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.

Continue reading Designing the scene

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.

Continue reading SOU theater program: ‘We train people well’

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.

Continue reading A deep look at 1980s epidemic

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.

Continue reading Backstage: Character revealed by movement

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