Katherine Ross

Ashland Contemporary Theatre's July production, "Local Produce 2," featured veteran actress Katherine Ross. Ross graduated from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in 1955 and recently earned a master's in psychology from Southern Oregon University. She currently co-facilitates grief groups at WinterSpring Center in Medford. Katherine freely admits to being an octogenarian. We lunched on the patio at Blue: Greek on Granite in Ashland.

EH: What is it about theater that is so magnetic?

KR: It's make-believe. People love make-believe. That is why I love Ashland. You can be walking down any street, and get into little playlets with people, just on the spur of the moment. That happens all the time in this town. It's a great town to be in.

EH: And on a global level?

KR: People need it. People's lives are generally dull. Even if your life's exciting, and you're on the verge of losing your head, theater recovers it for you, if you can let go. Theater is magic. People need a little magic in their lives, something they can believe in, even for a restricted period of time, something that takes them out of themselves and away from their worries.

Many people are so worried about what people think and say about them. I have this theme to say over and over, "What other people think or say about me is none of my business." When you're in theater you escape yourself and your worries for a little while. Theater is healing. Even a sad play is healing.

EH: How was it that you went to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art?

KR: I lost a very dear boyfriend in Korea and was deeply grieving, when my father said to me, "Either you go jump off a bridge, or you find something you're interested in and go do it." I was interested in theater; I had studied it in college. I auditioned and won a scholarship to RADA. It was quite the education.

EH: You had another career and raised two sons. What is it like getting back to theater in your 80s?

KR: Oh it's lovely. It's very rewarding. And despite the way I feel about my own performance, people are coming up to me on the street and saying, "You were fantastic." This is happening all the time.

EH: How do you summon your inner strength to get out there and perform?

KR: It's the wanting to, the drive, that gets you out there.

EH: How do you think theater can influence politics?

KR: We have nothing but theater in politics. Everybody is lying, trying to convince everybody else, "It's got to be this way." I think politics is using theater to influence the rest of us. Listen to some of these radio programs. In their little theater, it's hard to pick out what's what.

Theater has always been influential in politics. What was the play, "Lysistrata," where women were against the men in their warlike business? If we could get something like that going in this country, that would be lovely. Terrible things are happening. It would be very nice if we could get together and rise up by marching in the streets, by doing massive theater, showing what's happening, because most people don't know.

Theater is a great teaching tool. One of the recent great teaching plays is "Angels in America," and there have been others. Theater is a powerful force.

Katherine Ross will be performing in "Dr. Foster," a modern adaptation of Christopher Marlowe's "Doctor Faustus," at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 31 during the Playwright Actor Atelier in the Gresham Room of the Ashland library. For information, contact http://playwrightsatelier.org.

Evalyn Hansen is a writer and director living in Ashland. She trained as an actor at the American Conservatory Theatre and is a founding member of San Francisco's Magic Theatre. Reach her at evalyn_robinson@yahoo.com.

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