Tag Archives: writer

Comedy brings joy, therapy

Writers Cynthia Rogan, Diane Nichols, and Mark Saunders are producing the Oregon Jest Fest, a 10-minute play festival, to be presented at Ashland’s Belleview Grange opening in late January 2020. The deadline for entries is Aug. 31, 2019. One afternoon, we laughed a lot and chatted about writing and comedy.

EH: What has writing brought to your life?

DN: I can’t afford therapy, so I sit down by myself, analyzing my strange situations. Creatures come in and talk, and characters come and have things to say. I find myself enjoying the process of bringing that story to life, then I feel better.

CR: I’ve always tried to figure out why people do what they do. If you understand why somebody does something to you, it makes it somehow easier to take or to fix. I write in self-defense maybe? (to DN) You don’t even type with all your fingers.

DN: I type with one finger. This finger has typed a Master’s thesis.

MS: It’s a magic finger.

DN: It thinks so.

MS: It’s the educated finger.

DN: You have to say, it’s the pointer finger. I don’t want to write with the middle finger, it comes out all wrong.

MS: We’re just storytellers. That’s how we give ourselves therapy, and also to understand the world around us. For me, it’s always about the humor. It’s definitely hard work sometimes. Peter De Vries said, “I love being a writer. What I can’t stand is the paperwork.” It’s just to be able to sit down and create these characters out of nothing, and then they come alive. I think writing is fun.

DN: It’s the most fun.

CR: It’s rewarding, because there is a blank sheet of paper, and …

MS: You create a world.

Continue reading Comedy brings joy, therapy

Transitioning between film and stage

Actor Andrew Perez played Klaus Kinski both in film and live performance during the Ashland Independent Film Festival. Klaus Kinski was an explosive, eccentric German actor, who was directed by Werner Herzog in a number of films including: “Fitzcarraldo,” “Nosferatu the Vampyre,” and “Aguirre, the Wrath of God.”

The film “My Dinner with Werner” is an uproarious spoof, directed by Maverick Moore, portraying a murderous battle between, Klaus Kinski and Werner Herzog. Perez’s one-man theatrical performance, “The Second Coming of Klaus Kinski” is a thrilling tour-de-force, written by Perez, and impeccably directed by Eric G. Johnson.

I met with Perez and Johnson at the Schneider Museum of Art where we viewed the Apocalypse exhibit.

EH: How did you construct “The Second Coming of Klaus Kinski?”

AP: The logic of it is that he is dying. It is a platform for his redemption, where his soul is doing battle in his moment of passing. It’s like a dream. His demons start ambushing him, and he’s defending his life, which leads him into the past. Continue reading Transitioning between film and stage

Backstage: You can say a lot in a 10-minute play

Mark Saunders’ 10-minute play “Sitcom” will be featured in Ashland Contemporary Theatre’s next offering, “Moonlighting 2018: Home for the Holidays.” Saunders is a former cartoonist and English teacher, who then found work in the computer industry and early retirement. Saunders was introduced to playwriting through stand-up comedy. We met at Boulevard Coffee.

EH: How did you get started in stand-up comedy?

MS: I’m so shy. I thought to get over this I can do one of two things — I can either get into Toastmasters, or take up stand-up comedy. I thought: “Well I like humor, plus I don’t like to eat breakfast with strangers.” So I opted for stand up.

Continue reading Backstage: You can say a lot in a 10-minute play

ANPF board member knows his Pulitzers

As of July 1, James “Jim” Risser and his fellow Ashland New Plays Festival board members are accepting new plays for ANPF’s 2019 Fall Festival. Risser, a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner in National Reporting, served as director of the John S. Knight Fellowships for Professional Journalists and Director of the Graduate Program in Journalism at Stanford University, and on the Pulitzer Prize Board for 10 years in the 1990s. He also played a key role in the selection of Tony Kushner’s Pulitzer-winning play “Angels in America.”

EH: What newspaper articles brought you the Pulitzer Prize?

JR: You could call it investigative reporting: stories that exposed corruption in the U.S. grain exporting industry, where people were paying bribes to federal inspectors. As a result, Congress changed the grain inspection laws. Some people went to prison. Some companies paid fines.

The second prize was for a series of articles explaining the kinds of environmental damage that agriculture does: Things like soil erosion, overuse of chemicals, and depletion of water supplies. A lot of land that shouldn’t be plowed or farmed was being used because of the pressure to produce products. Modern agriculture is a great industry but it can sometimes have a huge impact on the environment.

EH: What happened as a result of those articles?

JR: There were Congressional hearings. They passed some new regulations about what lands could be farmed or not farmed. Continue reading ANPF board member knows his Pulitzers

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?

Backstage: Theater allows ‘crossing the great divide of otherness’

Jean Houston, Ph.D., scholar, philosopher, and psychologist, uses theater as a transformative tool in her teaching of “Social Artistry: Aligning the human spirit, potential, and action with the needs of the time.” This is the first part of a two-part interview. Part two will be published on Jan. 8.

EH: What theater’s mission?

JH: Theater has always been the seeding ground for both the reflection of a society and the emergence of a new order of society. Today, there is the need for this huge shake-up. The emergence through emergency hasn’t quite taken place, but it is happening everywhere.

The mission of theater is to reflect the state of being as it is, as it was, and as it yet can be — in a dramatic way, a way in which we see ourselves, played on the stage of the world. We can then take that play back into our own time, or reflect deeply on it. It makes our conscience rise in ways that motion pictures do not do, to the same extent, because you need living beings, you need living presences to really activate conscience. It causes us to dream again, to envision the higher dream. T.S. Eliot said, “Redeem the unread vision of the higher dream .…” I think it also incites us to the higher dream.

EH: What is the essence of a great actor?

JH: Greatness has so many different keys and colors, doesn’t it? It’s a kind of truth. I think, with the great human beings, if they have high craft, if they have deep soulful reflections, and often some kind of spiritual sourcing, you would really see the difference.

When I study human development, I try to help people think in many ways: Think in images; think in words; think with their whole body; think with their intuition — incarnate ideas. Ideas are not simply there to be run through an analytical posture. Ideas are there to be tasted, and smelled, and ground between the teeth. They are there to be incarnated.

And then, when the full person is out there playing the full part — whether it is something that you are writing, or creating, or dreaming, or playing — then it is embodied. It is a full body creation. And I think that’s what you have at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, and all the other theaters around.

This is a theater town. You have people who are striving to push the edges of possibility — getting beyond the membrane between here and another there — crossing the great divide of otherness. And that is what theater does.

One of the reasons I live here is to have ensemble players working together. They share the essence of their striving; they share their art in an ongoing learning situation. They become myriad-minded, like Shakespeare, thinking and being in many ways. Theater requires multi-form knowing.

When I sit under the stars at the Elizabethan Theater, with all those people watching — especially a Shakespearean play — even though the language may be strange, there’s some kind of coherence in the audience that is affected by what’s happening on the stage. We go beyond the difficulties of the language, and we become a coherent force, a presence. And there’s a kind of bliss; there’s a kind of ecstasy to it all. And you see everybody getting up and applauding and shouting. It’s glorious. They have been lifted beyond their local selves into some kind of magical being. It happens when an audience becomes coherent in its own ecstasy. I see that here all the time. That’s transformation, really.

To find out about Jean Houston’s upcoming programs visit jeanhouston.org, email theoffice@jeanhouston.org or call 541-488-1200.

An artist’s responsibility to say something

Actor/Writer Cynthia Rogan will perform in Camelot Theatre’s next production, “Calendar Girls,” opening Feb. 8. Based on a true story and popular movie, the play tells about the making of a pin-up calendar by photographing ordinary middle-aged women. Rogan, a former blues singer from Mobile, Alabama, writes, acts, and performs improvisational theater in the Rogue Valley. We met at Starbucks on Bartlett Street in Medford.

EH: Tell me about your experience with improvisational theater.

CR: That is some scary stuff. You have to know when to start on something else. If it is not good, it is horrid. When you are in the moment, you don’t always know if it’s not working.

H: What do you do to prepare?

CR: Practicing with the people you’re working with is all you can really do to prepare for it. And even then, you never know what the audience is going to throw at you. The group you’re playing with has to be your net. If someone starts to fall, you catch them, and you give them something else to look at, to keep the members of the troupe going and to keep the audience interested. Improvisation is exhilarating. Continue reading An artist’s responsibility to say something