Gallery Players of Oregon

‘The Graduate’ on the edge

The #MeToo movement raises challenges for Gallery Theater's production of the 1960s tale of seduction and the American dream

The hottest theater ticket in Yamhill County this week is unquestionably at Gallery Players of Oregon in McMinnville, where a three-week run of The Graduate (yes, that Graduate) opens Friday.

Terry Johnson’s adaptation of Charles Webb’s novel (which became an award-winning film starring Dustin Hoffman) will be performed in the Arena, the smaller of Gallery’s two stages with seating for about 80. Inside the company, it’s known as a venue for Gallery’s edgy productions — plays that might offend, or lesser known plays not expected to draw an audience that would fill the main, 236-seat auditorium. Given that The Graduate’s most popular incarnation is more than 40 years old, the play may be relatively obscure. Given the subject matter (an explicitly rendered, sexually charged extramarital affair), it also falls into edgy territory for Yamhill County audiences.

Benjamin Braddock (John Davis Jr.) decides to follow the lead of Mrs. Robinson (Holly Spencer) in Gallery Theater's production of “The Graduate,” which opens Friday, July 26, in McMinnville. Photo by: EKay Media, courtesy Gallery Theater
Benjamin Braddock (John Davis Jr.) decides to follow the lead of Mrs. Robinson (Holly Spencer) in Gallery Theater’s production of “The Graduate,” which opens Friday, July 26, in McMinnville. Photo by: EKay Media, courtesy Gallery Theater

Based on what I’ve seen and what I’ve heard from other actors, Arena shows have drawn larger audiences in recent years. One hopes that The Graduate does as well, for here is an opportunity for audiences to see the artistic alchemy that can happen when a talented and seasoned actor takes a spin in the director’s chair.

Having been involved with Gallery since the late 1990s, I’ve known some people involved in the production for years and in a couple of cases have worked with them on stage. Surprisingly, I’d never spoken with the director until we sat down to chat about this show.

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The start of an art-full year in Yamhill County

Newberg's Chehalem Cultural Center and The Gallery at Ten Oaks in McMinnville kick off 2019 with six exhibitions well worth a look

Looking ahead at what 2019 holds for Yamhill County’s art scene, nothing has astonished me quite like the calendar for the Chehalem Cultural Center in Newberg. A dozen exhibitions are booked and the year is virtually full, although one can be reasonably sure that the occasional pop-up will happen — like the current exhibition of art by students from George Fox University.

Stan Peterson’s “Together” (carved and painted basswood) is part of “A Catalyst of Empathy” show at the Chehalem Cultural Center.

Program manager Carissa Burkett had room available in the center’s half dozen exhibition spaces, so she called the university’s art department, and they delivered. Lists like these are subject to change, of course, but what’s currently on the calendar ought to give you some idea of how ambitious this nonprofit art center is in connecting the community with visual art produced by Oregon artists.

I was there earlier this month on a gray Wednesday morning and spent a wonderful hour or so soaking up the new exhibitions. Here’s what’s going on:

Tim Timmerman’s “Genuine, Authentic” (watercolor, gouache, colored pencil and collage on paper) in the “Catalyst of Empathy” show

A Catalyst of Empathy by Tim Timmerman & Stan Peterson: In the Parrish Gallery you’ll find nearly 30 mixed media works by George Fox University art professor Tim Timmerman and more than a dozen wooden carvings by Portland artist Stan Peterson. Collectively, the pieces “explore narratives that speak with sincerity through a somewhat whimsical lens, striving as best as they are able to encounter the ‘other’ with benevolence and generosity.”

I was intrigued by the way Timmerman seems occasionally to vary his drawing style, particularly
with faces; to my eye, it was not immediately obvious that all the pieces were done by the same artist, and I mean that as a compliment. It’s an interesting show, and children are likely to enjoy the sculpture work, most of which pairs animals with other animals or people. The show runs through March 2.

Toward the rear of the building in the Founder’s Lobby, you’ll find 35th & Harrison, which features oils on wood panels by Abi Joyce-Shaw that contrast the objects she and her partner brought to their apartment with the fixed architectural features found there. The exhibition “considers the ways in which temporary housing is transformed from an impersonal to personal space. Personal possessions, acts of care and traditions make these spaces our own. The objects one selects to display and live alongside provide a tangible reflection of the resident’s character, or, by extension, a reflection of the relationship between people.” This show also runs through March 2.

Head down the east hall, and you’ll find that George Fox University Student Exhibit, in the Central Gallery, which runs through Feb. 2. There’s work here by 14 students — oils, photography, drawings, sculpture and even a comic and a zine entitled Stalked On Campus.

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State of the art, art of the state

2018 in Review, Part 2: From Ashland to Astoria to Bend and beyond, twenty terrific tales about art and culture around Oregon

In 2018 ArtsWatch writers spent a lot of time out and about the state, putting the “Oregon” into “Oregon ArtsWatch.” Theater in Ashland and Salem. Green spaces and Maori clay artists in Astoria. A carousel in Albany. Aztec dancing in Newberg. Music in Eugene, Springfield, Bend, the Rogue Valley, McMinnville, Lincoln City, Florence, Willamette Valley wine country. Museum and cultural center art exhibits in Coos Bay and Newberg and Newport and Salem. Art banners in Nye Beach. A 363-mile art trail along the coast.

In 2018 we added to our team of writers in Eugene and elsewhere weekly columnists David Bates in Yamhill County and Lori Tobias on the Oregon Coast, plus regional editor Karen Pate. We expect to have even more from around Oregon in 2019.

Twenty terrific tales from around the state in 2018:

 



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The Original Tesla

“Tesla”: The wireless joint is jumpin’.

Jan. 11: “Clean energy. Wireless charging. A world connected by invisible communication technology. For many,” Brett Campbell writes,” they’re today’s reality, tomorrow’s hope — but they were first realistically envisioned more than a century ago by a a Serbian-American immigrant whose name most of us only know because a new car is named after him. … ‘He’s an unsung hero,” Brad Garner, who choreographed and directs Tesla: Light, Sound, Color, a multidisciplinary show about the technological genius Nikola Tesla that played in Eugene, Bend, and Portland, tells Campbell. ‘We wouldn’t have cell phones and power in our homes without his work. He was an immigrant with an American dream who changed the world.”

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Enigmatic “Theory of Nothing” proffers a peaceful place to be

Adam Rupniewski’s installation in the Art Harvest Studio Tour combines sculpture, music, and poetry for a must-see experience

The 26th annual Art Harvest Studio Tour of Yamhill County is now live, and for those who missed out on the first weekend, take heart: It goes three more days, and this weekend’s weather looks picture perfect, with sunny days and highs in the low 70s. That means lots of crispy orange and yellow leaves swishing at your feet as you hike through wine country meeting our amazing artists.

These calls are subjective, of course, and while studio tours inevitably feature at least one artist who has “must-see” work on display, Adam Rupniewski’s Theory of Nothing installation, tucked away in a second-floor ballroom in downtown McMinnville, is so wildly unique that you really must see it. Trust me, Mac has more than a dozen artists on this countywide tour, so you can’t go wrong by starting your travels downtown on Third Street, where book artist Marilyn Worrix’s sprawling upstairs apartment hosts several artists, including Rupniewski.

From Adam Rupniewski’s “Physiology of Dreams” collection, “Mona Linda,” oil pastel on paper, is one of many pieces on display as the Art Harvest Studio Tour of Yamhill County continues Oct. 12-14.

Rupniewski was born in Poland in 1958 and emigrated with his then-wife and baby son after that country’s martial law expired in July 1983. He lived in several European nations before coming to Oregon in 1986, sponsored by the Presbyterian Church in Portland. He earned his MFA in 1998 from Portland State University, which is where he first showed Theory of Nothing.

Before arriving at the exhibit’s latest incarnation, the viewer traverses a long, wide hallway displaying Rupniewski’s Physiology of Dreams cycle (nearly all works in oil pastel on paper). The cycle was inspired by two unusual dreams, one from a period of seclusion in the Massif Central mountains of Ardèche, France, and the second from a week-long film festival featuring work by the remarkable Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky. Rupniewski elaborates in his artist’s statement:

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Gallery Theater: 50 years, 340 plays, thousands of stories

McMinnville's community theater celebrates a half-century partnership between actors and audiences

Gallery Players of Oregon has been cranking out plays in downtown McMinnville since 1968, which means we’ve arrived at the 50th anniversary. That kind of endurance for any artistic project is worth celebrating.

I cannot hide my enthusiasm about it, and you ought to know why: For many of the past 20 years, I’ve acted on Gallery’s stage. Candidly, this is a bit weird for me. I’ve been a journalist since moving to McMinnville in the mid-1990s, and I’ve been involved at Gallery (both as an actor and a director) for most of that time. But those two lives haven’t intersected — until now.

Like many who will attend Saturday’s 50th anniversary gala, which will include a catered dinner and an evening program, I was introduced to theater in high school. Instead of letting it become just another memory from my youth, I remained active in theater and, more than three decades later, have accumulated a wealth of memories, characters, thrills, laughs, life lessons, friendships and stories.

Seth Renne, who has managed Gallery Theater since 2014, considers the
perils of growing carnivorous plants in 2013’s production of “Little Shop
of Horrors.” Photo: Gallery Theater

I’ve worn suits, ties, armor, stars and stripes, pajamas, a bathrobe, a dress, fake breasts, tighty-whities, and a burlap sack while smeared with mud. Actual, homemade mud, because I learned that mud washes off faster for a quick scene change than oil-based makeup. I also learned, over the course of that production, that dirt is alive and, if allowed to sit in a jar with just enough water, will grow things that smell awful.

I’ve learned the hardest thing to do onstage is not to cry, laugh or even passionately kiss a friend while your spouse (and hers) watches from the audience, but to eat. Appearing in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, I had in my field of vision one evening Dr. Dean Brooks, who headed the Oregon State Hospital for 27 years and played a character similar to himself in the 1975 film starring Jack Nicholson; he was seated in the first row. Having played Col. Nathan Jessup in A Few Good Men, I’ve found myself in the absurd position of being compared to Jack Nicholson.

I’ve been killed by and slain good friends, then gone out drinking with them afterward. I’ve come to understand how and why the show must and ultimately does go on, even when the director walks out, or when an actor vanishes on the eve of opening night or — for any number of reasons I’ll not get into here — in the middle of a show’s run. As an audience member, I broke down at Atticus Finch’s “Thank you for my children, Arthur.” And I’ll never forget the stunned silence at the end of a fantastic Cabaret, where the biggest Nazi flag I’ve ever seen unfurled over the stage for the final scene.

But the most important thing I’ve come away with is an appreciation of the audience – both as an actor and director and as a theatergoer.

Here’s the thing: The audience wants you to succeed.

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