Not So Small: Three Community Theaters is the Rogue Valley
These are days, we are told, of mobile phone zombies and the reflexive twitch of fingers on social media 24-7. Can community theater survive an era when eyes are fused to screens? It has taken its blows, but for many folks in the Rogue Valley, theater is not just entertainment, it’s a way of life. And more and more people are taking the sublime risk of joining in the action, as actors, directors, backstage crew, and front-of-house volunteers. The three companies profiled here are only a sampling of Southern Oregon’s vibrant non-professional theater scene. There’s a taste for almost every palate out there.
Collaborative Theatre Project: Collaborative Theatre Project was founded in late 2015 by a collective of area professionals that wanted to establish a home for high quality contemporary theater in Medford. Founding board members Susan Aversa-Orrego, Obed Medina, and Pam Ward brought a variety of skill sets to the project and mounted several shows in 2016. Late last year, the group moved into a new 90-seat black box space across the promenade from Tinseltown Cinema at Medford Center, and ended the year with a well-received production of Hans Christian Anderson’s The Snow Queen. Aversa-Orrego loves seeing their work attract new audiences: “Theater connects people in a way that other media forms cannot. One man came to our show because his wife asked him to, and afterward he said, I loved that! It’s so much better than television!” CTP will offer a musical theater workshop for youth this summer, and plans to keep building Medford’s love for the stage with new educational offerings through 2017. Next up: Ken Ludwig’s Leading Ladies, a fast-moving farce set in Pennsylvania’s Amish Country. Tickets available at ctporegon.org.
1:30 and 7:30 pm, April 7 – 30
Collaborative Theatre Project, 555 Medford Center, Medford
$15 – $20
Classic Readings Theatre Company: Classic Readings Theatre Company also started in 2015, as an unofficial sidebar to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Each performance is a new creation by artistic director Geoff Ridden and his small company of accomplished readers, a carefully curated assemblage of short scenes and exposition shedding light on the vast world of Shakespeare, his contemporaries, and interpreters, always as a complement to a current OSF show. A recent reading focused on the many adaptations of Romeo and Juliet (the play-within-a-play of OSF’s Shakespeare in Love) and traces a few centuries’ worth of reimagined characters and plot points and that ending—so unsatisfying! (No spoilers.) Typically directed by Southern Oregon University theater prof Deborah Rosenberg, these performers take great joy in sifting through the language of theater, like beachcombers hunting for the most surprising baubles. Surprises are guaranteed. Next up: a collaboration with the Jefferson Baroque Orchestra titled Trios and Triangles, an exploration of three-person scenes from classic early English plays. Follow them on Facebook for updates.
Trios and Triangles
3 pm, Sunday, May 7
First Congregational Church, 717 Siskiyou Boulevard, Ashland
Barnstormers Theatre: Not a new kid on the block, the company formed in Grants Pass in 1952 and moved to its permanent home on Evelyn Avenue in 1961. At 65-years young, this classic community theater is vibrant as ever under the leadership of manager Wayd Drake and over 200 volunteers, who fill every role from ticket taker to director. Each season the company produces eight shows, mostly crowd-pleasing fare like The Rainmaker and A Christmas Story, and their Storyteller music series has become a highlight for Grants Pass as well. The theater is looking to expand its education offerings and seeks proposals from educators to run a grant-funded summer camp later this year. Drake says that keeping this ambitious schedule afloat is a tribute to the community: “Magic happens at the theater. Community theater has always been about the show and the audience, but also bringing local people together on a common project.” Coming up next at Barnstormers, the popular Broadway musical The Fantasticks, directed by Penny King. Visit BarnstormerGP.com for tickets.
2 and 7:30 pm, April 14 – May 7
Barnstormers Theatre, 112 NE Evelyn Avenue, Grants Pass