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A new place to shine

From its polemic beginning and peripatetic odyssey from — venue to venue, Oregon Stage Works, under producing artistic director — Peter Alzado, has not only put together a smashing opening program but — will follow up with a strong subscription series.

The 2004 season opens Friday, with "Waiting for Godot" — by Samuel Beckett, directed by Janet Greek, alternating in repertory with — "Panama" by Mike Folie, directed by Caroline Shaffer, premiering Saturday. — A pre-opening dinner is scheduled for Friday at 6 p.m. and an after-opening — gala for Saturday evening.

The new theater is located in the "concert space" of the — "A" Street Marketplace, at the foot of First Street. The staging design — is flexible, with seating for between 110 and 122 people. Productions — can call upon full theater-in-the round or avenue staging. The former — open concert space has been further transformed with newly soundproofed — walls, a new floor, a heating/cooling system and bathrooms.

"The focus of Oregon Stage Works is to present classic — and new American work, concentrating on the actors and text," says Alzado. — "Obviously, as a small non-profit theater company and in this limited — space, we're not going to be able to have the production values of the — (Oregon Shakespeare) Festival. But our goal is to give the community affordable — professional theater with creative and challenging interpretations."

The first presentations, Samuel Beckett's classic absurdist — theater masterpiece, "Waiting for Godot" and the northwest premiere of — Mike Folie's road-trip comedy "Panama," do just that.

In this production of "Waiting for Godot," director Janet — Greek's says she wanted to take Beckett's deconstructionist work one step — further by casting Beckett's tramps as bag ladies (Shirley Patton and — Brandy Carson). But she hasn't adapted the play - the pronouns and imagery — remain masculine.

" casting women but not changing gender," Greek said, — "we've emphasized that this is a play about humankind, not just mankind. — And, ultimately, all we have are relationships with each other."

Greek has directed "Waiting for Godot" twice before, including — in San Francisco in the mid-1970s as her masters thesis. Both of the previous — productions also had all-women casts.

On the other hand, Mike Folie's "Panama" is described — as a road trip to California, searching for fame, fortune and enough money — to live forever - a road trip that is fractured and hilarious, leaving — tread marks all across politically correct America.

Director Caroline Shaffer says that when OSW decided to — do another play in repertory with "Godot," they looked for a play that — would relate back to the Beckett but also contrast with it. "Panama is — about living life to the fullest. It youthful, exuberant, a romp.

"I want the audience to feel that they are riding a roller — coaster, throwing their hands in the air," Shaffer says.

The two directors agree that, ideally, you should see — both plays, "Godot" first and then "Panama."

OSW's other offerings in this season's subscriptions series — will include "Lobby Hero" by Kenneth Lonergan, directed by Peter Alzado, — "The Beauty Queen of Leenane" by Martin McDonagh, directed by Bruce Hostetler, — and the holiday show "Ebenezer Who?" written by Ashland resident Paddy — Schweitzer. Also planned are a production of Michael Frayn's "Copenhagen" — to be produced in partnership with ScienceWorks Hands-On Museum and a — staged reading of Joan Holden's "Nickel and Dimed."