Camelot Theatre Artistic Director Livia Genise constantly brings new energy to the theater. Camelot’s new theater building is to be constructed and open by 2011. Genise is currently portraying the incorruptible nun in “Doubt.” And there will be general auditions on Nov. 7. I met her at Starbucks in downtown Ashland to discuss what it takes for the creation of a successful theater company.
EH: What steps have you taken to build the Camelot Theater Company?
LG: I have general auditions every November. Then what I do is to take those pictures and resumés and I put them in the files of the shows for next year for callbacks. After I finish with calling back and casting one show, I’ll take the appropriate pictures and put them in the next file.
In “Glengarry Glen Ross,” now playing at Oregon Stage Works, Joe Charter plays James Lingk, the sensitive victim of a fly-by-night real estate scheme. Joe has been acting in Community Theater since 2004, when he played in “Inherit the Wind” at the Camelot Theater. Joe is a lawyer and a part-time judge for Jackson County. We got together at Noble Coffee one sunny Saturday morning.
EH: How is it that you became interested in Community Theater?
JC: It’s something I took up. It sort of grew out of being very left brain/lawyerly. My oldest daughter said, “Dad, you need something creative to do, you have such a brainiac job.” I always thought that performing in a trial in court was like helping to write a script and be in a play.
As I visited with Shirley and Bill Patton in their exquisite Ashland hills home, I got to know two people who have shared a creative life together in theater. Their efforts led to the formation and success of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Shirley is now starring in “Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks” at the Camelot Theatre in Talent.
SP: Bill was the first person I met when I got off the bus.
BP: She came up to Ashland to audition in the summer of 1958 when I was general manager.
SP: Then he became the executive director. Bill’s position evolved over the years and as the festival grew. As theaters were added with more and more staff, his job description kept changing dramatically.
After an acting career spanning 30 years at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, playing such roles as Ophelia in “Hamlet,” Hermia in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and Bianca in “Othello,” Shirley Patton finds her acting talents delightfully in demand by Ashland’s alternative theaters. She is currently starring in “Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks” at Camelot Theatre in Talent. I visited with Shirley in her idyllic Ashland hillside home.
EH: How did you get to Ashland to begin with? How did this wonderful life come about?
SP: I was a student at Stanford. I kept hearing how wonderful it was to spend summers in Ashland, because you got to work with the greatest playwright ever in this four-play repertory. By a great fluke, at the last moment, I went on as Viola in “Twelfth Night” at Stanford. Angus Bowmer came down to see it and remembered me fondly from that.
After I graduated, I applied to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. I guess they were looking favorably on my application, but the last part of it got lost in the mail, so I didn’t hear anything from them. I wrote Angus a letter saying how one of my goals was to someday work in his company, and if he would be so kind as to tell me my areas of weakness, I would work on them until someday maybe I would be worthy.
You may have seen Barbara Rosen in Camelot Theatre’s “1984,” in “Durang, Durang” at the Oregon Stage Works or in “Midsummer Night’s Dream” at the Ashland’s Children’s Theatre. This former professor of English literature and Shakespeare scholar is disarming with her casual manner and keen insight. After retirement, Barbara and her late husband, Bill, moved to Ashland’s Mountain Meadows at the urging of her two daughters, Susan and Judith Rosen.
I met Barbara at Oregon Stage Works, where she is rehearsing for Bertolt Brecht’s “The Jewish Wife,”a part of “Things We Do,” a series of plays, readings and events concerned with the conflict in the Middle East.
"Maybe it's the schizophrenic in us all that just wants to be everybody all of the time." — Mark Barsekian
EH: So you’re basically an actor?
MB: I love to explore life through the characters I perform. Acting is my retreat. It’s when I don’t have to be me. Maybe it’s the schizophrenic in us all that just wants to be everybody all of the time. Any life that I want to live, I can, just by picking up a script, and doing the homework and dedicating my self to a character and to an author, and being true to what I see: in life and in the text. Because we portray life, we are communicating lives to our audiences, people that they know or will never know. That is one of the gifts of acting.
I want to hold the mirror up to society. I try to do shows, that highlight the best in us, and sometimes it means highlighting the worst. — Livia Genise
With her fine bones and raven curls, Livia Genise is a musical comedy diva. But visiting over coffee at Bloomsbury’s café, I found she is also a serious artist with remarkable integrity.
EH: Does anyone ever call you the Queen of Camelot?
LG: You know, one of the reasons we call it Camelot is that I envision a round table where everyone is valued. There doesn’t need to be somebody that is at the head, but I’m responsible for the quality of what we do.
I try to do shows each year that are thoughtful, but also bring in the audience. It’s hard to sell shows with dark subjects. I usually do something each year that is not making Camelot’s political statement, but that is thought provoking. My first year the play was “The Music Lesson,” which was about the war in Sarajevo, the siege, and how it affected artists and children. That was powerful and very well attended.