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From Dreams to reality

When Richard Moeschl&

s &

Arthur&

s Dreams&

opens at Oregon Stage Works in Ashland on Monday, it will be one more milestone for a play that Moeschl wrote in 2003.

Sometimes, writing the play is the easiest part. It&

s the long road from inspiration to production that contains the challenges and the surprises.

&

I originally envisioned a trilogy about how we define our humanity &

where that definition comes from, how we live it, and what we pass on to the next generation,&

says Moeschl. (And, yes, the playwright is &

our&

Richard Moeschl: teacher, arts editor, astronomer, philosopher, founder of the Horizon Institute and in the interests of full-disclosure, an employee of the Tribune and Tidings).

Lofty aims indeed. But in writing for theater, as opposed to writing philosophy, those aims have to translate into characters, action, dialogue. Then, to reach an audience, the play must be produced.

&

Arthur&

s Dreams&

is the second play in Moeschl&

s trilogy. Each play is set within a season. The first play, &

Into the Night,&

is a musical fantasy written with Michael Mish. It is set in the past, during autumn. It is a journey through time and space on a quest to reconcile science and spirituality. It will probably have a workshop production this summer. The third play, &

Dawn Chorus,&

is two-thirds completed. It is set during the spring and summer, has the structure of a play within a play, and has the theme of rebirth and renewal.

— — — Linda Otto, LEFT, and Amanda Murphy rehearse a scene — from &

Arthur&

s Dreams&

at Oregon Stage Works.

&

Arthur&

s Dreams&

is set in the present, in winter, and explores the themes of mortality and barrenness within the context of a family&

s relationships to each other.

&

I wanted to challenge the consequences of the unexamined life,&

Moeschl says. &

I wanted to take a family that is breaking apart, dying on many levels and then sow the seeds for its rebirth. I see winter as a dead time only on the surface. Underneath, it is a time of transformation, gestation.&

Moeschl&

s tools for describing the dissolution and the transformation are not only dialogue and action but also fantasy, poetry, music and pantomime. &

Arthur&

s Dreams&

centers on Mark, a university professor of cultural anthropology; his wife Carolyn, who is a travel agent; his father Arthur, a veterinarian; his mother, Evelyn, a poet; and Mark&

s children Evan, a talented musician, and Alison, a photographer. Mark has lost his connection to all of them.

Mark&

s father may &

or may not &

be falling deeper into Alzheimer&

s disease, retreating into memories and myths. Or, as Moeschl describes it, &

going backwards in the stages of man&

s development until he is entirely sentient.&

Evelyn, the matriarch, has always found it easier to express her feelings and observations in poetry.

Mark has driven away his wife with his disconnection from anything but the mundane. He has alienated his children by belittling their talents and aspirations because they do not echo his own. Now, it is winter and Mark is isolated and alone.

Once written, Moeschl started sending &

Arthur&

s Dreams&

out to theaters, festivals and contests &

all the usual venues for getting new works produced. He asked Peter Alzado, artistic director at Oregon Stage Works, to write a cover letter for submissions. Alzado had hosted public readings of the play at OSW in the summer of 2004. The readings went so well that Alzado invited Moeschl to stage a &

workshop-ed&

production this season.

— — — Malcolm Hillgartner goes over his script during rehearsal.

With that concept, Moeschl got Paul Roland, who heads up OSW&

s &

playwright&

s unit,&

to direct. (The playwright&

s unit puts together local playwrights to read and discuss each other&

s work.) A veteran actor, director and college professor of theatre arts and media, Roland recently retired to Ashland from the Seattle area. His credits go back to the golden years of live television and some of the best of Broadway. He was attracted to &

Arthurs Dreams,&

he says, by its density, conflicts and turmoil.

&

It tries to find out what families are all about,&

says Roland. &

And, in the process, it challenges the audience to not only think about their own families but the global community as well.&

The cast includes many veterans of the Ashland theatrical scene. Malcolm Hillgartner plays Mark, Linda Otto plays Carolyn, Brandy Carson is Evelyn, Grant Shephard is Arthur, Duncan Hightower is Evan and Amanda Murphy is Alison. Also appearing are Brant Watson and Donald Stone. His technical crew is John Lee as associate director, Lisa Marie Wingvermuehle as stage manager and Steve Christensen doing the scenic projections.

What, then. is a &

workshop-ed&

production as opposed to a &

workshop&

production? In this case, it is honing the play through group effort. The playwright, the director, the cast and the technical crew all contribute to the flow and accessibility of the written word for the audience. As director Roland puts it, a workshop-ed production is a &

democratic&

process.

For example, Roland didn&

t block scenes in advance. The actors, having learned their dialogue, suggested their own entrances, exits, timing and stage positions in relationship to each other as the play was read. The technical crew was encouraged to make suggestions as well. Thus, fashioning the written play into the performed play becomes an organic exercise.

The goal, Moeschl explains, is to polish the play through each stage of the production process &

from concept, writing, dramatic reading, performance and, ultimately, audience reaction.

&

If this works as I hope it does, it will challenge the audience,&

Moeschl says. &

My goal is to show the consequences of the unexamined life and to examine the possibilities of a fully engaged human being.&

&

Arthur&

s Dreams&

plays at Oregon Stage Works in Ashland on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday at 8 p.m. through Feb. 15. For more information, call 482-2334.