Backstage with Evalyn Hansen: This is the continuation of a column that ran February 17.

Actress Helena De Crespo is in Ashland is developing a comprehensive multicultural theater project called Intercambio, created to enhance artistic communication within various cultures of the Rogue Valley. Helena founded Cultural Centers both in Costa Rica and Colombia. Over tea at Pangea, she defined the initiatives of Intercambio. This is the continuation of a column from Feb. 17.

EH: What is unique about this project?

HDC: What is unique is that it came from the community. People were saying, in various areas, that there is a huge reservoir of talent and potential audience in the Hispanic community that hasn't opened up as it could.

The whole initiative was to cover the performing arts in whatever way, shape or form that it should manifest. As I had done so much work in Latin America, I seem to be an appropriate person to spearhead it. We've created a wonderful steering committee with highly dedicated, clever and informed people.

We've located a talent from the Hispanic community to record a CD that will hopefully be of such quality that it will spread the word that we are a resource for performers to display their talents. We interviewed and tested a well-known musician in the community, Antonio Reyes, and his grandson, Jesus. They have prepared a repertoire of between 10 and 15 songs, some original. The studio has been located, and the packaging and processing are in the works.

Our next project is a Talent Showcase, an "Encuentro de Talentos." There will be a registration period. Each talent will be interviewed and tested for quality. The talent showcase is open to all ethnic groups and all age groups in the Rogue Valley. A final evening's performance will be selected before a team of estimable judges at Kids Unlimited in Medford. It will be used as a vehicle to discover possible cast members for "Fiesta de Ashlandia," by Bill Kucha, a delightful dinner theater production to be performed at Ashland's El Tapitio. The project will build understanding, respect and appreciation.

Our other initiative is very exciting. It has support from Rogue Community College; it is taking the dramatic arts into the English as a Second Language Program. It will be using drama to strengthen understanding within and between the cultures. It has an interactive component because interaction is communication between people between races. Without interaction there is no understanding, and that is the objective, to build understanding.

EH: It seems that the uniqueness of this project is that it is a blend, cultures working together.

HDC: Yes, within the structure of actually putting on a performance, it is the best way for people to get to know each other, when they're working together to bring about a project. Doing a performance is like preparing to climb a mountain, and you're all going to do it together, so you support each other. And then when you're climbing the mountain, you rely on each other because if one fails, you all fail. If one succeeds, you all succeed. And that's been proven down the ages. That's no unique discovery of mine, although I have seen it manifest in bringing social classes together, in bringing countries together. It just has that magic.

This is a display of cultures being made aware of each other, and having to be sensitive, and loving each other, and coming out of it better than they were before. I think everybody is going to be surprised and enriched.

If someone is interested in participating, please e-mail, Helena@helenadecrespo.com.

For information about the Talent Showcase, contact 541-552-0630 or intercambio.oregon@gmail.com.

Ashland resident Evalyn Hansen 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.