Currently playing at the Randall Theatre Company of Medford is “The Odd Couple: The Female Version,” written by Neil Simon and directed by Dianna Warner. Warner, a talented actor and singer, most recently was featured in the Randall’s “Man of La Mancha.” We met for lunch along with Mike, her husband of 40 years, at the Wild Goose in Ashland.
EH: I’ve enjoyed many of your performances through the years, but you also direct?
DW: I taught for 36 years, and for most of those years, I directed students in high school and middle school. I also directed two plays, “Shakespeare in Hollywood” and “Lend Me a Tenor,” at the Camelot Theatre.
Actor David Gabriel is performing in “Broadway out of the Blue”, a new musical comedy review currently playing at BLUE-Greek on Granite in Ashland. David is also preparing for his as John Adams in “1776” at the New Camelot Theatre in Talent. We chatted about acting at Ashland’s Boulevard Coffee.
DG: Acting always seemed to me as a means to an end because I write songs and musicals. In order to learn about the musical genre, what better way to do it, but from the inside? I came at it as a singer, and learned acting as I went along.
EH: You’ve played some dark characters. How do you access those personalities?
DG: We’ve all experienced a lot of different people in our lives. We all have within us the potential for the qualities of all those characters. It’s just a matter of being permeable and knowing that we are all capable of all of that.
Actor/singer/composer, Laurelia Derocher, is the artistic director for Broadway at the Blue, a brilliant Broadway theater musical experience currently at Gloria Rossi-Menedes’ lively restaurant, BLUE – Greek on Granite. Laurelia and I recently chatted over coffee at the Boulevard Café in Ashland.
EH: Why are your performances of those Broadway songs so unique?
LD: The songs are lyrically and melodically rich. They’re well written. They say something meaningful. And we are able to convey the message of the songs by being willing to go to emotional places as actors. That is something that distinguishes musical theater performers from just really good singers.
Broadway at the Blue is a wonderful outlet for an actor, because you get to play all sorts of characters in one night, even characters that you’re not really appropriate for. At the last show, I sang a song from Little Shop of Horrors. Audrey (who is in her twenties) sings this young, innocent, dreamy song. I would never be cast as Audrey today.
We also do sing-a-longs with the audience. Singing together brings people together.
Gloria Rossi-Menedes has developed a unique new musical theater venue: BROADWAY AT THE BLUE. The show features Laurelia Derocher, David Gabriel, Gloria Rossi, and often, a Surprise Guest. The show takes place twice a week at the Menedes family’s attractive Greek restaurant, BLUE – Greek on Granite.
One afternoon Gloria and I visited over a scrumptious lunch at her charming home. Her conversation is peppered with random imitations, various foreign accents, sporadic bursts of song, tales of Broadway celebrities, and an occasional Greek word of wisdom.
GRM: People are really responding to Broadway at the Blue. Iconic Broadway tunes are just so American. They describe the American spirit. We tell stories of Broadway, the way it used to be. It’s very different now. When Disney came in, they put in billions of dollars, and cleaned up 42nd Street. Now it’s about operatic voices, that kind of sound. Continue reading Gloria Rossi Menedes→
Southern Oregon University Theatre Arts graduate, Danielle Kelly, is now performing with the Paul Schmeling Trio Monday nights at Martino’s, as well as acting in film and theater. One afternoon, we mulled over the nature of performance, jazz and theater while lunching on Martino’s minestrone.
DK: I’m feeling creatively fulfilled. I feel really fortunate to be in a band that gigs quite often and has a solid, steady show. It’s incredibly special. I’ve decided against moving to a bigger city for the moment. Ashland has something very special because you can do whatever you want.
EH: How is working in music, especially jazz, different than working in theater?
DK: Musicians and actors are the same sort of species, but it is very different. Music is so immediate; a song is a shorter story; the process is a lot quicker. When you get to performance, people can come and listen, then tune in and out of the music, be really captured by a song or get up and dance to it. It takes a little more attention to take in a theater performance. A play is a lot bigger production.
With theater, the rehearsal is more intensive and scripted and planned. The structure of what you do is different. Theater takes rehearsals every night. You start from the script, and, “what’s my body going to do?” And, “where am I going to go when I say this line? How do I say it when?” Stopping and pausing for the audience here, and collaborating and playing off other people. It’s a lot more involved.
If you were lucky enough to see Oregon Stage Works’ Playwrights Unit’s last series of plays, “Seven Deadly Sins”, you saw seasoned Broadway actress, Gloria Rossi-Menedez, give delightful performances in six of them.
Gloria’s new restaurant, Blue – Greek on Granite, has been an overwhelming success. It’s a family enterprise, which she shares with her husband, George, daughter, Thea, soon to be joined by son, Alexi. As we dined on the outdoor patio of Blue, Gloria and I talked about the “Greek mystique”.
When Gloria and I were in our teens, we spent six months studying at the University of California’s Classical Theater campuses in Athens and Delphi, Greece. During our stay, the country was suddenly locked in a military coup, and we learned valuable lessons about politics and the power of theater.
“Love’s Not Time’s Fool” features Jennifer Phillips acting and singing in many of the forty-eight Shakespeare sonnets in music, song, and drama, opening Friday May 14, at Rogue Community College in Medford, directed by Ron Danko and produced by Jon Cole.
After studying at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York, Jennifer came to RCC and performed as Countess Aurelia in the “Madwoman of Chaillot”. Last year she played a delightful Portia in RCC’s “Merchant of Venice”. Jennifer plans study drama at Portland State University next fall. We visited in the drama office of RCC’s “Off the Crate” Warehouse where the production was busily being mounted.
EH: Do you think theater is effective communication?
JP: If people are open-minded, there’s a message pretty much behind everything that’s done. Ron Danko and Jon Cole always have some point that they’re especially trying to get across.
EH: What was their point with the “Merchant of Venice”?
JP: It was a wake-up call to people. “Merchant of Venice” had a lot do with racial tensions in the world and hypocrisy and the way that people present themselves and don’t live up to their own values and morals. Everybody’s got good, and everybody’s got bad. You can’t just stand there and judge people.
EH: Of all the plays that you have done here, what was your best experience?
JP: “Madwoman of Chaillot”; the camaraderie within the cast was beyond compare. There was love among the cast, and the message was love. It was a beautiful experience.
EH: What is it about theater that is so exciting?
JP: There’s a truth of spirit in theater. We live in a world where we walk around with walls up all of the time. We’re afraid of what people will think of us, we’re afraid to be ourselves. We’re afraid to express any aspect of our being, really. We just keep ourselves closed off at all time. It’s a self-defense mechanism, and necessary in the brutal world that we live in. But you get into a theater, and it’s a space of trust. It’s a space where you can let those walls down and express your true being. You can be true to emotions without the repercussions of judgment. It’s a safe place. It’s a haven.
EH: Some people think that acting is dangerous.
JP: You’re vulnerable, it’s true. But if you don’t risk anything, you never grow. If you let yourself go with whatever emotion you need to be feeling or with the purpose you’re trying to express, then the potential is limitless: to the audience, what they can get from it, and to yourself, how you can grow from the experience.
EH: Why did you change your Major from Math to Drama?
JP: I grew up believing that you should follow your dreams. I’m not a materialistic person, but I need to be able to survive. Even if I work at a coffee shop the rest of my life, I still could do what I love. That’s the real happiness in life; so drama has become my intended major.
EH: How does theater affect your family?
JP: I come from a family that is very supportive. I’m a much happier person when I’m involved in something. They see the change in me. It brings such light to my being. They’re my biggest fans.
“LOVE’S NOT TIME’S FOOL” plays Friday – Sunday, May 14 – 16 & 21 – 23, Friday & Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m. & 7 p.m. $10 for Adults, $5 for students. For tickets and information call 245-7637.