THEATER

Things begin to stir at the Coast

In Newport, films will be shown outdoors and symphony members play online, while the Lincoln City Cultural Center has reopened to the public

The Newport Performing Arts Center remains dark, but that doesn’t mean nothing is going on.

Friday, June 5, marks the start of the PAC Picture Show. Due to licensing restrictions that I don’t quite understand, the Performing Arts Center cannot reveal what the coming films are, beyond describing them as nostalgic, but you can find the titles by going to the website.

The films will be shown outdoors in socially distanced “Parking Lot Theatre style” at the Performing Arts Center on Friday and Saturday nights. The sound is broadcast via FM radio, so you’ll need a working FM radio if you want to hear the film. A $15 donation is requested for admission, which guarantees a parking spot. Space for SUVs, trucks, vans, and minivans is very limited, organizers say, so best if you can drive a smaller vehicle.

The picture show is sponsored by the Oregon Coast Council for the Arts, which is also sponsoring the ongoing online art show at the Visual Arts Center.  

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Stage frights and podcasts

As the theater world goes dark, actors' tales of real-life stage disasters as told on "The Actor's Nightmare" seem a perfect antidote

From Portland to Paris, Ashland to Ankara, Beaverton to Beijing, theaters around the world are shut down. One of the longest-lived forms of social mingling and creative contact has met its match in the form of the Covid-19 pandemic, which is keeping this most gregarious form of art from expressing itself.

In the meantime, film – that is, already recorded and edited film – and television are surging in popularity as people stay at home with their screens and live their lives virtually, binge-watching everything from The Americans to the complete British and American versions of The Office. Occasional filmed theater productions help fill the gap, too: The National Theatre’s streamed “At Home” series, including the recent Frankenstein with Danny Boyle and Benedict Cumberbatch, has drawn a global audience of more than 9.3 million views.

Ah, but what about the real thing? Anyone who’s ever hung around a backstage, or dropped in on a bar where theater people congregate after a show, knows that in theater circles a lot of the after-the-fact pleasure comes from regaling other insiders with disastrous tales of what went wrong, whether the audience ever realized it or not. In a way this swapping of stories is a kind of theater of its own.

“The Actor’s Nightmare” host Louanne Moldovan, caffeined up and ready to roll.

A while back, Portland actor, director, producer, and playwright Louanne Moldovan realized the potential of this form of storytelling and decided to take it beyond the bars and theater parties. This kind of tale would be ideal for podcasting, she thought: Invite some actors, interview them, let them spin their stories, record and edit and release. And so, The Actor’s Nightmare was born – or, as the series is subtitled on its Web site, “REAL HORROR stories from THE STAGE.” (The Actor’s Nightmare also has a Facebook page.)

A few days ago I interviewed Moldovan in Officially Sanctioned Covid-19 Socially Distancing Format: I emailed her a few questions, and she emailed back her replies. Sit back and enjoy the transcript below – and when you’ve finished reading, go to the Actor’s Nightmare Web site and listen to a podcast or four yourself:

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Ozzie González: Staging a race

The Portland actor, architect, and government veteran steps up to a bigger stage as a serious candidate for the city's mayoral seat

The relationship between politics and theater dates back at least to the ancient Egyptians and probably further, and has rarely been more apparent than in America today. Certainly the current presidential regime has more than its share of theatricality, though it is doubtful that even its staunchest supporters would call it “art.” Perhaps it’s only natural, then, that some practitioners of the artistic disciplines might decide to take the skills and the talent used in making art into the field of public governance. There is even a certain logic to it. 

But for Osvaldo “Ozzie” González, an actor who has starred in some of Portland’s most ambitious productions over the past several years (Milagro’s Oedipus El Rey and American Night: The Ballad of Juan José and last year’s Antony and Cleopatra at Salt and Sage, to name just a few), the transition from theater and art to politics was not so much a natural extension of his career as it seemed a necessary one. It was time, he felt, to get things right. To that end, he finds himself in the midst of the race to be mayor of Portland.  

González, as pictured on his campaign web site.

Tall, handsome, bright, charismatic, in a lot of ways González would seem to be straight out of central casting. He comes across as a renaissance man who defies easy categorization or pigeon-holing. “I am a Latino, I am a male, and above all of that I consider myself a human being,” he says. “I have all these other labels you can layer in; I’m a first generation immigrant, I’m an architecture professional, I am trained in environmental science.” And he has experience in public service: He has written policy for Tri-Met, and has been vice chair for the Regional Arts and Culture Council (RACC).

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Corey Brunish, beyond Broadway

Voices from the shutdown front: The Tony-winning Oregon and NYC producer looks to streaming and other fresh ideas in a new joint venture

Broadway’s theater row might be shut down for months to come, but Corey Brunish, the multiple Tony-winning producer who splits his time between Portland and New York, has a big new project on his plate. Broadway World and Playbill published stories a few days ago about a new joint venture to “develop and produce music documentaries for the stage and screen.” The partners will also emphasize the surging market for streaming, which has taken off in the days of shuttered theaters and social isolation.


THE WORLD IN SHUTDOWN: VOICES FROM THE FRONT


Brunish, who’s been waiting out the shutdown with his wife and producing partner, Jessica Rose Brunish, and their eight-month-old daughter, Olivia, in their Lake Oswego home – “we’re happily stuck,” he says – sees big possibilities for the new venture, which takes advantage of his deep theatrical experience and connections but also moves him into other entertainment territories.

The Brunishes – Corey, Jessica Rose, Olivia – sitting out the shutdown in Lake Oswego and keeping busy. Photo courtesy Corey Brunish

Mentioned most prominently in the news stories is a music documentary about the legendary rock producer and album engineer Eddie Kramer, known, as Playbill puts it, for “having worked with The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Kiss, and Jimi Hendrix.” It’s envisioned as a theatrical adaptation of the Kramer film documentary The Other Side of the Glass.

A jukebox musical, like Jersey Boys?

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Looking for a few Wild women

Sue Neuer of Cannon Beach finds casting a play scheduled for a September opening has its challenges – not all of them related to COVID-19

Last time we caught up with actor Sue Neuer, she was playing a lead role in Deathtrap and readying to play the Wicked Witch in The Wizard of Oz. Neuer, an innkeeper in Cannon Beach by day, is tackling a new role, one that may prove to be among her most difficult.

Neuer has signed on to co-direct The Wild Women of Winedale, by Jesse Jones, Nicholas Hope, and Jamie Wooten. It’s her first go at directing and the challenges are plenty. Opening night is planned for Labor Day weekend at the NCRD performing arts center in Nehalem. The question is, will the show really go on? We talked with Neuer about the task ahead.

How, in this crazy time, did you end up with your first directing gig?

Neuer: I was planning on auditioning for Spamalot at the Coaster. That got canceled and I hadn’t made any plans to do anything else. I am on the board of Rising Tide Productions. George Dzundza was going to do Wild Women. [You may remember Dzundza from his roles in The Deer HunterWhite Hunter Black HeartBasic InstinctCrimson Tide, and Dangerous Minds and the long-running NBC series Law & Order.] He backed out for personal reasons. I thought about it and contacted Margaret Page, another Rising Tide board member, and said I’d do it if she would co-direct — even though I’ve never directed before — and she agreed.

Sue Neuer says Rising Tide Productions is incorporating social distancing and virtual rehearsals into plans for its September show. “Our whole mission is to do theater,” she says. “Of course we’d like an audience, but our mission is to support actors and let them work in their craft.”

What’s been the toughest part so far?

I’m having difficulty casting the show. I posted on our Facebook page we are going to try to do the show and were holding private auditions. I didn’t get any response to that. So, I’ve just been reaching out to actors I know to precast the show.

COVID-19?

No, it’s not because people are scared of the virus. I think it’s the timing. The show opens Labor Day weekend. Some people already had plans. I have a couple of actors in Astoria interested, but they don’t want to drive to Nehalem to put on the show.

Tell us a bit about the show.

It’s a great script, all women between 40 and 60. There are six monologues and three leads. It’s about two sisters and a sister-in-law. They’re at a crossroads in their lives. They’re the Wild sisters and they live in Winedale. The show takes place mostly in the living room of one of the sisters. She is the director at a museum and is working on a project videotaping women to talk about profound events that have shaped their lives.

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‘A world of uncertainty’

Voices from the front: Arts philanthropist Ronni Lacroute says COVID-19 is forcing arts groups to think in new ways. Her role? “I just calm people down a lot.”

If you’ve attended plays or concerts in Portland or visited the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland with any regularity over the past decade, chances are good you owe at least one afternoon or evening of cultural enrichment to philanthropist Ronni Lacroute.

Lacroute lives in Yamhill County, where in 1991 she co-founded a vineyard and world-class winery on property that had been a cattle farm. As co-owner with her former husband of WillaKenzie Estate, she immersed herself in the wine business for a quarter century, until the winery was sold in 2016.

Lacroute, whose father was in the foreign service, had traveled extensively abroad in her youth. She studied romance languages and literature and has degrees from Cornell University, the University of Michigan, and both the licence ès lettres and the maîtrise ès lettres in North American literature from the Paris-Sorbonne University. She was a college professor and taught French language and culture in high school in Massachusetts in the 1970s and 1980s.


OREGON IN SHUTDOWN: VOICES FROM THE FRONT


Along the way, she became a patron of the arts and for years has given widely to a variety of Oregon arts organizations. She’s a generous donor to arts programs at Linfield College in McMinnville, where she’s a member of the Board of Trustees. (From the Department of Full Disclosure: She’s also a donor to Oregon ArtsWatch, and earlier this year I appeared in a play at Gallery Theater in McMinnville that she sponsored.)

Ronni Lacroute says arts organizations hardest hit by the coronavirus shutdown are those locked into a venue, like a symphony hall or a theater that doesn’t allow flexible spacing. Smaller, project-based companies are better able to look at alternatives. Photo by: Carolyn Wells-Kramer
Ronni Lacroute says smaller and project-based arts organizations that have flexibility in terms of venue are coming up with creative alternative ways of connecting with audiences. Photo by: Carolyn Wells-Kramer

She now is involved full time in individual philanthropy, holding nonstop meetings with the nonprofit community. She’s particularly interested in artistic projects and groups that promote important conversations across social, economic, and political divides and that effect social change.

Because Lacroute is so connected with the region’s artistic life, we thought it would be enlightening to find out what she’s hearing in the wake of COVID-19. A lot, it turns out. And she was more than happy to share. The following interview was conducted via Facetime and has been edited for length and clarity.

Tell me what it was like for you, when this really hit, as far as your meetings and contacts.

Lacroute: Well really, the only thing in my life that’s changed is no live meetings. I used to have people here every single day for meetings. The structure of my work life was to meet live and spend a couple of hours brainstorming ideas. It’s really hard to do that when you just have a phone call. You don’t do that for two hours. We exchange ideas, but how much can you put into an email or a 10-minute phone conversation? I’m missing the depth of exploration that we had before, where people were expecting that we’re going to hang out until we have some plans.

How did those conversations change once everyone really understood what was happening?

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Oregon arts news: Covid-19 updates

Literary Arts has an emergency fund for writers, BodyVox is drawing blood, Shakespeare festival goes digital, more!

All arts news these days is Covid-19 news, at least in part. But then I suppose that extends to every central sector of the society. Arts organizations in Oregon are trying to raise enough money to keep enough staff on board to keep planning for their eventual return. Oh, and enough money to stage or hang the art they’re involved with when audiences can finally gather safely.

As George Thorn says, “We can’t wait to be in a room together with artists.”

There are two themes for this edition of News and Notes, and all subsequent ones, I expect. The first is the happier one: creative initiatives that artists and arts groups are coming up with to keep their connections with us possible, even though we’re isolated from each other.

Give blood then go to BloodyVox/Photo by Blaine Covert

The second includes funds that have been established to help artists in need and pleas for immediate help from groups in trouble. Two Portland venues, The Old Church and the Alberta Rose Theatre, are in that latter category. You know them, you love them, and if you can, this is a great time to support them.

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Writers need to eat, too, not to mention pay the rent, and they are rarely tethered to corporate support systems. To help them out, Literary Arts has designated money from its Brian Booth Writers’ Fund to create the Booth Emergency Fund for Writers, designed to provide meaningful financial relief to Oregon’s writers, including cartoonists, spoken word poets, and playwrights. Grants of $1,000 each will go to 100 eligible writers, and if more money shows up, a second round of applications will open in June.

The deadline to apply for Round One is May 13. Literary Arts is prioritizing money for writers identifying as Black, Indigenous, and/or People of Color. 

The Oregon Shakespeare Festival has launched O!, a digital content platform the company has had in the works since Nataki Garrett became artistic director. With the theater closed, O! becomes a primary outlet until its stages are filled again, but the company intends to keep working on the site, even when we’re back in the theater again.

Right now, you can hear audio from a 1951 version of Twelfth Night, with founder Angus Bowmer himself as Sir Toby Belch. Or download an audiobook version of 2015’s Pericles, with recordings of King Lear (2013, directed by Bill Rauch), Romeo and Juliet (2012, dir. Laird Williamson), and Julius Caesar (2017, dir. Shana Cooper) soon to come. And there are documentaries and classes to sift through, too. For now, it’s all free. Click here to get started.

Profile Theatre’s eNewsletter this week brought two excellent pieces of news, and believe me, excellent news has been hard to come by lately. They are so excellent that I don’t know which to feature first. 

We’ll start with the money. The company’s Be a Light fundraiser brought in $100,193, exceeding the $75,000 Profile needed to keep operations going, move community engagement programming online, and prepare for a return to the stage when the pandemic has subsided enough for audiences to return. The key word: EXCEEDING. Cash contributions reached $82,861 by the April 24 deadline, and donations of previously purchased tickets totaled $17,332. (If you have tickets for performances of any sort, please consider donating them to the issuing organization, if at all possible.)

Profile artistic director Josh Hecht and Paula Vogel/Courtesy Profile Theatre

And now to the art! Profile’s featured writer this year, Paula Vogel, has been teaching playwriting for 30 years, using her“playwriting bake-off’ idea—a method for creating new work quickly with a recipe of “ingredients,” including characters, settings, props, and source material. Earlier this month she established a “Covid Bake-Off,” using the structure of Arthur Schnitzler’s La Ronde, with its 10 pairs of lovers, and characters from around the globe from Wuhan to Milan and beyond. 

Profile has enlisted playwrights Hilary Betis, Philip Dawkins, Hansol Jung, EM Lewis, Dan Kitrosser, Harrison Rivers, EM Lewis, Christopher Oscar Peña and Anna Ziegler to collaborate with Vogel in this special Bake-Off. Their creation will be recorded as an audio-play and released as a podcast. We’ll keep you apprised here at ArtsWatch.

The Alberta Rose Theatre is seeking support now that Covid-19 has wiped out its concerts and events. Portland doesn’t have nearly enough arts facilities as it is, so if you’re able and inclined, you can help keep this Alberta street institution going.

The theater’s online streaming fundraiser has already begun, but you can still hook-up to hear a long roster of Portland musicians perform. Tonight, for example, singer-songwriter Colin Hogan performs. You can buy a single ticket, a 10-concert flex package, or a full-access package. Well, they aren’t actually “tickets,” but the more you buy, the cheaper they are. The 20-concerts-for-$100 is still the best deal overall, even though a few have already taken place. You can get sorted out at the website.

Speaking of crucial performance venues, one of the city’s very best, The Old Church, is under pressure, too. “We are working around the clock to find funding to stay afloat for what is feeling like it will be an extended closure,” the organization announced. “Without funding we will be out of cash by mid-July.”

The nonprofit has been working on a campaign to ensure that some of the federal money that has gone to states will trickle down to the arts, including venues like The Old Church. They are hoping you will write the Oregon legislators from their district and advocate for arts funding and The Old Church: Rep.AkashaLawrenceSpence@oregonlegislature.gov and  Sen.GinnyBurdick@oregonlegislature.gov

The Old Church has also started a Better Together campaign, which features online benefit performances to support the work they do and the building they have renovated so well. 

If Portland reopens without The Old Church, we’ll always regret it.

One of the many things that BodyVox is known for (along with its great dance films, comic stylings, fine dancing, etc.) is its Halloween send-up BloodyVox. So, it makes sense (at least to me) that the dance company would host a community blood drive with the American Red Cross. The drive runs from 9 am to 2:30 pm on May 7 at the BodyVox Dance Center, 1201 NW 17th Ave., in  Portland.

Speaking of BloodyVox, it kicks off the company’s 2020-21 season. Full details are available on the website.

BodyVox’s penchant for film and video is evident in its fifth annual Contact Dance Film Festival, available to stream starting April 30. The four-day festival features three different programs, showcasing award-winning collaborations between filmmakers, dancers, and choreographers from around the world. Maybe watch some dance and then give some blood?