After eight seasons with the Camelot Theatre, Artistic Director Roy Von Rains feels very lucky that he’s been able to work with some of the best people on the planet. We sat down in the theater’s conference room to reflect on the unique experiences intrinsic to “community theater” and its impact on society.
RVR: As humans, we are storytellers. People have said that the oldest profession is prostitution. I absolutely disagree. I think storytelling is the oldest profession. It’s been around since painting on cave walls, and it will probably continue to permeate society as we travel through the stars. It’s such an important part of who we are.
As a community theater, you make available a platform to those who do want to tell stories. Obviously we won’t all get a part in a Hollywood film or a Broadway show, but there’s a lot of talent here in the valley. I think it’s as important for a community theater to give the option to tell stories, as it is to provide those stories to those who want to hear them. Do you want to tell a story? Come to us, we’ll tell a story together.
EH: How does community theater affect the lives of its members?
RVR: For a lot of people, it takes a lot of guts to get up on stage and recite lines or tell a story. A lot happens inside someone, when they overcome some of their greatest fears. It builds confidence beyond belief, when you know that you can conquer something like that. Aside from that, there’s an incredible amount of discipline and preparatory work that goes into mounting a production and doing a play, on every level — from set construction, to lighting design, to standing on stage and playing a different person. It helps build an understanding of the discipline that it takes to get a job done.
A lot of people that I’ve worked with, myself included, were encouraged to be quiet as children. Wanting to speak can really drive that passion to find a platform that lets you to open up and speak and be heard.
It also has an incredible societal element to it, because you’re thrust into this tribe of performers and technicians to tell the story. Everybody comes together for this one singular goal. When everybody is focused towards the same goal, there’s that tribal element that sparks the imagination and impacts each member.
EH: Has your company changed? Are you finding new talent?
RVR: Many of our performers that have been with us for years are still with us, taking on newer, bigger challenges. We are always on the search for new talent. I believe that it’s the new talent that really breathes the life into the theater.
EH: How do you build your audience?
RVR: I think the most important thing you can do is tell stories that people want to hear, that resonate with them. We’ve tried to tell stories that have important things to say. Doing it in an entertaining way is always a benefit, but the best way to build an audience is to tell good stories.
Each year we put out a survey with a list of shows for people to provide their input. It doesn’t dictate what we do, but it certainly informs our choices as we go forward. From the returns, you try to put together a cohesive season that has a wonderful arc.
The Camelot Theatre’s next production, “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance," runs Feb. 7 through 25. For tickets and information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 541-535-5250.
Camelot Theater has a community of volunteers who contribute essential services and expert advice. To volunteer, to to www.camelottheatre.org/volunteer.php.
—Evalyn Hansen is a writer and director based in Ashland. To read more interviews with remarkable people, visit her blog at ashlandtheater.wordpress.com. Reach her at email@example.com.