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For the week of Apr. 5 through Apr. 11, 2000

An unlikely artists’ collaboration

Local theater companies hold roundtable

Express Staff Writer

New York playwright and Juilliard professor Christopher Durang said in a recent interview with the Mountain Express that "Broadway has shrunk and there’s not much we can do about it." While "off Broadway picks up some of the slack," Durang said that it is in "regional theater around the country where really interesting things are happening."

That is definitely true for the Wood River Valley. Five distinct theater companies have established themselves here and are, surprisingly, working together to make sure that each company thrives.

On Wednesday, the directors of Laughing Stock Theatre Company, Sun Valley Repertory Company, New Theatre Company, Company of Fools and Interplanetary Theater Group held a roundtable discussion in Ketchum to share schedules, strategies and resources.

The meeting was held as part of the Wood River Valley Arts Alliance, a group of arts advocates from the performing, visual and literary arts.

The greatest resource the groups shared—besides the human hair wigs, the light bulbs, the stage blocks and a chandelier—was the NexStage Theater in Ketchum. Laughing Stock and Sun Valley Repertory director Kathy Wygle reported that the theater is about to be purchased by Tim and Mary Mott, of Ketchum. The Motts intend to make the NexStage available to local theater groups, Wygle said. The purchase has not been finalized.

While they might share wigs and, eventually, a performance space, the directors are determined to evolve as separate entities.

"Competition is good for the health of each individual theater," said Company of Fools managing director Denise Simone. "It helps to get the community in the habit of going to the theater."

New Theater Company director David Blampied agreed.

"Let the community make choices," Blampied said. "Overlapping theater is wonderful, as long as opening nights don’t overlap."

Sheila Summers, who is on the board of directors of Company of Fools, pointed out that the public no longer expects the local theater groups to merge into one large group.

"They’re finally recognizing different theaters for different work," Summers said.

That comment seemed to cause a collective sigh of relief at the meeting.

"It’s great that the companies are developing their own reputations," said the director of the Interplanetary Theater Group, Jon Kane.

"I hear fewer comments from the community about forming one local company and more comments about our established reputations," Blampied added.

The companies will have a chance to develop those reputations this summer and fall with their busy schedules, which each director shared at the meeting.

Company of Fools will be taking its production of David Mamet’s Oleanna to Boise’s Morrison Center in mid-May, according to Simone. Stages of Wonder, a program that introduces drama to Blaine County school children, runs through April and May. In July, Fools produces what Simone referred to cryptically as a "summer project." In October, Fools produces Anton Chekhov’s The Seagull.

New Theatre Company brings Margaret Edson’s Wit to the NexStage in mid-June, Blampied said. In September, New Theatre Company produces Octavio Solis’ El Paso Blue.

Interplanetary Theater Group will produce Prelude to a Kiss at the NexStage in early June, according to Kane. In September, Interplanetary is organizing the Sun Valley Performing Arts Festival, which tentatively includes a reading of Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax. Interplanetary is seeking the rights to produce Christopher Durang’s Betty’s Summer Vacation, which Kane said would be produced in late fall.

Wygle’s Laughing Stock and Sun Valley Repertory have a full plate this summer with Camp Little Laugh. The acting camp for children runs in mid-July. Also, Laughing Stock presents a Shakespeare festival in August, which will include a performance of The Twelfth Night and lectures and workshops with professional actors.

Several local actors joined the discussion, including Chad Smith, Gordon Noice, Colter Hodge and Claudia McCain.

Noice, who moved here recently from Los Angeles where he founded a theater company, said he found the cooperative spirit among the Wood River Valley theater companies remarkable.

"It impresses me that you work so well together," he said. "In the long run it will reward not only the companies but the community."


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