Tag Archives: Director

A deep look at 1980s epidemic

Jim Edmondson is the director of “Angels in America: Millennium Approaches,” by Tony Kushner, now playing at Southern Oregon University’s Main Stage Theatre. A magnificent hallucinatory fantasy, the play offers a deeply personal look at the victims of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s, a time of sexual promiscuity and social oppression. I met with Edmondson in the theater during a technical rehearsal.

JE: The scope of the play is huge. I assigned the cast to study subjects such as: Civil Rights; the House Un-American Activities Committee; Roy Cohen; the history of drag, and leather bars in America; the early medical and political response to the epidemic; Rock Hudson; the plagues of the 13th and 17th century. The Angel brought in charts of the structure of heaven. It’s been interesting to research the clothes of the early ’80s, and how strange they were.

The play is interesting because it is so political, so religious, so compassionate and so despicable. The range of experience is great. It’s so enormous in its scope: that you’d have ghosts and fantasies, and historical figures. Kushner was very daring to put all that into the same world.

Continue reading A deep look at 1980s epidemic

Love and gender take center stage in ‘Twelfth Night’

Cil Stengel directs Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night,” opening May 17 in the Rogue Performance Hall at Rogue Community College in Medford.

Stengel has assembled a stellar production team including composer Sue Carney, choreographer Suzanne Seiber, acting coach Eileen DeSandre, and costumes by Emily Ehrlich Inget.

I met with Stengel and her Malvolio, Marshal Gluskin, at Rogue Valley Roasting Company in Ashland.

CS: The resurgence of theater is happening at RCC. We now have a great black box theater. The cast is made of mostly students and about 20 percent community members. Continue reading Love and gender take center stage in ‘Twelfth Night’

Characters who want more out of life

Anne and Gary Lundgren’s feature film “Phoenix Oregon” recently premiered at the Ashland Independent Film Festival. It was the Lundgen’s fourth feature film, and it was filmed in rural Oregon. Their other films were “Black Road,” “Redwood Highway” and “Calvin Marshall.” We visited at their studio on East Main Street in Ashland.

EH: Are your films thematically linked?

GL: I think they all are. There’s definitely a main character that is unhappy, not being fulfilled by life.

AL: I think there is a lot of grace and love for all of these characters. They have passion and are wanting more.

GL: Wanting more out of life or wanting certain doors to open that are not opening. I think “Phoenix Oregon” is the same kind of story. A midlife crisis: two guys feel the clock ticking. They are not living the life they want, so they have to do whatever they can to change it, and take those risks.

Continue reading Characters who want more out of life

The craft of a solo performance

British actor John Rainer is preparing for his poetry recital honoring the British Poets Laureates, opening at the Ashland Library on Saturday April 6th. Rainer’s recent solo performance “Prufrock’s World” featuring poems by T.S. Eliot played to sold-out audiences. Those of us who were lucky enough to see it were astounded by the brilliance of the poetry and the talent of the man. I chatted with Rainer at the Pony Espresso Café.

EH: What was your theatrical training?

JR: At the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts: speech, scene study, you name it, the usual background. Really, my whole training was in British Regional Theatre. I toured England with various companies, and then did West End shows, the traditional route, which isn’t really traditional anymore. There really isn’t the training ground for young actors, where you really do get a chance to experiment with finding your own techniques. The repertory system, which was such a glorious training ground, isn’t really there anymore. Continue reading The craft of a solo performance

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