Julie Oda has been very active raising a family since leaving the Oregon Shakespeare Festival five years ago. Before joining OSF, Oda graduated from Mills College, trained at San Francisco's American Conservatory Theatre and acted in New York. She and her husband, Raleigh Grantham, own Ashland's Tudor House vacation rentals.
We visited in her colorful and inviting Tudor home, while her children napped.
JO: I was with the company for eight seasons, from 2000 to 2007, and cast in a wide variety of roles, including Cecily in "The Importance of Being Earnest," Hermia in "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and Celia in "As You Like It."
EH: You performed in an interesting production of "Macbeth."
JO: It was Libby Appel's idea to do this very pared-down version of the play. It was a six-person version of "Macbeth." I played 11 roles. She cast Macbeth, Lady Macbeth and Banquo. Three women played the three witches, and we played every other role in the show. I was the Third Witch, I was Malcolm, I was Ross, I was the Waiting Woman, I was Seyton; I was a soldier and a doctor. I had to change character on stage, in front of everybody. I was Fleance, and then I was the Macduff son that was killed. I was killed on stage; then I had to immediately stand up and become Malcolm. It was a wonderful experience, I must say. It was hard. We did almost 160 performances of that show. That was the year I met my husband; I was also falling in love when we did that show. I have fond memories of it.
EH: You have been acting most of your life?
JO: I have. I started when I was a child. I grew up in Los Angeles. I started when I was 8 years old. I did television and some theater growing up. I've been acting professionally since right out of ACT. This is the longest I've ever gone without acting, these last few years.
EH: It's lovely that you have had this wonderful acting career, and you have children.
JO: When I got pregnant, I was at the festival. A friend of mine and I looked through all the cast lists of the acting company. We noticed how many men in the company had children, and how few of the women did. It's really true. You have to take time off from your career, and for a lot of actresses, if you're right in your prime, it's really hard to do.
EH: You certainly are busy, though.
JO: Parenting is the hardest job I have ever had. It's hard. It's wonderful. Your heart, sort-of, explodes. It's pretty brilliant and amazing. I'm in the thick of it right now. I mean these twin toddler boys are fearless. My daughter is 81/2;; she's a big help. Raising a family is the best. "¦ If I weren't going to be acting, that's the thing to do. I do miss acting, though. I hope that there's a way for me to do both. I don't feel done with my acting yet.
EH: Are theater people different than other people?
JO: I think so. I think that theater people are a different breed. For some reason the word vampire popped into my mind, because I am a night person. We're not really vampires. It's just that idea of being most alive at night. I feel that I thrive at night. That's when my creative juices get going. I've always been that way. Everything kicks in for me at eight o'clock, right about curtain time.
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 email@example.com.