City of Portland to Honor Outgoing Artistic Director Stan Foote

Mayor Ted Wheeler and the City of Portland will be honoring OCT’s outgoing Artistic Director, Stan Foote, with a City Proclamation on Thursday, August 29, 2019. The date will be proclaimed as “Stan Foote Day” in the City of Portland.

Stan Foote makes his final “curtain speech” at OCT’s annual gala, August 24, 2019.

Stan Foote makes his final “curtain speech” at OCT’s annual gala, August 24, 2019.

Foote, who retired this year after a 28-year tenure with Oregon Children’s Theatre (OCT), began working with OCT in 1991 and was named its first Artistic Director in 2001. He directed nearly 50 plays and shepherded the creation of 20 brand-new scripts based on beloved books for children and families. These adaptations include collaborations with award-winning children’s authors such as Lois Lowry (The Giver) and Louis Sachar (Holes) and became a hallmark of OCT’s rise to national prominence amongst its peers.

Originally hired to develop OCT’s education programs, Foote is responsible for creating and shaping the company’s acclaimed Acting Academy and Young Professionals Company, as well as programs that are delivered in schools and the community. Under his artistic direction, the company has grown to be the region’s largest provider of performing arts experiences for young people.

Foote’s innumerable contributions to Oregon Children’s Theatre were recently recognized at OCT’s annual evening gala on August 24, 2019, and a campaign to honor his legacy—the Stan Foote Youth Access Fund—was launched this spring.

On making his decision to retire, Foote stated, “It has been a joy and an honor to be the Artistic Director of OCT. I am grateful to the staff, board, patrons, artistic community, business partners, and my peers in the field of theatre for young audiences for embracing me, guiding me, and traveling on this creative journey with me. I am humbled by their trust and support and could not have done it without them. By the way, I see sunny beaches in my future. Salúd!”

The City Proclamation will take place promptly at 2:00 pm on Thursday, August 29, 2019 at Portland City Hall (1221 SW Fourth Avenue, Portland); members of the community are invited and encouraged to attend. For those unable to attend in person, the proclamation will be available to watch online. The meetings are also cablecast on CityNet 30, Portland Community Media television.

A copy of the official City Proclamation can be viewed here.

A Message from "Good Kids" Director Tamara Carroll

A Message from "Good Kids" Director Tamara Carroll

Tamara Carroll, Educational Theatre Program (ETP) Director and Director of  Good Kids

Tamara Carroll, Educational Theatre Program (ETP) Director and Director of Good Kids

When people ask about Good Kids, I sometimes say “It’s loosely based on Steubenville” (a high profile sexual assault case in 2012 where a pair of football players in Ohio sexually assaulted an unconscious sixteen-year-old woman and put videos of the incident on social media). However, Naomi Iizuka’s play, and a great deal of the conversation following the real Steubenville, zooms the focus out from the event itself to better understand the context surrounding such events: What are the attitudes and mindsets that can create a circumstance where young men participate in sexual violence? How does the media frame these incidents? How do people talk about the perpetrators? How do people discuss the survivors? What ideology and messaging are reinforced by the way parents, peers, and police respond?

These are the questions we must ask in order to understand rape culture. In her recent book, Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture, Roxane Gay explains that she “was interested in the discourse around rape culture because the phrase is used often, but rarely do people engage with what it actually means. What is it like to live in a culture where it often seems like it is a question of when, not if, a woman will encounter some kind of sexual violence? What is it like for men to navigate this culture whether they are indifferent to rape culture or working to end it or contributing to it in ways significant or small?” 

It has always been urgent and necessary for us to be examining these questions, but only recently can we see the impact of this examination starting to take hold in our society. We may finally be at a critical moment, a tipping point, where a new generation of youth commit themselves to understanding and dismantling rape culture and replacing it with a culture of consent.

In choosing Good Kids as part of the 2018/19 YP season, that is the exact challenge the Young Professionals Company has embraced. They have chosen this show to better understand their role in challenging and dismantling rape culture, to be better allies to survivors, and to use their considerable skills and energy to educate and invite others to take up this mantle. I could not be more proud of the YP Company’s values, ethics, and heart, and it is a true privilege to accompany them on this journey.

An Interview with "Rock Paper Scissors" Composer Eric Nordin

An Interview with "Rock Paper Scissors" Composer Eric Nordin

Eric Nordin never thought he’d be a musician, but he doesn’t remember a time in his life without music.

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“If music is a language, I just learned how to speak it before I learned how to read or write it,” Nordin explains. “It is natural for me to have to create music.” His training did not begin until college, where he decided on a whim to be a music major, focusing on composition and conducting. “I just had this innate ability to hear and play without any formal training,” he says. “I don’t really remember a time ‘before music.’ As early as I can remember, someone got me a little keyboard and I was just plunking out things. My parents didn’t really know any different, they were like, ‘Can’t everyone do that?’ They aren’t artists, and they didn’t realize that it was anything special until much later.”

The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors marks Nordin’s second collaboration with Oregon Children’s Theatre and playwright John Maclay, having previously worked together on OCT’s premiere production of Goosebumps: the Musical. “We met when I was music director for Goosebumps, so we knew each other, and Stan thought we would work really well together and paired us up,” Nordin explained. The process and working relationship between Nordin and Maclay was very smooth, despite living in different states and having most of their communications via email. Every idea seemed to be natural, collaborative and focused on problem-solving. “It took a long time to really hone in on the music, but we always knew the direction we were going. It felt like this pairing was meant to be.”

Nordin found inspiration for the characters from comic books: “The show is a bunch of various characters, and to me it was like a comic book with heroes and villains, and they all have their superpowers, so we figured, ‘why not have every character have their own musical style?’” From there, the inspiration and collaboration came organically, with Paper being influenced by modern-day R&B stars like Bruno Mars, Scissors as a latina musical diva, and Rock as a rock star (of course).

Beginning with Maclay’s lyrics and using his background in jazz and improvisational musical styles, Nordin would then start “riffing” until something stuck. “I’d really just play a bunch of stuff and doing it wrong a thousand times until something sticks.” From there, Nordin and Maclay would rework any lyrics that needed to be adjusted. The overall process for composing the different songs was varied: “‘Jam’ was the song that locked in with me first, and has stuck around with me the longest, so I’d say it is probably my favorite song,” Nordin admits. “But then the ‘Battle Royale’ song at the end of the show was composed in one night because we weren’t really sure what it was going to be.”

Despite the smooth collaboration process, Maclay and Nordin did run into some challenges. “We wanted to avoid violence and focus more on the competition,” Nordin explains. “We did start more ‘battle’ oriented, knowing we would adjust it, but it was hard to find enough soft ways to show the competition without the characters hurting each other: the story is more about conflict resolution than the conflict itself.” The dance battles helped to provide a way for the characters to engage with one another in a competitive but non-violent way.

Overall, Nordin is very happy and proud with how the show turned out. “I can’t wait to see people enjoying it for the first time, especially the kids.”

Artistic Director Stan Foote Announces Retirement

Artistic Director Stan Foote Announces Retirement

Stan Foote, Artistic Director of Oregon Children’s Theatre, announced his plan to retire at the end of the 2018-2019 season.

Photo Credit: Rebekah Johnson Photography

Photo Credit: Rebekah Johnson Photography

Foote began working with Oregon Children’s Theatre in 1991 and was named its first Artistic Director in 2001. Across his 28-year tenure, he directed nearly 50 plays and shepherded the creation of 20 brand-new scripts based on beloved books for children and families. These adaptations include collaborations with award-winning children’s’ authors such as Lois Lowry (The Giver) and Louis Sachar (Holes) and became a hallmark of OCT’s rise to national prominence amongst its peers.

Originally hired to develop OCT’s education programs, Foote is responsible for creating and shaping the company’s acclaimed Acting Academy and Young Professionals Company, as well as programs that are delivered in schools and the community. Under his artistic direction, the company has grown to be the region’s largest provider of performing arts experiences for young people.

Stan Penkin, OCT’s board president said, “Meeting Stan some eight years ago was a special moment for me,” said Penkin. “I was immediately captured by his wonderful soul, his obvious caring for children and his dedication to helping transform lives. His exceptional character, tireless spirit, and unquestionable integrity are deeply embedded in an organization that will miss his presence.”

On making his decision to retire, Foote stated, “It has been a joy and an honor to be the Artistic Director of OCT. I am grateful to the staff, board, patrons, artistic community, business partners, and my peers in the field of Theatre for Young Audiences for embracing me, guiding me, and traveling on this creative journey with me. I am humbled by their trust and support and could not have done it without them. By the way, I see sunny beaches in my future. Salud!”

OCT’s Managing Director, Ross McKeen, expressed his admiration for Foote and his confidence in the company’s future. “Working alongside Stan as co-leaders over the past 12 years has been a gift for me. His artistic vision in this field is remarkable. More than that, he has given this company a solid foundation of guiding values and vision, particularly in his respect and care for young people and his commitment to reaching every child.”

Foote’s innumerable contributions to Oregon Children’s Theatre will be recognized at OCT’s annual evening gala on August 24, 2019, and a campaign to honor his legacy will be launched this spring. Foote is currently directing OCT’s 20th world premiere production, The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors, and will continue as Artistic Director until September 2019. At that time, Associate Artistic Director Marcella Crowson will serve as Interim Artistic Director while OCT’s Board of Directors make plans for filling the role permanently.

A Message from Mo Willems

A Message from Mo Willems

Why would you, of all people, take a kid to see “children’s theater”? 

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Don’t you have better things to do than watch a bunch of adults, who are usually so serious and dull, being silly or loud or sad or ridiculous just to amaze a kid you love? I mean, who wants to be transported into a world of imagination and story? Who wants to experience characters and emotions that are both otherworldly and completely relatable? Do you really need the magic, the transformative magic of a live performance, in your life? Is seeing that magic through a child’s eyes right for you? Let’s get real here: do you like creating memories that will be the springboard for future play in a young person you love? 

Wait.   

That sounds amazing. 

When you’re snuggled in your seats and the curtain rises, know that you’ll see more than just a show; you will experience a new, special connection with a child who is special to you. 

Oh, and that kid will probably have fun, too. 

There will be many performances of NAKED MOLE RAT GETS DRESSED: THE ROCK EXPERIENCE in the coming years, but this performance will be a special, magical, unique communication between the actors, the other audience members, and you. How cool that you get to be a part of this singular experience.

Enjoy!  

Mo Willems 

Author, illustrator, playwright, former child. 

 
 

Copyright © by Mo Willems. Used with permission.

Sydney Dufka, Costume Designer for "Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed: The Rock Experience"

Sydney Dufka, Costume Designer for "Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed: The Rock Experience"

Photo credit:    Science Magazine

Photo credit: Science Magazine

Behold, the majestic naked mole rat: wrinkled, pink, and toothy. While most people see little inspiring about this unique creature, costume designer Sydney Dufka chose to be true to the animal when creating pieces for OCT’s production of Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed: The Rock Experience.

I really tried to make it as ‘realistic naked mole rat’ as possible,” she explains. “I didn’t want to put too much of a spin on it. I really went right to the natural, organic shapes, and finding the right kind of textures and materials that could be mole rat skin was important.”

Sydney also found inspiration in Mo Willems’ work itself. “Grasping that picture book quality, that is such a driving force in the art. Capturing the author’s sense was really important to me. When he wrote the script, he had a clear idea of what these creatures looked like, so I wanted to give that the correct life.”

An Oregon native, Sydney grew up on the coast in Arch Cape. She became involved with Oregon Children’s Theatre first through the Acting Academy classes, then joined the Young Professionals Company. Her interest in costume design began with the OCT production of Alice & Wonderland: A Rock Opera, where she worked as the YP Apprentice under costume designer Sarah Gahagan.

Sydney attended DePauw University where she earned a BFA in Costume Design, and plans to pursue a Masters Degree in her future. When she’s not designing, she works at Portland Center Stage as the Assistant to the Costume Shop Manager.

Sydney’s designs began to take shape in the form of paper dolls, something she’d been hoping to incorporate into her work for a long time. “I love paper dolls, and this was the first show I’ve designed where that idea really worked because you have the ‘natural’ bodies with the ‘unnatural’ clothing pieces going on top.”

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In the story of Wilbur, the naked mole rat, he discovers a hat in his tunnel and dares to try it on. Naked mole rats are naked, so clothing is foreign to them. This idea of discovering something so new also resonated with Sydney: “Finding vibrant and luxurious pieces, clothing you’d want to touch and put on,” she says, “they don’t have in that world, so that was a big part of the design as well.”

So what is Sydney’s favorite look in the show? “The sequin jacket and the bowler hat are pretty fabulous!”

We agree, Sydney. Check out all of Sydney’s amazing designs in Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed: The Rock Experience, opening January 19, 2019.

 
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Meet Charles and James from A Year With Frog and Toad

Meet Charles and James from A Year With Frog and Toad

We were lucky enough to spend a few minutes with Charles Grant (Frog) and James Sharinghousen (Toad) before their rehearsal of A Year With Frog and Toad. We asked James and Charles about their roles in the play and what excites them about remounting the show.