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The Jefferson Journal is JPR's members' magazine featuring articles, columns, and reviews about living in Southern Oregon and Northern California, as well as articles from NPR. The magazine also includes program listings for JPR's network of radio stations.

“Give me now leave to leave thee” (Twelfth Night)

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After six years writing about theatre for the Jefferson Journal, it’s time for me to bow out and to leave the stage.

It has been a pleasure and a privilege to record this unprecedented period in the history of drama in our region, and I’m very grateful to have had the opportunity to see so many plays and to talk to so many theatre practitioners about their work and their aspirations. Since I’m also stepping down as an occasional presenter on the Classics and News Service of JPR, the coming year does represent significant changes for me.

I am pleased to end on a positive note. I much enjoyed the final productions of the OSF 2022 Repertory Season, and, although there have been negative comments on social media complaining that the planned 2023 season at OSF does not include enough representation of the works of Shakespeare, I note that 40% of the plays staged in 2023 will be by Shakespeare, and that compares favorably with the ratio in pre-pandemic seasons.

I’m optimistic too about the prospects for community theatre in the Rogue Valley and I want to illustrate that by focusing on the work of two young actors, Alex Boyles and Erny Rosales. Both of these young men hail from California (Alex from Chico, and Erny raised in Corning). They sing, they dance and they act; I know because I’ve had the pleasure of seeing them on stage at several local theatres, not least the Camelot, where they appeared together in the 2018 production of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead — now which one was which?

In the past year you may well have seen them at the Oregon Cabaret Theatre. I was in awe of Erny’s work in In the Heights; he played not only the role in which he had been cast but also the role he had been understudying. Yes, two entirely different roles in the same show, on the same afternoon. And Alex, who has become an established member of the company, bravely bared his all in The Full Monty, and then played a more fully-costumed character in White Christmas at the Thomas Theatre.

I asked each of them for a little background:

Tell me a little about your early life

AB: When I was 3 my parents put me in piano lessons because, according to my mother, my older brothers would practice and then I would sit down and play it better than they did. I’ve always been involved in music, singing as well as piano. I started acting in school plays, but it wasn’t something I actively pursued until the summer between 7th and 8th grade when I did Shakespeare in the Park. I then went to college… getting a BA from CSU Long Beach and then an MFA from Ohio State University where I also taught during and after graduate school.

ER: I went to school in Corning K-12, loved my family, food, video games, and had a wild imagination (all while being the shy quiet kid)

What did you do before you came to the Rogue Valley and what brought you here?

AB: My wife was running an art gallery while I was in grad school and she met someone from SOU. We had always wanted to come to Ashland and, in the summer of 2013, she was offered a job here: she took it and we moved, even though she was seven months pregnant. That next OSF season I got my first understudy contract.

ER: I had just finished the Musical Theatre program at CSU, Chico. I had family in the Valley and what was supposed to be a summer break has turned into almost 10 years of an incredible experience

What day jobs have you had?

AB: I’ve given piano lessons, I was briefly a barista. I’ve been a server at a few restaurants and now I narrate audiobooks for a living.

ER: McDonald’s, Dairy Queen, Taco Now, Peanut Butter factory worker, Blueberry Field laborer, server...quite a few...!

What local Theatre companies have you worked with?

AB: All of them! I started by understudying for OSF for their 2014 and 2015 seasons, then I worked at Camelot, then at the newly-created CTP, and then I worked for New Stage at the Craterian, I did one show at the Randall, and then I started at the Cabaret!

ER: Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Oregon Cabaret, Camelot, Collaborative Theatre Project, Randall Theatre, Thanks for the Memories, Next Stage Rep

Is the Post-Covid world very different for the theatre?

AB: It both is and it isn’t. There are a lot of rules and procedures in place to make sure everyone’s masking while rehearsing, and making sure things are disinfected after every show. But in other ways theatre is just the same. We are still putting on shows, still giving it our all, still hoping to give people a brief respite from everyday life and just enjoy themselves. And if anything, we are even more committed to doing theatre now. I mean, if we can put up with all these new rules, you know we must really want to do it.

ER: Very, the first few shows while still in the heart of the pandemic proved to bring its own challenges with safety, regulations, and uncertainty. It seems like summer was an unfortunate time with a big COVID spike among theatres leading to scrambling to deal with show postponements and cancelations. This current era is still challenging with low ticket sales all throughout the Valley.

And when can we see you next?

AB: I’ll be in Almost Maine at Camelot and then in Kinky Boots at the Cabaret.

ER: Currently, I am participating in multiple call-backs and hope to announce a show for everyone to see very soon!

Geoff Ridden moved to Ashland in 2008, after retiring as a full-time academic in England, to join his wife, who teaches at SOU . He got in touch with JPR shortly after settling here, and has been a volunteer on the Classics and News service since 2009, hosting First Concert and Siskiyou Music Hall when the regular hosts are away. He also writes regularly for the Jefferson Journal.