OCT’s Blog

The Giver Director Matthew Zrebski shares his vision for the show

Rehearsals are well under way at Oregon Children's Theatre for The Giver, opening April 26th at The Winningstad Theatre. Based on Lois Lowry's popular, and critically acclaimed, young adult novel, The Giver takes place in a society which is perfect. There is no pain or fear or struggle. But this peaceful existence comes at an enormous cost. When the main character Jonas turns twelve, he is selected to train with The Giver, the keeper of the entire community’s memories, both good and bad. Now Jonas must learn the harsh truths of what it means to live a life of sameness. 

We caught up with The Giver director Matthew Zrebski - who also directed OCT's popular production of The Lion Witch and the Wardrobe - to discuss his vision for this production.

OCT: Did you see the original OCT production of The Giver? What are you doing differently with the script, sets, and overall approach?

MZ: I did not see the first production.  I have seen some beautiful stills from the show, and wish I had!  But given I did not; I have deliberately stayed away from it as much as possible so as not to be too influenced.  I think it’s important to approach it with a fresh eye, and to offer the public a different interpretation. 

We are using extensive video in this show, as well as intense sound, and stunning stage imagery to illustrate the psychological journey Jonas goes on.  But it’s also quite simple with a fairly static set that allows the actors to move from scene to scene seamlessly.  I am a minimalist at heart, and believe in allowing the imagination of the audience to take flight. I hope to offer just enough literal imagery so that the mental imagery is most intense. A big focus is keeping these people “real human beings” as opposed to “symbols of dystopia”. The human need is a part of every conversation in every rehearsal - and not just that of Jonas, but of all the characters. This is not just about Jonas, but about how the events impact the entire community.

OCT: It must be challenging to convey Jonas' astonishment as he experiences such basic elements of life as seeing in color, snow falling or a sleigh ride for the first time. Have you given Tristan (actor Tristan Comella who plays Jonas) specific imagery to think of at the moments when the Giver shares these experiences? How will the video work to support the emotions we observe in the actor?

MZ: I have not dictated any specific imagery to Tristan.  It is every actor’s job to develop what is best for his/her process…on his/her own.  But I have certainly asked him to create such imagery – and to always find the internal visuals that most affect him emotionally.  I am pushing him to go to emotional/psychological extremes.  Tristan is an amazing young actor and is doing beautifully. In working with the designer, Jeff Kurihara, the video creations are being developed with the idea of “synapses firing”. We will be using a lot of flash imagery and quick cut sequences. The idea is not to literally represent everything, but to get the “feeling of it.”  It will be a mix of realism and metaphor/symbol.

OCT: The Giver is being released as a major motion picture this summer. How do you think OCT's live staged experience of the story will compare with watching the film? Are there elements of the story that can be communicated more effectively on stage vs. film and vice versa?

MZ: In watching the trailer and shots of the film, I can say that the OCT version is MUCH closer to the story of the beloved novel.  The film looks like an action blockbuster, and though that may be terrific fun, what the stage can do is offer a more intimate story, one where we follow Jonas from moment to moment as he discovers his truth.  Playwright Eric Coble has done a marvelous job of adapting the play so that we may do just that.

OCT: Do you have a favorite(s) moment in the show?

MZ: I certainly do not have a “favorite” moment.  But I am very excited by how we are handling the “playing war” scene, where all the kids of the community pretend to shoot each other and Jonas, not knowing what war is, is deeply affected by it.  As someone passionate about how easily we ignore violence in our culture, I think this moment is relevant in so many ways.

The Giver opens April 26th. Click HERE for tickets and show times. High School students can purchase tickets for just $10. Details HERE.

Pictures in this blog were taken during The Giver rehearsal with director Matt Zrebski and include: OCT Young Professional Actors Tristan Comella as Jonas, Nate Gardner as Asher, and Hannah Baggs as Fiona; and adult actors April Magnusson as the Chief Elder, Cecily Overman as Jonas' mother, and Andres Alcala as The Giver.

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ZOMBIE IN LOVE’s Illustrator Visits Portland for World Premiere

One of the key factors that sold OCT’s Artistic Director, Stan Foote, on adapting ZOMBIE IN LOVE for the stage were the book’s illustrations. Scott Campbell’s charming drawings made Mortimer the zombie come alive … again.  The production’s director, Marcella Crowson, and production designers were inspired by the illustrations when conceiving of the sets and costumes. The worms that form the chorus in our musical were modeled on the dozens of worms that appear throughout the original book.

So you can imagine our delight to have Scott C. (as he’s known in the comics world) come to Portland to see our world premiere last weekend.  After watching the show on Saturday, Scott stuck around to sign and illustrate books and programs for fans. 

We’re pleased to report that Scott C. gave our production an enthusiastic  review on his blog

In honor of Scott C’s visit, OCT invited a few local illustrators and comic artists to see the show with him.  The group got a pre-show backstage tour to learn how the show was put together and to see the sets and props up close.

We then encouraged our artistic guests, Lucy Bellwood, Mike Russell, and Graham Annable, to sketch their impressions during the show.  After the performance, the audience and cast members gathered around to gawk at the amazing results.  .

We will be hanging the original drawings in the lobby for the remaining two weekends of the run, but you can take a look them now by clicking on the artist's name below:
LUCY 
MIKE
GRAHAM

 Remember, these were all sketched quickly while the artists watched the show! 

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Meet “Zombie in Love” Illustrator Scott Campbell at this Saturday’s 5PM Performance!

If the title, “Zombie in Love,”  isn’t enough to make you smile, surely Scott Campbell’s whimsical illustrations for the book by Kelly DiPucchio will endear you to the book’s protagonist, Mortimer.

This Saturday, March 8th, OCT is delighted to welcome the acclaimed illustrator to Portland to see our world premiere adaptation.  Not only will Scott C. (as he’s known to comics fans) attend the shows that day, he’ll be sketching his take on the production during  the 5:00 performance.  Our friends at A Children’s Place Bookstore will be selling books in the lobby before and after both performances. Scott C will be on hand following the 5pm show to sign your copy!

Wait, there’s more!  We’ve also invited four of the top Portland-based illustrators and comic artists to join Scott C. for the live sketch-fest during the 5:00 show. You’ll get a chance to see what they come up with and chat with them after the show.  We’ll be posting their drawings on our website and Facebook page as well. Our guest artists are:

Scott C.  

Lucy Bellwood  

Dylan Meconis  

Terri Nelson

Mike Russell

Lucy, Dylan, and Terri are all members of Periscope Studio, a collective of cartoonists, illustrators, writers, concept designers, graphic novelists, and storyboard artists based in downtown Portland, Oregon.  Mike Russell draws the comic strip “CulturePulp” for the Oregonian, where he also contributes film and other reviews.

http://periscopestudio.com/

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From the Outside Looking In

FROM THE OUTSIDE LOOKING IN
by Thom Hilton

Recently I got together with director Marci Crowson, music director Darcy White, and choreographer Sara Martins, the creative dream-team behind OCT’s premiere musical Zombie in Love to talk about the process of developing a brand new production.

Thom: First off, what is the editing process like from the first draft to the final product?

Marci Crowson [director]: We’ve gone through probably three or four different drafts and all of them have been pretty radically different. It's always been about going back to the book, and wanting to tell the story of Mortimer, and really keep the heart of the story authentic to what the book feels like.

Thom: What about the process of songs being cut, added, or replaced?

Marci: Those decisions about what songs went away were really the composers' [Michelle Elliott and Danny Larsen] choices … There was a song in an early draft at the very end of the play that was really, really funny and a great song … But it was one we ultimately concluded, " I’m not sure that that’s what we wanna say at the very end.”

(Marci then goes on to talk about a duet between Mortimer and Mildred that was cut after being used throughout the show’s audition process and developmental workshop.)

Marci: There was one song that we hated losing, called ‘Idaho,’ that is gorgeous. But Danny and Michelle created a new song that musically keeps a lot of those same tones, and emotionally is exactly what needs to happen at that moment. So I really applaud them for not being precious about their work … They’ve really been willing to make those hard decisions to serve the larger story.

Thom: What about from a technical standpoint? How do you figure out when it’s right to change keys and tempos?

Marci: There are always things that you can’t learn until you’re rehearsing, and until you have the show cast. Danny and Michelle have been really wonderful about working with Darcy to find moments where we can push Blake’s [actor Blake Peeble portraying Mortimer] range. But there are also moments we've made changes to get the best out of the song.

Darcy White [music director]: I started working with Blake a little bit before rehearsals officially started. We changed keys on a couple of numbers to sit better in his range [and] to make a positive impact for him and not affect the other singers. We discussed whether or not it would impact [the composer’s] vision of how the character would sing and when it was determined that it wouldn't, he made the changes. We have given input regarding hearing cues more clearly, some tempo change suggestions, transition music extensions, etc.

Marci: To their credit, again, they’ve been very receptive to saying “Oh yeah, let’s find a solution to that! Oh, you need transition music? Let me write something for you!”

Thom: What is it like watching the rehearsal process and communicating with the writing team to make this the best possible thing it can be?

Darcy: (who has worked with Marci and Sara before, says that they make a good team): We each bring a different sense to the production and communicate well together. Although as the director, Marci has the final say, Sara and I both are comfortable exploring ideas as a group and always feel heard and respected from auditions through opening night… Each of us watches the run with a different focus. We all see the big picture, but I'm listening intently for all four parts being sung clearly and in balance, Sara is watching movement, and Marci -- well, Marci just watches everything!!!!

For choreographer Sara Martins, it always starts from the ground up: Normally when we do a musical, the director and musical director have tangible source material to work with as both a starting point, and something to adhere to. There's a preexisting script and score. So while there is still a great deal of room for interpretation and artistic choices, they have existing material to work with.

With choreography, I always have to kind of start from scratch. There's no annotated movement vocabulary that gets handed to me, so it's always a matter of looking at the script, listening to the score, and working with the director to figure out what story needs to be told with the movement, what logistics have to happen in a musical number, and what we'd like to see stylistically. Then it's up to me to build the choreography and create a world within the play that tells the story, works well with the music, and provides visual interest.

Working on a new piece like Zombie is an adventure. Throughout the rehearsal process, the play continues to evolve as we see what works and what doesn't, and how improvements could be made. That's really unique. As a creative team, it means that our process is much more liquid, and even more collaborative than usual. It's such an exciting process.

Thom: Was there ever a specific style of music you really wanted to be established in this Zombie world?  
                         
Marci Crowson: We did not overly steer them about the style of the music. We knew that we wanted to use young performers. So we wanted it to feel exciting and relevant and modern and I think they’ve done a really good job of kind of blending styles of music in a way that feels really fresh. But you do hear influences from older styles. I have to give full credit to them for kind of tapping into the style of the music because we really let them run with that. … It’s an interesting piece because there is such pathos with Mort’s struggle to find love, but it’s also incredibly funny. The illustrations evoke emotion but they’re also hilarious in all their detail with the worms and arms falling off and things like that. You wanna serve the humor. With a play like this, and especially with zombies, which I have a special affection for, it’s really easy to kind of go with the sense of both the macabre and the hilarious.

Thom: Even in trying to describe the show I have a difficult time because it’s so intricate. It’s a show about zombies, but it’s not, because it’s a show about high school kids. It’s a rock musical, but it’s really not. It’s just so many different things and it’s so crazy-detailed, just  like the book. It’s so different and weird and fun and it resonates with so many different types of people.

The writing/composing duo behind it all, Danny Larsen and Michelle Elliott, have written a pretty broad range of musicals. Their previous work shows that they were the right ones to capture the story of Mortimer. Not only are they experienced in the realm of children’s theatre (Velma Gratch and the Way Cool Butterfly) but they also are getting a lot of attention writing for the contemporary young outsider. The protagonist in their musical The Yellow Wood is a high school student dealing with attention-deficit disorder, and their hit new musical web series The Hinterlands deals primarily with the topic of gay bullying.

Marci: They’ve also translated it into a new world, into a high school, which I think is really wonderful … As we’ve been in rehearsal, it makes so much sense in that world. There’s so much to say about young people, especially right now, feeling ‘other than’ and not really feeling accepted. Mort is such a great metaphor for that idea of being different. It’s not about him finding a date. It’s really about him finding acceptance and love. It’s a lofty thing for a story about zombies, but it’s really special that way. It’s something like Little Shop of Horrors. It’s about a guy trying to find love and acceptance who has been rejected for being different all of these years. It’s set in a world of classic horror and camp, but you go on an emotional journey as well. It’s about finding something real and authentic in that. They’ve struck a really interesting balance that way.


Zombie in Love runs March 1-23rd at the Winningstad Theater. Click HERE for show times and ticket information!

About Thom Hilton:
Thom Hilton is a first-year OCT Young Professional, and a member of the Zombie in Love cast. Previously this season Thom starred as Jack in OCT's West Coast premiere of The Magic Tree House: A Night in New Orleans and as radio announcer Raymond Leigh in the OCT Young Professionals production A WWII Radio Christmas. 

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Life As A Baby Spider

Oregon Children’s Theatre casts actors of many ages, and Charlotte’s Web features some of our youngest to appear on the main stage! The actors who play the baby spiders are the same age as many of the students who’ll be seeing the performance. We asked Ethan Thompson, a second grader at Corbett Elementary School, a few questions about what it’s like to be acting in an OCT show for the first time.

OCT: Had you done any acting before getting cast as a baby spider?

Ethan: Yes. I took a bunch of classes at Oregon Children's Theatre. I was in a play in Mrs. Lilly's Class [at Corbett Elementary] and I was in Footloose [at Corbett Children’s Theatre] but I didn't have any lines.

OCT: Tell us a little bit about rehearsal. How much do you rehearse before the play opens? How do you learn your lines?

Ethan: I rehearsed a bunch.  My lines were easy to remember.

OCT:  What part of being a baby spider are you most excited about?

Ethan: Being on the big stage, and I get to jump over a fence.

OCT: If you were Charlotte, what word would you decide to weave into your web and why?

Ethan: “Awesome” because Wilbur is awesome.

OCT: Who is your favorite character in Charlotte's Web?

Ethan: Wilbur.

OCT:  What advice would you give kids your age who are interested in getting involved in acting? 

Ethan: Work hard and take classes.

OCT:  Anything else you'd like to share with the teachers and students who'll be seeing the play?

Ethan: Thank you for coming!

Ethan Thompson is 7 years old and a second grader at Corbett Elementary School. He is very excited to perform on OCT’s big stage. In his free time, Ethan likes to play Legos and Pokemon.

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Behind the Scenes at Charlotte’s Web

Lava Alapai who directed Locomotion for OCT’s 2011/12 season, returns to the helm for Charlotte’s Web - opening January 18th at the Newmark Theatre. While observing a recent rehearsal, it was clear that Lava brings a refreshingly simple take on EB White’s classic tale. There are no zip-up pig costumes in this production. 

Actors use their physicality and voices to take on animal personas. Characters are framed with simple props – a nose, or wings, or combat boots.  The cast works in the spirit of a true ensemble, supporting each other as actors, and as members of a farm, several portraying multiple roles - animal and human. With a few delighted wiggles and a twinkle in his eye, JJ Pen [recently seen as James in NWCT's James and the Giant Peach] magically transforms into that affectionate runt of a pig, Wilbur. Appropriately the only extravagant characterization is of Charlotte herself, portrayed by OCT’s YP Company member Claire Aldridge. An accomplished aerial artist, Claire (Charlotte) will be spinning her magical messages suspended by silk fabric.

We caught up with Lava following rehearsal:

OCT:  What is different about this staging of the work? Is there anything unusual about the costuming for the animals, for example? Is there anything about the staging that connects to your experience as a puppeteer?

LAVA: I’m actually not sure what’s unusual about this staging since I have never seen it on stage before.
I think I like to include the audience when telling stories on stage. I am not big on hiding the fact that we are in a theatre. Characters will often transform into other characters on stage. I tend not to have black outs and the set and lights are often a character in the play. I think that part speaks to me as a former puppeteer.

OCT: Do you have a favorite moment in the show? 
LAVA: (laughs) Yes, I have a favorite moment...It changes as the actors change and develop the characters.

OCT: What messages do you hope audience members come away with from the
show?
LAVA: Messages? Life is beautiful. All of it. And magic and miracles exist all around us, all we need do is look.

Click HERE to see more rehearsal photos.

Charlotte’s Web runs January 18-February 16th at the Newmark Theatre in downtown Portland. Click HERE for showtime and ticket information

About Lava Alapai - Lava is originally from Honolulu, Hawaii and received her MFA at the California Institute of the Arts. Along the way Lava became proficient at puppetry. She finished a puppetry tour in Portland Maine, went home to Hawaii and applied for another job in Portland. She got the job and only then discovered she was going to Portland Oregon instead. Tears of Joy Puppet Theatre brought her here and she hasn’t left. Locally Lava has performed for Stumptown Stages (most recently as the lead in Rent), Portland Playhouse, Defunkt Theatre, Portland Center Stage and Many Hats Collaboration. Lava is "over the moon" about returning to OCT for this production of Charlotte's Web. 

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OPB’s Kayo Lackey Coaches YPs in Japanese Dialect for WWII Radio Christmas

In the upcoming OCT Young Professionals Company production A WWII Radio Christmas, several vignettes are performed depicting stories of people who were affected by the war. One such story is that of Pearl Saito, an American-born girl with Japanese parents who is forced to move into an internment camp.

Towards the end of the scene, the actors portraying Pearl's parents speak in Japanese while Pearl translates. To capture the authentic sound she needed for the production, director Sharon Mann looked to OPB's Kayo Lackey, who came in to work with the cast members.

Adie Fecker, who plays Pearl in the show, said that the session with Kayo was very helpful because she worked with the actors to understand “not just the language but the culture as well. There are a lot of nuances in the language that we'd be lacking if we simply memorized the lines. Even though I don’t speak Japanese [in the show] it was still very interesting to listen. It definitely helped me learn my cues to know what some of the words meant. That helped me connect more with what they were saying.”

“She was kind, patient, and very helpful,” says Maeve Stier, who plays Pearl’s mother. Maeve had had previous experience speaking Japanese, which “made the accent a lot easier and the sounds a lot simpler to master.”

For the three young actors, it was their first time working with a dialect coach. The unique cadence and inflections of Japanese definitely presented challenges. Jack Levis, who plays Pearl’s father, said that learning his lines was very hard at first, but that Kayo helped ease him into the language by reading the lines aloud and writing them out phonetically for practice.

  “The Japanese language is very flowing and smooth when you speak it,” says Levis. “(It) was very limiting when I was performing because there are not many ups and downs. But now that I've had some time to work with it, it is coming much more easily!"
 

Come see Maeve, Jack, Adie, Pearl Saito’s Story, and more this December in A WWII Radio Christmas. Click HERE for show times and ticket information.

photo: Actress Maeve Stier at a recent rehearsal for A WWII Radio Christmas

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OCT Bully Project Playwrite Workshop Highlights

The Bully Project, OCT’s anti-bullying playwriting contest for middle school students, is entering its second year. Middle school students are invited to submit original 10-minute plays with anti-bullying themes. OCT will select six finalists to work with local playwright mentors to revise and craft their scripts which will be performed as a staged reading at the Winningstad Theatre in May 2014.  Playwright Matt Zrebski with Max Morter, last year's first place Bully Project winner

Because the vast majority of last year’s contest entrants were first-time playwrights, OCT recently held an introductory workshop taught by professional playwright, director and educator Matt Zrebski. The workshop focused on the differences between writing a play and other creative writing, character development, crafting dialogue, setting, and how to incorporate social issues, such as bullying in meaningful and powerful ways.

Did you or a middle-schooler you know miss the workshop? We caught up with Matt afterwards and he shared some insights for first-time playwrights, as well as a writing exercise he taught during the workshop:

What advice would you give someone who’s writing a play for the first time?

The most important thing to consider when writing a play is that the action is happening on a stage.  In film or on television, it's easy to jump from location to location and moment to moment through editing.  On stage, it's best to keep things as minimal as possible. Only use what is absolutely necessary to tell the story.  For short plays, I always recommend a single theatrical setting.  This avoids scene changes and blackouts that often take the audience out of the story.  You want their attention the entire time, and you want your focus to be on the relationships between the characters - not on unnecessary location changes.

What’s a good way to begin writing?

To start writing, begin with a question.  For instance, what is a question that you have, surrounding the issue of bullying?  A straight forward example is:  "What makes a person behave this way?"  And then the play becomes an exploration of that question.  It's important to be curious about the themes you choose to explore.  When stuck, always ask a new question - about the theme, or a character, or about how you want an audience to react.  Questions always lead to more writing as you grapple with the many potential answers.

BUILDING A CHARACTER (writing excercise)

Consider the following list when creating a fictional character.  The goal is to know them as well as you know yourself or a close friend/relative.  The more you know about a character, the more easily they will "speak" when you write dialogue.  Not all the information will be in the play - but it's important you know all about them. Before you start writing your actual script, consider jotting down the following about one or more of the characters in your play:

1. Their name / age
2. Their occupation / education
3.  Describe their family life.
4. What are their joys?
5.  What are their emotional wounds?
6.  Describe a secret they think no one knows. 

Script submissions are due January 3rd, 2014. Click HERE for more information about the contest, the prizes, and to download your application.

Photo: Playwright Matt Zrebski with Max Morter, last year's first place Bully Project winner
 

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Meet “Magic Tree House” Music Director Mont Chris Hubbard

Oregon Children’s Theatre is thrilled to have Mont Chris Hubbard on board as the Music Director for our upcoming jazz musical production Magic Tree House: A Night in New Orleans. We caught up with him earlier this month to learn more about the very important role of the music director, what happens at rehearsal, and the play's jazz music, composed by R&B artist Allen Toussaint.

OCT: Tell us a little bit about what a musical director does for a production.

Mont Chris: Well, I'm responsible for every musical aspect of the show. I help choose the actors to hire, and make sure they learn the music. Even though the music is all written out by composers, I still have to make decisions about how to interpret the music to best suit our production. That can mean anything from singing a song faster or slower, cutting or adding bars of music, or changing the key of a song to make it easier for an actor to sing. For a production of our size, a music director also is responsible for accompanying rehearsals on the piano. Finally, I pick the musicians who will be in the band and rehearse them, both with and without the actors.

OCT: What instruments, musical effects and styles can students expect to see on stage?

Mont Chris: The band is a very standard small jazz combo: piano, banjo, bass, drums, trombone, trumpet, and sax/clarinet. The music is a blend of older jazz styles – there is some ragtime, blues, swing, and dixieland. The show takes place in 1915 New Orleans, so most of the music you hear will be in styles that were popular then and there.

Magic Tree House A Night in New Orleans Cast and Band from Oregon Children's Theatre on Vimeo.

OCT: Right now, we're about a month away from The Magic Tree House opening. What does your job look like right now to get the play ready?

Mont Chris: We are deep in rehearsals – I sit at the front, at the piano, accompanying. We are doing some full run-throughs of the show, and then we stop and focus on fixing problem spots. There are some tricky vocal harmonies, so we spend time really tightening those up and making them sound awesome.

OCT: Do you have a favorite song, instrument or moment from The Magic Tree House you’d like to tell us about?

Mont Chris: I think my favorite moments are the Dixieland tunes, when all the instruments are playing in a big joyous mix of melodies and timbres!

OCT: What’s the most challenging part about the musical direction for this play?

Mont Chris: Besides being at the theater at nine o’clock in the morning?

OCT: What instruments do you play?

Mont Chris: Piano is my main instrument – I’ve been playing for more years than some of your teachers have been alive! I play other instruments just for fun – accordion, baritone ukulele, and recorder. 

OCT: What are you up to when you're not rehearsing at OCT?

Mont Chris: I music direct at other theaters in the Portland area, and I also perform around town, both solo and with bands. I am currently producing a monthly variety show called the Mont Chris Hubbard Bonus Show that gives me the opportunity to push myself as a performer.

OCT: What would you tell students who are interested in pursuing a career in theater or music?

Mont Chris: If you want to have a career in music, I highly recommend becoming literate [in music]. Being able to read music will make your work so much easier – it will let you learn music faster, understand it better, and speak the same language as your musical peers. Basic/intermediate piano skills are also very useful for all musicians, not just pianists. The same is true of singing – if you can play and sing any melody put in front of you, you will have a huge advantage over other musicians.

The other recommendation I have is to listen to and see as much theater and music as you can! Go to plays, go to concerts, and expose yourself to new work!

---

Mont Chris is a composer, music director, and performer based in Portland, Oregon. His band Scotland Barr & The Slow Drags won the 2011 Portland Music Award for Album of the Year for their final offering, We Will Be Forgotten (http://www.scotlandbarr.com). Local and national recognition include a 2013 Portland Area Musical Theatre Award for his music direction of Little Shop of Horrors (Broadway Rose Theatre Company), and a 2011 Kennedy Center ACTF Meritorious Achievement Award for his original score and musical direction of The Caucasian Chalk Circle (Lewis & Clark College).

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Javon Carter OCT “Night in New Orleans” Star Visits King School

Recently Javon Carter, who stars as Louis Armstrong in the upcoming Oregon Children's Theatre production Magic Tree House: A Night in New Orleans, visited with students at his alma mater King School to speak about his experience preparing for the role. Javon who is also a member of the Grant High football team answered questions and sang to an auditorium full of wide-eyed 3rd-5th graders. Best of all he delivered over 200 free Magic Tree House books in anticipation of the kids coming to see the performance in a few weeks. The book giveaway was made possible by special arrangement between OCT and Magic Tree House author Mary Pope Osbourne.

OCT had a chance to catch up with King teacher Kayci Murray - who worked with OCT to coordinate this special event - to learn more about the students' reactions and how they are preparing to see the show. Here is what we learned.

OCT: Can you tell us about the reading challenge that you've asked the students to participate in?

Kayci: I challenged all of the kiddos to have read at least one of the books by the time we see the play in two weeks. I broke it down for grade level: students in 3rd grade to read one of the two books and the 4th and 5th grade to read both books. I encouraged the students to read them at school during their independent reading time.

OCT: Why do you think an event like that is helpful for kids before they come to see a play?

Kayci: I believe that it is important for students to add relationship to anything that they are a part of. It is developmentally crucial for them to continue to build positive relationships with people that come into their lives. Having Javon come in allowed our students to see the possibilities of what they can aspire to in high school. Javon is such a positive and well-rounded young man. He serves as a wonderful role-model for students younger than him as well as his own peers.

OCT: What kind of feedback did you get from the kids about either the Q&A with Javon or the free books?

Kayci: The kids really enjoyed spending the time with Javon. They all seemed star-struck and so intrigued with him. It was so sweet to see. They shared with me that they really liked that he talked to them for as long as he did and how cool they thought he was.

OCT: Do you have a sense for how many of the kids this will be their first theater experience?

Kayci: I would estimate that over 50% of our students have gone to no more than 1 play in their lives. However, we have a pretty strong drama department and a large amount of students have been involved in drama in some form or another.

OCT: Anything else you'd like to add?

Kayci: Thank you so much for working with us to make this event happen. It was really a wonderful experience to have a former student come in and pridefully share who he is and what he is doing with younger students. The book giveaway was icing on the cake to a fantastic field trip ahead. 

Thank YOU Kayci - we hope your students have a wonderful time at the show!

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Zombie Fashion - YP Workshop with Costume Designer Emily Horton

Oregon Children's Theatre's rigorous Young Professionals program introduces aspiring actors to all areas of theater production. In a recent 2-hour workshop, Costume Designer Emily Horton discussed the process for developing costumes for OCT's Zombie in Love. The YPs had a chance to test some costume ideas of their own using dolls and fabric swatches. 

Costume design requires many talents among them an artistic and collaborative mind, attention to detail, a love of history and the resourcefulness to create a professional looking production on a tight budget.

In the beginning Emily immerses herself in the script to get a sense of place, time and mood. She researches source material for the particular period and region. This initial exploration is followed by a meeting with the production's Director to understand her vision of the script - in this case Zombie in Love Director Marcella Crowson.

 

Following this preliminary research Emily begins listing materials needed for costumes and accessories, fabric sources, timeline and costs to set a budget. A color palette is created to define each character. Pencil sketches are then made for each character and there is another meeting with the Director to make sure the look is in line with her thinking. 

At last full color renderings are created and the process of fittings and constructing the costumes begins. More fittings and dress rehearsals may result in alterations to a look – lighting and set design can create unanticipated problems. At this stage a designer is never without a notebook, sewing kit, and a fresh mind to dream up creative solutions on the spot. To be at her best Emily stresses that “sleep is important!”

In the workshop the YPs used dolls and fabric swatches to create their own costume concepts for Zombie in Love.  Among them were several versions of the main character Mortimer which illustrate the impact of costume design on a show: a traditional take from the book Zombie in Love, a baroque era look, and even a 1970’s disco approach. 

What will the real Zombie in Love costumes looks like? The early sketches are currently being developed for the production which opens March 1st at the Winningstad Theatre. We plan to share the process with you right here as it unfolds. Look out for these wonderful dolls on display at the show!

 

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Free Lois Lowry Talk

LOIS LOWRY
FREE PUBLIC TALK
Sunday, April 28 at noon

Winningstad Theatre
 

Join acclaimed Newbery-Award-winning author Lois Lowry for a free public talk in conjunction with the world premiere of Gathering Blue.

Gathering Blue is based on Lowry's book by the same name and is part of the popular series of books that includes The Giver, Messenger, Gathering Blue, and Son.

Playwright Eric Coble and Director Stan Foote will also join Lois for a Q & A.

GET TICKETS TO SEE THE PLAY! There are is a Gathering Blue performance following the talk at 2pm. Additionally the play runs through May 19th.

Please note that Lois will not be available for book signing.

 

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Gathering Blue Book Group

Join OCT and Multnomah County Library for a Gathering Blue book group

April 20, 2pm - 3pm
Multnomah County Library - Central
801 SW 10th Ave, Portland, OR 97205

Gathering Blue, by acclaimed young adult author Lois Lowry, is part of the popular The Giver Series, and the play makes its world premiere on stage at Oregon Children's Theatre April 27 - May 19. Youth librarian Ruth Allen will lead the group in an hour-long discussion about the book's themes, characters, and reflections about society. Participants are also encouraged to read the other books in the series: The Giver, Messenger, and Son (just released). Participants will also be entered to win tickets to see the play.

To join the group, send an email to sharon@octc.org.

Learn more about the play here

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Pink Santa photos

If you had photos taken with pink Santa over Thanksgiving weekend, here's how to find them.

 

  1. Click here to go to the gallery.
  2. Enter the password "pink" -- all lower case.
  3. Find the date and time of the show you attended. Click on that gallery.
  4. Find your photo and click on the thumbnail image.
  5. Click add to cart
  6. To select the FREE download option → click on the "downloads tab" and select the "small" version
  7. To purchase prints or other gifts, click on the prints or products tab.

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Pick the Pinkalicous Cupcake Flavor!

Our partners at Cupcake Jones will be offering limited-edition Pinkalicious cupcakes again this year. And they need your help to decide what the flavor will be!

Give us your pinkest flavor favorites and ideas in the comments section below.

We will select 3 winners to attend the flavor selection event on Monday, October 22nd at 6:00pm at Cupcake Jones.

CONTEST DETAILS:

  • Contest ends at noon on Wednesday, October 17th.
  • Winners will be chosen and notified by 5pm on October 17th.
  • Each winner can bring up to two guests each.
  • Winners must be available on Monday, October 22nd at 6pm. The event takes place at Cupcake Jones (307 NW 10th Ave in the Pearl Distric).
  • Winning flavor entries may not actually be part of the selection process.

FOLLOW THE FLAVOR RESULTS ON FACEBOOK
SIGN UP FOR OUR EMAIL LIST

Pinkalicious: The Musical
November 10 - December 9

Newmark Theatre
PINK FRIDAY! Join us for a special 11am performance on the Friday after Thanksgiving (11/23). Shop the Black Friday sales, enjoy the downtown festivities, and get your photo taken with pink Santa!
http://www.octc.org/onstage/pinkalicious

Posted in 2012-2013 Season | 17 Comments »

Living Social Deal - If You Give a Mouse a Cookie

We've partnered with Living Social Families Edition to bring you a great deal on tickets to If You Give a Mouse a Cookie over Memorial Day weekend! Please read the information below to make sure you redeem your tickets correctly.

1) Receive your voucher via email from Living Social

2) STARING FRIDAY, MAY 11th,  call or visit our box office at 1939 NE Sandy Blvd., Portland, OR 97232
    503-228-9571
    Monday - Friday 9am - 5pm
    You need to redeem your voucher NO LATER THAN Friday, May 25th at 5pm

3) We will mail your tickets or hold them for pick up at the Newmark Theatre on the day of your show.

4) Performance time is 2pm on both Saturday and Sunday. The play is at the Newmark Theatre, which is located at 1111 SW Broadway at Main St., in downtown Portland, next door to the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall.

5) Plan your visit! Click here for helpful information on restaurants and parking.

Posted in 2011-2012 Season, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie | 0 Comments

OPEN HOUSE!

YOU'RE INVITED TO OUR OPEN HOUSE!
Saturday, March 17th • 10am - 2pm

1939 NE Sandy Blvd. Portland, OR 97232

The boxes are unpacked, the dust has settled, and classes and rehearsals are underway! It's time to celebrate with a neighborhood open house.

Join us for a day of class samplers, performances, and tours of our new space. Plus, register for spring or summer Acting Academy classes, buy tickets to an upcoming performance, and enjoy complimentary cupcakes from Cupcake Jones.

PLUS:
• Register for Acting Academy classes and save 10%
• Ticket discounts on upcoming plays
• Door prizes!

PARKING: On-street parking surrounding the building.Parking lot 2 blocks south at NE 20th and Davis

SCHEDULED EVENTS

CLASS SAMPLERS
Classes run concurrently at 10:15am / 10:45am / 12:30pm / 1:00pm

Celebrate Singing for younger kids with Mindy Dillard (up to age 7)
Explore Acting with skill-building games (ages 8-11)
Stage Combat for older kids with John Armour (ages 12+)

Impulse Performances
11:15am and 1:30pm
Let the Young Professionals tickle your funny-brains (not your funny-bones... they hate clichés!) with a demonstration of improv based on your suggestions and their ingenuity!

Posted in 2011-2012 Season | 0 Comments

OCT IS MOVING!

Same great classes, same great teachers, exciting new location.

Our Acting Academy studios and administrative offices are moving from our longtime downtown home in the Galleria building to vibrant inner NE. We will be open for business at the new location the week of January 9th. We can’t wait to welcome you to our beautiful new space. Our mainstage plays will continue to be held downtown at the Newmark and Winningstad Theatres.

OCT ACTING ACADEMY'S NEW ADDRESS: 1939 NE SANDY BLVD

Nestled between the Laurelhurst and Buckman neighborhoods, and the Lloyd District; and just minutes from downtown, our new location features:

• 2 beautiful, custom-built acting studios
• 1 media studio dedicated to film/camera work, vocal work, and coaching
• A 100-seat black box theater
• Free parking
• Secure check in and check out
• Parent waiting rooms
• And more!

You can count on the same exceptional selection of classes and instructors at our new location, and with more studio space, we look forward to offering even more opportunities for our students!

As always please don't hesitate to call us with questions! 503-228-9571 x2   

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Pinkalicious Audience Reviews

Have you seen Pinkalicious: The Musical? What did you think? Use the comments section to let us know what you thought, your favorite parts, etc. We appreciate your feedback!

 

Posted in 2011-2012 Season, Pinkalicious: The Musical, Featured | 0 Comments

Ask Pinkalicious a Question!

Do you have a question for Pinkalicious? Ask it here in the comments section and we'll select a few to have her answer on stage. Everyone who asks a question will be entered to win a $20 gift certificate to Cupcake Jones!

 

Posted in 2011-2012 Season, Pinkalicious: The Musical, Featured | 7 Comments »

Job Posting: Stage Manager: Short-term

The Educational Theatre Program--a collaboration of Oregon Children's Theatre and Kaiser Permanente--is seeking a stage manager for a 20 week tour.  The performance tours to elementary schools in Northwest Oregon and Southwest Washington with no overnight stays.  A clean driving record, comfortability driving an extended-size van, and early mornings are all requirements of this position.

Rehearsals begin in December; performances run January - June.  This is a paid position. Previous experience with  stage management is preferred, touring experience is a bonus.

To be considered for this position, please send a cover letter and resume to tony@octc.org no later than Friday, October 21.

Please direct all questions to tony@octc.org. For more information on ETP's programs, visit our website:  www.etpnorthwest.org

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Pick the Pinkalicious Flavor!

Enter to win the chance to pick the Pinkalicious cupcake flavor!
Thursday, October 13th at Cupcake Jones (307 NW 10th Ave)

6:30pm - 7:30pm

Cupcakes Jones is the official cupcake sponsor for Pinkalicious. Starting October 15th they will be selling limited-edition Pinkalicious cupcakes.

One lucky winner and 9 of their closest friends and family (adults and kids welcome) will help select the Pinkalicious cupcake flavor.

To be eligible you must comment on this post with a valid email address.

Deadline to enter is Sunday, October 9th at midnight. Winner must be available on Thursday, October 13th at 6:30. Winner will be notified on Monday, October 10th.

 

Posted in 2011-2012 Season, Pinkalicious: The Musical | 140 Comments »

Acting Academy: YP Intensive

This past week at Acting Academy 11 of our Young Professionals (YPs) have been immersed in a class called YP Intensive. The class title pretty much says it all.  Each day brought a new instructor, a new set of skills, and 6 hours of intensive learning!

They studied classical theater with Andy Alcala; learned the language of the Viewpoints Method with Val Landrum; applied the Alexander Technique with Jacklyn Maddux; donned masks and explored Commedia Dell'Arte with Tony Fuemmeler; and directed a staged reading with OCT Artistic Director Stan Foote.



As the Marketing Director at OCT, I spend the majority of my time in the office promoting our plays and classes. During the summer, it’s a pleasure to be able to work off site for a week or two getting to know Acting Academy students and parents.

This week I was reminded again how amazing our Young Professionals are. Ranging in age from 14 - 18, they are smart, polite, mature, and a joy to be around. Their dedication to their craft is impressive! Bravo to our Education Director Dani Baldwin who manages the YP program and to all the parents of these great kids!

Learn more about the Young Professionals program here.

And be sure to catch them in Gatherings in Graveyards and A WWII Radio Christmas!

Posted in Acting Academy, Young Professionals | 0 Comments

Smarty Pants brings healthy choices to parks and community events this summer

Eating well…saving energy…bike safety. It doesn’t exactly sound like summer vacation, but kids all over Portland are laughing, learning, and earning the title “Smarty Pants,” with the Smarty Pants traveling game show.

Surrounded by fast food, bombarded with messages encouraging us to buy more stuff, living in a world where everything seems to be designed to be disposable, the choices that lead to a healthy life can get awfully confusing. 

Smarty Pants is the FREE roving arm of the Educational Theatre Program (ETP)—a partnership with Kaiser Permanente. It gives audiences of ALL AGES a chance to test their knowledge and learn new information about how to make healthy choices.  And kids are eating it up!

“I learned that skin is the largest organ.”

“I learned that you need to get 60 minutes of exercise”

With Smarty Pants, ETP has realized a goal of year-round programming. The flexible format means that groups with specific needs can request a Smarty Pants version that is tailored to their specifications; and that these important messages can reach kids outside of traditional school assemblies.

Smarty Pants can be found at select Portland Parks & Rec Summer Meals Program sites, SUN schools sites, and community centers throughout the summer. SEE SHEDULE HERE.

You can learn more about bringing Smarty Pants or an Educational Theatre Program production to your school or event by visiting http://etpnorthwest.org/. To book Smarty Pants, contact Tony@octc.org. Or call 503-228-9571 x115

Are you a Smarty Pants? 90% of the power your microwave uses is used to do what? (Scroll down for the answer.)

 

 

 

 

 

Power the clock

 

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OCT Honored For Theatrical Achievement!

Earlier this month, “A Wrinkle in Time” closed and we officially concluded our 2010-2011 season.  But before our final goodbye, we have some exciting news to share.

On June 13th, the Portland theater community gathered for the annual Drammy Awards and just one week later on June 20th, they gathered again for the Portland Area Musical Theatre Awards (PAMTA).  OCT is proud to announce that several artists from our 2010-2011 season were honored.

The 2011 Drammy Awards:

  • Outstanding Young Performer: Jack Clevenger, “A Wrinkle in Time”
  • Two of our Young Professionals, Sydney Dufka and Tyler Parker, received scholarships from the Portland Civic Theatre Guild. (We were particularly tickled when Sydney stood up in front of hundreds of theater professionals and thanked OCT for the training that gave her to confidence to stand up and "own the stage!" She owned the stage, indeed.)

 

(Photo of Stan Foote accepting Outstanding Director award by David Kinder.)

 

The 2011 Portland Area Musical Theatre Awards:

  • Outstanding Production, “Alice & Wonderland”
  • Outstanding Director, Stan Foote, “Alice & Wonderland”
  • Outstanding Musical Direction, Darcy White, “Alice & Wonderland”

Big congratulations to all the winners!

In addition, several artists that we’ve worked with won awards for productions at other companies.  We’re thrilled with their achievements and proud to be working with Portland's top theater artists!  

Thus, I present the Awards Recap—Reflected Glory Edition:

  • Vin Shambry, who was great in our productions of “Alice & Wonderland” and “How I Became a Pirate” this year, walked away with three Drammy awards: Actor in a Lead Role (“Superior Donuts”); Musical Actor in a Lead Role (“Songs for a New World”); and as a member of Ensemble (“Songs for a New World”).
  • Jeff Forbes, who designed lighting for our production “On the Eve of Friday Morning,” won a Drammy for Lighting Design (“A Chorus Line”).
  • Sara Catherine Wheatley, who played Alice in “Alice & Wonderland,” won a Drammy for Musical Actor in a Supporting Role (“The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee”).
  • Justin Mark, an OCT Young Professional and Impulse Company Member, received a Drammy for Young Performer (“Last of the Boys”).
  • Margaret Louise Chapman, who costume designed for “How I Became a Pirate,” won a PAMTA for Outstanding Costume Design (“The Christmas Revels”).
  • Annabel Cantor, an OCT Young Professional, who appeared in OCT’s “Small Steps” won a PAMTA for Outstanding Young Performer (“Annie”).
  • Roxanne Stathos, an OCT Young Professional, who appeared in OCT’s “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and “Sideways Stories from Wayside School” won a PAMTA for Outstanding Young Performer (“Find Me Beside You”).
  • Mark LaPierre, who designed lights and sound for OCT’s “A Wrinkle in Time,” won two PAMTAs for Outstanding Original Music and Outstanding Original Score (“Heart Beatings”).

 

 


 

Posted in 10-11 Season | 1 Comments »

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