There can't be too much theater ... even in Ashland, says local actor and director Peter Wickliffe. He and a handful of colleagues have formed Thanks for the Memories Theatre Company — with plans to present three stage productions this year in the Oak Street Dance Studio.
"The idea to begin a small theater company in Ashland is simply because each one ... Ashland Contemporary Theatre, Theatre Convivio ... has its own mission and its own atmosphere."
What: "Leave It On the Stage"
When: Opens Thursday, July 3, with performances set through July 20
Where: Oak Street Dance Studio, 1287 Oak St., Ashland
Tickets: $10, available at tftmtheatre.com, Paddington Station 125 E. Main St., or at the door
Thanks for the Memories will present "Leave It On the Stage," a two-character drama that tells the story of two dancers and their endeavor to become better performers. Written and directed by Peter Wickliffe, it's the story of a developing friendship between a man and a woman, as well as a tribute to such dance teams as Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Sara Gore choreographs.
Performances are set for 8 p.m. Thursday, July 3, Saturday, July 5, Monday, July 7, Fridays and Saturdays, July 11-12 and 18-19 and 1 p.m. Sundays, July 6, 13 and 20, at Oak Street Dance Studio, 1287 Oak St., Ashland. Tickets cost $10 and can be purchased at www.tftmtheatre.com, at Paddington Station, 125 E. Main St., or at the door.
Proceeds from the July 5 performance will benefit Team Alex, an Ashland-based organization committed to raising awareness about brain cancer.
Set in a small theater on the outskirts of a big city, "Leave It On the Stage" has a contemporary feel and a nostalgic nod to the '30s and '40s.
"Very much so as far as the dance styles and music that we've chosen for the production," Wickliffe says. "As our characters work out a dance routine, they meld styles together. You'll see routines that the choreographer has borrowed from Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Gene Kelly and Donald O'Connor."
Music for the show will include such tunes as Michael Buble's version of "Dream a Little Dream," Frank Sinatra's "Funny Valentine" and "I Won't Dance," and "Dancing in the Street" by Martha Reeves and the Vandellas.
In the story, Mike (Wickliffe) and Holly (Marci McComas) agree to rehearse a dance routine after a chance meeting.
"Mike is a stickler for perfection, and Holly tends to go with the flow and live in the moment," Wickliffe says. "It's ironic because Mike is the weaker of the two dancers. He enjoys dancing but doesn't care to be in the spotlight, while Holly loves to perform in front of audiences. There's an interesting dynamic between the two. Despite their differences and a lot of initial head-butting, a friendship between them starts to blossom."
Mike and Holly are two very different people but with similar hearts. They enjoy each other's company and the friendly, at times flirtatious, banter. There are moments of conflict that are sometimes dramatic and sometimes awkwardly funny.
"When I wrote this play, I was trying to tell a story of a friendship, something intriguing and relevant. I really do believe that men and women can be friends, and I'm trying to illustrate how the sexes can push past romantic feelings and rest happily in a friendly relationship, supporting one another.
Wickliffe settled in the Rogue Valley in 2008 and has worked with Randall and Camelot theaters, Ashland Contemporary Theatre and the Craterian's Next Stage Repertory Company. He began working less than a year ago as a marketing associate at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.
This year, Thanks for the Memories Theatre Company plans to stage "God of Carnage," a dark comedy by Yasmina Reza, in October, and "Almost Maine," a romantic comedy by John Cariana, in December.