jane fellows

A visit with: Phyllis Yes

With her new play "Good Morning, Miss America," the well-known feminist visual artist turns her talents toward the stage

How refreshing to be reminded that sometimes an artist is an artist is an artist, no matter her chosen medium and despite our own reductive need to “frame” her as just ONE thing. This is most definitely the case with the multi-faceted contemporary visual artist Phyllis Yes, who also happens to be a fine and gifted playwright.

Her debut play, Good Morning, Miss America, premieres at CoHo Theatre on Saturday, March 10. The show tackles some tough issues, namely the psychological and logistical challenges of caring for ailing and aging parents who have lost their autonomy and ability to care safely for themselves. It features a crack cast including Lorraine Bahr, Rick Sadle, Jane Fellows (who also directs) and Kelly Marchant. With set design by Tim Stapleton and light design by Jamie Rea, the show promises to be top-notch.

Visual artist and playwright Phyllis Yes. Photo: Heaven MacArthur

Theater rehearsals are generally closed affairs, but I was lucky enough to sit in on one for Good Morning, Miss America at McCoy Millworks during the end of the third week of the process. I arrived in time to watch the industrious Fellows and the production stage manager, Annie Bosworth-Foley, prepare the space for rehearsal. Shortly after, Yes arrived, followed by Bahr (whose character, Jane, is based on the real-life Phyllis) and Sadle, who portrays Phyllis’s real-life stepfather, Lou. Small talk ensued about the show, the particularly gnarly evening traffic, and the outcome of a Portland Trail Blazers game, a team Phyllis follows enthusiastically.

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Note to Self, across time

Adrienne Flagg and actors collaborate on an adventure into identity and character at different stages in life

Imagine for a moment — as most of us have at one time or another — that you could go back in time and talk to yourself at a younger age, imparting hard-won wisdom and warnings. Then there are those moments when you wish you could see things the way you did early on, when you were full of energy and passionate hope, when life seemed simpler.

Just as useful might be the foresight and perspective – at any age – to recognize life’s lessons as they come along. And make a note to self.

All three of those notions course through a fascinating play premiering Friday night at CoHo Theater. Note to Self, devised by producer/director Adrienne Flagg in collaboration with the show’s performers, revolves around the stories of a half-dozen characters, each a composite played by two actors, one younger, one older. Together, these stories form what the show’s website calls “a personal examination of how individuals change and grow over time.”

The cast members range in age from 23 to 80. Some, such as Jane Fellows and Chris Porter, are highly regarded veterans of the city’s theater scene; others have never been in a play before. Male, female, black, white, straight, gay, transgender, etc. – the perspectives are diverse, but ultimately speak less to divides than to commonalities. All have shared stories of their own lives, and together they’ve created a kind of theatrical mosaic that sparkles with reflections on ideals and identity, family and society, love and loss, dreams and disappointments.

 

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The two character known as George – Rabbit carrying Tim Stapleton – during a workshop on the Sandy River. Photo: Brent Barnett

The two character known as George – Rabbit carrying Tim Stapleton – during a workshop on the Sandy River. Photo: Brent Barnett

“Note to Self… take the chance.”

Artistic inspiration often travels mysterious paths, but even so it might come as a surprise that Note to Self has its origins in Shakespeare. Specifically, bad Shakespeare.

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‘Outgoing Tide’: The play of laughter and forgetting

Bruce Graham's play about how a family contends with Alzheimer's leads to further consideration

Tobias Andersen and Gary Norman in CoHo's "The Outgoing Tide"/Brud Giles

Tobias Andersen and Gary Norman in CoHo’s “The Outgoing Tide”/Brud Giles

By RICHARD WATTENBERG

A play about Alzheimer’s disease and end-of-life decisions hardly sounds like an evening chock full of laughs. And yet Bruce Graham’s “The Outgoing Tide” addresses these topics in a taut family drama that skillfully balances pathos with humor that is sometimes dark and sometimes tender. Graham’s play and the current CoHo production of it successfully eschew sentimentality. Instead we are offered a thoughtful glimpse into the particular dynamics driving one family as its dementia-stricken patriarch tries to tie up loose ends and guarantee the future security of his loved ones.

“The Outgoing Tide” is a loosely structured play. While for the most part Graham’s family drama is set in and around the Chesapeake Bay cottage where the hard-nosed Gunner and Peg, his wife of more than fifty years, currently live, the action frequently detours into the past to represent, by way of showing and not just telling, significant moments in Gunner and Peg’s family history.

The focus, however, is on Gunner and Peg’s current dilemma: Gunner, portrayed with light-hearted irascibility by Tobias Andersen, is gradually losing his battle with Alzheimer’s. The loyal Peg, played with a high-strung intensity by Jane Fellows, believes that moving from their home into a care facility, where she can continue to attend to her husband’s needs but with ever-present professional assistance, has become necessary.

To help her convince the stubborn Gunner to take this step, she enlists their fifty-year-old son, Jack. Gary Norman’s sullen, depressed Jack has his own problems. He is in the process of working out a divorce with his wife, and he is disappointed by his own son’s inability to find a path for himself. Even more troubling for Jack is a lingering fear that Gunner might not ever have really loved him.

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Two years ago, Anonymous Theatre assembled “Lend Me a Tenor”
on the fly.

By Emily Stevens

The first rule of Anonymous Theatre is, you don’t talk about Anonymous Theatre.

Should you choose to audition, you tell no one. You wear a disguise. Your audition is padded with time at either end so you don’t run into other actors as you are coming and going, and you are asked to keep even the fact that you auditioned secret. Rehearsals are held in secret locations throughout the city, and you learn the entire play on your own with help only from your director.

On opening night you arrive at the theater in street clothes, sit down with the rest of the audience, chat with your neighbor and then quietly wait until it is time for your first line. You will probably be nearly paralyzed by fear.

“I have never been more nervous in a theater. It was almost unbearable,” says Anonymous Theatre founding member Darius Pierce. “Usually the most unnerving part of the process is sitting watching the show before your entrance. It’s kind of nice to see the show establish itself a bit and get the feel for how it’s going, see some of the other actors. But man, I found sitting nearly impossible. Terrifying.”

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