After month upon month of consuming our entertainment through screens, those who love the excitement and immediacy of live performance have something to celebrate: local theater producers are setting the stage for the return of live theater.
With Oregon oh-so-close to the tipping point — 70% of citizens receiving at least one COVID-19 vaccination shot, the metric Gov. Kate Brown has set for reopening — area thespians are almost done waiting in the wings.
This summer will see the return of community theater at Cascades Theatrical Company, where the drama “Revenge and Sorrow in Thebes” is slated to run July 16-25.
“It is a go,” director Marla Manning said of the show, written by Central Oregon playwright Persephone Vandegrift, who describes it as “a reformulation of the Greek classic tragedy, “The Bacchae of Euripides.”
The July run will mark the first time “Revenge and Sorrow in Thebes” has been fully staged in Oregon, according to Manning, whose Sisters-based Silent Echo Theater Company presented a reading of it three years ago.
The show calls for 18 actors. Casting began in May, but took a little longer than expected, Manning said Tuesday. The cast includes five teens.
“I’m not sure how old our oldest cast member is, but basically, it ranges from teens to 70s, so that’s nice,” she said. “True community theater.”
With about five weeks to go before opening night, “our time is a little crunched,” Manning said. “It’s pretty close … but I’m also trying to make sure people have their summer and not have to be at the theater every night.”
After this long away, they may not complain. If you’re looking for something lighter on-stage entertainment at CTC sooner than July might want to catch “A Uniquely Offensive Comedy Showcase: Sister Ethel & Friends” on June 25. It stars local comedians Danny Hoffman, Romia Hips, Debbie Harrington, Amy Campbell, and Jake Woodmansee.
Manning also expects her nonprofit company Silent Echo to return with its annual one-act show, “Now You’re Talking,” sometime in or after September. Last year’s March run had to be cut short as the COVID curtain began to come down.
“The goal is to keep our record up and still do the one-act in 2021. Just, it will be a different time of year,” Manning said.
‘Into the Woods,’ in the park
Summer 2021 will also see the return of Theater in the Park with the Stephen Sondheim musical “Into the Woods” on Aug. 21 and 21. The show is helmed by director and choreographer Michelle Mejaski, whose past theater in the park credits include “La Cage Aux Folles” and “Jesus Christ Superstar.” Scott Michaelsen is serving as musical and vocal director.
For those who’ve not yet seen the musical, Mejaski describes it as “a glimpse into the lives of well-known characters in fairy tales that we know, and it shows us that things aren’t always as they seem, and life is not a fairytale because every choice comes with consequence.”
“Into the Woods” stars a host of Central Oregon talent, including Tim Maurer (the Baker), Kara Klontz (Baker’s Wife), Natalie Manz (Cinderella), Ryan Klontz (Cinderella’s Prince) John Kish (Jack) and Christie Capucci (The Witch).
The show will be staged, as usual, in Drake Park and Mejaski expects it to be another sell-out run. She and Lay it Out Events, the production company behind Theater in the Park, would love to add another night of performances if possible. For tickets and more info, visit theaterbend.com
In the months ahead, you’ll likely be hearing a lot about Open Space, the new multi-purpose venue at 220 NE Lafayette Ave., in the former home of 2nd Street Theater. Live theater is among the potential uses of Open Space, and Thoroughly Modern Productions is already calling it home, according to TMP founder David DaCosta.
Rehearsals will get underway this month for TMP’s next two shows, “Moana,” being staged July 23-25, and “Frozen Jr,” Aug. 27-29, each starring youth casts and will make use of set-enhancing animated video.
“It’s accompanying animated video from the beginning of the shows all the way through,” DaCosta said. “It’s pretty cool stuff. It’s not going to replace a set, but it is the main component of the set.”
Musical Impressions Studios will put on “Little Women” at Open Space. Co-directed by Angelina Anello-Dennee and Gracie Conant, it performs July 16-18. The July 16 show is a fundraiser for the new Ellipse Theatre Community, co-founded by Anello-Dennee. Look for tickets and other info, after the link goes live on June 21, at showtix4u.com/event-details/54559.
Bendertainment, a new, BIPOC-focused theater production company launched by Bend theater stalwarts Stephanie Von Aydan and Matt Vigil. Bendertainment also plans to use Open Space, albeit not until a planned variety show in October, according to Von Aydan, followed by the company’s first full-fledged production, coming in 2022.
More shows ahead
BEAT Children’s Theatre will be presenting “Star Wars Shakespeare: Twelfth Night” this summer, described by BEAT Executive Director Bree Beal as “a hysterical version of Shakespeare’s original play, rewritten through the lens of the Star Wars universe. The script adaptation was done by our director, Michaela Conley.” Look for performances in mid-August. BEAT is also offering a slate of Summer camps and classes, including traditional Improv, traditional musical theater and some new additions such as Hip Hop Shakespeare. Classes and camps are filling up quickly, and enrollment is limited for safety. More at beatchildrenstheatre.org.
Actor and producer John Kish has plans to hold small performances, workshops and more at the new home of his popular plant shop, Somewhere That’s Green, now located at 184 NE Greenwood Ave. in Bend. Look for more news on the subject later this summer, Kish said.
And if you’re wondering about the Tower Theatre, Ray Solley, executive director of the Tower Theatre Foundation, which operates the theater, said the theater is waiting for the lifting of restrictions on public gatherings.
“We don’t want to have a vaccinated section and a nonvaccinated section. We don’t want to have verification at the door or verification in advance,” he said. “Quite honestly, we’ve spent the last 13, 15 years building loyalty and passionate patrons. The last thing we want to do right now is have them come to the door and we go, ‘No, we don’t have a place for you,’ or ‘No, you can’t come in.’”
Solley told the Tower staff earlier this week, “I believe we need to continue our ‘watchful waiting’ of COVID restrictions to be fully lifted before resuming normal operations. Not only will their removal make our re-opening easier and more cost-effective, I think it will profoundly re-enforce the public’s perception that it’s OK to go indoors for live entertainment again.”
(Editor's note: This story has been corrected. An earlier version provided the wrong name for playwright Persephone Vandegrift. The Bulletin regrets the error.)