Lord Leebrick

Orpheus (Peter Vergari) looks on as Eurydice (Alexis Schaetzle) and her father (Bary Shaw) talk and laugh. Photo credit Maximilian Maltz

Reconsidering Eurydice

When I heard that the Lord Leebrick Theatre extended the run of Eurydice for another weekend, I decided to go back and see it again.

The first time, I found it slow but intellectually stimulating. Since then, its emotional impact has grown, and this time I had tears running down my face just about the entire 90-minute running time. So after the jump, I ramble on about the play and the actors, some of the blocking and directing choices, what the water means, and a lot more.

Got this press release from the Lord Leebrick Theatre late last night. Exciting news! Congrats to Craig Willis and Gretchen Drew! (I'll find out more later today, I hope.)

Lord Leebrick Theatre Company Chosen As One of Twenty Professional Theatres From Across the Nation to Participate In 2010 TCG/American Express Leadership Boot Camp.

Eugene, OR— Lord Leebrick Theatre Company’s Artistic Director, Craig Willis, and Production Manager, Gretchen Drew, were selected as one of only twenty teams to participate in the 2010 Leadership Boot Camp sponsored by Theatre Communications Group (TCG) and American Express. Willis and Drew will join 38 other leaders from professional theatres across the United States for a two day intensive workshop in Chicago, IL.
The Boot Camp brings together pairs of leaders (an established leader and an emerging leader) from 20 theatres. Developed and led by the Center for Creative Leadership, the goal is to foster intergenerational dialogue, explore effective methods of communication, increase participants’ self awareness and align vision with strategy.
The selection process was very competitive with only 20 team slots available but over 60 theatres interested in attending. Participants were chosen based on the strength of applicants’ essays and on creating a “classroom” that was representative of the diversity of TCG’s membership in every conceivable way—budget size, genre of work, geographic location, cultural identification, etc.
“It was an honor to be chosen,” said Willis. “We will be working alongside some of the biggest names in our industry.” Notable participants include teams from theatres with national and international reputations, including: Yale Repertory Theatre, New York Theatre Workshop, Oregon Shakespeare Theatre, Atlanta’s Alliance Theatre, Los Angeles’ Cornerstone Theatre, and New York’s HERE Arts Center.
All expenses, including travel and lodging, for this two day workshop are covered by its corporate sponsor, American Express.

Note: This review will appear in the 3/11 Eugene Weekly.

Benjamin (Patrick Driscoll) and David (Jacob Smith) in the Lord Leebrick's The Four of Us. Photo courtesy Lord Leebrick Theatre

Friendship, Hateship, Jealousy, Writing
Love, meet success in The Four of Us

By Suzi Steffen

First of all, get over the Teddy bear.

Director Craig Willis mentioned the stuffed animal in pre-show publicity several times, and OK, it’s practically a third character in one vivid scene of Itamar MosesThe Four of Us at the Lord Leebrick Theatre.

But since it’s not a writer, the bear can’t focus on its work to the exclusion of its friends, the way young novelist Benjamin (Patrick Driscoll) can; and it can’t attempt to be happy for its friend’s success in the midst of feeling jealous, as David (Jacob Smith) ends up trying to do after Benjamin’s rocket ride to novelist superstardom.

Read more after the jump!

Note from Suzi Steffen: Freelancer Anna Grace, who teaches history at South Eugene High School, interviewed director Fred Gorelick, who teaches at North Eugene's Academy of Arts. Photos will be up soon. Photo of Richard Leebrick as Charlie Fox below, courtesy Lord Leebrick

Changes and Challenges
An interview with Fred Gorelick, director of the Leebrick’s Speed-the-Plow
by Anna Grace

Speed-the-Plow is David Mamet’s biting comedy set in fast-paced Hollywood, where massive egos reign supreme over a festering world of ambition. I was able to grab director/educator Fred Gorelick last week between school bells and final dress rehearsal for a quick chat about his upcoming production.

No, he didn’t wake up one morning in early spring with a desire to direct this tricky Mamet piece; the reason he’s the director came after a series of artistic decisions. The Lord Leebrick was slated to stage Mamet’s American Buffalo, but that play ran into casting issues. Original director Larry Fried is now in, rather than behind, the Mamet. An email appeared in Gorelick’s inbox asking him to direct, Speed was exchanged for Buffalo — and the three-person cast fell into place. Gorelick is as enthusiastic about the challenge as he is about his cast.

Mamet is mammoth among American playwrights. Gorelick likens Mamet to Shakespeare. He believes Mamet’s work to be as challenging, intimidating and wrought with expectation as the best works of the Bard. With dialogue Gorelick calls “as musical as verse, with all attendant ticks and overlaps of conversation,” Mamet has a gift for lifting true human communication out of our offices and living rooms and placing it on the stage. The task, Gorelick says, is leading his actors to connect this heightened language to their own truth.

Gorelick says, “This cast could be doing this play at any professional theater in the country.” He says he feels strongly that the actors — Fried as Bobby Gould, Zoë Grobart as Karen and Richard Leebrick as Charlie Fox — are ideally placed in this show. Particularly close to Gorelick’s heart is the work of Grobart as Karen. Mamet has never been known for his sympathetic female characters. Gorelick says, “As with all Mamet’s women, Karen is a piece of work. But Zoë handles it with inspiration and imagination”

Gorelick enjoyed the challenge. Eugene audiences were delighted by his sharp, stylish, productions of Present Laughter and West Moon Street. This staging of Speed-the-Plow has him jumping outside of his own box. “At this point in my career, I don’t need to just direct another play,” says Gorelick, who has been directing throughout the country for 37 years now. “I’ve directed every kind of show. If people pay money in a theater to see it, I’ve directed it. At this point I’m looking for remuneration that is more than financial.”

Because it’s challenge for himself, his actors and audiences, Gorelick sees Speed-the-Plow as an opportunity to teach while pushing himself creatively and leaving audiences with a Mamet comedy.

Speed-the-Plow runs at the Lord Leebrick through Feb. 6. Tix at 541-465-1506 or on the site.

This is the last weekend for the University of Oregon Dept of Theatre's Big River and the second weekend of the Lord Leebrick's Fiction. (You should hit up both if you haven't yet!)

And though I enjoy writing reviews to certain lengths for the paper (and I tend to be a reviewer who concentrates on script, larger meaning, etc.), there are always things I want to say that get cut or don't quite get in.

So, random thoughts after the jump:

Note: This review will appear in print (and in the online edition of our print paper) starting on Thursday. Fiction runs through Dec. 5; tix here or at 465-1506 (or physically at the box office!).

Michael Waterman (Dan Pegoda) and Linda Waterman (Mary Buss) in the Leebrick's Fiction

Fiction at the Lord Leebrick Theatre
The hollow years of writers’ li(v)es

Writing’s not hard labor. Those of us who state with real passion, “Writing is hard,” don’t mean that it breaks down the body like working in a factory or challenges the emotions, body and mind with a world of caprice like farming an uncertain land. No: The difficulties of writing lie within — and from where they lie, they make writers lie.

Or so it goes in the Lord Leebrick's production of Steven Dietz’s Fiction, which seems to worship at the feet of Lillian Hellman — or at least at the feet of Mary McCarthy’s famous trashing of Hellman: “Every word she writes is a lie, including ‘and’ and ‘the.’”

Fiction is blessed with a Eugene dream cast, a strong director and a fine set. Dietz has been well-praised for his writing; the man can pen wordplay and monologic dialogue with rapier skill. I’ve no doubt this script reads beautifully on the page.

(Read the rest after the jump!)

Hello, Eugene's theater-going crowd! I watched the Lord Leebrick Theatre's production of Shipwrecked! by playwright (as my compatriot in reviewing puts it, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright) Donald Margulies last Friday night at the opening.

I laughed some, and I loved parts of the first "act" (I'm not sure the play should have been divided at all, it's so short, but on the other hand, a 90-minute no-intermission play can be hard on the audience, not to mention the insanely hardworking cast of this particular play). I thought the set, the shadow puppets, the character changes and other things were almost all fantastic.

But then things hit a snag. The main character rescues a boat with three Aborigines in it, and eventually he goes with them back home to their village/town/tribe, where he becomes their ruler after impressing them with his gymnastic ability and his ability to defeat a neighboring tribe by showing off his stilt-walking prowess.

I'll paste in my review, which is also here, below.

In short, I was disturbed by the script and by some design choices, and I talked briefly with Leebrick Artistic Director Craig Willis and play director Fred Gorelick about the issues I had, so I think they are both aware of my concerns.

That said, I'd like to open up the discussion to them and to others (the actors, other audience members, etc.), so the point of this post is for people familiar with the play (here or elsewhere) to talk in the comments about the content.

If you haven't seen the play or read the script, I'd ask you to wait until you have, but please do feel free to comment once you do know more about the issues.

Photo of Ashland's downtown plaza, by Demi at Wikimedia Commons

I'm always interested in what Marty Hughley of The Oregonian has to say about the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Today in the paper and online, he has a story called "Ashland, Rogue Valley Bank on Shakespeare Festival".

Is Ashland going down? Is the Festival? What about Eugene theater? More after the jump.

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