Thanks for the Memories: A Moral Theatre
Theatre is part of our cultural identity here in southern Oregon. Its significance is particularly evident in Ashland, where Shakespeare’s plays are performed ten months out of the year at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. However, there are too many thespians in this corner of the country to fill just one stage and so a number of theatre companies have established themselves over the years. Thanks for the Memories Theatre is one such company. The Rogue Valley Messenger were fortunate enough to catch up with founder and artistic director Peter Wickliffe in order to ask him a few questions.
Rogue Valley Messenger: Tell me about your theatre background. When did you decide to pursue a career onstage?
Peter Wickliffe: I started theatre at my small high school called Jewell High School, in-land from Seaside on the coast of Oregon. I honestly just jumped into it. I knew it was what I wanted to do since the age of eleven, so whenever the opportunity presented itself I would do a production or grab my camera and go make my own with friends. Oregon Shakespeare Festival was what brought me to Ashland. I told myself I would get on that OSF stage at some point, or at least a stage like it. When I made the move to Ashland I took resumes around to theatres and Camelot Theatre in Talent was the first to bite. That was eight years ago now and the rest is, as they say, history.
RVM: Why did you start TFTM and what was your initial vision when you founded the company?
PW: Thanks for the Memories Theatre was a tricky and passionate endeavor I started in February of 2014. At the time, I was hearing complaints from friends and others around me concerning some of the politics in smaller theatres. I saw hard working and dedicated people being looked over. Theatre politics is a real thing. The driving force, more often than not, behind a theatre is money or the bottom line and I get it. However, this should not be the deciding factor, in my opinion. I wanted theatre to be about the memories and times being created, something that would not stray from focusing on the story, feeling, audience, actors and crew. A moral theatre.
RVM: What is your role at TFTM as artistic director?
PW: Imagine a bunch of people in a car and they have to get from point A to point B. You will never get there if everyone is trying to control the wheel because the driver seat is meant for but a single driver. Everyone else in the car is there for support, but the driver is the only one behind the wheel. So being an Artistic Director is like being a driver. They have a responsibility for everyone else in the car and should listen to everyone else about how to get to point B, but ultimately they are the ones behind the wheel. My role here, as in my daily life, is to listen and trust God.
RVM: What is going on with TFTM currently? And what’s in store for the future?
PW: We had planned to present the musical “The Man of La Mancha” in June, but after our director, Roy Rains jr., had to drop from the project to take on Artistic Director duties at Camelot Theatre (congratulations Roy!), we took a little time to regather and think. Sometimes it is good to pause and just listen. I lost a friend of mine, Todd Ragsdale, earlier this year. All of us lost Todd. As well as a fellow performer and friend, Mike Evans. It was time to pause. So the theatre company will be used to honor these dear friends and beautiful people. The theatre will be holding a run to honor Todd called “Tutu Todd’s 10 Miler” on July 2nd at Lithia Park and funds will go toward seeing Todd’s unpublished books get published. We will be doing a Christmas Variety show in December to honor Mike Evans, a fellow lover of the holiday, titled “The Mike Evans Christmas Special.”
As far as full productions, we will be presenting a comedy titled “A Night In the Theatre” in late August, and in November we will present the two person, Native-American drama “In A World Created by Drunken God”. A small musical revue is also scheduled for August at Ashland Springs Hotel. Next season looks to take on two big musicals and an original play, but we will see where the path takes us…