and will transform again in the future.
EH: What separates a good film from a great film?
RH: I don’t make those judgments. My inclination is to see films historically. Films speak to particular moments. I resist objectifying a work of art. I think works of art are historically based. I do believe there are masterpieces. Continue reading Festivals celebrate collective film watching experience
“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
After eight seasons with the Camelot Theatre, Artistic Director Roy Von Rains feels very lucky that he’s been able to work with some of conference room to reflect on the unique experiences intrinsic to “community theater” and its impact on society.
RVR: As humans, we are storytellers. People have said that the oldest profession is prostitution. I absolutely disagree. I think storytelling is the oldest profession. It’s been around since painting on cave walls, and it will probably continue to permeate society as we travel through the stars. It’s such an important part of who we are. Continue reading Backstage: Oldest profession? It’s storytelling
Robin Downward, artistic director of the Randall Theatre, will be singing and dancing the role of Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly’s iconic role) in “Singing in the Rain,” directed by Livia Ginese, at the Randall Theatre’s Jacksonville location. Now going into its eighth season, with two theatrical venues, the Randall Theatre depends on ticket sales for 95 percent of its revenue. I met with Downward at Mellelo Coffee Roasters in Medford.
EH: What is unique about the Randall Theatre?
RD: We have combined the community spirit with the professional standard to create a hybrid-type theater. It’s that drive to make each individual, involved in the production, push to be the best that they can be, and to avoid ego that sometimes gets in the way. I want everyone on stage to shine. Continue reading Randall Theatre uses ‘hybrid-type’ approach for its productions
Peter Alzado and Jessica Sage, as co-producing artistic directors, are re-launching Oregon Stage Works as the lead — and only — actors in a production of “Annapurna.” Directed by Liisa Ivary, the play opens Friday, Oct. 28, at Temple Emek Shalom in Ashland.
Oregon Stage Works, with Alzado as its artistic director, closed its doors in 2010 after six seasons in its charming black box theater on A Street in Ashland. Sometimes thought of as an off-Broadway theater, it produced plays ranging from Samuel Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot” to Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” and “The Great American Trailer Park Musical.”
While relying mainly on volunteer actors and crew, the theater focused on developing the actors and the text to stage creative and challenging theatrical works while providing the community with affordable high quality theater.
Alzado recently directed and performed in the highly acclaimed production of “Red” at Ashland Contemporary Theatre. Last spring, Sage directed Ashland High School’s winning production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”
We met at the Rogue Valley Roasting Company Coffee House in Ashland. Continue reading Oregon Stage Works re-launches