A long time ago in Salem, theatre lovers had but few choices to satisfy their craving for the stage. In the past three years, theatre companies have popped up like mushrooms, and the 2015 season will see many projects come to fruition. Here is a look at the season ahead. Make your choices, and mark your calendars.
For the first time, we will see full seasons from Enlightened Theatrics—Salem’s home for high-end musical theatre at the Grand, and The Verona Studio—the place for edgier, darker fare at the Reed. Enlightened’s first offer is Songs for a New World, a “theatrical song cycle” directed by Jaime Rea. There is no plot here, but one would expect the musical quality to be high. Verona presents Blonde Poison, the story of a Jewish spy during World War II, directed by Susan Coromel. Coromel, an Equity actor who normally heads the theatre program at Willamette, is an impressive get for the burgeoning Verona Studio. Expect something intense. Also on Tap: Lend Me A Tenor, at Pentacle; Plaza Suite, at Aumsville Community; The Search for the Fairy Queen, at Brush Creek; The Laramie Project, at Albany Civic; Helen, at Willamette U; Improv, Stand-up, & Open Mic at Capitol City.
Don’t be afraid to expand your boundaries. If you can make it out to Pentacle, you can go fifteen minutes further to Western Oregon University in Monmouth to try Pride and Prejudice, directed by David Janoviak—formerly Artistic Director of Salem Rep. Student acting is always a mix, but if the Jane Austen adaptation comes close to WOU’s production of Spring Awakening last year, it will be worth the drive. If you are looking for something different, try Salem Playback Theatre, now performing monthly at the Reed. Playback allows audience members to tell their own stories on stage, creating a potentially profound experience. Also on Tap: Young Frankenstein, at Pentacle; Gianni Schicchi, at Willamette; Much Ado About Nothing, at Albany Civic; Improv, Stand-up, & Open Mic at Capitol City.
Willamette University has produced consistently excellent work in recent years, especially with its stream of guest directors and professional actors. In April, they present The Country Wife, a piece of Restoration bawdry first staged in London in 1675. Don’t let the vintage fool you; the play is a sex comedy of dubious morality. It should be in good hands with director Jonathan Cole, WU’s theatre history faculty, who knows what Picante sauce is supposed to taste like. Also on Tap: A Bench in the Sun, at Brush Creek; S.K.I.T. Theatre Showcase, at Bethany Church; Salem Playback Theatre, at the Reed; All My Sons, at Pentacle; The Wizard of Oz, at Albany Civic; Improv, Stand-up, & Open Mic at Capitol City.
We all know that quality varies, but all too often, the only flaw with local theatre is that not enough people go see it. There is a lot of excellent theatre in Salem: take your pick.