Eugene Weekly : Bravo : 9.22.11


Fall Bravo! 2011
Eugene weekly’s guide to the performing arts

Incendiaries and Artistry
Latin-jazz fusion meets Eugene dance styles 

Reality Theater
Trial by Fire Theatreworks gets new digs in the Whit

Hop, Skip and Jump
A Year with Frog and Toad
coming to Cottage Theatre

Bravo! Calendar Listings


Reality Theater
Trial by Fire Theatreworks gets new digs in the Whit
By Anna Grace

You can feel the energy bouncing off the close, black walls like some kind of feng shui game of pool. Stepping around a stack of wood and scooching past seats, I crowd in to watch the construction process for Trial By Fire TheatreWorks’ latest space.

Master carpenter Ryan Olson, who I last saw playing an asshole in Hurlyburly, wrestles a massive wooden platform. He is surrounded by other actors-turned-construction workers, all of them dressed in theater-regulation black with tan tool belts hanging off their hips.  

The smell of freshly sawed wood mixes with the scent of hope. Co-artistic director Emily Hart, exuberant through her exhaustion, drops the six bags she’s carrying — and whatever else she was going to do this afternoon — to sit down and chat with me about the playing space emerging at the south end of Reality Kitchen.

Reality Kitchen, in the heart of the Whiteaker neighborhood, is part school, part organic vegetable stand, part library and soon-to-be part theater. Founded by local muralist and life skills educational assistant Jim Evangelista, Reality Kitchen focuses on autism outreach along with arts education for the mentally and physically disabled.

Evangelista says he was hoping to add a theater space just as Trial By Fire began looking once again to relocate. Whether it’s kismet or just a small town coincidence, the energy and mission of both the theater company and the Kitchen seem cosmically aligned.

This cubby in Reality Kitchen feels like a found space, and I imagine the rent will be even lower than the ceiling. Flexible seating will enable TBF to perform in a multitude of set-ups. Fire code allows for a mere 40 people in the space, and that includes the chick running the lights along with everybody on stage. 

The location couldn’t be more ideal. On Van Buren just off Blair, the place is amid all those restaurants you’ve been planning on going to forever. Pizza? Soul food? Sushi? The briefest of walks will get you there. Cross 7th Avenue and you’re at Sweet Life for an after-show treat.

Since Eugene has three well-established theater companies, along with productions mounted by UO and LCC, I had to ask Hart how she felt about keeping another company afloat in these uncertain times. “Fabulous,” she says without missing a beat. “We have people crawling out of the woodwork to help.” Donations of money, labor, even 2-by-4 beams have been flowing in, along with the artistic commitment of local theater heavies such as Richard Leebrick and Paul Calandrino.

“If you wanna act, if you wanna run tech, if you wanna get involved, stop by,” Hart says with down-home sincerity. “Come play with us.”

Sound crazy-cozy enough? Trial By Fire TheatreWorks opens the new space at 245 Van Buren St. with The Mercy Seat on Sept. 23; for more info visit




Comments are closed.