Eugene theater

Voices from the front: Ghostlighting

As live theater disappears, Eugene playwright Rachael Carnes turns her hand to video-conference plays – and leaves a light on for good luck


BY RACHAEL CARNES


When Lin-Manuel Miranda and bestie Andrew Lloyd-Weber are both socially distancing in their respective homes, yet engaging in a good-natured musical theater pingpong match in the Twittersphere, it has been a decidedly weird week in theater.

As a playwright, my first canceled production announcement came from Nylon Fusion in New York City, which had made the painful choice to cancel its coming festival, including the premiere of my new play Catalyst. The cancellations, closures and cheerily optimistic postponements exploded relentlessly after that, for me and for every other theater artist and dancer and musician — for anyone who depends on a stage and an audience, not to mention all the people who get people on that stage and audiences in those seats.

That was Thursday. A dimming of the lights, a shuttering, a grief spiral. What will we do?


OREGON IN SHUTDOWN: VOICES FROM THE FRONT


Well, theater is made of scrappy, communicative, creative people. We collaborate. We design. We dream. We build things that no one has ever heard of before — from scratch — and we work together to make it happen.

Rachael Carnes says Eugene has a robust theater scene, including long-running Oregon Contemporary Theatre, which is “curating a season that is as bold and as innovative as one you might see in Portland or Ashland.”
Rachael Carnes, Oregon playwright.

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Vision 2020: Rachael Carnes

The Eugene playwright fears that as the community grows, it becomes harder to enter the performing arts: "Access is the foundation for a vibrant arts scene"

Rachael Carnes has so many irons in the fire that introducing the sheer scope of her work is a bit daunting. She’s a former dancer and journalist who, just three short years ago, enrolled in a play-writing class through Oregon Contemporary Theatre with the award-winning playwright and instructor Paul Calandrino. Today, she lays claim to having had her plays workshopped, published, and produced in Oregon and beyond, from Seattle and Los Angeles to New York and London — and even one in South Korea.

A lifelong Eugenian, Carnes earned a bachelor’s degree from Reed College in 1993 and spent a quarter-century in arts education, journalism, and nonprofit work. Since 2016, her artistic output has exploded, both in terms of the number of plays and partnerships.


VISION 2020: TWENTY VIEWS ON OREGON ARTS


At the New Play Exchange, Carnes has more than 80 plays available, ranging from one-actor shows to full-length pieces and tackling a remarkable range of topics: gun violence, feminism, #MeToo, romance, history, reproductive rights, and the Supreme Court, to name a few. Currently, her artistic home is Oregon Contemporary Theatre, where she recently collaborated with Calandrino in Bunfight, a collection of eight short plays by the two playwrights. Her new play, At Winter’s Edge, was commissioned by Minority Voices Theatre in cooperation with the Very Little Theatre, and performed in December. 

Rachael Carnes says Eugene has a robust theater scene, including long-running Oregon Contemporary Theatre, which is “curating a season that is as bold and as innovative as one you might see in Portland or Ashland.”
Rachael Carnes says Eugene has a robust theater scene, including long-running Oregon Contemporary Theatre, which is “curating a season that is as bold and as innovative as one you might see in Portland or Ashland.”

How would you characterize the state of artistic and cultural life in Eugene and Lane County?

Eugene’s theater scene is robust for a community its size. The University of Oregon and Lane Community College offer a range of student productions each season, along with a variety of community theater offerings. The UO takes on some terrific work, from classics to new work about climate change. And LCC impresses with its student-run organization. I’ve had the opportunity to collaborate with them a few times, and they’re impressive.

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