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Works in Progress

Oregon Performance Lab returns with teens, motorcycles and beer
Beer playwright Nick Leavens with actress Laura Ramadei

Oregon Performance Lab is back for its second summer of theater workshops, bringing rising playwrights of America to Eugene. Described as a “three-week pop-up laboratory,” OPL connects artists with venues, actors and an audience for theatrical experimentation.

The wife-and-husband team of Willow Norton (artistic director) and Corey Pearlstein (creative director) are based in New York but have roots in Eugene. On the heels of last year’s successful inaugural season, now they are fueling even more ambitious plans.

OPL produces theater that reflects and appeals to a diverse populations. According to creative director Pearlstein, “We’re trying to widen the cultural bandwidth,” says Pearlstein, the lab’s creative director. “Overall, our goal is to broaden the cannon and shine light on a wider range of experiences as best we can.”

This translates into moving theater sets out of the living rooms of upper-middle-class neurotic New Yorkers and setting them anywhere and everywhere else.

Here’s the 2016 line up: 

Rain and Zoe Save the World

Acclaimed playwright Crystal Skillman’s coming-of-age story follows two Seattle teenagers on a cross-country motorcycle trip to a major social protest. “We wanted to find a work that featured smart, compelling young characters addressing challenging contemporary issues,” Pearlstein says of Skillman, who possesses “the ideal voice for our vision.”

Willow Norton directs Rain and Zoe Save The World with a cast featuring Storm Kennedy, Darius Bunce and Miller Savetz. This show will receive a full production at Lane Community College (LCC) this winter, so be sure to be part of the creation by showing up for the workshop reading 7:30 pm Sunday, Aug. 28, at LCC.

Beer

A true tale of how votes were bought with beer in rural Pennsylvania in the 1970s, director Wilson Milam heads this production of Nick Leavens’ play Beer. “This play represents class perspectives and views on the world that Willow and I found refreshing and insightful,” Pearlstein says. “Nick Leavens is writing about where he is from, and so the characterizations have a complexity that makes this so rich.”

Beer receives a workshop reading 7:30 pm Friday, Sept. 2, at LCC.

Luna Park

Years before Walt Disney — or anyone else — ever dreamed of opening an amusement park, Skip Dundy and Fred Thompson created Luna Park in Coney Island, a lighted wonderland where city dwellers, burnt-out on modern industrialism, could remember how to play. 

Hyeyoung Kim, Michael Cooper and Daniel Levin team up to stage this new musical, and local artists will partner with the creative team to present a concert version of the show.

“It is a story about ambition, vision and optimism,” Pearlstein notes, adding that the play “feels very American in a time we are all trying understand what that means.”

Luna Park will be staged 7:30 pm Sunday, Sept. 11, at LCC.


The Eugene audience is the final key player in this endeavor. When you show up to watch the plays, directors and writers will be watching you. Every laugh, gasp and shuffling program is duly noted. Creators will change their plays based on the reactions they get in Eugene

Oregon Performance Lab runs through Sept. 11 at Lane Community College; $8-$12. For a full schedule, visit oregonperformancelab.com.