Backstage with Evalyn Hansen

"Lately I've been very busy," said Dennis Nicomede, who recently delivered stunning performances playing numerous characters in "Love's Not Time's Fool" at Rogue Community College. Dennis has just written the narration for "Spotlight on the Mills Brothers" at the Camelot Theatre, and is soon to portray John Smith in "Breaking the Code" at the Ashland Contemporary Theatre. I visited Dennis and his wife, Jeanne, in their charming home in Talent.

EH: Tell me about "Breaking the Code."

DN: It's about Alan Turing, the mathematician that broke the German enigma code. That's a play I'd refer to as a drama, something that has some real emotional value to it.

EH: How did you get involved in theater?

DN: When I moved here (I'd never been in theater before.), I went to the Camelot Theatre. I saw "1776"; I thought it was very well done, and I thought it was great to have a theater right around the corner. So, I went over and I pretty much said, 'you guys need help with anything? I'll sweep floors, put trash cans away...' So then I got small parts. I started with "Fahrenheit 451" and loved it.

EH: Why does theater hold so much magic for some of us?

DN: I think that theater is freeing for a lot of people, really freeing. People that would normally tend to be very quiet or shy find that once they get on stage, it's almost like they've put on a pair of sunglasses — they can't be seen. They're in this new personality. It gives them the ability to express themselves in different ways than they would otherwise normally be able to, because they are now expressing themselves through a new character, even finding more of themselves through that character.

For a lot of people it may be the first time in their lives that they've got a lot of recognition for something that they've done. I think it's very fulfilling.

Theater is wondrous because it allows people to be part of something larger than themselves, to walk in and take over a large ensemble (if they have the ability) or to be humbled enough to take any part in order to be part of something bigger. It's a wonderful learning experience to find people who are wonderfully suited to be directors, who have a wonderful overview and an open heart, to be able to allow you to be who you are, without over-directing you or being too tyrannical. You begin to develop an appreciation that the director has an invisible view in their mind that you can't conceive. I think that that has its magic.

I like watching the whole production unfold, watching the individual characters of the people involved, and seeing how they change over time, mostly for the better.

One of the main things that we need to do as human beings is learn how to communicate, get along with others, to be respectful of others, and to begin to appreciate another person's ability, talent, sensitivities, etc. Theater is one of those places that this can be done.

I would love to see more people get involved in the arts at any level, because it is the thing that shows our humanity more than any knowledge that we can gather.

"Spotlight on The Mills Brothers" runs until June 13 at the Camelot Theatre in Talent. Call: 541-535-5250 for tickets and times.

Ashland Contemporary Theatre's "Breaking the Code," directed by Jeannine Grizzard, plays June 11 through July 3, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m., at the Bellview Grange, 1050 Tolman Creek Road. For tickets and information call 541-646-2971.

Evalyn Hansen is a writer and director living in Ashland. She trained as an actor at the American Conservatory Theatre and is a founding member of San Francisco's Magic Theatre. Reach her at evalyn_robinson@yahoo.com.