Along with his wife, Valerie Rachelle, and a team of talented artists from around the country and locally, Rick Robinson has turned the Oregon Cabaret Theatre into a force of nature during his tenure as managing director. I caught up with Robinson to talk about the future of the company as the region is faced with all sorts of transitions, from the departure of Bill Rauch from Oregon Shakespeare Festival after 12 years at the helm, to the recent wildfires that have wreaked havoc on the audiences and budgets of Southern Oregon theaters.
JG: Tell us what excites you about the upcoming season of the Oregon Cabaret?
RR: Oh, man. It’s tough. I think “Beehive,” “Mamma Mia!” and “Miracle” are all big, fun musicals that will be real crowd pleasers, but if I had to choose, I’d say I’m most excited about the world premiere Sherlock Homes piece I’m adapting — “Sherlock Holmes and the Sign of the Four.” We’re bringing back a lot of the pieces that made our last Holmes and Watson play such a success. We’re bringing back Matt Koneig as Holmes, Galen Schloming as Watson, my scenic, lighting, props, and sound designer are all returning. We felt like after 2017’s “Baskerville” we had some unfinished business with this creative team, and there are so many rich Sir Arthur Doyle stories to tell. This one has a romance for our Dr. Watson and a really memorable adversary. Also, my wife — Valerie Rachelle — is going to be Mrs. Lovett, and Cabaret favorite Galloway Stevens is going to be Sweeney in “Sweeney Todd” in the fall, which is a dark story for the Cabaret to take on, but our version is going to be immersive and sinister and I can’t wait for us to share that.
JG: I understand you will be performing this season. Tell us about the role and your approach to it.
RR: I’m playing Freddy in “Picasso at the Lapin Agile.” Freddy runs a business that attracts artists and finds himself spending a bit too many hours at work trying to run the business side of this little bar he has called the Lapin Agile. It’s ... uh ... not feeling like a huge stretch in terms of who this character is and what his travails are compared to my own. Also, I get to actually be on stage with Galloway, who’s playing Sagot, and Stephen Kline, who’s playing Einstein, Paul Garcia, Stephan Espinosa, Sierra Wells, Paul Jones, John Alan Hulbert. We had a blast at the table read, and talking about the play. It’s a Steve Martin play, and it’s funny, but there is some depth to it as well.
JG: How have you been dealing with the challenges that theaters in the region have been facing with the wildfire smoke this summer?
RR: We’re an indoor venue and a lot of our audience is local so we haven’t been as badly impacted as OSF or some of the outdoor tourist things. But it’s insidious, it affects actors voices, it affects morale of our creatives and staff. And we have gotten cancellations from folks who have just decided not to come to town. But this is Ashland and we’re Cabaret. We’re resilient. We like to say “each show better than the last” and we mean it — smoke or no smoke. “Picasso at the Lapin Agile” is up next, and we have art to make.
Ashland resident Jeffrey Gillespie is a Tidings columnist, arts reviewer and freelance writer. Email him at email@example.com.