News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Local playwrights, actors featured

What is a one-act play, exactly? Any theater piece with no interruptions, undivided into multiple acts, fits the definition. Some might assume an evening of one-act plays would feature two plays, each around an hour long.

In the case of "Now You're Talking... One Acts 2023," presented by Silent Echo Theater Company last weekend, the show's entertainment featured a whopping seven mini-plays. On Saturday night, a comfortable house of 40 to 50 audience members filled the room.

Lively laughs rose into the air as lighthearted plays unfolded one after another. The scripts were often inventive. In "Dora and the Doctor" by Patricia West-Del Ruth, a patient talked to her doctor, played by an actual doctor, Kim Hapke, N.D. of Sisters. As the patient worked through boundary issues concerning her ex-husband, she and her doctor became romantically involved.

In "Hope for the Best" by Jon Head of Redmond, the action took place inside the brain of Ernie, a plainspoken man in overalls who'd suffered a stroke. The delightful surprise ending of "Best Friends," written and directed by Laura Lee Coffman, was pulled off successfully by actors Stephen Saunders and Shawn O'Hern.

Four of the seven playwrights have connections to Central Oregon. Coffman lives in Sunriver; Head and C.J. Wurm are based in Redmond. Patricia West-Del Ruth lived in Bend for many years.

"It matters to me that we have representation for Central Oregon writers," Manning said.

Her goal is for Silent Echo to produce Oregon premieres for works written locally and beyond.

"Almost everything we've done hasn't been previously produced in Oregon," she added.

"Developing playwrights, local and otherwise, is important to me," said Manning. "I want to encourage local talent in all forms-acting, directing, writing."

Silent Echo has presented readings to help develop new works.

Of the seven directors involved in the recent show, three live in the Sisters area: Shawn O'Hern, Cheryl Pellerin, and Aubrey Leigh. Pellerin also acted as an on-book understudy for an actor who could not perform Saturday night.

A number of the actors live in Sisters Country, including Doug Kaufman, who portrayed Ernie.

"Sisters is an interesting community because it has music, the Rodeo, the Quilt Show, the Folk Festival, the Americana Project, and it has galleries," Kaufman mused. "It's nice that it actually has a theater company too."

Kaufman grew up in Tillamook and Salem.

"My grandfather lived here in Sisters, so my mother and I would come over and visit quite often," he said. "I've been coming up here since the mid '60s."

After taking part in school and college plays, he graduated from the University of Oregon.

"I got a wild hair up it, and took off to LA," he said with a grin. "I spent 13 years there. I took some more acting classes, and I started doing commercial tryouts and voiceovers and things like that."

His day job involved doing layout and graphic design for a print shop.

"After 13 years I decided to come on home," he said. "I discovered Silent Echo Theater so I was anxious to try out."

Silent Echo's productions provided Kaufman with his first acting opportunities since the early 2000s. Getting back into the theater felt good for Kaufman after such a long break.

"It's great to exercise your chops," he said.

For thousands of years, theater artists have used all manner of spaces for their art. Theater runs the gamut, from casual retellings of old tales around fires to the masked productions of the Greeks in their steeply raked amphitheaters.

In Sisters Country last weekend, the show took place in a spacious yet cozy outbuilding off of Cloverdale Road. With wood siding and ceilings, the venue is known for hosting music events and drumming.

"Harmony House is a great space," said Kaufman. "It's multi-use, and both (Katie) and Doug Cavanaugh have been so gracious to let us use it. She's a very creative person herself, a fine musician, and she's performed in some Silent Echo Theater productions."

"It's great to put on shows at Harmony House," Manning agreed.

Still, she dreams that Silent Echo will someday possess its own theater.

"Once we have a space that's ours, then we would have the freedom to bring shows in from elsewhere," she said.

Kaufman hopes that Silent Echo can arrange a venue closer to town as well.

"Maybe with the elementary school being turned into a civic activities center...they have a very fine stage there; maybe we could use that in the future," he said.

A nonprofit organization, Silent Echo Theater Company was established in 2016. Its stated mission is to "establish, nurture and support a lively local theater arts program that embodies artistic integrity and exceptional production values."

To submit a one-act play, donate, or learn more, see silentechotheatercompany.org.

 

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