Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Importance of Being Earnest

"Takes a village to dress "Algernon" (Kevin Singletary)

Sunday, September 7, 2014

The Importance of Being Earnest
Cast Interview:  Stephen Radley cast as "John/Jack Worthing"

This Portland bachelor is another multi-talented performer: actor, singer, dancer. When not performing or studying voice, dance or acting, he manages the Information Technology Department of a large electrical contractor. Stephen is cast in one of the principal roles in Wilsonville Theater Company's production of The Importance of Being Earnest;  that of "Mr. John (Jack) Worthing." It is a demanding role with a huge amount of dialogue, requiring a quick delivery, but not so subtle as to obfuscate Wilde's underlying wit. 
Dave:  Stephen, thanks for taking the time to do this interview during your rehearsal break. Let's start off by talking about some early background. Where were you born?
Stephen:  I was born in San Jose.

Dave:  Do "You know the way to San Jose?"
Stephen:  (Polite laughter) Give me a GPS and I can find it.
Dave:  How long did you live in California?
Stephen: Until I was five years old.  My family  then moved to Grants Pass, Oregon.
Dave:  Where did you attend school?
Stephen:  I went to Fort Vannoy Elementary, just outside of Grants Pass. Then I graduated from North Valley High School in Grants Pass.
Dave:  What then?
Stephen:   Enrolled in George Fox College in Newberg. I moved to Newberg, which is also a very small town and I was pleased that it was close to Portland. I thought at the time, 'This is a city, Grants Pass is not a city.' (Laughs) I've lived up here ever since.
Dave:  What was your major at George Fox?
Stephen:  Cinema and media communications. I focused on the art of creating and editing video. I would have concentrated more on film, but they did not have that program then.
Dave:  What did you do after graduating?
Stephen:  I found that jobs in video editing were few and far between. But I liked the area and stayed up here. While in college I worked as an IT tech. Since that was my work experience, I kept getting those kinds of jobs. So now I manage the IT department for a large electrical contractor in Portland.
Dave:  Let's delve back into the more creative part of your life. What was your first stage performance?
Stephen:  Probably while in elementary school. My church had a very active choir, so my first performance was in a musical, in third or fourth grade. I can't remember the name of it. I vaguely recall that I was one of the "Bad kids." Which I thought was really cool because I wore a jacket around my waist. That's pretty much all I  remember of the role.
Dave:  What do consider your first major role on stage?
Stephen:  It was in high school.   A Play called, The Worst High School Play In The World. Yes, that's its real name. Then Cheaper by the Dozen, and Father of the Bride. After high school I didn't do a lot of acting. Mostly behind the scenes tech stuff. I didn't get back into acting until my senior year at George Fox.  I played the role of "Colonel Fitzwilliam" in Pride and Prejudice.  That's not on my resume. Also, I played "Ben the gardener" in The Secret Garden.  After I graduated I didn't do any theater, nothing.  Then a few years later, right out of the blue, I got a call from a friend who asked if I wanted to be in a musical. I said yes!
Dave:  I see on your resume that you were in four plays with the Cami Curtis Performing Arts Center, in Portland. Tell me about that.
Stephen:  It's a showcase of students who studied acting there.  I performed in several full- length plays such as: The Scarlet Pimpernel; Annie; Anything Goes; and Jesus Christ Superstar.
Dave:  I note that you were cast in the role of "Rapunzel's Prince" in Into The Woods, at the Pentacle Theatre in Salem.  I recall that Jani VanPelt, who is cast as "Miss Prism" in our play, The Importance of Being Earnest, was also in that production.
Stephen:  Yes. She performed several roles in that play. Some very impressive voice modulation.  I was fortunate to be cast in the production. It was what was basically my first role in an almost professional level theater.
Dave:  Then this year (2014) you performed the role of "Perchik" in Fiddler on the Roof for Canby Community Theater. I notice that several members of our cast were in the play.

Stephen: Yes half this cast are Fiddler alumni.

Dave:  Switching over to the formal training  side of your talents. I see that you studied voice with Andy Isbell and Stephen Diaz.
Stephen:  Yes. Andy is one of my close friends from college. He is the Choir Director at Cedar Park Middle School in Beaverton, who also gives private lessons. I have taken many lessons as well with Stephen Diaz at Cami Curtis Performing Arts Center.

Dave: In what vocal performances have you been involved?
Stephen:  I sang Tenor 1 in the Concert Choir at George Fox; Cabaret du Voix Noir at Cami Curtis Arts Center, and performed in PHAME Benefit Cabaret, at the PHAME Academy in Portland. I also studied dance at Cami Curtis, tap and ballet; and, acting with Bryan Boyd and Rhett Leutdke at George Fox.

Dave:  What was favorite performance?

Stephen:  I guess it'd have to be certain elements of each show. For example, I really liked the cast camaraderie in Into The Woods.  I liked the dancing I did in The Scarlet Pimpernel.
Dave:  Is there a favorite role?

Stephen:  That would be "Percy Blakeney" in The Scarlet Pimpernel. I had some very interesting moves. Given the chance, I'd like to do it again. Two and a half years later, it's safe to say I'm a better actor.

Dave:  Let's talk about this play. What is your opinion of Oscar Wilde's work?
Stephen:  I didn't know Oscar Wilde's work very well until I came into this show. This play is so clever. I get the feeling that when Oscar Wilde was writing it, every so often he'd put down his pen and say, "I am so clever!" and bask in his own cleverness. There are really no throw-away lines. Every line has a very good reason for being there and they are all hilarious.

Dave:  What do you want to tell the public why they should come and see this play?
Stephen:  Because The Importance of Being Earnest is so very clever and has a lot of layers. We, the cast, are having fun and we think you should come to watch us have fun…and have fun yourself!

Dave:  Thank you again for the chance to sit down and chat with you.

Consider this your special invitation to watch our actors put through their paces by Director Kate Laney. WTC is holding two FREE "Open Rehearsals" where you can watch this talented cast have fun. Friday, September 12 at 6:30 PM at the Frog Pond Grange Hall on SW Stafford Road in Wilsonville. Honoring the ambiance of "Earnest," we will be serving tea, muffins and cucumber sandwiches.
The second opportunity will be the next day, on Saturday September 13, 10:00 AM to 1:00 PM at the Wilsonville Library (Oak Room) in downtown Wilsonville. Stop by for a drop-in visit.

Wilsonville Theater Company's production of The Importance of Being Earnest runs October 16, 17,18, 23, 24, 25 with a matinee performance on October 25. For more information bookmark this website. If you are interested in being a part of our theater community, acting, directing, technical, whatever, please contact us at:  OnStageAtWilsonville@gmail.com. Look us up and "like" us on Facebook as well.

Dave DeHart
Wilsonville Theater Company

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Importance of Being Earnest

Cast Interviews:  Janelle (Jani) VanPelt – "Miss Prism"

This week's blog features my interview of Jani VanPelt  who is cast in the role of "Miss Prism."  Jani is an amazingly multi-talented woman! She is a singer, dancer, actress,  Registered Nurse, and co-owner of Woodburn Adult Foster Home.

Dave:  Let's start with your background. Where were you born and raised?

Jani:  I was born in Oregon City, spent most of my childhood south of Canby, where I attended grade school and my freshman year at Canby High. I then transferred to Western Mennonite High School in West Salem, where I graduated.

Dave : What college did you attend?

Jani:  I started out at Hesston College in Kansas,  then got my B.S. in nursing at Goshen College, in northern Indiana. While studying at Goshen,  I was "Sarah" in the opera, The Ballad of Baby Doe.

Dave:  What did you do with your RN degree after graduation?

Jani:  I moved to Phoenix, Arizona and worked in "labor and delivery" at Maricopa Medical Center for the first four years. Then I moved back to Oregon. In 1993 I started working in Silverton Hospital. I moved to and worked in Costa Rica in 1996 after my nursing degree was recognized by the University of Costa Rica. That's where I met my husband, Juan. We moved to Oregon in 1997. For a while I worked in the "labor and delivery" department again at both Silverton and Legacy Emanuel hospitals. I worked three years for Salem Clinic in the OB-GYN department, and  one year as a hemo-dialysis nurse. Since 2010, I have been working for Westside Surgery Center in Tigard where we do ambulatory ophthalmologic surgeries, such as cataract extractions, among other eye surgeries. In 2001, Juan and I moved into our current house in Woodburn and opened our adult foster home business where we live and care for five elderly people.

Dave:  Where you involved in theater early on?

Jani:  I started out acting in junior high. My first starring role was in the 8th grade as" Irma"  in a play about a young woman who wants to be on Broadway;  so she goes to New York City to seek fame.  Yes, I was in plays in junior high, high school, and college.

Dave:  You sing and dance as well. Tell me about that.

Jani:  I studied voice while at Hesston and Goshen Colleges. I'm currently taking private lessons with Angela Reiswig at VOX  Academy in Portland.  Dance-wise, I've taken classes to learn, waltz,  cha-cha, two-step, west coast swing and many other dances.

Dave: When did you get back into acting?

Jani:  Last year, 2013, I performed the role of Reno Sweeny in Anything Goes at the Canby Community Theatre. Also in 2013 I performed with  Cascadia Concert Opera in their production of Die Fledermaus. And finally with Pentacle Theatre for  Into The Woods. I played "Red's" granny, Cinderella's mother and the "Giantess."  This year I was cast in the role of "Golde" in Canby Theatre's Fiddler on the Roof.

Dave:  What was your favorite role in all those plays?

Jani:  I think "Reno Sweeny" in Anything Goes.

Dave:  Why is that your favorite?

Jani:  I don't know. I guess because she is sassy and fun. Which is most natural for me. (Laughs)

Dave:  Quite different than the role in which you are cast now---"Miss Prism." The prim and proper Prism.

Jani:  Yes. And  "Reno Sweeny"  is so flamboyant,  a little bit scandalous. "Golde" was also different from playing "Reno Sweeny."

Dave:  What do you think of Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest?

Jani:  Funny you should mention. Back in high school drama class, one of the roles the teacher assigned me to read was "Cecily'!  A classmate chose the role of  "Gwendolen" and we performed the scene of the cat-fight. I did not read the entire script at the time, but I knew this would be a very fun play to do. In the past five years I've seen The Importance of Being Earnest at least three times. Western Mennonite High School is a dormitory school, and while I was in grade school one of the girls who stayed with us on weekends was from Kansas.  She acted in The Importance of Being Earnest at the high school. We went to see it. Of course most of the jokes went over my head, but the drama captured my attention. Coincidentally she played the role of "Miss Prism."

Dave:  And this impressed you?

Jani:  Yes. The whole experience of the theater. It was in a gymnasium, black box, not a big beautiful theater, but still intrigued me.  I have always been entertained by Oscar Wilde's clever writing. It is so hilarious, a nonsense thing.

Dave:  One last question. What do you want to tell the public why they should see this play?

Jani:  It's a classic that has not lost its popularity over a hundred years. So that speaks huge volumes to the enduring quality of the clever writing.

Dave: Thank you for taking the time to do this. Before we part I just want to say, I really enjoy acting opposite you in this play. I'm looking forward to our October 16 opening.

Wilsonville Theater Company's production of The Importance of Being Earnest runs October 16, 17,18, 23, 24, 25 with a matinee performance on October 25. For more information bookmark this website. If you are interested in being a part of our theater community, acting, directing, stage manager, technical, whatever, please contact us at:  OnStageAtWilsonville@gmail.com. Look us up and "like" us on Facebook as well.

Dave DeHart
Wilsonville Theater Company