Theatrical collaboration to benefit OSW

You might call it a new kind of Community Theater.

Take one part Oregon Shakespeare Festival, in the person of Tyrone Wilson, an OSF actor and talented youth director; mix in a handful of Ashland High School's most experienced and committed actors; and put the whole thing on display at Oregon Stage Works.

The result is "Relationship Status: It's Complicated," a performance created and presented by the (Working Title) Acting Troupe. Ashlanders will be able to see it one time only, on Sunday, August 16, 7 p.m. at OSW. The show is a benefit for Oregon Stage Works.

The performers include Jazmine Dake, Jane Excell, Aurelia Grierson, Sophie Javna, Brianna Lewis, Ford Murawski-Brown, Clementine von Radics, Uriel Wolfe-Blank and Drew Woods. The production is an experiment. Theater-goers won't see a play, exactly — they'll be watching scenes plucked from a variety of plays, held together with original narration that highlights a common theme: relationships.

The scenes were selected by the actors themselves. Each young performer was encouraged to contribute a scene or two that they really loved and wanted to be seen in.

"We asked them to come up with special scenes they were particularly fond of," said the show's producer, Nina Pieper Woods. "Because they picked the scene themselves, they already identified with it — they already had passion for it. Part of the excitement in creating this show was watching each kid say 'I really want to do this part, it is relevant to me as a teenager. This speaks to my feelings, my soul'"

The actors are equally excited.

"It's been a great experience," said Aurelia Grierson, an AHS junior whose scenes are from "Spring Awakening" and "The Rabbit Hole." "As an actor, when you get to choose what you want to work on, the work comes more to life and you're more involved. Each of us has more of a personal stake in what we're doing. And I think you'll see that show up in our performances."

This was exactly what Woods and Wilson had in mind when they put the Troupe together.

"I started to think, 'how can we give these more experienced and committed young actors a chance to do some first-rate work in the summer?'" Woods says. "I wanted to give them a chance to have a hand in the creative element of theater. So I approached Tyrone, in my opinion the best youth director in the Valley, and suggested that we start a summer theater company."

Wilson who played Joseph in the OSF production "Death and the King's Horseman," turns down a lot of the directing projects he's offered. But this one really grabbed him.

"It's a privilege to work with this group of actors," he said. "It feels to me like we've taken the group of Ashland students who are most interested, most committed and put them in one group. You can't ask for anything more than that."

The young actors appreciate the opportunity to work with Wilson.

"Tyrone is a fantastic director," Sophie Javna said. "I love working with him. He brings out the best in you. Everything he suggests is sort of what you're already thinking. He finds your impulse and brings it out of you. He's really encouraging that way."

The Sunday performance will feature a wide variety of scenes and styles. There's classical ("The Importance of Being Earnest"), modern ("Rabbit Hole"), ultra-realism and farcical elements, and even a coming-of-age scene.

"I've worked with all of these guys before," Grierson said. "The actors are already top-notch, but Tyrone has pulled stuff out of them that I've never seen before. It's amazing. I think people will love it. There's something for everyone."

"What I want is for people to watch and say 'Wow, they were so good in this,' with a tinge of appreciation and surprise," Wilson said. "I think we've done it — people are really going to be impressed."

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