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'The White Fugue' at SOU

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From left: Michael Hays, Grace Wolcott, Cesar Perez-Rosas and Sierra Faulkner in “The White Fugue” at Southern Oregon University. Photo by Greg Eliason
 Posted: 2:00 AM October 31, 2013

"The White Fugue," a fast-paced, theatrical feast of physical comedy, vaudeville chases and technical feats written and directed by James Donlon, tells the story of a woman who hires a private detective to help her solve the mystery of her lost memories.

"Memory is very important to us," Donlon says. "It's a powerful human experience that tells our personal history, helps us survive and affects how we live our daily lives. It can be vivid, surreal or provocative. 'The White Fugue' is a study of that phenomenon, the shapes and forms that memories take."

Performances of "The White Fugue" are set for 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, Nov. 7-9 and 14-16, and 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 16-17, in the Center Square Theatre off South Mountain Avenue on the Southern Oregon University campus in Ashland.

If you go

What: "The White Fugue"

When: 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, Nov. 7-9 and 14-16, and 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 16-17

Where: Center Square Theatre on the Southern Oregon University campus, 1250 Siskiyou Blvd., Ashland

Tickets: $21, $18 for seniors and $6 for students

Call: 541-552-6348 or see arts

Assistant theater professor Donlon takes the audience on a journey through the landscapes of the unnamed woman's memories in his piece. There is a nightmarish memory in which she is hunted by a hawk. Another is a surreal look at institutional facilities, he says.

"The title encompasses the themes of the play," Donlon says. "White contains all the colors of the spectrum, and it's been the hue for ritual throughout the millennia. It's used at weddings, balls and social events.

"Fugue is not only a musical structure, its state also is characterized by reversible amnesia," he says. "Musical themes in a fugue are flushed out and explored, much as a good dramatic production. The process leads to a climax, so it's good storytelling.

"Like painters, writers and composers, I always thought theater artists should be no different," Donlon says. "They should devise work that springs from their own point of view, process and aesthetic."

Donlon's piece called on the ensemble of student actors to explore their own memories and become part of the play's writing process, thus developing personal points of view on what it means to be alive. The process demanded concentration, stamina and provocative imaginations.

The cast includes Anasazi Bhakti, Sarah Brizek, Lucas Caldwell, Austin Comfort, Sierra Faulkner, Michael Hays, Kurt Langmeyer, Ginger Lockhart, Cesar Perez-Rosas, Shanti Ryle, Moira Todd and Jeremy Vik.

A white fugue is a "timeless, ritualistic, noble human activity," Donlon says. "That's the metaphor for the piece."

Donlon's career includes teaching, acting and directing in conservatories around the U.S. and Europe. Before moving to Ashland to teach at SOU a year ago, he taught private physical theater at his school in San Francisco.

"One of the benefits of teaching and working in a theater education environment is that you can take more risks, be a little more adventurous. The students are open, and if you're honest with them, they're willing to take the plunge."

Tickets cost $21, $18 for seniors and $6 for students. Subscribers to three or more plays included in the SOU Department of Performing Arts' theater season will receive tickets for $17, $15 for seniors.

Tickets, directions and parking information are available at or by calling 541-552-6348.

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