Tag Archives: SOU

Designing the scene

Sean O’Skea, professor of scenic design at Southern Oregon University, designed last spring’s brilliant production of “Angels in America: Millennium Approaches,” directed by Jim Edmondson. “Angels in America Part Two: Perestroika” will play Nov. 14-24 in SOU’s Main Stage Theatre. I met O’Skea in the lobby of the newly expanded Theatre Arts Building on the SOU campus.

EH: What’s your process of designing a play?

Sean O’Skea: It’s the same with all the designers, actors and directors. We start with the text and get a sense of what the play is trying to say. Designers are always sort of subordinate to the director’s vision. There are an infinite number of possibilities of ways that a play can be interpreted, especially good, rich, meaty plays. In an ideal situation, it becomes a nice collaborative back and forth. I’ll show some imagery, and the director will respond to it, and I’ll have a second pass at it, and we’ll go through that.

It’s always different depending on the venue, where it is, the time frame and budget. It changes a lot. There are so many variables as to how you get from the idea of the set to the actual set, and only some of those have to do with your artistic vision. If you go in with your dream of what that show wants to look like, and the director has an entirely different direction, it can be heartbreaking sometimes. It’s all part of the process.

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SOU theater program: ‘We train people well’

Deborah Rosenberg, professor in costume design at Southern Oregon University, is enjoying her 20th year as a faculty member of the SOU Theatre Program. Rosenberg acted in college and found herself in costume design, when she admitted to a director that she knew how to sew. I visited with Rosenberg in her office in the university’s newly expanded Theatre Building.

D.R.: I discovered that costume design gave me some distance from the stage pictures, whereas with acting, you’re in the middle of it. I found that my temperament was better served by being able to see the whole picture rather than the immersion experience from within. I could easily see that costume is too light, and that costume’s too dark, and I need more red on the rest of the stage.

We often get students who are interested in performance and discover lighting design for the very first time. It’s a glorious thing to watch a young person say, “I didn’t even know about this. And now I must know everything.” Or we have someone who comes in as a quiet, very shy person, and we watch them just grow in confidence, strength, skill and interest, and they’re standing center stage. It’s fun to watch the transformation of young people, of where they come from, mentally, emotionally, physically, to where they get to in just a few short years.

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Former Russian prodigy preps for piano series

Dr. Alexander Tutunov, Southern Oregon University’s Professor of Piano and Artist in Residence, is now preparing for his Tutunov Piano Series beginning Oct. 11. The Series features seven internationally acclaimed virtuoso pianists.

At age 6, Tutunov was recognized as a prodigy by the Russian government and was enrolled to study piano in the Music School of the Moscow Conservatory. We visited in the Music Building on the SOU Campus.

AT: That boarding school was a fantastic place. We were all freaks of nature, but we didn’t know that, so we didn’t develop an ego or an inferiority complex. Our favorite pastimes were to read through an opera, or play duets with each other, or sing. And it was instilled in us that having talent plus superb training goes with a responsibility: that we’ve got to share. That’s how I see my mission now, and I do my best.

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A deep look at 1980s epidemic

james-edmondsonJE: 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.

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Metropulos takes on Electra

Penny Metropulos is directing “Electra” by Sophocles, opening Feb. 21, in Southern Oregon University’s Black Box Theatre, with a modern adaptation by Timberlake Wertenbaker. This classic Greek tragedy involves hubris, murder and revenge. Themes it deals with include fate versus free will, gender equality and moral ambiguity. I met with Metropulos at Noble Coffeehouse in Ashland.

EH: Was this play written around 430 BC?

PM: Yes, there was a lot of stuff going on politically. And there was also this real flowering of the arts and drama. I am again and again stunned as to what a masterful playwright Sophocles was, and that this play still lives.

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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.

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