Tag Archives: professor

Backstage: What’s the value of a theater arts education?

Southern Oregon University Professor Eric Levin has been awarded a Fulbright scholarship. Levin will teach for the 2017-18 academic year at the University of Ireland in Galway and participate in the University’s International Eugene O’Neill Conference. I met with Levin in his office on the SOU Campus.

EH: Tell me about your Fulbright project.

EL: The purpose of the Fulbright is to increase academic interaction internationally and to exchange cultural views. We’re trying to create relationships with schools in Europe. I’m hoping to travel in Britain and the Continent to sample some of their theater techniques. I’m going to explore the Abbey Theatre in Dublin, and I want to meet with the Accademia dell’Arte School in Italy. There are lots of possibilities; I just have to lay groundwork for all of them.

Hopefully we’ll be able to bring people from Europe to teach and students to learn. At the same time, our students will have opportunities to get support from European colleges — professional internships — where they can go overseas and study. Continue reading Backstage: What’s the value of a theater arts education?

Backstage: Program notes aid in understanding, appreciating music

Ed Wight delivers pre-concert talks and writes program notes for the Ashland Chamber Music Concerts, the Oregon Repertory Singers, and the Rogue Valley Symphony (which now can be read on-line.) For a decade, Wight taught music history and music appreciation at Southern Oregon University. We visited over lunch at the Standing Stone Brewing Company.

EH: What does a piece of music have to have, to make it a great piece of music?

EW: Not much. Think of “Amazing Grace,” just a simple melody works. People have forgotten what arrangers do: You’ve heard this melody a hundred or a thousand times, but the arranger can change anything about it except the melody. You look for rich chords. A good arranger can change the chord, the mood, the tempo. I love to hear strings in pop music, let alone in classical music, backing simple melodies or simple themes. A theme is just a high-fluting musical history word for the melody.

Do you want slow, lyrical ballads? Do you want that powerful dramatic movement? So often, the best works will have both. That’s why symphonies and string quartets will have more than one movement; they give you different moods to respond to. And that’s what’s nice too: In a symphony, a string quartet, a piano trio, you’ve got three or four movements, each in a different mood. Who ever thought that up, did it right, long ago. That’s been with us since the Renaissance. They would have a fast dance and a slow dance on the same tune, or sometimes they would be different tunes, but they would pair dances of different moods. That’s when we started getting the concept of a single work having very different components. We’ve run with it ever since, thank goodness.

EH: How does one develop an understanding of classical music?

EW: Find things that you like and start moving out from there. That’s the trick. It’s tougher now because classical music has basically disappeared from media. It’s not part of the popular culture any more. The Chamber Music Series gets the world’s best string quartets, piano trios, piano soloists, and so on.

I try to ride two horses in the notes that I write, and the talks that I give, because I’m always conscious that there might be someone who doesn’t know much about classical music. I keep my language simple. I also want to surprise people who have heard Beethoven’s Fifth a hundred times — to find a little nugget, that maybe they don’t know about Beethoven that influenced that work.

If you really like a piece of music, and want to understand it, and start breaking it apart: “What chords does he use? How does he shape the melody? What’s the overall shape of the piece?” You are documenting an interest. You are documenting a love affair.Ed Wight

Ed Wight


Ashland New Plays Festival seeks out most interesting story telling

Kyle Haden
Kyle Haden

Kyle Haden, the new artistic director of the Ashland New Plays Festival, follows the legendary Doug Rowe, who retired after spearheading ANPF for many years. Haden served as an actor and educator at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and a faculty member in Theater Arts at Southern Oregon University.

EH: What is your interest in developing new theatrical works?

 KH: I want to tell a story in the most interesting way possible. The playwrights are the genesis of that. What we’re focused on at ANPF, is helping the playwright find that story. We are the first step on that journey.

The main focus of ANPF is our Fall Festival. We solicit scripts from playwrights around the world. This year we had a cap for the first time: We took the first four hundred that submitted. We have a ton of volunteer readers. Each play is read by several people. Folks get together in small groups and discuss the plays.

Eventually every play is scored and ranked to get to four plays that we feel have real promise. None of the plays have ever been produced. When the playwrights come to Ashland in October, they are working with directors and a team of actors to get the chance to hear their plays out loud. Continue reading Ashland New Plays Festival seeks out most interesting story telling

SOU hopes to strike sparks between the arts

David Humphrey
David Humphrey

David Humphrey is director for the Oregon Center for the Arts at Southern Oregon University. With a doctorate in music education and opera production, Humphrey went on to become director of education for the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., and director of San Francisco’s Museum of Performance & Design before coming to Ashland. We met at Pony Espresso Café in Ashland. This is the first of a two-part interview. The second will be published on Dec. 14.

EH: How did you become interested in an interdisciplinary approach to education in the arts?

DH: I started in music, but my interests grew very broadly. I really liked all the arts; I know so many young people do too. Art schools tend to keep students within specific disciplines and don’t allow them to explore other disciplines.

Students are multi-talented, and their choice of a specific area is based on very limited knowledge. They wind up in a particular discipline doing very well, but not quite suiting their personality. They need to find themselves. I believe if you can really understand who you are, and how the arts work, you can make a better decision. Continue reading SOU hopes to strike sparks between the arts

Backstage: After the ‘Tempest’ – Caliban continued

James Donlon
James Donlon

James Donlon is directing “Caliban’s Dream” which opens Nov. 6 at Southern Oregon University’s Center Stage Theatre on the SOU campus. Donlon devised the script from Shakespeare’s “The Tempest.” With its imaginative framework, unique staging and iconic characters that morph through time, “Caliban’s Dream” promises to be a stimulating and unique theatrical experience.

Donlon, an assistant professor in SOU’s Theatre Arts Department, found his affinity for theater as an undergraduate while attending Humbolt State University on a basketball scholarship. Since then, he has shaped a long theatrical career that includes teaching at such prominent theater schools as The American Conservatory Theater, The Yale School of Drama and the University of California at Santa Barbara and San Diego. We lunched at the Standing Stone Brewing Company in Ashland. Continue reading Backstage: After the ‘Tempest’ – Caliban continued

Eric Levin

Eric Levin
Eric Levin

Dr. Eric Levin, an associate professor of theater arts, supervises Southern Oregon University’s Master of Theatre Studies in Production and Design Program. The candidates, high school teachers from all over the world, converge on SOU for two weeks each summer to pursue a degree while developing their skills in technical theater. Levin and I chatted in his office on the SOU campus one summer afternoon.

EH: Tell me about the production and design program.

EL: It’s a year-round program that meets during the summer. High school theater teachers learn how to design and build plays. Most high school drama teachers need more education in production and design. Some come in with very little theater experience outside of their own programs.

Continue reading Eric Levin

Dennis Smith

Dennis Smith
Dennis Smith

Theatre Arts professor emeritus Dennis Smith has directed more than 30 plays during his 28-year career at Southern Oregon University. Currently he is directing Tony Kushner’s “The Illusion,” based loosely on the play “L’Illusion Comique” by the 17th-century playwright Pierre Corneille. It’s the story of a father who enlists a magician to search for his long-lost son. The play is filled with visions, transformations, time shifts and twists of fate. I visited with Smith at his office in the Theatre Arts Department one afternoon.

EH: Tell me about the qualities of the adaptation.

DS: The style is very contemporary. Tony Kushner has made the characters very accessible, highly articulate and in tune with our contemporary ears.

Continue reading Dennis Smith

Ashland is the place for Theatre