Backstage with Evalyn Hansen: She’s found the key to success with her eclectic selection of performers for the Green Shows, the early-evening performances on the Courtyard Stage at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.
Claudia Alick has found the key to success with her eclectic selection of performers for the Green Shows, the early-evening performances on the Courtyard Stage at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. As we lunched at Dragonfly, Claudia told me how she goes about it.
CA: We love for the audience members to write us notes. It's the only way we know if we are on the right track. We also have an open submission policy. It's a democratic way to curate a show. It opens me up to acts that I would never get to find out about. Just go online, write us a note, tell us what your act is and you're in the running. I also encourage people to go to the Green Show group on Facebook. That's just another way to become part of the conversation.
EH: How did you get a connection with OSF? Did you know Bill Rauch?
CA: Not at all. A friend took me to see Bill Rauch's production of Sarah Ruhl's "The Clean House" at the Lincoln Center, a completely brilliant production. I'm sitting there next to my friend having a conversation about the direction and he says, "Talk to the director, he's right there." And there's Bill Rauch. It turns out we have a lot in common. I guess he must have looked me up. My stuff is all over the Web. I'm a little obsessed with archiving. A performance should live electronically because that is how you get out of the local and reach out to a larger community. I interviewed for the job and I got it. It's a cool job.
EH: Why do you think people are so passionate about live theater?
CA: I think it's necessary for the nation's mental health, honestly. Theater is ritual; it's entertainment, but it's also catharsis and conversation. The theater is important. We have performance in our lives everywhere: we have the performance of politics, we have the performance of religion, and theater is another type of daily performance that calls to us.
When I was running my theater company in New York, we liked to produce in spaces that had "open doors." When you produce plays in a specific kind of proscenium theater space, for some reason there are certain audience members who don't want to go into that space, who don't think that space will have anything that they will enjoy. And so, we would produce plays in night clubs; that way you'd be able to get a particular audience demographic who go to night clubs, who feel comfortable in that space. Then we would produce that same play in a theater space a little bit later, and those folks would come along.
We'd also produce events in spaces where there was traditional audience-type seating, but there would be a lot of food there, pot-luck style. It was taking a space and making it more informal, softening the experience, so that all of the audience members could be completely engaged.
EH: How did you get started in theater? Did you start as an actress?
CA: I've always been a producer. In high school I had my own theater company, but I've always also been an actress; I acted in my own theater company productions. I'm also a playwright. I tend to be a little prolific in my art-making. And I've been lucky enough to find places that support that kind of lifestyle.
For a complete 2009 schedule and links to Green Show artist Web sites, visit www.osfashland.org. View selected Green Show performance clips at www.youtube.com/orshakes.
Evalyn Hansen is a resident of Ashland. She has a bachelor's degree in dramatic arts from the University of California, Berkeley, and a master's degree from San Francisco State University. She trained as an actor at the American Conservatory Theatre, and is a founding member of San Francisco's Magic Theatre. Contact her at email@example.com.