Tag Archives: Director

Adult-themed puppet show tackles ‘Robopocalypse’

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’

The vision to produce a theater

Valerie Rachelle and her husband, Rick Robinson, have owned the Oregon Cabaret Theatre for just four years now. In addition to their considerable responsibilities at OCT, they each freelance, directing productions at other theaters throughout the United States. One afternoon, I visited with Rachelle in the restaurant area of the theater.

EH: When you launch a new production, what is your process?

VR: Obviously, I read the script, listen to the score, and then I basically work with my design team. First, I give them a sentence or two of what I want to tell the audience: I’m always trying to ask a question. I want to make sure that everyone on my team (including the actors) knows what the goal of the show is. Then, when we start creating, from the color of the paint to the buckles on the shoes, we’re all going toward that same goal. I want the audience to walk out of the theater either asking, or thinking, or feeling something really specific.

EH: Tell me about “Picasso at the Lapin Agile.”

VR: First of all, Steve Martin is a comic genius. It’s very funny, but it’s also very poignant. The play is about exploring: What is beauty? What is art? And how does that affect our everyday life? You have Einstein who says, “Science is art. It’s beautiful.” And Picasso is saying, “Visual art — painting is art.” And then, they both come together and realize each other’s beauty and the value of each other’s art. It’s kind of esoteric, but the way that Steve Martin puts it: It makes you (the everyday person) not only enjoy it and laugh at it, but also, you are swept up in — not only the dream and the emotion of what human beings can create — but what we can bring to life. And everything that we touch, and feel, and breathe, and see from the stars — to formulas on the page, to math, to art, to music — is all beauty and art, which is really cool. Continue reading The vision to produce a theater

Mixing up the theater lineup to entertain all ages

Shawn Ramagos
Mixing up the theater lineup to entertain all ages

New Camelot Theatre Artistic Director Shawn Ramagos is the director and designer of “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert — The Musical,” which opens on July 11. Ramagos brings considerable classical theater training and technical expertise to his new position. After studying acting and directing at Northwestern University, Ramagos went on to become a lighting and special effects technician for Disney. He was selected out of 53 candidates as a result of a nationwide search. We met in the board room of the Camelot Theatre.

SR: I think that the people that came before me put the theater in an extremely good place. We’re very lucky that we have the donors and the patrons that really want to see us take it to the next level. For a new artistic director, the fact that our building will be paid off by the middle of July is a great place to start.

As an artistic director of a theater, you have to have your hands in a little bit of everything, so you make sure that the standards that you create for the theater are kept. I think that we’re here to meet the challenge and bring the Camelot Theatre into the next phase of development. Continue reading Mixing up the theater lineup to entertain all ages

Dear Working Actor, What’s the path to acting success?

Jackie Apodaca, a professor of theater at Southern Oregon University, has co-written the book “Answers from ‘The Working Actor’” with actor Michael Kostroff (best known for his five seasons on HBO’s ”The Wire”). Taken from the actor’s trade paper “Backstage,” the book gives a fascinating picture of the complex and confusing world of the acting profession.

Written in the style of advice to the lovelorn, “Answers” consists of years of words of wisdom given to struggling actors who have written to them, signing off with such names as Frustrated, Beyond Confused, Confused Yet Determined, and Lost in La La Land. They offer solid research and techniques to navigate the ins and outs of such a daunting environment. I chatted with Apodaca over lunch at Greenleaf Restaurant in Ashland.

EH: What is your best advice?

JA: There’s no one answer to any question. The only people you can trust are the people that say they “don’t know.” If they say: “This is what you have to do,” they’re lying. In the book I’m constantly saying, “I think this, but some people say this,” or “Here are the 15 different paths you could take.” I try to frame everything in that mind set. Hopefully if people can take away, “Don’t believe anything anyone tells you. It’s going to be different for you.” That’s probably my best piece of advice. Continue reading Dear Working Actor, What’s the path to acting success?

Suffragettes pioneered techniques used by Gandhi, King

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

17th century ‘Rover’ resonates with modern feminists

Dawn Monique Williams directed “The Rover,” now playing in the Main Stage Theatre in Southern Oregon University’s Theatre Building. Last season, Williams directed the “Merry Wives of Windsor” at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

With exuberant performances by a cast of 20, a revolving set, flashy sword play and saucy plot twists, “The Rover” is as alive and vital as it was when it was written in 1677 by Aphra Behn. I chatted with Williams at Mix Bakeshop in Ashland.

EH: “The Rover” is a huge undertaking, where do you start?

DMW: My process varies, from show to show, but I start any play with the script: reading the script, reading the script, reading the script. And then, most times, there is one character that will stand out for me, to be my guide through the world. It is the character that opens the door and says, “Come inside.” Usually, I’m able to anchor onto that character. Then I’m moving through the play again, re-reading it, thinking about that character: What they want; what they’re doing; and how the other characters relate to that character. And then, simultaneous to that, I usually create a mental play list of what I think the world sounds like, not just in terms of the ambient sounds, but (if this character had an iPod) what would that character be listening to? Then I always ask myself: “What would the play look like if it were a dance?” Continue reading 17th century ‘Rover’ resonates with modern feminists

‘She Kills Monsters’ dives into ‘Dungeons & Dragons’

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’