Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Classic, Commie-hunt Commentary "The Crucible" Coming from Bag & Baggage

Salem, Massachusetts—1692?

Bag & Baggage announces their newest production opening just after Labor Day weekend.

Rigid piety huddles on the edge of the new world’s wilderness in the Arthur Miller classic drama "The Crucible."

A small town's inhabitants believe unquestioningly in their own sanctity, but in the playwright’s edgy masterpiece, that very belief will have poisonous consequences when a vengeful teenager accuses a rival of witchcraft—and then those accusations multiply to consume the entire village.

Photo, provided, by Casey Campbell Photography with Hanna Rose Brumley,
Melory J Mirashrafi and Maddie Ogden.

The play was first produced in 1953, at a time when America was convulsed by a new epidemic of "witchhunting," "The Crucible" brilliantly explores the threshold between individual guilt and mass hysteria, personal spite and collective evil…and speaks as clearly to us today as it did during McCarthy’s Red Scare.

"The Crucible" is a play that is not only relentlessly suspenseful and vastly moving, but one that compels us all to question our hearts and consciences in ways that only the greatest theatre ever can. A not-to-be-missed, Bag&Baggage style examination of one of the greatest plays in American history.

“A drama of emotional power and impact” —New York Post



The production has a large cast and features familiar Bag & Baggage players as well as new faces. It should be interesting to see what artistic director Scott Palmer does with this allegorical commentary. When will it be set? What relevance for today will be emphasized?

Runs: September 4, 5, 6, 7, 11, 12, 13, 14, 18, 19, 20, 21, 25, 26, 27, and 28 – 2014
Preview Night: Thursday, September 4, 2014
Opening Night: Friday, September 5, 2014

Watch for our review of opening night's performance on Saturday morning, September 6.


Event Time: Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30pm, Sunday matinees at 2:00pm
Event Location: The Venetian Theatre, 253 E Main Street, Hillsboro 97123
Special Events: Meet-the-cast Talk Backs on Sunday September 7, 14 and 21

Tickets:
Adults – Section 1: $30
Adults- Section 2: $26
Students/Seniors – Section 1: $24
Students/Seniors – Section 2: $20

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Longview's Theater Sign Lights Up the Night

The new SWNW marquee goes up.
Stageworks Northwest (SWNW) continues to improve their theater space in downtown Longview, Wash. After months and months of work inside and out, new paint (and waiting), the new marquee arrived, was put up and, last night (Wed. Aug. 6, 2014), was lit up for the first time.

The new signage pays homage to the original motion picture theater's marquee that was originally housed in the building with a few modifications. The new sign includes the theater company's name.

The lighting ceremony featured musical performances from some of SWNW's recent shows sung by the players. Songs from 'The Secret Garden', 'The Great American Trailer Park Musical', and '9 to 5 The Musical' were performed.

SWNW players perform below their new marquee.
More than a year ago Stageworks Northwest purchased the building and has been renovating it since. It opened as a work in progress last year and there are still a number of refurbishment and improvement projects to go.

There are challenges to the space, such as no backstage area. Dressing rooms are in the balcony as are the restrooms. But these issues will be overcome in time.

For now there is much to celebrate--a theater, with its own space, is thriving in Southwest Washington!

You may view the ceremonial countdown and lighting video here:



Sunday, July 27, 2014

Bag & Baggage Production of Shakespeare's "Love's Labour's Lost" Magnifique!

Shakespeare in the Park...

No one knows how, when, or where it began. Could be, perhaps, it began with the Bard himself before he gained any semblance of notoriety. Perhaps he was just a lad, playing sketches before his friends on the lawn?

However it began, it has certainly proved a popular and cheap way to stage the royalty-free works. I first experienced the joy of outdoor Elizabethan Theatre some years ago with a production of “The Taming of the Shrew” in Vancouver’s Esther Short Park. And the tradition continues with this production of “Love’s Labour’s Lost” presented by Bag & Baggage in Hillsboro, Ore.

The plaza setting for the Bag & Baggage Production of Shakespeare's "Loves Labour's Lost."
It’s not frequently that you’ll be able to catch the obscure “Love’s Labour’s Lost,” as it is lesser known and somewhat unpopular “lost” Shakespearean work. So, catch this one while you can and enjoy a lovely "open air" evening with a great, professional cast.

Costume test and couples pairing for B&B's "Love's Labour's Lost"
The adaptation, by Scott Palmer, based primarily on an earlier adaptation is quite truncated from the original three plus hour play and clocks in at less than two hours.

The plot is loose, convoluted and not extremely important--think early situation comedy--but here it is in a nutshell:

King Ferdinand and his friends devote themselves to three years of uninterrupted "study" and NO women will be allowed within a mile of their court to interfere with their academic pursuits—that is, until the Princess of France arrives with her entrancingly distracting entourage of gorgeous ladies-in-waiting! They tease the boys then--with disguise, deception, mayhem, and romantic mischief--drop them like hot potatoes. No, this Shakespearean comedy doesn't end with weddings.

The Princess (center) and her ladies: Jessi Walters (L), Cassie Greer,
and Arianne  Jacques (R).
The sassy dialogue--inlaid with satirical, double-meaning gems and plenty of sexual barbs and sexist banter--is intriguing and was well ahead of it's time. While not a great classic, and certainly an experimental, early work of the Bard, it none-the-less foreshadows themes that will play out (better) in his other, later works. The director, Scott Palmer, has set the production with a uniquely Italian-Frederico-Fellini feel, inspired by Fellini’s masterwork La Dolce Vita.

The show is billed as "a light-hearted romantic romp, outdoors in the glorious surroundings of the Tom Hughes Civic Center Plaza—with stunning Italian-couture costumes by Melissa Heller and starring some of B&B’s most recognizable outdoor performers—riding in on Vespas! Perduta di lavoro la dolce vita di amore!"

L to R: Andrew Beck (the King) with Chip Sherman and  Luke Armstrong. 
The cast includes Andrew Beck as Ferdinand, Chip Sherman as Berowne, Luke Armstrong as Longaville, Cassie Greer as the Princess of France, Arianne Jacques as Rosaline, Jessi Walters as Maria, Dallas Myers as Boyet, Adam Syron as Moth, Gary Strong as Armado, and Rachel Rosenfeld as Jaquenetta. All played strongly.

The direction, by Palmer is, as usual, quite well done. Striking, really--especially in the blocking. The "runway" stage, with audience members on both sides, worked well, primarily because Palmer knew how to make it interesting. However, one must give the players quite a bit of credit as well; these are some of the Portland Metro Area's finest.

Front facing: Gary Strong throws it all in as Armondo.
The parts were played broadly, especially by the men, and the, sometimes slapstick, performances were melodramatic. The women, in general, played their roles "safer" and straighter. Among the women, only  Rosenfeld pushed with the same exaggerated characterization as the men.

Especially strong and delightful performances were given by Myers, Syron and Strong; all have great comedic skill. Having seen Syron and Strong in previous--and quite different--roles, I was particularly impressed. Strong, especially, excelled--throwing himself fully into his role. He was absolutely brilliant in this part!

Adam Syron (kneeling) as the servant, Moth.
The setting and scenery was nonexistent, since the production was "open air" rather than in their theater. It worked; nothing more was needed. The lighting, also sparse, also did the trick. The plaza's acoustics were great and there's not a bad seat in--well, out of the house. Best seats, I believe, will be on the first landing of the plaza's stairs.

The Princess and her ladies and the King and his men, dressed for the ball.
The costumes, by Melissa Heller, looked good, as far as I know. I'm no expert on the 1960's Italian thing. I did find the lack of distinction between the royalty, aristocracy and peasantry disturbing. (On a related side note, this lack of separation between the classes went beyond dress and was also present in manners--too familiar or casual.) Rosenfeld's costume also did not fit well with her characterization. Noting that one small caveat I recommend the production.

The show's remaining performances are July 26, 31, August 1, 2, 7, 8, and 9; 7:30 p.m. at  The Tom Hughes Civic Center Plaza, 150 E Main Street, Hillsboro, Ore. Tickets: $18, may seem a tad steep for a royalty-free, low tech budget, open air production, but B&B does pay their resident actors.

Photo by Ruth Zschomler.
Pre-show we ate at Orenco Station Grill, 6195 SE Cornell Rd. (Hillsboro). The service and setting were delightful and the food was superb, as was the music (live smooth jazz). I had the Cajun Shrimp Salad with seven delicious shrimp, mixed greens, sliced pears, Swiss and mozzarella cheeses, topped with bleu cheese dressing. My wife had a Chinese Chicken slaw-type salad that featured a sweet, gingery dressing and crunchy "chow mein" noodles. Both portions were good and fairly priced. For dessert we had a perfectly crafted slice of key lime pie (and we ought to know, we sampled a few when we were in Florida).

By Gregory E. Zschomler
Photos, except as noted, provided.

For another perspective by Dennis sparks, click here.

Monday, July 7, 2014

A Night of Improv at Magenta Theater

Vancouver's Magenta Improv Theater presents "A Night of Family-Friendly Improv," Saturday, July 19 at 7:30 p.m.


Join them in July for their next MIT show. You can be part of the action when our MIT troupe performs games and scenes based on audience suggestions with a “summertime” twist. 

Whether you’re 8 or 80, MIT shows appeal to all ages. Their goal is simply to deliver a fun, laughter-filled evening for you, your family and friends. Plus, you’ll see some familiar Magenta faces as you've never seen them before!

MIT show tickets are $10/person. Buy MIT Show Tickets Online Now or at the door (as available). Doors open at 7 p.m. Click HERE to order tickets

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Shakespeare in the Park: Love's Labour's Lost

The lost  Shakespeare classic as presented by The Venitian.

We'll be reviewing this show on it's opening weekend; Sat., July 26 to be exact (though it opens the Thur. preceding). Our review will appear here on Sun. July 27.


Note that the shows are in the park in Hillsboro, Oregon at the location below.

King Ferdinand and his three friends have devoted themselves to three years of uninterrupted study…and NO women will be allowed within a mile of their court to interfere with their academic pursuits—that is, until the Princess of France arrives with her entrancingly distracting entourage of gorgeous ladies-in-waiting!

Disguise, deception, mayhem, and romantic mischief abound as the heart proves stronger than the mind!

Love’s Labour’s Lost is an original adaptation of Shakespeare’s romantic classic by Scott Palmer, with a uniquely Italian-Frederico-Fellini feel, inspired by Fellini’s masterwork La Dolce Vita.

A light-hearted romantic romp, outdoors in the glorious surroundings of the Tom Hughes Civic Center Plaza—with stunning Italian-couture costumes by Melissa Heller and starring some of B&B’s most recognizable outdoor performers—riding in on Vespas!

Perduta di lavoro la dolce vita di amore!

Runs: July 24, 25, 26, 31, August 1, 2, 7, 8, and 9 – 2014
Time: 7:30 p.m.
Performance Location: The Tom Hughes Civic Center Plaza, 150 E Main Street, Hillsboro 97123
Tickets: $18

What Does AOL Stand For? New SWWASTAR Email.

It's not going to do me a whole lot of good to gripe here, but the fact is that our AOL email account is no longer accessible do to a computer glitch and some really poor help without viable solutions (like Yahoo and Google). Their customer service is a real stink hole!

So, we've had to change our contact information (and it's not with AOL). This is SUCH a hassle. Three years of contacts lost! Grumble, grumble. I hate you AOL!

Please make a note of this change. Our new email address is:

swwastar@hotmail.com