Newport Performing Arts Center

When the proscenium arch is a computer monitor

Technology presents challenges for students in an online summer drama club, but the tradeoff is lessons in creativity, self-reliance, and responsibility

I am in the passenger seat of our pickup headed back to the coast from Eugene when I check in with the Oregon Coast Council for the Arts’ Online Summer Drama Club. The oldest group, students entering seventh and eighth grades, is rehearsing 10 Ways to Survive Life in Quarantine. I am listening to an announcer doing commentary on an imaginary sport — and then I am gone. Dropped.

Oh, the joys of life in a virtual world.

As the 19 students in the club are learning, virtual performances come with unique challenges. One is technology. When one actor talks, her voice continues, but the video freezes — blame the dreaded lag time brought on by a poor Wi-Fi connection. Then there’s remembering to stay in the frame; to turn off the camera and mic when your performance is over; and to unmute yourself when it’s showtime.

“The thing that I think is most frustrating is you can be doing your scene and you don’t know you are freezing up on the other end,” said Hazel Fiedler, who performs with the Prime Time Players in 10 Ways to Survive Life in Quarantine. “That’s the most nerve-racking — going live. What if I freeze up? What if my internet goes off in a performance?”

THE ART OF LEARNING: An Occasional Series

The arts council formed the eight-week summer drama club when the pandemic forced cancellation of drama summer camp. Since July 6, students have met twice weekly. Monday meetings feature a theater professional and question-and-answer session. The groups meet a second time each week to rehearse, devise props, and create costumes. The club will culminate in an invitation-only day of virtual performances Aug. 28.

The club is divided into three age groups: Act One Players are third- and fourth-graders; Act Two Players are entering fifth and sixth grade, and the Prime Time Players are incoming seventh- and eighth-graders. Classes were open to all students in those grades, with varying levels of theater experience.

Technical issues aside, performing alone from your living room is entirely different from acting with fellow thespians on stage. That presents its own challenges — and learning opportunities.

Members of the Oregon Coast Council for the Arts’ Online Summer Drama Club meet twice weekly in preparation for their virtual performance later this month.
Director Jennifer Hamilton (top left) meets with the Act Two Players in the Oregon Coast Council for the Arts’ Online Summer Drama Club. The club meets twice weekly in preparation for virtual performances later this month. Photo by: Lori Tobias

“It’s just really hard when you can’t do as much,” said Lucy Furuheim, who has a role with the Act Two Players in The Show Must Go Online. “You can’t interact, you can’t pass a prop. In one of the scenes, we’re using stuffed animals instead of people.”


Arts advocate steps down

Catherine Rickbone, executive director of the Oregon Coast Council for the Arts, says cutbacks caused by the pandemic make this a good time for her to retire

Catherine Rickbone had grown accustomed to people asking when she was going to retire and enjoy life. Rickbone, executive director of the Oregon Coast Council for the Arts, frequently responded, “I enjoy myself now.” She planned to see to the end the final phase of the Newport Performing Arts Center’s $4.3 million capital campaign, to be completed in 2020.

Then came COVID-19. The deadline for the “Entertain the Future” campaign was pushed out to at least 2021. Rickbone, 74, knew it was time to go. She retired July 2 after 13 years at the helm of the council, where she oversaw management of the Newport Performing Arts Center and Newport Visual Arts Center. The council is also the local arts council for Lincoln County and the regional arts council for Clatsop, Tillamook, Coos, and Curry counties, as well as coastal towns in Lane and Douglas counties.

“Catherine will be really missed,” said Akia Woods, president of the council’s board of directors. “We’ll especially miss her earnestness and her love of the arts and her ready smile. Catherine was a tremendous advocate for the arts. Her advocacy hasn’t just been local, she’s been a great advocate at the state level.”

In announcing her retirement from the Oregon Coast Council for the Arts, Catherine Rickbone told the board of directors that her tenure with the council “was made up of billions of moments, millions of interactions, thousands of programs, hundreds of decisions, and uncountable challenges and joys.” Photo courtesy: Oregon Coast Council for the Arts
In announcing her retirement from the Oregon Coast Council for the Arts, Catherine Rickbone told the board of directors that her tenure with the council “was made up of billions of moments, millions of interactions, thousands of programs, hundreds of decisions, and uncountable challenges and joys.” Photo courtesy: Oregon Coast Council for the Arts

A search for a new executive director has begun, Woods said.

With a life rooted in the arts, Rickbone seemed destined for the leadership role.

She was raised by her grandmother in Emporia, Kansas, in a three-story home that also served as a rooming house. Rickbone was hooked on the arts from the day she found a book on her grandmother’s bookshelf titled Picture Studies. Dedicated to children and lovers of art, it was a study guide from 1928 with details of each piece pictured, followed by questions. The book fueled a hunger in the young girl for more.

“As I got a little older, I did chores for my grandmother,” Rickbone recalled. “Instead of money, I parlayed for magazine subscriptions, such as Saturday Review. Also, the Metropolitan Museum of Art put out 12 books. Inside were color plates of artwork. The books talked about great works of art. I cut my teeth on that when I did summer reading on the hanging swing or glider on my grandmother’s big Midwestern-style porch.”

Her grandmother’s home was half a block from what was then known as the Kansas State Teachers’ College.  “There was always summer theater — it was one of the longest running in the nation,” she said. “My grandmother and I would walk across the street and get on the campus and we’d go to plays.”

As host of the “Arts Talk” radio show, Catherine Rickbone (left) talked with Teresa Simmons, vice chair of the Siletz Tribal Arts and Heritage Society, about the group and its dream for a new building. Photo courtesy: Oregon Coast Council for the Arts
As host of the “Arts Talk” radio show, Catherine Rickbone (left) talked with Teresa Simmons, vice chair of the Siletz Tribal Arts and Heritage Society, about the group and its dream for a new building. Photo courtesy: Oregon Coast Council for the Arts

Rickbone also took advantage of the William Allen White Library across the street from her home, named for the founder of the Emporia Gazette and featuring a huge room of children’s books, where the girl would hang out for hours. Within walking distance was a Carnegie library. “I’d go to that library and read and look at things, so I had a lot of nurturing.”  

Rickbone, a poet and singer, eventually completed two bachelor’s and two master’s degrees. She married a Navy lieutenant, following him during their nearly 10-year marriage to towns along the East Coast.

She taught English, started her own mail-order business, and held positions in public relations and marketing. Eventually, the road led to Ashland, where she was an independent art consultant. The self-described “prairie woman … used to wind, wide open spaces, lightning and hail, storms and tornados,” found the town nice enough, but with mountains on both sides, a bit claustrophobic.

“There was no room to breathe, to stretch out, to vision,” she said. “Not that mountains aren’t inspiring, from a distance, just not up close and hovering.”

Searching for a new opportunity, Rickbone learned of a job opening in Newport, a town she hadn’t even known existed. Driving to the coastal town for her first interview, she recalls seeing the Performing Arts Center on her left and the glittering ocean before her. “That did it. I could vision again, breathe again, check the weather, and see it coming.”

The weather, however, did take some adjusting to — no four seasons; dreary, dark, damp, and depressing during fall, winter, and spring. She made it through to summer, coming out on the other side with the new knowledge that “drippy weather breeds creativity.”

During her time with the Oregon Coast Council for the Arts, Rickbone was instrumental in establishing the Coastal Oregon Visual Artist Showcase (COVAS) in the Visual Arts Center, which highlights midcareer Oregon visual artists while making a statement on visual arts ecology. She helped save the former Jazz at Newport festival, later renamed the Oregon Coast Jazz Party, and signed the first Metropolitan Opera Live in HD contract for the Performing Arts Center, second in popularity, she notes, only to the Jazz Party. She also helped establish a public arts policy for Newport. She remains a member of that city committee and continues to serve on the board for the Oregon Cultural Advocacy Coalition.

Lincoln County Counsel Wayne Belmont, who worked with Rickbone on numerous projects and committees, recalled the enthusiasm and energy she brought to every task.

Catherine Rickbone (left) joins sculptor Mary Lewis at her piece “Mother and Child,” which was a gift to the Oregon Coast Council for the Arts in 2014. Photo courtesy: Oregon Coast Council for the Arts
Catherine Rickbone (left) joins sculptor Mary Lewis at her piece “Mother and Child,” which was a gift to the Oregon Coast Council for the Arts in 2014. Photo courtesy: Oregon Coast Council for the Arts

“The term I’ve used is boundless energy,” he said. “Exuberance. It can be very contagious. She’s not going to be quietly sitting on the sidelines. I know she will continue to be a super volunteer.”

In announcing her retirement, Rickbone said budget retraints caused by the the COVID-19 shutdown make this an “excellent opportunity and the appropriate time” for her to step down. She added she is “contemplating my next opportunities in life, where I can use my skills of leadership to further other interests and causes important to me.” She said she believes the Oregon Coast Council for the Arts, which has laid off most of its staff because of COVID-19 budget constraints, will survive the pandemic, but it won’t be the same.

“When the time is right, I think our supporters will return,” she said. “Things may look different, but let’s face it, nothing takes the place of a live performance. The synergy and energy between stage and audience is magical. There are a lot of virtual tours and they are great… but there is nothing like an up close and personal look in real time at a work of art.

“I say the same thing about performing, you don’t get the buzz from online streaming … as you do when you are in that seat in the Alice Silverman Theatre. The stage has living people on it and something starts to happen. I’ve experienced it time and time again. I think those times will come back.”


This story is supported in part by a grant from the Oregon Cultural Trust, investing in Oregon’s arts, humanities and heritage, and the Lincoln County Cultural Coalition.

A virtual take on a total art form

Kids in Newport’s Online Summer Drama Club will learn everything from props to acting to accountability – culminating in a play – via computer

Two years ago, Jennifer Hamilton began providing after-school theater classes to kids at the Newport Performing Arts Center. She even persuaded the bus company to create a new stop for the pint-sized performers. She also started School’s Out, Theatre’s In for days when schools are not in session, and this year had planned a two-week summer camp. That, of course, had to be canceled because of COVID-19.

THE ART OF LEARNING: An Occasional Series

Jennifer Hamilton says teaching theater to children “creates cooperation, support, just like a team sport.”

Instead, Hamilton is hosting the Oregon Coast Council for the Arts’ Online Summer Drama Club. Beginning July 6, students entering third through eighth grade will meet twice weekly for eight weeks in virtual classes, culminating Aug. 28 with a day of performances. Registration is still open, with a fee of $80.

Hamilton has a BA in theater from Sterling College in Kansas and a master’s in theater from the University of Kansas. She serves on the board for the American Association of Community Theatre and has been instrumental in developing and running the group’s national Youth Theatre conferences. We talked with her about what both she and kids get out of theater and how a virtual theater class is going to work.

What inspired you to go into children’s theater?

Hamilton:  I’d gone to college and studied theater and speech. Eight or nine years later, I decided to go back to grad school. Halfway through, a job opened up for the education director at the Topeka Civic Theatre & Academy, which has a children’s theater department. I thought, these jobs are far and few between; I need to take this. I fell in love. It’s such a reward to see kids put on a show, having a blast at camp. When I started, the camp had 30 kids. When I left 12 years later, we had over 300 students enrolling.


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.  


Coast calendar: The light shines on youth

The work of young filmmakers, stories inspired by Cinderella and Dr. Suess, and a documentary about Anne Frank are among coastal offerings

It’s film festival time in Manzanita, and the light is shining on young filmmakers from around the world. Each of the short films to be screened Friday was honored last year at the Gateway Film Festival, organized and hosted by students and Media Arts Department faculty at Pacific University in Forest Grove. Professor Jennifer Hardacker, who has shown her own films at the Hoffman Center for the Arts, will attend the screening to discuss the films. Showtime is 7:30 p.m. Feb. 28 in the Hoffman Center. Admission is $7. Films to be shown are:

  • Let.Go.Before.Trying, by Anna Mendes of Ashland
  • Istanbul: Home Away From Home, by Selin Tiryakioglu of Florida
  • Double Vida, by Sharlany Gonzalez of the Dominican Republic and Maryland
  • 63 Miles Away, by Emma Josephson of Portland
  • Writer’s Block Party, by Gabriella Sipe of Olympia
  • The Quiet, by Radheya Jegatheva of Australia
  • She, by Felix Koble of South Africa
  • Beacons of Portland, by David Pascual-Matias of Portland
  • Irony, by Radheya Jegatheva of Australia
Mel Brown
Mel Brown will lead his jazz quartet in a concert during Nehalem Winterfest.

NEHALEM IS PREPARING for the annual Nehalem Winterfest March 6-8. Performers are: the Marlin James Band, a country/rock group with influences ranging from Eddie Van Halen to George Strait, at 7 p.m. Friday; Eagles tribute band Eagle Eyes at 7 p.m. Saturday; and legendary Portland jazz band the Mel Brown Quartet at 2 p.m. Sunday. Performances are in North Country Recreation District Performing Arts Center. Tickets range from $18 to $29 and are available here.


Coast calendar: Telling stories and singing songs

Pacific Story Slam continues on the North Coast, chanteuse Lady Rizo visits Newport, and a couple of theatrical comedies offer Elvis and old folks

Fancy yourself a good storyteller? If so, the North Coast is where you want to be. The Pacific Story Slam takes place in three locales and continues through April, when a grand champ is crowned.

Each week offers a new theme — see below — shared by the venues, giving storytellers multiple audiences for their stories and audiences more opportunities to hear tales from different coastal communities.

Workers Tavern in Astoria holds weekly slams from 7 to 9 p.m. Wednesdays.

Maggie’s on the Prom in Seaside hosts slams from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursdays. Because Maggie’s is a full-service restaurant, it’s the only venue where people under 21 are welcome to spin a tale.

The third venue is just across the border in Washington at the North Beach Tavern in Long Beach. Slams take place there from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Mondays.

Here are the rules: Each story must be true and the storyteller’s own story. The story must be told in the first-person narrative without notes or props. The story should be to theme and told within five minutes. Members of the audience will receive ballots to vote for the winner of the night, based on the guidelines of the competition.

The winners from the nine weeks of competition (sorry, we missed the start in January) will be invited back for the semi-finals at each venue to tell a story on their chosen theme. The top four semi-finalists move on to the Grand Slam, competing for a cash prize, “more bragging rights and a slightly bigger trophy,” according to organizers. That takes place April 10 in the Fort George Brewery in Astoria.

Why, you might ask, a story slam? We’ll let organizers answer:


Coast calendar: Long-lost drawings and celebrating the nude

A fundraiser auctions a Rick Bartow sketch, the 14th annual "Au Naturel" show opens in Astoria, plus play and author readings, and cranky old men in Cannon Beach

Newport artist Rick Bartow died nearly four years ago, but his work is the gift that keeps giving, in some cases, surprisingly so. Last year, staff at the Olalla Center, a nonprofit in Toledo that provides mental health care for children, set out to do some spring cleaning. In the process, they discovered seven line drawings by Bartow stashed away and gathering dust.

They’ve set aside one of those drawings to be auctioned off at a Valentine’s Day fundraiser, Sea of Love, at the Oregon Coast Aquarium. The framed drawing will be revealed the evening of the auction.

A Rick Bartow sketch similar to these, found in storage at the Olalla Center, will be auctioned during a Valentine’s Day fundraiser. Bartow created the drawings as part of an Earth Day exercise for children.

“We were literally clearing out a storage room of old games and toys and random items, sort of typical rummage sale items, and we found Rick’s pieces all at once,” said Diane Teem, executive director at the center. “We were so happy to find them. It was like a treasure. Our staff had changed since they were created, and we didn’t realize they existed. I don’t know how they came to be in storage, but we’re super happy we discovered them and can now honor Rick’s memory and contribution to the children of the Olalla Center. Rick was all about the children.”

The pieces, which Bartow called “eco art,” were created in 2010 as an Earth Day classroom exercise Bartow participated in. The drawing to be auctioned is 2.5 feet wide by 2 feet tall, framed in metal and signed. Teem is working to have the artwork appraised.

The other drawings have the children’s names on them, and on the back, a bio and picture of Bartow along with an Earth Day poem and the answers to a classroom assignment.