ashland.news
July 14, 2024

Curtain Call: Rogue Theater Company comedy opens July 17

Dan Donohue, left, and Ray Porter participate in a mind-June table read at Grizzly Peak Winery for the Rogue Theater Company production of "Stones in His Pockets," a two-person comedy running July 17 through Aug. 4. Rogue Theater Company photo
July 5, 2024

‘Stones in His Pockets’ is a ‘Mt. Everest climb’ for actor Ray Porter — sign him up

By Jim Flint

Ray Porter describes what went through his mind when Rogue Theater Company Artistic Director Jessica Sage asked him if he wanted to do “Stones in His Pockets” with his pal, Dan Donohue.

“It was an almost instant yes,” he recalled. “I say ‘almost instant’ because that play is an enormous challenge. But my friend Dan is one of the best actors I know. So, basically, the offer was: ‘Hey, wanna climb Mt. Everest and jam with Eddie Van Helen?’ Of course I said yes.”

In “Stones,” Porter and Donohue play extras on a Hollywood film set in rural Ireland. They also play 13 other characters, men and women, requiring them to switch gender and voice swiftly and with minimal costume change. The townsfolk are funny, flawed and brimming with hope.

Opening Wednesday, July 17, the comedy plays Wednesdays through Sundays until Aug. 4 on RTC’s stage at Grizzly Peak Winery, 1600 E. Nevada St., Ashland.

“I really like what Jessica and company are doing at RTC,” Porter said.

“It’s a really challenging play. But I trust Dan and our director John Plumpis implicitly.”

At OSF 15 seasons

Like Donohue, Porter worked multiple seasons as a member of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival company.

Ray Porter (left), on stage with Derrick Weeden in OSF’s “Coriolanus,” joins Dan Donohue in Rogue Theater Company’s comedy, “Stones in His Pockets” July 17-Aug. 4.

“I was offered my first season in 1990,” he said. “I told everyone in L.A. I’d be back in six months. Turns out I was off only about 15 years.”

He says his OSF experience was life-changing.

“I definitely grew up as an actor there,” he said. “I grew as a person, too, and Ashland is, of course, wonderful. I was given the privilege of working with some of the most talented people there are.”

A few roles stand out from among the many he played at OSF.

“Playing Valere in ‘La Bête’ kind of put me on the map,” he said. “And I got to play Tullus Aufidias in ‘Coriolanus’ and Mephistopheles in ‘Dr. Faustus’ opposite Derrick Weeden and Jonathan Haugen, who are two of the best actors I’ve ever seen and two of my best friends.”

Not the first time

Porter and Donohue are no strangers to a two-person show. This will be their third time doing one.

In addition to his considerable acting experience on stage and in film and television, Porter also is a seasoned audiobook narrator, a job in which he honed his skills in playing multiple characters.

“It is largely a solitary endeavor,” he said. “It’s an interesting part of being an actor, to be sure. You have to keep many different characters alive and unique.”

In an environment like “Stones in His Pockets,” with quick changes in voice and character, things can go sideways.

“Live theater always has the possibility for unexpected things,” Porter said.

He remembers sitting onstage in ‘Dr. Faustus’ in the outdoor Allen Elizabethan Theatre when a large mantis flew over and landed on his knee. And didn’t leave.

“The audience saw him there. I couldn’t just pretend he wasn’t there,” he said. “So, I had a brief, quiet conversation with him. It normalized the situation and the audience could get back to the play. He hung out so long, I think he qualified for equity health insurance.”

Ray Porter, seen here in a scene with Tom Hanks (left) in “Henry IV” at L.A.’s Shakespeare Center, will star with Dan Donohue in “Stones in His Pockets” July 17-Aug. 4 for Rogue Theater Company.

Third generation

Porter comes by his acting chops naturally. He’s a third generation show biz guy. His grandfather was publicity advance man for Ringling Bros. and numerous other circuses, and he toured musicals and plays around the country. His mother was an actor, singer and dancer, working on Broadway and in films.

Porter got the bug himself in high school.

“I had decided I would pursue a career in photojournalism. That is, until I saw a production of ‘Heartbreak House’ by George Bernard Shaw at Indiana Rep my senior year,” he said.

“Something about that show made me leave the theater that night with a decision made.”

Years later, at OSF, he told that story to his friend Amanda Carlin. Turns out she was in that production. And then they figured out their mothers were classmates in Sanford Meisner’s acting class in New York City.

Porter has a BFA in acting from the California Institute of the Arts in Santa Clarita. At the time, OSF’s fourth artistic director, Libby Appel, was dean of the theater school.

What might people be surprised to learn about Ray Porter? Well, just for starters:

“I’ve played guitar live onstage at the Grand Ol’ Opry. I was the rink announcer for a British pro ice hockey team. And I am a massive astronomy geek.”

That’s a lot of hats to wear. You can see him wear a few more when “Stones in His Pockets” opens in July.

For more information about RTC plays or to purchase tickets, go to roguetheatercompany.com.

Reach writer Jim Flint at jimflint.ashland@yahoo.com.

July 5: Photo caption corrected.

Picture of Bert Etling

Bert Etling

Bert Etling is the executive editor of Ashland.news. Email him at betling@ashland.news.

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