Tag Archives: playwright

Comedy brings joy, therapy

Writers Cynthia Rogan, Diane Nichols, and Mark Saunders are producing the Oregon Jest Fest, a 10-minute play festival, to be presented at Ashland’s Belleview Grange opening in late January 2020. The deadline for entries is Aug. 31, 2019. One afternoon, we laughed a lot and chatted about writing and comedy.

EH: What has writing brought to your life?

DN: I can’t afford therapy, so I sit down by myself, analyzing my strange situations. Creatures come in and talk, and characters come and have things to say. I find myself enjoying the process of bringing that story to life, then I feel better.

CR: I’ve always tried to figure out why people do what they do. If you understand why somebody does something to you, it makes it somehow easier to take or to fix. I write in self-defense maybe? (to DN) You don’t even type with all your fingers.

DN: I type with one finger. This finger has typed a Master’s thesis.

MS: It’s a magic finger.

DN: It thinks so.

MS: It’s the educated finger.

DN: You have to say, it’s the pointer finger. I don’t want to write with the middle finger, it comes out all wrong.

MS: We’re just storytellers. That’s how we give ourselves therapy, and also to understand the world around us. For me, it’s always about the humor. It’s definitely hard work sometimes. Peter De Vries said, “I love being a writer. What I can’t stand is the paperwork.” It’s just to be able to sit down and create these characters out of nothing, and then they come alive. I think writing is fun.

DN: It’s the most fun.

CR: It’s rewarding, because there is a blank sheet of paper, and …

MS: You create a world.

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Backstage: You can say a lot in a 10-minute play

Mark Saunders’ 10-minute play “Sitcom” will be featured in Ashland Contemporary Theatre’s next offering, “Moonlighting 2018: Home for the Holidays.” Saunders is a former cartoonist and English teacher, who then found work in the computer industry and early retirement. Saunders was introduced to playwriting through stand-up comedy. We met at Boulevard Coffee.

EH: How did you get started in stand-up comedy?

MS: I’m so shy. I thought to get over this I can do one of two things — I can either get into Toastmasters, or take up stand-up comedy. I thought: “Well I like humor, plus I don’t like to eat breakfast with strangers.” So I opted for stand up.

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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

‘Words’ wordsmith went from copywriting to playwriting

Richard Manley’s romantic comedy, “A Question of Words,” which debuted as a reading at the Ashland New Plays Festival in 2013, is now is now fully produced and playing at the Camelot Theatre in Talent until March 1.

After a successful career in marketing and design, Manley embarked on a writing career when he and his wife decided to leave their jobs, sell all of their possessions, and travel. We met at Ashland’s Café 116 on Lithia Way one winter afternoon.

RM: I settled in about eight years ago and began writing; I slowly taught myself the craft. Continue reading ‘Words’ wordsmith went from copywriting to playwriting

Gwen Overland

Gwen Overland
Gwen Overland

Gwen Overland and Doug Warner wrote and directed the “Old Time Traveling Radio Show,” which continues with the Next Stage Repertory Company Friday and Saturday at the Craterian Theater in Medford.

With a doctorate in theater arts and clinical psychology and a master’s degree in music, Overland teaches psychology at Rogue Community College and works as an expressive voice coach. We visited at Boulevard Coffee in Ashland one afternoon.

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Jim Giancarlo

Jim Giancarlo
Jim Giancarlo

Oregon Cabaret Theatre’s stunning production of “The Wizard of Panto-Land” was written, directed and choreographed by Artistic Director Jim Giancarlo. Based on “The Wizard of Oz,” it glitters with sumptuous scenery, dazzling costumes and extraordinary acting talent. Giancarlo and I visited over coffee in the theater’s posh restaurant overlooking the pop-out storybook stage.

EH: How was this theater formed?

JG: The whole thing started on this production of “Grease” at the Britt Festivals years ago. Paul Barnes was the director, I was the choreographer, Craig Hudson was the set designer. We founded this theater the following year. You look back on it, 28 years later, and it seems a little mythic. But at the time, you just put one foot in front of the other, like everything in life. It’s only in retrospect that you see a pattern or understand the journey, like Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz.” That’s a journey.

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