Rogue Theater Company to extend play runs in 2023
On the heels of a banner year with nearly every 2022 performance sold out, Rogue Theater Company this week announced its 2023 season with expanded runs, more talkbacks and casts headlined by Oregon Shakespeare Festival luminaries.
Slated to act or direct in the new season for RTC are John Tufts, Christine Albright-Tufts, Anthony Heald, Amy Lizardo, Michael J. Hume, Vilma Silva, Jeffrey King, Kjerstine Anderson and Robynn Rodriguez. Additional actors are yet to be cast.
Barry Kraft, a Shakespeare scholar and actor with 30 OSF seasons to his credit, also is on the RTC calendar. He will conduct a workshop on the Bard in May.
Runs for each play will be extended to five days a week over a three-week period at Ashland’s Grizzly Peak Winery.
“As RTC audiences grow, we are finding ourselves with more and more sold-out shows,” said artistic director Jessica Sage. “We made the decision to expand each play run because the demand is there.”
RTC’s “Every Brilliant Thing” with David Kelly, which played in early December, had more than 30 people on the wait list who didn’t get to see the performance.
Grizzly Peak Winery has two performance venues: an outdoor stage, where summer plays are performed in the round with trees providing shade for spectators, and an indoor auditorium for spring and fall performances.
New stage lighting and a state-of-the-art sound system have been installed to enhance the indoor theater experience. Varied levels of seating also were added for better sight lines.
“Rogue Theater Company and Grizzly Peak Winery continue to develop a strong partnership,” Sage said. “We share the costs of all improvements.”
The season will open in February with John Tufts in “An Iliad” with Michal Palzewitcz providing musical accompaniment and Christine Albright-Tufts directing. Performances are at 2 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday, Feb. 22-March 12, indoors at the winery.
Tufts performed the one-man show in 2021. That pandemic production was not presented in a theater, but livestreamed instead.
“I love doing one-person shows,” Tufts said. “They are a beast to memorize. The thrill, however, comes in the conversation I have with the audience, communicating directly with a group of people eager to hear a story.”
Playwright Lisa Peterson decided to adapt (with Denis O’Hare) the ancient Greek epic poem by Homer for the stage when a friend pointed out it was essentially composed as a one-person show. As a remnant of the oral tradition, it was an out-loud story; never intended to be something merely read.
Tufts and his wife have worked together before in several OSF shows, including “Romeo and Juliet,” “UP,” “Equivocation” and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” But this is their first time working together as actor and director.
Shakespeare lovers near and far can take a deep dive into his work in a two-session workshop conducted by Barry Kraft from 10 to 11:30 a.m. May 20 and 21.
“I’m excited because it’s the 400th anniversary of the printing of the First Folio, a book containing 36 different plays, 18 of which had never been seen before during Shakespeare’s life,” Kraft said. “He died seven and a half years before.”
Kraft will discuss the differences between the plays as they first appeared paper-bound and later in the folio format. “You not only get different plays but you get different wordings.”
Participants can attend in person, via Zoom or receive a video of the sessions to view at their leisure.
Two-time Tony Award nominee Anthony Heald and Amy Lizardo will appear in “Heisenberg” at 2 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday, July 12-30, outdoors at Grizzly Peak Winery. The play was written by Tony Award winner Simon Stephens and will be directed for RTC by Michael J. Hume.
The funny and tender story follows a free-spirited American woman who falls for an inhibited Englishman in London.
“The biggest challenge for me,” Lizardo said, “is that you can’t really have an off day with only two people onstage, engaged and together for 90 minutes — and sustaining that with an audience so close to you.”
Heald has done the play before but relishes revisiting the role. As a longtime repertory company performer, he is accustomed to approaching material “over and over again,” he said — “material that you’ve seen before, that you’ve done before. So we’re used to bringing prior knowledge into rehearsals.”
Heald describes the play as a totally character-driven story.
“I love looking at who I am at the beginning and who I am at the end,” he said. “That arc is so extraordinary.”
Director Michael J. Hume is happy to be a part of the production and was involved in the search for the “perfect” actress to play opposite Heald.
“It turned out to be Amy Lizardo,” Hume said, “who has terrific chemistry with Mr. Heald.”
RTC finishes its season with Annie Baker’s “Circle Mirror Transformation” at 2 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday, Sept. 13-Oct. 1.
Vilma Silva and Jeffrey King lead a cast of five, including Kjerstine Anderson, with Robynn Rodriguez directing.
Set in New England at an adult drama class, this Obie Award-winning play explores how the students reveal themselves through theater games. The New York Times called it “absorbing, unblinking and sharply funny.”
Silva, with 27 seasons at OSF, and King, with 19, are familiar to Rogue Valley audiences. Silva last performed for RTC in the 2021 one-woman show “Mala.”
“Jeff King and I have worked together on a number of shows at OSF,” Silva said. “The one that comes to mind is ‘The Taming of the Shrew’ in 2007. I had a wonderful time building that father/daughter relationship with Jeff. Now, we can bring that history to our process in building this new relationship as husband and wife.”
Silva found “Circle Mirror Transformation” a compelling read.
“As actors, we’re always digging for truth and for the freedom within ourselves to express it,” she said. “Theater games and classes usually focus on the development of an ease with honesty and flexibility. But under certain circumstances, it can be a little bit like playing with fire.”
King has been following RTC for a long time.
“I have seen so many of my friends working with Jessica (Sage), directing shows and acting in shows,” he said, “and it looked like they were having such a great time.
“I was just hoping the time would come when I would be asked to do it, too. And it did. I immediately said yes.”
King had been wanting to return to the Rogue Valley to work. “And I wanted to do the kind of work Jessica is doing,” he said.
For more information about the 2023 season and the venue or to purchase tickets, see roguetheatercompany.com or call 541-205-9190.
Reach writer Jim Flint at email@example.com.