Saturday, October 13, 2007

My First Business Trip!

I am off again—this time to Seattle. Our poor Mr. Mead was really sick, so I went in his place on a trip to Seattle to scout out some new plays that are being produced up here. Often times theater companies will see each other's work to see if it is a script that they would like to consider for their upcoming season. That was the mission of my trip. As a representative of Portland Center Stage and specifically the Artistic and Literary department, I am constantly seeing shows in Portland to support local theater companies and to get to know the people and the work that is going on in town. I’m also interested on a personal level because I hope to direct someday for these companies. How lucky am I that both my work and personal life overlap in this way?

For of those you who have taken the train from Portland to Seattle and back again, you know that the train is never ever on time. This time I was lucky, we only waited an hour in Portland for a connecting bus before taking off. I’m sorry but can’t we put those people on the next train? Just because their bus is late, why am I supposed to suffer? I got here on time expecting my journey to take off on time and it NEVER does. Why is this allowed to happen? Whatever, bitching aside, I got to Seattle with enough time to check into the hotel, get some food, and catch a cab to my first show: CRIME & PUNISHMENT adapted by Marilyn Campbell & Curt Columbus based on the novel by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Theater Under Ground produced it at the Capitol Hill Arts Center, which is also an event venue. The show was held in the basement, which only added to the fringe/exciting edgy theatre feel. The place was full, mainly due to the fact that two professors had brought their beginning acting classes from Seattle University to see the show. Oh young theatre people, doesn’t that just inspire you?

I had read this play last year when it was submitted to us for consideration and really liked its pace. For an adaptation of Dostoyevsky’s novel, it moved well. This production honored the script in this way. The transitions and use of the space was excellent. The director Sheila Daniels, who is also the Co-Artistic Director of Theatre Under Ground, chose to stage it in traverse (also known as Lane) seating arrangement. Shocking! The last time I saw a production staged this way was in college. I know for me this was not long ago, but still it is very rare to see a theater outside of college use the space this way. Whether or not this was her choice or the space commanded it to be this way is up for debate. I suspect it was her choice. Hats off to you Sheila.

As we walked into the space and chose our sides, we could hear a pre-recorded Raskolnikov reciting his writings. Two burlap curtains hung on either side of the stage in front of the audience platforms. Fences on the edge of these platforms automatically gave the audience a separated or judging feeling. On the short side of either side of the stage were three staggered burlap curtains, which was where characters were able to enter and exit. The audience curtains were pulled back and forth by characters to denote a scene change. The sound of the rings on the steal rods made a very jarring sound like that of prison shackles, which helped to create an anxious feeling. In fact of the sound ques were done live. And the only draw back from the space, was that during very intimate moments on stage, loud crashing and stomping sounds would come from the upstairs bar area. It seemed like they knew exactly when the actors were having a quite and intimate moment and chose it as the perfect opportunity to start a mosh pit or some sort of fight/wrestling match upstairs. Props to the actors for keeping it together during these unexpected and additional sound effects.

In the program was an advertisement for Portland own Hand2Mouth Theatre. They are coming to Seattle November 1-4 and performing at On the Boards. How exciting! Congratulations guys!

Seeing the show tonight was helpful. You may think you had a good sense of how to stage a play (or at least see how it might be done) after reading a script, but it is another thing to see how the play makes sense out loud. I'm really enjoying my trip and looking forward to my show tomorrow: SNOW FALLING ON CEDARS adapted and directed by Kevin McKeon at Book-it Rep. Co-Artistic Director Jane Jones will be directing our production of TWELFTH NIGHT which will be done in rep with BEARD OF AVON by Amy Freed. Jane is an amazing director and I can't wait to see her work at PCS. In fact, Jane and Chris are in New York right now to finish casting both shows.

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