Daniel Stephens plays Poole in "Jekyll and Hyde," the provocative musical opening June 21 at Camelot Theatre in Talent. A freelance choreographer and teacher, Stephens is equipped with a bachelor's degree in theater arts and a master's in dance. Until 1997, he spent nine seasons with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival as a dancer, choreographer and actor. Stephens has performed in 10 shows at Camelot.
EH: What is the difference in performing in the old Camelot Theatre building versus the new facility?
DS: I think the main difference is that you don't have to go outside the building to get to the other side of the stage. One winter, we did "Brigadoon" and I was running between scenes, in the snow, in soft shoes and a kilt.
EH: Why do people participate in community theater?
DS: I've worked in theater all of my life, acting, dancing choreography, whatever — I've done it. Theater is just part of you, even with the people who do it for fun. Some of the younger people look at it as the next step: to move on into a career or their next artistic opportunity. There are many different reasons for people to come into that environment.
I think that what creates cohesion within the group is that it is a small theater, and everybody knows everyone else; and (Artistic Director) Livia Genise keeps a family atmosphere.
With every theater I've worked at, I've always thought of it as an extended family. You come to care about the people you work with. There are people coming into the mix and moving out of the mix. There's a routine: You put up a show, you take down a show. There's a system to that. Sometimes there are kinks or ridges thrown into the wheels of that system. You have to negotiate those things. Something's not working out as planned; unexpected things happen, so you have to adapt.
Camelot Theatre Company has been an integral part of this community for a very long time. It was an existing theater before it was Camelot Theatre Company, and it had gone through different transitions. It evolved over time. Livia really took it and made it part of the community. She has reached out to all the chambers of commerce, and all of the business people. She has been a major force in getting support for the theater.
Camelot Theatre Company serves as a niche for the community, in that you can go there for a price that you can afford and see wonderful productions that you may not see elsewhere. They also have developed a children's program. That is where you start developing your audience, not just your future actors, singers and dancers. These kids may grow up and never be on stage again, but they will have an appreciation for it. To me that is an integral part of any theater.
EH: As an actor, are there any parts you want to play?
DS: I have a philosophy about it: It's not what you want to play; it's what's right for you to do at that moment in time. I learned early on that what is right for me will come to me. I do my auditions and what needs to happen will happen. I'll have the roles that I should be doing at that time. There's serendipity. Sometimes roles overlap your real life.
I've been blessed with an artistic life, being creative, and having the opportunities to utilize that creativity, and with different people in different ways.
"Jekyll & Hyde," starring Robin Downward and directed by Livia Genise, opens at 8 p.m. June 21. For tickets and information, visit www.camelottheatre.org or call 541-535-5250.
Evalyn Hansen is a writer and director living in Ashland. She trained as an actor at the American Conservatory Theatre and is a founding member of San Francisco's Magic Theatre. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.