Review: ‘The Father’ heads into its final weekend at the University Theatre

In the play, “The Father,” viewers see the world through the eyes of André, a man struggling to come to terms with Alzheimer’s disease. The set morphs slowly and subtly. Furniture disappears, walls shift and the color of André’s pajamas fades. Soon viewers start to wonder: “Are we in André’s apartment after all? Have we ever been? And where is his watch?” The process of André’s internal and external deterioration becomes palpable for viewers.

French playwright Florian Zeller wrote the 2012 play,“The Father,” which is also University Theatre’s first show of 2018. After the show’s second weekend and with one more to go, its success is apparent: The opening show was sold out and two others were near capacity.

The play focuses on the relationship between André, played by junior biology major Ryan Sayegh, and his daughter Anne, played by senior English major and theatre arts minor Jenna Gaitan. Their relationship is tragedy embodied.

Anne wrestles with how to care for her father when sometimes he doesn’t recognize her face. The strain of being his main caretaker makes her fantasize about wringing his neck while he sleeps.

Meanwhile, André grows more suspicious of his revolving door of in-home caregivers stealing his misplaced possessions. He muses to the caregivers about his other daughter, who he claims to love more, while Anne sits 10 feet away. André’s moments of clarity allow the terrifying nature of his experience to come through.

In one scene, André, unable to accept his illness, wrenchingly accuses Anne of memory loss. But the deep love they maintain for each other is apparent, making their situation even more tragic.

According to the show’s director and Professor of Theatre Arts, Nelson Barre, the play is dynamically universal, and its subject has personally affected everyone involved in its production. Each member of the cast and most of the production team have lost a loved one to Alzheimer’s or dementia. Barre said the prevalence of the disease and people’s relationships with it drove everyone’s emotional investment.

“If you can’t remember where you fit into the world and where everyone else is in relation to you, which is sort of how we define ourselves, or if you’ve forgotten who these people around you are or where you live, then who are you?” Barre said.

Gaitan said that listening to someone from the Eugene Alzheimer’s Association give a presentation to the cast about the disease was invaluable both personally and for her role. Gaitan’s great grandmother suffered from the disease and her grandmother ended up in a similar position as her character being a vital caregiver.

“We wanted to portray as accurately as possible the experience of not only someone going through dementia but also the people who are helping them cope with the fact that their family member has an illness of that nature,” Gaitan said.

“The Father” has two remaining shows at the Hope Theater on Feb. 9 and 10 at 7:30.

The post Review: ‘The Father’ heads into its final weekend at the University Theatre appeared first on Emerald Media.

Sondheims Assassins opens at Cottage Theatre October 3


Cottage Grove, OR — Imagine a conversation between John Wilkes Booth and Lee Harvey Oswald. Composer Stephen Sondheim and writer John Weidman did just that in their musical Assassins, which opens October 3 for a three-weekend run at Cottage Theatre. The production is the fifth show in the theatre’s 2014 season.


Bold, original, disturbing, and alarmingly funny, Assassins is among the most controversial musicals ever written. This quintessentially American show lays bare the lives of nine individuals who assassinated or tried to assassinate the President of the United States, in a historical revue that explores the dark side of the American experience. Writers Sondheim and Weidman bend the rules of time and space, taking us on a nightmarish roller coaster ride in which assassins and would-be assassins from different historical periods meet, interact and inspire each other to harrowing acts in the name of the American Dream.

Cottage Theatre’s production of Assassins is directed and designed by Tony Rust, with music direction by Jim Greenwood. Costume design is by Marjorie Steen and lighting design by Amanda Ferguson. The cast features Earl Ruttencutter, Ward Fairbairn, Austin VanderPlaat, George A. Comstock, Marc Siegel, Dale Flynn, Melissa Miller, Tracy Nygard, Kory Weimer, Mark Anderson, Lanny Mitchell, Sophie Blades, Eric Elligott, Kim Fairbairn, and Zachary Martin.

Assassins runs for three weekends at Cottage Theatre from October 3 – 19, 2014. Performances are Friday and Saturday evenings at 8:00 pm and Sunday afternoons at 2:30 pm. There will be one added Thursday performance on October 16 at 8:00 pm. Assassins contains mature themes and language; parental discretion is advised.

Tickets are available online at, by phone at 541-942-8001, or in person at the Cottage Theatre Box Office, 700 Village Drive, Cottage Grove. Tickets are $23 for adults and $19 for youth (18 or under). Box Office hours are Wednesday through Friday, 10 am to 2 pm, and one hour before performances.

Sprout Film Festival Gives Hope



Sitting across the table from a beautiful actress I must remind myself that for many, Monica Venice is considered a person with a disability. Dressed in a pink sequined hat and a beautiful black and floral print sleeveless dress, this 48 year old is ready to talk about what she loves best about performing, the applause.

Yes, honesty is not difficult for someone like Monica. You ask her a question and she thinks of just one thing, the answer. She has no time for playing it safe or wondering what people will think. This is something I love about my friends who experience life as Monica does.

Sprout Poster

She’s attends the Sprout Film Festival, every year. As she adds up the numbers in her head she says, “that makes four.” At one of those festivals she saw a movie that inspired her, or at least fanned a flame of acting that was stirring in her soul.

The movie, Up Syndrome, is about someone like her. A young man diagnosed with Downs Syndrome but see’s life as more up than down.

Now, Monica is a regular at the Cottage Theater in Cottage Grove. She creates and builds sets and props. She’s had two roles in plays such as Gypsy and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. When she’s not working or acting you will find her trying on costumes at the theater and laughing a lot. She especially likes trying on the blonde curly wigs.

Culture tends to create barriers to those who are different. Art, theater, music and dance bridges those gaps and puts everyone on an equal playing field.

Expression is not limited to spectrums or labels in fact, oftentimes you find expression much easier when you don’t completely fit in.

The Sprout Film Festival is a chance to discover a different aspect of art, a place where performing unlocks not just opportunity but puts a spotlight on prejudice and assumptions that don’t always add up.

I encourage you to get your tickets to this most amazing event coming to Springfield, Oregon March 14th.

You will be touched by what you see and perhaps you will leave the Wildish Theater with a little better understanding of what is truly possible when you look just beyond what you thought to be true.

Tickets at

Video: Cirque du Soleil construction timelapse

The transformation from a bare basketball court to a fully equipped Cirque Du Soleil stage is a 12 hour process. The stagehands start setting up at 7:45 am and won’t finish until 8 pm that evening.
This was taken on October 24th, 2012 in anticipation for the October 25th opening night of Quidam – Virque Du Soleil’s current show.

Zydeko – Cirque Du Soleil Quidam

Cirque du Soleil’s ‘Quidam’ is coming to Matthew Knight Arena

Cirque du Soleil returns to Matthew Knight Arena on Oct. 25 with “Quidam”, one of its longest-running shows. “Quidam” tells the story of a young girl named Zoe who, bored at home and ignored by her parents, enters into an imaginary world called Quidam. In this world, she meets characters ranging from a clown to […]

Spreading Their Wings


The Red Raven Follies plan to take their“vaudeville-cabaret” show to the next level

Core members of The Red Raven Follies (L to R): Lady Slipper, Ruby Blush, Tarnished Penny, and Golden Delicious. (photo: Digital Latte Photography)

“Are you gonna sing to it or strip to it?” the blonde-tressed woman asks, her tone calm as she speaks into her cell phone. “Uh-huh. OK, just sing. Got it.”

Her name is Rachel Pietila, but on stage, she goes by the moniker “Golden Delicious,”one of the four women who make up The Red Raven Follies.

A homegrown theater troupe based in Eugene’s Bohemian Whitaker neighborhood, they do song, dance, and vaudevillian skits.

In the armchair by the window, Pietila makes calls to check in with performers set to appear in the Ravens’ upcoming show. Around a living room cluttered with paint, cardboard, and half-assembled props, the other three Ravens perch. On the sofa, Tiffany Hutchins concentrates on her laptop, going over the set list for their upcoming show. Jennifer “Ember” Woodruff daubs paint onto the surface of a large wood-framed box complete with spring-hinged trapdoor on top. Behind them, Ruby McConnell kneels on the floor, cutting out cardboard raven silhouettes to be used in stage decor.

According to Woodruff, who goes by “Lady Slipper” on stage, she and Pietila started The Red Raven Follies after their stint in Terpsichore’s Daughters. When that group folded, they still had the bug to perform. At first, The Red Raven Follies staged a community variety show in backyard events featuring different performers.  

Olive Delsol from Aeon Now, a regular collaborator and frequent emcee to Red Raven shows. (photo: Digital Latte Photography)

Later, with the addition of Hutchins and McConnell, it coalesced into a solid core partnership.

“In the beginning,” Pietila says, “when we were doing these large variety shows with the community, I tended to be the one who had the master list. Now it’s equal in terms of responsibility, a much tighter-knit group. We’re all producing this together.”

Woodruff adds, “Having a set show means a lot less creating new stuff. We do a lot less dancing in rehearsals because we know the dances really well.”

“It’s more about making props and handling business these days,” Hutchins chimes in.

“More fine-tuning,” Woodruff concludes.

Now, they say, they have a wider variety of performers to collaborate with.

While their shows retain the variety show format, it’s more polished, and features greater breadth of talent. “But we still use Rachel’s backyard for rehearsals,” says Woodruff.

We have jugglers, dancers, burlesque, acrobats, and singers,” says Hutchins, who performs under the stage name “Tarnished Penny.” Groups who appear often with the Ravens include  the Grey Matter Jugglers, Dandy Pie, Francia and Annie from Bounce Gymnastics, Vicki Vortex, and Olive from Aeon Now.

Sirk Kris and Sir Yeager Yapsalot of the Grey Matter Jugglers. (photo: Digital Latte Photography)

“Without them, we wouldn’t be where we are,” says Pietila.

These days, the Ravens produce shows using a shifting cast drawn from their family of orbiting collaborators.  According to Pietila, they recruit the acts, arrange the set list, line up sound and lighting needs, handle promotion, and pay out any money the group receives from the door. It’s a long way from the humble beginnings of candlelit backyard shows in the Whitaker. The troupe made headlines last fall when it won the Eugene Weekly’s poll for Best Performing Arts Group.

This week, The Red Raven Follies bring their eclectic community of talent to the Majestic Theater in Corvallis, and the WOW Hall in Eugene. Both shows are happening in collaboration with the Wanderlust Circus, a veteran circus troupe based in Portland.

“I’m always surprised at the positive response,” says Woodruff. “I’d watch the original backyard shows taking shape, and it’d be kind of underwhelming, and then I’d come back later, just before the show, and it’d be…SHAZAM! Total transformation. Magic.

Pietila utters a laugh. “Honestly? Winning the Weekly poll ups the ante. It’s inspiring, because we feel like we’ve gotten to this place in a kind of leap of faith.” Validation from the community, she says, pushes the Ravens to go even farther creatively.

Hutchins brushes back a copper curl. “The Weekly was a vote of confidence. It showed that what we do when we perform is something people like. It’s not an ego thing for us.”

McConnell, aka “Ruby Blush,” leans forward with a mischievous grin. “You know what? It set a big hot fat burning flame under everybody’s ass.

The Red Raven Follies rehearse in Pietila's backyard for their upcoming Majestic Theater and WOW Hall performances.(photo: Digital Latte Photography)

The room erupts with laughter.

“Oh yeah, I was surprised!” Woodruff says after the laughter dies down. She continues to paint a straight red border on the stage box.

“We were all surprised,” McConnell replies. But now, she insists, everybody expects the Red Raven Follies to take it to the next level.

“We better make sure we’re giving them a show,” Woodruff murmurs. The rest of the Ravens nod.

But the mood in the room is relaxed, confident. Smiles and laughter burst out as they toss comments, questions, and banter back and forth. Pietila takes another brief call from a performer.

The Red Raven Follies aren’t resting on their laurels. According to Pietila, they’re planning a roadshow in August with their Fool’s Journey show. They want to travel more, explore using grantwriting and other fundraising to support an ongoing road presence and expand their creative range.

“After we go on tour,” McConnell says, “we want to add more acts and new material. We have a bunch of new stuff we prep and then work out the kinks in different shows. We work through the winter–”

“And get ready in the spring,” Hutchins finishes for her.

“If we connect with the festival circuit, that’s where we’d do well,” says Pietila.“But this summer, we’ll go on the road with she same show we’re putting on at the WOW Hall and Majestic Theater. We’ll perform with Tush Burlesque in Olympia, maybe the Provocateurs in Bellingham.”

“We’re excited to make it a caravan, a family thing,” she says. “That way, we can take our kids and give them an opportunity to perform.”

It’s clear these women have developed an easy but strong bond of camaraderie.

A moment of rehearsal levity with Tad the Unicorn.(img: Digital Latte Photography)

When asked what each of them brings to the troupe, they hesitate.

After a long beat, McConnell is the one who speaks up. “That’s a diplomatic silence. That’s probably why we get along.”

“I’m good at juggling metaphorical rubber balls,” Hutchins begins. “I roll with it when things don’t go as planned.”

“Ember [Woodruff] brings a lot of ideas to the group,” Pietila says to nods from Hutchins and McConnell. “A lot.” Woodruff is also, according to her colleagues, the chief set and prop maker.

McConnell is the only one of them with a technical dance background, Hutchins points out. “She has that eight-count ballet mistress thing down: keep your hands here, point your toes…”

Pietila agrees. “Thanks to Ruby [McConnell], we have a language for what we do. We’ve had totally rad choreography, but it’s been ‘wiggle to the right,’ and whatever.”

“In ballet, everything is codified, every step has a name,” McConnell explains. “There are precise words for what dancers do.”

Pietila is the troupe’s grounding force, Hutchins says. “While the rest of us go through this frantic intense artist energy, Rachel stays chill.”

“She’s butter,” McConnell quips to general laughter. “Buttah!”

“She’s a fantastic actress and a total sparkle bunny,” Woodruff says. “And Tiffany brings organization and technical knowledge. She brings…”

“Spreadsheets.” Pietila says, directing a megawatt smile at Hutchins.

Hutchins gives a modest shrug. “Bookkeeping.”

“Enthusiasm,” Woodruff declares. “Tons of it.”

The ladies quiet a little when asked if what they do is burlesque. But Pietila says, “I always say we’re Vaudeville-Cabaret. Old-timey and a little suggestive. There’s a little element of naughtiness, but it’s classy.”

“I like to tell people it’s not that the costumes are small, it’s that the girls are so darn pretty,” McConnell says. “Put us in potato sacks, and people would still say it was burlesque.”

Backyard rehearsal with some of the extended community of performers who collaborate with The Red Raven Follies..(photo: Digital Latte Photography)

“See? We’ve tested this theory,” McConnell says.

Their involvement with The Red Raven Follies has been tremendously rewarding, all the women agree. Not the least of which has been the friendships they’ve made with one another and with other performers.

“There’s been a lot of personal growth and development,” Pietila says. “Something that’s great for me is growing close to people I didn’t just fall into a relationship with accidentally. It’s choosing to cultivate relationships with people based on shared passion.

But the experience deepens them in other ways as well.

According to Pietila, her own self-image has been tested many times because the Ravens have been so frequently photographed and videotaped.

“I’ve had to face down my insecurities. I had an epiphany about what’s real and what’s not real.  That was a really neat thing for me to realize, not to focus on appearances. It feels more healthy and whole for me.”

“It’s true,” Woodruff says. “You get to the point where you’re like, whatever. You learn to make the faces for the camera, but you learn to let go and not be attached to it.”

[gn_pullquote align=”left”]

with The Mata Hari Hustle

Thu. Jun. 14
The Majestic Theater
115 SW 2nd St., Corvallis
Doors open at 7PM
$12 admission

Fri. Jun. 15
The WOW Hall
291 W. 8th Ave., Eugene
Door open at 9PM
$15 admission


The most challenging part of being in the Ravens? “The fact that we’re not rich,” says Woodruff. “There’s a lot of volunteer hours in this.” They rehearse twice a week, she says, sometimes more before a show.

She’s not complaining, though. “I have actors on both sides of my family. It’s in the blood, that smoke and mirrors excitement.

“We make or have made all of our costumes or props,” Hutchins says. “It does take a lot of time and energy.”

“Time,” McConnell says with a theatrical groan. “I danced a show before I came to tonight’s rehearsal. Just a little one.”

Pietila stresses the challenge of finding the energy to work on the show. “It’s worth noting all of us are mature women with children and families and jobs.”

Hutchins says, “We’ve all taken on more responsibility as far as the transitions and the communication necessary to develop, rehearse, run, and produce our own show. It’s an evolving thing.”

“My desire to do it comes from the thrill of the magic,” says Pietila. “The chaos–”

“YEAH…!” the other ladies interject, practically in chorus.

Pietila continues, unfazed. “–and everything coming together, bringing joy and happiness to the audience, creating a space…where everyone can come and represent themselves in pure creative expression, and that’s thrilling.”

Hutchins says her motivation is to get outside her comfort zone and create an intentional connection with other people, trusting that the audience would see something in her she didn’t see in herself.

Oh, I just dance,” says McConnell. “I say yes to dance.” A self-described product of the ’80’s studio system, she was dancing 40 hours a week before she became a geologist. Eventually, she quit geology and moved to Eugene to resume dancing full-time, becoming involved with the Middle Eastern Dance Guild of Eugene..

“I was bellydancing this piece with a sword on my head. The Follies asked me to dance with them, and I said yes.”

Pietila laughs. “I wanted that girl with the sword on her head to be in our show!”

I’m a rabid artist,” Woodruff says.  “There are endless possibilities in performance art. I’m totally in love with it.”

“It is rather addictive,” Hutchins agrees.


Bill Cosby discusses the entertainment industry then and now

Like an aged prizefighter, Bill Cosby walked onto the center stage, shoulders back, chin down. Turning toward the audience, he displayed his shirt to the audience with a grin. Black with yellow lettering reading, “Oregon, Rose Bowl 2012.” And the crowd went wild.

Sitting in a dressing room in the bowels of the Hult Center, he lounged on a couch on the far wall, devouring take-out Chinese food out of two Styrofoam containers.

When asked about his writing process, Cosby reminisced about his days in Temple University in a remedial writing class. Though he received lackluster grades due to technical grammar issues, the professor and his classmates thought the material was a hit.

“But I wasn’t ready for the big time. I just thought that perhaps I could sell this material to some comedians who were working in a nightclub downtown,” Cosby said. “And (one) comedian was nice enough to come out. And I had my Temple hoodie on, trying to look collegiate. He got after me for not having a suit and tie to come and see him.”

When questioned about the identity of the comedian who had given him a hard time about the way he was dressed, Cosby replied with a sly grin, “None of your business.”

“So, I said, ‘well, I write comedy. I would like to see if you would like to buy.’ He read it, he said, ‘this…this is not funny.’ I said, ‘no look,’ and I performed it for him. And he said, ‘it still isn’t funny,’” Cosby said. “Nobody wanted to do my material. Now I still use the same method. If I feel funny about it, it will start out just a particular thought.”

Cosby would go on to become the first African-American lead in television on the show “I Spy” and then to become loved in his role as Dr. Huxtable in “The Cosby Show.” His success has spanned decades.

Cosby has also spoken out against profanity and violence in the media.

“To be an actor and to feel that you put across an emotion, to have profanity in it, does not show the depth of an actor’s character,” he said. “This industry of entertainment really lost its way, subcoming (sic) to what I feel is really and truly the entertainment industry’s put down of its customers and patrons.”

John Low, Cosby’s publicist, stood center stage before the show and let his gaze linger on the cavernous, empty auditorium. “Well, the audience is getting older, but the reruns are bringing in new blood all the time. But … there’s nothing wrong with a full house,” Low said.

Though the show was of mixed ages, the comedian had no problem connecting with the whole audience. He frequently bantered back and forth with the front row.

His new comedy tour is centered around a feature on his website called “OBKB,” which is a reference to his “Fat Albert” character Mushmouth and the comedic conversation flubs of adults and children.

Local Theater Watch


by Ryan Beltram
Eugene Daily News

It’s a light week in the local theater scene. The high schools are getting ready for winter break so no new productions to report there. But there are still a couple professional theaters with plays still running as well as a few new holiday-themed events opening this week.

It’s the final week for the Actors Cabaret’s production of A Christmas Carol. Directed by Joe Zingo, the play features 22 cast members as well as lyrics by Lynn Ahrens and music by Alan Menken. The final two shows will be Friday, Dec. 16 and Saturday, Dec. 17 at 7:30 pm.

The play tells the story of Ebenezer Scrooge and his total disdain for Christmas. After going to bed Christmas eve, Scrooge is awaken by the first of three ghosts who will show him the consequences of continuing to lead a lonely and unhappy life.

A series of events in his life are presented to remind Scrooge of his unkindness towards others and he must decide whether to continue down a path of unhappiness or embrace the life he has left and show kindness to others.

If a traditional holiday play isn’t your thing how about a more contemporary tale from a unique perspective.

Humorist David Sedaris’ wrote about his days as Crumpet the Elf in Macy’s SantaLand display. Sedaris read the essay for the first time on NPR’s Morning Edition on Dec. 23, 1992. Following critical success, the essay was turned into a one-act play in 1996 called SantaLand Diaries. It has been a popular holiday production ever since.

Robert Vrtis directs a cast that includes Colin Lawrence as Crumpet the Elf and Jonathan Knight and Caitlin Wikenbach as fellow SantaLand elves. The show starts at 8 pm Dec. 15-17. The final show on Sunday starts at 2 pm.


On Friday, Dec. 16, the Eugene Ballet Company will begin its performance of The Nutcracker at the Hult Center. The Friday show will begin at 7:30 pm. There will be two shows on Saturday, one at 2 and one at 7:30 pm. The Sunday finale will be at 2 pm.

The performances will feature Tchaikovsky’s original music, festive costumes and sets and of course dazzling choreography.

We’ve all seen It’s a Wonderful Life, but what about on stage in a radio-themed presentation. The Richard E. Wildish Community Theater will present Fred Crafts’ Radio Redux of It’s a Wonderful Life Dec. 16-17 at 7:30 pm and Dec. 18 at 2 pm. Tickets are $13 for adults and $10 for seniors and students.

Instead of seeing a traditional play on the holiday classic, the Radio Redux series presents it as a storytelling event where people sit in front of microphones as various characters and entertain the audience with nothing more than their vocal chords.

Local Theater Watch


–Ryan Beltram, EDN

It’s getting really cold outside. Instead of visiting an air-conditioned movie theater, you should check out the local playhouses. I’m sure it’s warmer, and you get to see the actors live. There aren’t any new plays debuting this week but I’ll remind you about some that are still in production, including a few that will be ending this week.

Professional Theater


Angels in America: Millennium Approaches is in its final week of production at the Trial By Fire Theatreworks. Performances run through Dec. 10 at The Janie Heart Theatre Reality Kitchen at 245 Van Buren. Contact the box office for times: (541) 683-1429.

Set in New York City in the mid ’80s, Angels in America focuses on two couples: Louis and his lover, Prior, and Joe and his mentally ill wife, Harper. The four people are affected by the onset of the HIV/AIDS epidemic and both couples’ stories become connected as Louis and Joe become romantically involved.

The play focuses on many controversial and challenging themes such as politics, sex and religion, and takes place in in Washington, Utah and Antarctica.

The Actors Cabaret of Eugene continues its run of A Christmas Carol. Tickets are limited for shows on Dec. 9-11. Weekday shows are at 7:30 pm, while the Sunday matinee starts at 2 pm. The final two performances will be Dec. 16 and 17.

Lord Leebrick Theatre resumes its production of SantaLand Diaries on Dec. 8-11. Friday and Saturday shows will be at 8 pm while the Sunday viewing will be at 2 pm.

David Sedaris’ unique view of the world is on display in this play about a guy who takes a job as an elf in “SantaLand” at Macy’s department store.

Over at The Very Little Theater, you have three more days to view Family Reunion. Shows will be at 8 pm Friday and Saturday and the final show will be at 2 pm on Sunday, Dec. 11.

Becoming a VLT staple, Family Reunion tells the story of a middle-aged man being visited by his mother, father, brother, ex-wife and ex-mistress. He thought they were all dead and now he must rethink what’s important to him. Sounds like a scarier version of A Christmas Carol.

Student Theater

There’s only one high school play to see this week and it’s probably one you’ve heard of.

Churchill High School - A Midsummer Nights Dream

Churchill High School will be showing its final three productions of William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream at 7 pm, Dec. 8-10.

Dealing with themes of love, individual identity and feminism, A Midsummer Night’s Dream weaves three plots all connected by the wedding of Duke Theseus of Athens and the Amazon queen, Hippolyta. Set in the woods in the realm of Fairyland, the adventures of four young Athenian lovers and a group of amateur actors plays out.

A number of plays are in their final week of production so if you still plan on seeing one, this is your last chance.

Local Theater Watch


— Ryan Beltram, EDN

We’re getting closer and closer to Christmas, and as a result, a number of new plays are debuting before the end of the year. At the professional playhouses, two new plays debut while two more are still running. At the high school level, two plays from the work of legendary playwrights begin.

Professional Theater

Family Reunion, written by local playwright and VLT member Steve Mandell

Family Reunion debuts on Friday, Dec. 3, and will run through Dec. 11. All shows will be at 8 pm, except both Sunday shows which will be at 2 pm.

The Very Little Theater has an old favorite returning to the stage. Family Reunion, written by local playwright and VLT member Steve Mandell, tells the story of a middle-aged man being visited by his mother, father, brother, ex-wife and ex-mistress. There’s just one problem: they’re all dead.

These characters, along with a mystery woman, visit him for a family reunion of sorts. How accurate are his memories of the people he used to love? What’s real and what isn’t? What matters? Who matters? Or does any of it matter at all?

SantaLand Diaries will run at the Lord Leebrick theater, Dec. 2-4, 8-11 and 15-18. Sunday shows will be at 2 pm, while all other shows will start at 8 pm.

What do you do after working as a Christmas elf in “SantaLand” at Macy’s department store? You write about it. Author David Sedaris recounted this time in his life with a humorous essay entitled SantaLand Diaries.  In the early ’90s, Sedaris debuted as Crumpet the Elf on NPR’s Morning Edition. The essay garnered cult status and eventually evolved into a play. Robert Vrtis directs the cast, including Colin Lawrence as Crumpet the Elf and Jonathan Knight and Caitlin Wikenbach as fellow SantaLand elves.

On-Going Productions

The Actors Cabaret of Eugene resumes its run of A Christmas Carol on Dec. 2. Weekday shows are at 7:30 pm, while Sunday shows start at 2 pm. Performances run through Dec. 17.

Trial By Fire Theatreworks continues its production of Angels in America: Millennium Approaches. Celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Tony Award-winning play’s premiere on Broadway, Trial By Fire presents the first part of Tony Kushner’s gay fantasia on national themes. The play continues through Dec. 10. at The Janie Heart Theatre Reality Kitchen at 245 Van Buren.  Contact the box office for times: Box Office: (541) 683-1429.

Student Theater

It’s finals week for high-schoolers, but that won’t stop some schools from putting on productions at the end of the week.

One of Shakespeare’s most popular stories, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, will open at Churchill High School on Thursday, Dec. 1, and resumes on Saturday for a weekend of shows. Each performance begins at 7 pm.

The play features three interwoven plots, all connected by the wedding of Duke Theseus of Athens and the Amazon queen, Hippolyta. Set in the woods in the realm of Fairyland, the adventures of four young Athenian lovers and a group of amateur actors plays out. The play deals with themes such as love, individual identity and feminism.

Over at Springfield High School, students will be performing in Neil Simon’s Barefoot in the Park, which runs Dec. 1-3 at 7:30 pm.

The play focuses on newlyweds Corie and Paul Bratter, and their adventures living in a tiny sixth-floor apartment in Greenwich Village. Paul is a hard-working attorney, just starting his practice, while spontaneous bride Corie is focused on creating a romantic environment in an apartment with one room, no heat, a hole in the skylight and oddball neighbors.

There are a number of options for local theater fans this week. If you’re in the mood for something fun or something serious, there should be a play that will interest you.