If you get a chance to see "A Christmas Carol" at Oregon Stage Works this season, you will be riveted by the superb performance of Paul R. Jones who plays the pivotal roles of Jacob Marley's Ghost and Old Joe, the rag picker.

If you get a chance to see "A Christmas Carol" at Oregon Stage Works this season, you will be riveted by the superb performance of Paul R. Jones who plays the pivotal roles of Jacob Marley's Ghost and Old Joe, the rag picker. Paul is a retired Theatre Arts professor whose first love has always been acting. As we sipped coffee at the Rogue Valley Roasting Company, Paul reflected upon community, communication and theater.

EH: When did you begin acting?

PRJ: My first part, that I remember, was in sixth grade. I played Santa Clause in a Christmas play at the school, and I had a crush on the gal playing Mrs. Clause. In the performance, the pillow for my stomach became unsecured, and throughout the play it kept slipping down, and down, and down. I think that it was a fond memory for my dad, at least.

EH: What are your thoughts on families and theater?

PRJ: I find in observing families with children in theater and the performing arts their communication skills seem to be more open and more involved than others. It's somewhat the same way for those that have children in athletics, because you have to work as a group. You have to sometimes sublimate your individuality to what is happening with the group dynamic. I think that transcends into the family, where the family whole, and that communication, is sometimes more important than the individual. You do have to come together.

EH: What's the attraction to live theater?

PRJ: Immediacy, the live actor with the live audience, the response. You go to a film, and the actors up there don't care if you laugh or cry or walk out. But actors on a stage are very aware of that. They are very tuned in to what the audience is doing, reacting to and responding to. I think that from the audience point of view it's that immediacy of its happening right now. As Thorton Wilder said, "Theater is in the immediate present tense." It's not past, it's happening now, whether you're doing Greek tragedy or you're doing Mamet. These characters and people are alive right now, and serendipity happens.

It's the communal coming together. As much as technology has taken over our lives, we as human beings still must connect. Even though it's somewhat in the sanctuary of your little seat, maybe you bump elbows with the person next to you, you're still in touch with them. Theater is transformational; it affects people unlike a motion picture (as well as it might be done) because it does stay with you. And if you are lucky (and in this community it's true) you connect with the actors. You connect with who they are as people, as part of the community, so there is sort of a through-line connection.

One former student said to me, "You know that theater is the ultimate team sport?" And I said, "It is, and you know also in theater there are no bench-sitters." If you're in, you're involved in some aspect. You don't get a chance to sit on the side and wait for the coach to call you in, to run in a play or something, you are fully absolutely involved.

Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" will be performed at Oregon Stage Works through Dec. 31, Thursdays-Saturdays at 8 p.m.; Sundays at 2 p.m. with additional performances Dec. 28, 29, and 30 at 8 p.m. Tickets may be purchased at the Music Coop in Ashland and on line at www.oregonstageworks.org. For additional information call: 482-2334.

Evalyn Hansen is a resident of Ashland. She has a BA in Dramatic Arts from UC Berkeley and an MA 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: evalyn_robinson@yahoo.com.