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July 16, 2015

You think your dad has outrageous stories? 

According to Edward Bloom, the years before he became a salesman were filled with heroism, giants, witches, mermaids and indentured servitude in the name of love. 

June 25, 2015

In the canon of musical comedies, it doesn’t get much better than How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying

Playing this weekend at The Shedd, this hilarious 1961 musical slyly satirizes the midcentury corporate American workplace, as its hero, J. Pierrepont Finch, a humble window washer, ascends the rungs of the corporate ladder by not really doing anything. 

June 25, 2015

First, the bad news: Cottage Theatre’s excellent production of David Auburn’s Pulitzer-winning drama Proof ends its run this weekend, so you’ll have to scramble to get tickets.

The good news, then, is that, should you land seats, you will be treated to one of the finest local productions of the year. Directed with a sure hand by Alan Beck and featuring a small cast of talented local actors, this production achieves an almost perfect balance of emotional resonance and technical finesse. The play is so engaging and moving, so rich and dynamic, it feels like a dream.

June 18, 2015

When performer Nancy Hopps first tackled the one-woman show Raw Canvas in 2001, her life was in a radically different place than it is today. 

“I had just come through cancer, relationship changes,” Hopps recalls. “I was a busy, active parent to a teenage daughter. Coming back to the play now, I realize even more that the character’s weighing her own passions and artistic fulfillment against societal and familial expectations.”  

June 11, 2015

The Very Little Theatre’s current main stage production Superior Donuts, directed by Stanley Coleman, is a work of both comedic and dramatic realism, like a buddy film with a twist of gut-wrenching social commentary. 

The interwoven genres at work here are not too surprising, as it comes from playwright Tracy Letts, who’s most famous work August: Osage County deals with the dark underbelly of Americana as a dramedy.

June 4, 2015

The drums beat, heavy and slow at first, then picking up speed like a heartbeat. The rhythm pushes for answers, for ancestry. Dontrell cannot escape the dreams calling him to this quest — dreams of a forebearer who leapt to his death from a slave ship during the Middle Passage.

But Dontrell has a scholarship to maintain, a family to deal with and he can’t swim. Making his way into the middle of the Atlantic feels as hopeless as any hero’s journey. Faith, fate and family will all step in to shuffle his chances of success.

May 28, 2015

How is it the board game Clue has so captured our imaginations? One would never consider creating a film out of Chutes and Ladders, and I can feel my eye start to twitch just thinking about what Monopoly: The Musical might look like.

But a dramatization of Clue? We’re so there. The who-done-it game has inspired stage and screen adaptations, and Actor’s Cabaret of Eugene’s current production focuses the energy on the 1993 musical for dinner theater fare.

May 28, 2015

Nearly every situational comedy in the history of television — Three’s Company being the purest and most salient example — can trace its ancestry to Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors, which in turn divined its easy, effervescent form from the classical Aristotelian unities of action, time and place.

May 28, 2015

Oregon Contemporary Theatre artistic director Craig Willis recalls hearing a reading of a new play, Dontrell, Who Kissed The Sea, at a 2013 showcase for the National New Play Network (NNPN) he attended in San Diego. 

“Clearly, this play inspired the most reaction that weekend,” Willis says. “You could tell that there was a special voice behind it.” 

May 14, 2015

“I am a physical storyteller,” performer Bill Bowers says. “I am interested in the study of ‘How would you say something if you couldn’t use words?’”

Bowers visits Lane Community College this week for a residency that includes a free workshop for the public May 27 and a performance of Bowers’ critically acclaimed Beyond Words May 30.

 “Words immediately ask us to intellectualize, to interpret, to process information,” Bowers says. “Physical theater asks us to respond more from the heart than from the head.” 

April 23, 2015

Let’s be real: At least 80 percent of the time, taking on a production of Les Misérables is a bad idea. “Ambitious” doesn’t begin to describe this excruciatingly melodramatic 1,500-page historical novel-turned-stage musical. 

April 23, 2015

Sight Unseen is an Obie award-winning play by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Donald Margulies. The play, which opens this week at The Very Little Theatre, takes as its subject a renowned artist and strips him naked of all the trappings of success, leaving almost nothing where a man once was.

April 16, 2015

Theater has long served as fertile ground for new ideas to germinate, with playwrights boldly questioning the status quo and planting the seeds of change.

Eugene audiences will have the opportunity to examine two politically charged plays, as the University of Oregon Department of Theatre Arts presents Chantal Bilodeau’s Sila: An Arctic Story and Lane Community College’s Theatre Department performs Tony Kushner’s Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes

April 16, 2015

Sara is unlucky. She has a problem with light bulbs blowing out, leftovers spontaneously combusting and goldfish going belly up before their time.

But in the new comedy Lucky Me by Robert Caisley — now playing at Oregon Contemporary Theatre — Sara finds something special because of her supposed faults, not in spite of them. 

Written in a snappy style reminiscent of Kaufman and Hart, Caisley populates Sara’s leaky apartment with a cast of genuine and lovable misfits. 

April 16, 2015

With a large, skilled cast and an indefinable but undeniable energy, the reaction to New Hope Christian College’s Hairspray was: Wow. “This is one of the best musicals I’ve seen in Eugene,” an audience member gushed at intermission. 

April 9, 2015

We’re sort of a road-hardened, long-running, tight theater ensemble,” says Hand2Mouth Theatre’s artistic director Jonathan Walters. “Our shows are sophisticated, structured and incredibly interactive.” 

Founded in 2000, Portland-based Hand2Mouth sails into town for one-night-only, Sunday, April 19, at Oregon Contemporary Theatre. 

March 19, 2015

The seventh-annual NW10 Festival returns this week with a handful of 10-minute plays premiering at Oregon Contemporary Theatre. 

“There’s a big difference between a skit and a 10-minute play,” insists festival co-founder Paul Calindrino. “A skit is like a one-line joke, whereas a 10-minute play has the potential to be a fully self-contained dramatic unit with character development, emotional impact and narrative force.”

March 19, 2015

The year is 1928, the last gasp of the good times before the crash of the Great Depression. Fringe is flying, bathtub gin is flowing and Queenie and her man Burrs are in a bad romance.

March 19, 2015

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum captured our country’s imagination when it debuted on Broadway in 1962. A young Stephen Sondheim wowed audiences with an interesting score, providing a teaser to his masterful later works. The book by Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart is based on Plautus’ Roman comedies, resulting in a goofy, sometimes brainy farce that manages to reflect a deep respect for the humor of antiquity.

March 5, 2015

When it comes to accessing the arts, sometimes money isn’t the only obstacle. Institutions like museums, theaters and concert halls may inadvertently express an air of exclusivity, creating an invisible barricade to community members who don’t fit the profile of “arts patron.” 

Locally, the Eugene Opera is addressing this issue through its innovative Community Tix program, which provides free and reduced tickets to its performance season, along with something less tangible: a sense of belonging. 

February 26, 2015

Alas, poor George and Martha: As the boozy, bitchy combatants at the center of Edward Albee’s 1962 play Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, these two go at it like rabid animals, incapable of restraint, tearing at each other in an alcohol-fueled barrage of verbal abuse, all set to the tinkling rhythms of ice plinking against a cocktail glass. And the beating goes on.

February 19, 2015

Veteran teacher, director, author and the inspiration for Ms. Wingit of the nationally syndicated cartoon Stone Soup, Judy Wenger is a Eugene icon. And she’s directing again, with a gleeful adaptation of Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs for Rose Children’s Theatre.

During her 37 years in education, Wenger developed a theory of theater education that rests heavily on community and respect, at the expense of starpower.

February 12, 2015

Chronicling the lives of five women in show business, the new play Five of a Kind spans half a century of friendship and social transformation. Written by Anita Dwyer and Adrienne Armstrong, the play premieres this week, Feb. 13-15, in a “reader’s theater” format at the Very Little Theatre. 

February 5, 2015

Send Shakespeare to the moon.

Put him in the middle of Nazi Germany, the antebellum South, the Prague Spring, the Whiteaker Block Party. The miracle of Shakespeare’s plays, and the iambic mechanics of their impossible flexibility, is that wherever you set them, Shakespeare more or less remains Shakespeare — even in Castro’s Cuba.