Ashland Contemporary Theatre’s Moonlighting 2017 adds a twist to previous years' shows, presenting six new plays written by members of a local playwrights' group. Smart and poignant, the plays expose the audience to some very contemporary, very clever notions in snapshots.
Produced by Jeannine Grizzard, ACT’s new plays series traditionally has capped the season with a competition. But this year ended up as a marriage of creative convenience and cooperation, a showcase for new plays from David Copelin’s new workshop, Rogue Playwrights’ Circle.
Grizzard selected the plays for the event. Three plays were staged: “Playthings,” by Mark Saunders; “Give,” by Cynthia Rogan, both directed by Grizzard, and “Emmeline Pankhurst: Excerpt,” by Grizzard and directed by Peggy Rubin. Read but not staged were “The Other Side,” by Bob Valine and directed by Cat Gould; “Quite Contrary,” by Copelin and directed by Michael Meyer; and “It Is What It Is,” by Molly Best Tinsley and directed by Grizzard.
“Playthings,” in which three childhood dolls stored in an attic come to life on stage as the family plans to clean out the attic for a remodel, was funny and hurtful. Southern Oregon University student Alex Bringer is an experienced actor and played Babs with brilliant big eyes, a pink coat and vacuous dialogue, absolutely hilarious.
“The rehearsals for the staged script reading definitely took less prep work than I’m used to,” Bringer says. Both she and Nicholas Madtson, who played (G.I.) Joe, were totally off-book and well prepared for their roles with teddy bear Mabrie Ormes.
Rogan’s “Give” was frightening and puzzling, a futuristic, misogynistic world in which women are imprisoned for bad thoughts and actions. Cat Gould, Elizabeth Suzanne, Karen Douglas and Alex Bringer are cast as One, Two, Three and Four.
In a powerful, one-woman performance, Grizzard delivered an excerpt from her play “Emmeline Pankhurst,” a piece she's been working on with the Rogue Playwrights.
“It was a real delight to be invited into David Copelin’s group specifically so that I could develop 'Pankhurst,'” she says. “These were the people that I wanted to hear from.”
“Emmeline Pankhurst: Freedom or Death” will be fully performed at Ashland Contemporary Theatre in April 2018.
Molly Best Tinsley’s “It Is What It Is” is hilarious, and despite being a reading was fully performed by the talented Mabrie Ormes as Wanda and Karen Douglas as Joan. Their unlikely exchanges, so personal and so unexpected, are a wonderful riff on Oregon’s casual, non-committal, socially appropriate responses, “It is what it is” and “It’s all good” — even when it’s not at all.
“Playwrighting can be a very lonely profession and you’re in your own head a lot,” says Copelin of his writers group. “So putting a play into a situation where its value and energy and forward motion are all tested in a reading is invaluable. To have it happen in our own valley gives us a certain amount of credibility and is also a great compliment.”
“Moonlighting 2017: Go Rogue!” plays at 3 p.m. Friday, Nov. 17, at Grizzly Peak Winery; and 8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 18, and 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 19, at the Ashland Community Center. Tickets for Moonlighting are $15 and can be purchased at Paddington Station in Ashland, at Grocery Outlet in Medford and online at www.AshlandContemporaryTheatre.com. For more information, call 541-646-2971.
-- Maureen Flanagan Battistella is a freelance writer living in Ashland, Oregon. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.