“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
Obed Medina is the director of the absurdist comedy, “Seven Dreams of Falling,” by C. Scott Wilkerson, now playing through September at the Collaborative Theatre Project in Medford. The play is a re-imagining of the Icarus myth. The premise of the play is that Icarus (the young Greek fellow who flew way too close to the sun) is now being forced, by his mythological family, to repeat his humiliation over and over, throughout time.
Icaris and the other characters (Daedalus, Theasus, Ariadne, and the Minotaur) are cursed, trapped into promoting and acting out the catastrophe as a yearly ritual, similar to Christmas. The characters desperately try to exploit the event (each to their own advantage) to imprison each other, and to escape. It’s a powerful play. I met Medina at the Collaborative Theatre to talk about “Seven Dreams of Falling.”
OM: It’s a relatively new play. It premiered in 2013 at the Hollywood Fringe Festival. I visualize a lot of lighting, sound, playing with shadows and light — coordinating together silhouettes. It’s the only way to tell the story and bring it to life, because it’s a Greek myth and has all these fantastical elements.
The text is very heady; it’s a thinking person’s play: there is a lot brewing underneath the text. The sound propels you forward and incites emotion. We have a lot of projections and video that will be used. We try to tell the story and bring it to life with the images: there’s interaction, rather than just dressing the set. We’re taking the conventions of theater and turning them on end.
Continue reading Bringing nightmarish ‘Seven Dreams’ to life
Pam Ward, of Medford’s Collaborative Theatre Project, is directing a series of live radio plays from the ’40s and ’50s called Radio Days. I recently saw “The Canterville Ghost,” an adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s classic tale, which has had many adaptations. This version, by Edwin Blum, took place during World War II, with locations moving from the English countryside, to the interior of an ancient castle, to the British front line in the height of battle with Nazi soldiers.
In varied productions through the years, the Canterville ghost, Sir Simon, has been played by such luminaries as Sir Michael Redgrave and Patrick Stewart. This ghost was performed neatly by Will Churchill with such supernatural effects as sporting a detachable head and swinging from a chandelier.
With a cast of eight, performing multiple characters along with a full array of sound effects, the play was slickly produced and ran just over an hour. Future productions include “Fibber McGee and Molly” and “The Judas Clock.”
I met with the cast after the show. Here are a few comments from: Lauren Taylor, Pam Ward, Archie Koenig, John Richardson and A J Falk. Continue reading Backstage: Medford theater hosts ‘Radio Days’
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
Simone Stewart will be playing in “How the Other Half Loves,” Alan Ayckbourn’s classic comedy about marriage and infidelity, which opens Feb. 24, at the Collaborative Theatre Project in Medford. I met Stewart for lunch at the BricktownE Brewery in Medford.
SS: There are so many places to be an actor in the Rogue Valley. The theater community has gotten bigger and stronger; it has grown and blossomed. There is so much going on. It’s funny how you do a lot of Community Theater here.
EH: What’s unique about Community Theater?
SS: You learn from each other. Everyone comes from a different background. You learn what other people do to prepare to go on stage. Actors have such weird superstitions. Some actors bring in a totem for good luck, whether it’s a Buddha statue or a rabbit’s foot. A lot of us say mantras before we go on to get ourselves centered. Continue reading Using acting craft to change people’s lives
Not to be missed this Christmas season is the Collaborative Theatre Project’s “The Snow Queen.” The music, staging, acting, and costumes are superb. Under Susan Aversa-Orrego’s direction, talented actors and musicians have come together to create this magnificent piece.
Director Obed Medina is a founding member of the project. We met in their new theater in the Medford Center, which includes Tinseltown.
Developers are revamping the whole complex and are trying to make it into an entertainment/arts destination, to bring in more restaurants and breweries. Once they get those in, it will become a nice little hub of entertainment.
EH: How did you get interested in theater?
OM: When I was 9 or 10, I saw a play at a community theater that really moved me. Then, I wanted to be a writer, but when I went to college, I got involved in theater. Theater did that same thing for me: You can do almost what a book or an essay can do, but in a compact and more powerful way. It’s got more impact because you’re watching the actor on stage. It’s not a movie, where you can just sit and think about what you’re hearing or seeing, you’re actually interacting with that actor. There is a connection with the actor and the audience, and every performance is different. Continue reading Collaborative Theatre Project aptly named