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?
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
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’
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
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?
Scott Kaiser’s new play, “Shakespeare’s Other Women,” will be presented Feb. 16 to 19 at Southern Oregon University. We met in his office on the Oregon Shakespeare Festival campus, where he is director of company development. This is the second of a two-part column. The first was published on Dec. 26.
EH: You’ve written several books?
SK: Most of my writing has been deeply inspired by Shakespeare.
EH: Why do you find the study of Shakespeare so compelling?
SK: He understood human existence better than any other writer. As you move through stages of life, different characters, plays, scenes, situations and moral conundrums start to read differently. “Romeo and Juliet” is a great example of this. When you’re a teenager, you totally understand Juliet: the passion, the love. But as you get older, you start to look at the parents and what they’re going through; the death of children; hatred towards a rival faction; a prince that is trying to make peace and simply can’t do it. Continue reading A glove-maker’s son’s words reveal worlds
Author/Director Scott Kaiser has written a new play, “Shakespeare’s Other Women,” to be presented Feb. 16–19 at Southern Oregon University. Kaiser, who first came to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival as an actor in 1985, is now OSF’s Director of Company Development. We met in his office at the new Hay-Patton Rehearsal Center on the OSF Campus. This is the first part of a two-part column. The second will be published on Monday, Jan. 9.
EH: How did this project come about?
SK: I do a lot of auditioning and teaching. For women, there are few Shakespeare monologues. Young women in particular are often forced to use the same monologue over and over. Most of the monologues do not represent the full range of the female experience. I started to write speeches to try to expand the canon of material for women to use. It’s meant to be a new collection of monologues for women. I’m writing them in verse, the way that Shakespeare would have written them.
These are characters mentioned by Shakespeare (but who don’t appear), historical characters and mythological characters that are invoked. I have drawn from the canon, characters that you are curious about and given those women a chance to have a full appearance. Continue reading Getting to know ‘Shakespeare’s Other Women’