Tag Archives: SOU

Backstage: Character revealed by movement

Suzanne Seiber is the choreographer for Brava! Opera Theater’s “Hansel and Gretel.” Seiber holds a Master of Arts degree in dance from the University of Oregon with a focus on movement training for actors. She teaches dance and choreographs in numerous settings including the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, the Oregon Cabaret Theatre and Southern Oregon University. We chatted one morning at The Growler Guys in Ashland.

EH: How do you choreograph plays?

SS: A lot of it is character movement. As a theater choreographer you work with, “Who is this?” “What kind of movement is going to show who they are?” “What’s the mood of that particular moment?” and, “What’s going to make it pop?” It’s also about getting into patterns, to give a sense of the time, the place, the character, and then embody the music.

Suzanne Seiber is the choreographer for Brava! Opera Theater’s “Hansel and Gretel.” Seiber holds a Master of Arts degree in dance from the University of Oregon with a focus on movement training for actors. She teaches dance and choreographs in numerous settings including the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, the Oregon Cabaret Theatre and Southern Oregon University. We chatted one morning at The Growler Guys in Ashland.

EH: How do you choreograph plays?

SS: A lot of it is character movement. As a theater choreographer you work with, “Who is this?” “What kind of movement is going to show who they are?” “What’s the mood of that particular moment?” and, “What’s going to make it pop?” It’s also about getting into patterns, to give a sense of the time, the place, the character, and then embody the music.

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Backstage: Jazz offers a lot to riff about

Ed Dunsavage, artistic director of the Siskiyou Institute, promotes jazz and jazz studies throughout the Rogue Valley. He is also a guitar instructor at Southern Oregon University. We met at Boulevard Coffee to talk about jazz.

ED: The guitarist Frank Zappa had a great quote: “Jazz isn’t dead, it just smells funny.” Like classical music, it’s probably in the 2 to 3 percent range of what people listen to. Jazz, as an art form, is recognized worldwide. It’s more appreciated in Europe and Asia than here.

EH: Is there a difference between jazz and classical musicians?

ED: I think there is a difference in terms of attitude, from the classical approach to the jazz approach; they’re different worlds. Classical musicians are amazing sight readers and interpreters of music, but if you ask them, “Can you improvise over these chord changes?” that’s a whole different thing.

Continue reading Backstage: Jazz offers a lot to riff about

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?

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’

The art of storytelling in a dystopian setting

Michael J. Hume directs Southern Oregon University’s “Mr. Burns, a Post-Electric Play,” Anne Washburn’s dark musical comedy, now playing in OSF’s Black Swan Theatre. The play envisions a post apocalypse world set in Northern California.

Next year Hume will be in his 26th season at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, with roles in “Romeo and Juliet” and “Sense and Sensibility.” We met downstairs at Mix in Ashland.

EH: How did SOU choose: “Mr. Burns, a Post-Electric Play”?

MJH: SOU wanted to celebrate the art of storytelling. We are doing this play, about people telling the story of The Simpsons, in repertory with Mary Zimmerman’s “The Arabian Nights,” about Scheherazade and a thousand and one tales.

EH: Is the play science fiction?

MJH: It’s dystopian fiction as opposed to science fiction; there’s not much science in the play. It’s about surviving and not uncomfortably. “Mr. Burns” begins with very basic storytelling: Folks sitting around a campfire obsessing about The Simpsons “Cape Feare Episode.” The great irony is that: What if these same people were obsessing about “King Lear” or “Moby Dick,” some great classic piece of literature, as opposed to what some people would call trivial or pop culture? I’m not a huge Simpson’s fanatic, but I am a fan. In terms of social commentary, I think it’s brilliant.

I would argue for The Simpsons that they’re smart. That they are a dysfunctional stupid American family is actually very telling — in terms of who we have become. It becomes a new mythology. We have Simpson’s scenes, we have Simpson’s characters: It’s not “The Simpsons on Ice,” or anything like that. It is human beings talking about The Simpsons and eventually putting on Simpson’s plays to make money. Capitalism is all over this. Continue reading The art of storytelling in a dystopian setting

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?