Once again, I find my attitude humbled at the footlights of a local stage. As with the last episode, the reckoning came at the hands (and feet and voices) of those between the ages of 12 and 19. I love being schooled by people one-fourth my age.
A couple Saturdays ago, Lane and I sat back and allowed the Teen Musical Theater of Oregon’s production of “Once Upon a Mattress” to lift us from the doldrums. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but the list did not include cleverly designed set decoration or stunning costumes, and definitely not top-shelf acting and singing abilities. But from the opening curtain, I felt as if I was watching a professional effort.
The production was a musical comedy adaptation of the fairy tale, “The Princess and the Pea.” It’s the one where a princess has to prove her authenticity by becoming sleep deprived because of a small pea under the mattress. I don’t even need the pea for that to happen, so I assume I’m a duchess at least.
Each cast member performed their role with authenticity and utter enthusiasm, not gratingly, but with charm. I couldn’t take my eyes off the movement and fun long enough to check my program for song title or actor name. I didn’t want to miss anything. I mean, you can’t stay mad at your mom or the IRS while watching one of these frolics, so it’s bound to be good for the old blood pressure, right?
The TMTO is a troupe of highly gifted young people in training for a bright future in theater. It's an integral part of the Craterian Theater at the Collier Center for the Performing Arts and we Rogue Valleyans are fortunate to have access to the performances and to have such a positive outlet for young people.
As with participation in school sports, theater practice requires dedication and time. Players invest about 20 hours per week times seven weeks rehearsing a show. And never think it doesn’t include athleticism.
Watching Princess Winnifred, played to the hilt by whirlwind Annie Craven, left me breathless as she danced, sang, hefted barbells, swam the castle moat (twice), climbed 20 mattresses, and generally cavorted over every square inch of the stage. The other principals shown equally bright. But what I love in a play with so many extras, in this case, ladies-in-waiting, knights, musicians, court dancers and royal servants, wasn’t how sweet they looked in their wonderful costumes, though they did. I watched how every one of them remained in the moment. They knew they weren’t just taking up space or so much stage dressing. They were musicians, knights, etc. with something at stake in the story, and it showed. As a theater-goer, I appreciate that attention to detail.
Theater director Constantin Stanislavski is credited as having said, “There are no small parts, only small actors.” There were no small actors in "Once Upon a Mattress.” They should all be proud.
I’m now hooked and looking forward to “Aladdin Jr.” coming up in July, with an even younger cast, and “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” this August.
On a serious note, my condolences to the family and many friends of Michael Wing, who left us unexpectedly during the production of this show. Michael had served as an enthusiastic vocal director for TMTO and many other theatrical performances around the valley. His dynamic baritone voice greatly enhanced our choral groups, and he will be missed. Heaven’s choir is all the richer. The Craterian Theater will serve as an appropriate venue for his memorial service at 2 p.m. Saturday, March 17.
— Peggy Dover is a freelance writer living in Eagle Point. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.