Backstage with Evalyn Hansen: Last summer's sensation in Oregon Stage Works' "Shirley Valentine" is spearheading a new project in the Rogue Valley.

Actress Helena de Crespo, last summer's sensation in Oregon Stage Works' "Shirley Valentine," is spearheading a new project in the Rogue Valley. It's called Intercambio, a multi-cultural theater project to integrate the arts and bring artists and audiences together, bridging the gap of ethnicity.

Fluent in Spanish and English, de Crespo has established theaters in Colombia, Costa Rica and in the United States. De Crespo and I lunched at Pangea as she described her upcoming talent showcase and the premiere of a new play.

HDC: With the formation of this new organization, Intercambio, in the Rogue Valley, it seemed the best way to show the cultures to each other was to get them together, have a showcase, and leave it up to them. And it'll happen. It'll be really exciting. There will be something from every age group, every ethnicity group, and everyone is welcome. We want to hear from everybody who thinks they can sing, dance, play a musical instrument, read a poem, do a scene from a play, anything that's in the performing arts.

EH: What is the purpose of the showcase besides getting everybody together?

HDC: That is the main reason. How it's going to serve me, instead of being an end in itself, is that people who are appropriate for the play that we are then casting will be asked to audition. It's a lead-in. It's really a showcase of talent that we hope to apply to a bigger production.

EH: Give me a little background on the production.

HDC: The play is very exciting. An original script has been submitted to us, written by a well-known painter, sculpture, musician and poet named Bill Kucha. He lives half the year in Oregon and half the year in Mexico. He came to Ashland, saw the location where we are planning to do the play, and submitted the script unasked. And it's perfect. It's a wedding. It's a marriage between someone from Oregon and someone from Mexico.

EH: What's the name of it?

HDC: "Fiesta de Ashlandia." It's a combination of the two names of the wedding couple, Ashlia and Landon.

EH: Where is it going to be performed?

HDC: It's going to take place at the well-known Mexican restaurant here in this area called El Tapitio. It will be run like a dinner theater. The audience members will be guests at the wedding. When they buy their tickets they will receive their invitation. They will be given this superb typical Mexican wedding meal, and then they will see the show, which consists of actors, dancers, singers, musicians and clowns.

EH: So the showcase will give you an idea of the talent in the area, is that the idea?

HDC: Yes, and the talent will meet each other. The talent will see each other, work together to bring off a wonderful evening for the audience. The showcase is going to take place at Kids Unlimited, where Obama spoke when he was on his tour of Southern Oregon. It can accommodate a lot of people, and it's a wonderful location. We're looking for volunteer staff and for producers in the area who will help us.

EH: What is the significance of the name of the organization?

HDC: The organization is called Intercambio, which is pretty well understood in Spanish and English. It means interchange. It's not one culture showing off to another. It's each culture put on display so that everyone can appreciate and admire the richness of all cultures. If someone is interested in participating, please e-mail me, Helena@helenadecrespo.com.

Evalyn Hansen is a resident of Ashland. She has a bachelor's in dramatic arts from University of California-Berkeley and a master's 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.