ashland.news
June 21, 2024

Sage on Stage: Jessica Sage answers your theater questions

Jessica Sage delivers a curtain speech (sans curtain) at the Rogue Theater Company performance space at Grizzly Peak Winery.
August 4, 2023

RTC’s got a penchant for plays that push the envelope, and an embarrassment of talent riches

I write plays because dialogue is the most respectable way of contradicting myself.

—Tom Stoppard

By Jessica Sage

Dear Jessica,

Choosing a lineup of plays each season: with all the world offers, how do you decide?

— Amy B.

Dear Amy,

Jessica Sage

Thank you for being the first to write a question to Sage on Stage — your check is in the mail! The two essential components that we look for when choosing a season are the script and the players. Is the text well-crafted, thought-provoking, does it have meat on its bones? Meaning: substance. Does the play give audiences something to think about after they leave the theater? Plays that entertain and inspire are rare, but that’s the combination we strive to achieve on our stage.

I have a penchant for plays that push the envelope. I’m not afraid to make the audience feel uncomfortable or sad. I’d be afraid if they weren’t moved at all. Actors are storytellers, and storytelling is healing, if it’s done correctly. As far as players, in our region we are extraordinarily blessed by the quantity of truly gifted actors, directors and designers. While I’m reading plays, specific people come to mind for particular roles. We work in a collaborative environment at Rogue Theater Company (RTC), and I encourage actors and directors to suggest plays they’d like to do that fit RTC’s genre. I find it makes artists happier and more fulfilled when they have ownership over their project.

Dear Jessica,

I know there are humongous challenges in founding and managing a company like Rogue Theater — finding the right plays, capturing the right cast, luring the right director, handling the promotion and finance, acting as personal counselor for any and all, and, oh, just so much more. But for you … what has been the most challenging task? If you could wave your magic wand and claim “Aha! That is now done to perfection!!” what would that be?

— MaryAnn S.

Dear MaryAnn,

I love this question! The challenges have changed over the four years Rogue Theater Company has existed. In the beginning, finding a permanent home for the company was a major concern. This is no longer an issue thanks to our wonderful hosts at Grizzly Peak Winery.

Then along came COVID. Thankfully, we were extremely fortunate to be able to perform outdoors at the winery during the worst of times. We hired a firm to come test the actors before performances. The audience members were masked, and seated 6 feet from each other and 12 feet from the actors. It was daunting and laborious, but we did what we had to do. In the end, it was rewarding to be able to present plays when most other theaters were shuttered.

Today, the challenges are different. As the cliché goes, we have an embarrassment of riches! Oregon Shakespeare Festival veterans are attracted to RTC’s intimate, character-driven plays that often cannot be translated onto a large stage. Currently, more actors are seeking roles than we have parts to give them. Our 2024 season is set (look for the announcement in January), and planning for 2025 is well under way. I’m looking at plays with larger casts and at possibly adding a weekend play reading. For those who wonder why RTC hasn’t added more plays per season: in these tenuous times in American theater, I am ever mindful not to grow too large too fast. RTC is financially healthy, strong, and solid. I am determined to keep in that way!

Theater lovers, what would you like to know about theater, acting, stagecraft, etc.? Send your questions to contact@roguetheatercompany.com. We will print your first name and last initial along with your questions. Bring up the houselights, and let’s have some fun!

Jessica Sage is artistic director of Rogue Theater Company (roguetheatercompany.com).

Picture of Tod

Tod

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