Oregon Shakespeare Festival actors are renowned as talented performers, but many of them are also writers and directors.
Oregon Shakespeare Festival actors are renowned as talented performers, but many of them are also writers and directors. This weekend, some of those folks will show off their behind-the-scenes skills with an experimental performance called the Ashland Round 2.
Presented by Juicy Productions, the Ashland Round 2 is a compilation of seven connected scenes, each written by a different actor and all directed by OSF's G. Valmont Thomas. The first Ashland Round was produced last year.
Jeany Park, the event's producer and one of its playwrights, explains that the performance is constructed along the lines of the play "La Ronde," an early 20th century social satire by Arthur Schnitzler. Like "La Ronde," the Ashland Round consists of interlocking scenes between pairs of characters. Each of the characters appears in two consecutive scenes.
One of the characters is a stripper played by actor Sarah Jane Nelson Millan, who also wrote one of the scenes. She says the project has reignited her interest in writing.
"I studied playwriting in college and I've always been drawn to it," she said. "This project was really exciting for me."
In addition to stretching her writing muscles, Millan said the project gave her a chance to see her fellow actors in a different light. "It's neat to see people doing something they don't normally do. A few of them had never written plays before and they are just amazing. The whole thing has a guerrilla-theater kind of feel. The show will be fresh and a lot of fun. We're all definitely having a great time with it."
Park is the creator of Juicy Productions and says she also appreciates the chance to work outside the festival. "We're here for a long time, the shows have such a long run, so OSF supports artistic enrichment," she said. "It gives us a chance to flex our muscles, and do something a little different. It keeps everyone happy and keeps the juices flowing."
OSF encourages company members to stretch themselves creatively with endeavors such as the Midnight Projects, which helps actors explore various artistic projects outside of the festival. OSF is providing equipment and costumes for Ashland Round 2.
Last year, on the advice of one of the actor/playwrights, Park approached Julie O'Dwyer, owner of Tease, about putting on a show there. "Julie was so enthusiastic and supportive," said Park. "It's the perfect fit, the perfect ambiance, and I love the challenge of working in a site-specific place."
O'Dwyer said Tease has been a venue for art in all its forms.
"We have a variety of art and artists demonstrating their art here," she said. "It's the perfect place to show the act and the art of theater. Also, the proximity of the audience and the actors changes things. Something is going to happen every night that nobody knows about, and that's what makes this special."
Indeed, the actors and the audience will be quite close, which can make for a very different theater experience. The audience in some ways is more of a participant in the show. "I really like taking theater out of its traditional context, and making it very accessible," Park said. "I think it also makes you see how alive theater is when you are out of a theater. This is a way to put theater in life."
Tickets are $5. Performances will begin at 11:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 25-26, at Tease Restaurant & Bar, 303 E. Main St. If you can't stay up that late, there is also a performance at 9 p.m. Monday, Sept. 27.
Reservations are strongly recommended. To reserve seats, call (541) 488-1458 or visit www.TeaseAshland.com.
Angela Howe-Decker is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.