Sue Neuer

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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Innkeeper by vocation, actor by avocation

Coaster Theatre's Sue Neuer talks about what it's like to perform in a community where everybody really does know your name

I met Sue Neuer some years ago at the front desk of a favorite Cannon Beach hotel. She knew me as the writer frequently on the road for work. I knew her as the innkeeper who tried to accommodate my need for peace and quiet so I could work. It was only later, when she invited me to the Coaster Theatre for the evening’s performance, that I learned that while innkeeping might be Neuer’s day job, her passion is the theater.

On Friday, Neuer opens in her 18th role at the Coaster, starring as Myra Bruhl in Deathtrap, a comedy-thriller by Ira Levin that holds the record (four years) for the longest running play of its genre on Broadway. The play is about a down-and-out playwright who sees hope in a student’s script and devises plans to stage it as his own. “There are a lot of twists and turns,” said Neuer, who plays the playwright’s wife. “Several people die.”

Neuer and I sat down to talk about what it’s like to be an actor in a town where odds are most everybody really does know your name. Our conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

Cannon Beach actor Sue Neuer opens in “Deathtrap,” her 18th Coaster Theatre role, on Friday. Photo courtesy: Coaster Theatre Playhouse

How do you juggle community theater — auditions, learning lines, rehearsals, performances — and a full-time job?

Neuer: Fortunately, I’ve had employers who are supporters of me doing theater and I do my own schedule, so I do it around my rehearsal schedule. You have to carve out the time, when it comes to memorizing your lines. I am a procrastinator when it comes to doing that. I record all my lines and listen to them while I am in the car.

Are you recognized locally first as an actor or innkeeper?

I’m very actively involved in the community. I’ve lived here a while (11 years), so people know me for all sorts of reasons. I have tourists come up and say, “Oh, I saw you in this or that play.” But not a lot of locals support the theater. There are some regular patrons, but I would say the majority of people are tourists looking for something to do. We have some visitors who are season ticket holders and plan trips to Cannon Beach based on shows. That’s always fun. We have some guests who try to plan their trips to take in a show while they’re here. There are locals who have never stepped foot in the theater. They think it’s a movie theater. I don’t say we don’t get the local support, but it’s weird — you’re either into theater or you’re not. If you’re not familiar with what it is, you have to be introduced by other people.

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