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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited. 

Wednesday — February 4, 2004


Back in dog
heaven again

Claudia McCain reprises as "Sylvia"

Express Staff Writer

Claudia McCain is a conundrum. She is shy and self-conscious and yet when on stage—as she often is—she’s a fearless actress and an off the chart comedienne. It’s a combination that’s beguiling.

Claudia McCain returns to broad comedy with New Theatre Company’s "Sylvia" Express photo by David N. Seelig

A resident of the Wood River Valley for over 20 years, McCain is an active member of the art and theater community. For 12 years she owned an art gallery in Ketchum, the River Run Gallery.

Currently, she is the president and founder of the Wood River Arts Alliance. Meanwhile, she’s been lighting up the stage with every theater company in town for well over 10 years.

And how she lights. With her wild red hair, malleable facial features and incredible timing, McCain is what’s known as a born actress.

And she works at it. She’s presently in rehearsals for New Theatre Company’s "Sylvia" by A.R. Gurney, which opens Friday, Feb. 13, and she’s appearing in a benefit performance of "The Vagina Monologues" on Feb 28.

It’s not her first foray into the world of theatrical mutts. She first appeared in "Sylvia" eight years ago, also for NTC at the nexStage Theatre in Ketchum.

That production also featured David Blampied, Steve d’Smith and Jessica Trager. It was directed by Joyce E. Greene.

This production has Greene returning to the valley from New York City to be in the show. Blampied, who is the artistic director of NTC, and d’Smith reprise their roles. Robert Rais is directing.

Reworking and staging the play has been more of a challenge than many might realize. Eight years and many shows have gone by, and as McCain says, "Once a show is over I forget all the lines."

It’s a very physical show for McCain as well. A lover of the Comedia dell’Arte style of performing, she plays a stray pooch who is brought home by a man. For his wife, Sylvia, the dog, becomes, simply put, the other women in their lives, attracting and demanding attention and leaping all over the furniture. To prepare, McCain has been busy working out, and studying lines and dog behavior.

"I’m an animal lover. Sylvia is pretty similar to my border collie cross, who was one of my great loves for 14 years. And I’m drawing on other people’s dogs. There’s plenty of reference material in Ketchum," she laughed.

Fear not, McCain’s influence is not merely from the canine variety.

"Kathy Wygle—artistic director of Laughing Stock Theatre Company—and I have known each other since I was in high school. My family vacationed here," said McCain, who grew up in the South. Her first show was "God" by Woody Allen with Laughing Stock. "I got hooked."

Since then she’s done a myriad of shows for Laughing Stock, including "The Robber Bride Groom," and "Guys and Dolls." For NTC she’s done "Vita and Virginia," "The Complete Works of Shakespeare Abridged," "For Whom the Southern Belle Tolls," "The Taffetas," "The Belle of Amherst," "Fuddy Meers," "The Big Hitch" and a superlative "Wit," which she called a "life changing experience."

She and Blampied tour around the state to schools with little or no theater department in a theatre and education program called "An Evening with Ernest and Emily." Blampied plays Ernest.

For Company of Fools she’s appeared in "James Joyce’s The Dead," "You Can’t Take It With You" and "Talley’s Folly."

For Sun Valley Repertory she appeared in "Bullshot Crummond," "Italian American Reconciliation" and "The Importance of Being Ernest." And then there’s the Sun Valley Shakespeare Festival, which was her brainchild after she’d studied with Shakespeare & Co.

McCain has appeared in three of four previous Sun Valley Shakespeare productions and has been instrumental in bringing to the valley directors with Shakespeare experience.

Why stop there? Her résumé also includes directing experience: "Campers" for Sun Valley Rep., "This Day and Age" for NTC and "Sound of Music" for Laughing Stock.

"I love the theater," she said. "I love the styles of all the companies and how they work. They’re all my friends."

McCain serves on the boards of NTC and the Sun Valley Arts Foundation. Thanks to her dedication and talent, her fans abound, valley-wide.

"Claudia is a consummate actress who’s search for truth in her roles is relentless, it’s not over till it’s over," Blampied said. "She is someone who, when you’re working with her, you can depend on her. Her rendition of the feelings of a dog are hilariously funny and endearing. If you don’t own a dog when you see ‘Sylvia’ you’ll go right out and get one. Or adopt Claudia."

As well, McCain never stops studying. She has worked with Rusty Wilson of Company of Fools for four years. "I feel like I need more implements in my tool box," she said. "There’s always room to grow."

But in fact, McCain, whether she’s playing a dog or a grande dame, seems to bloom more than merely grow. It’s that colorful.

Tickets for "Sylvia" can be purchased through nexStage’s new ticket hotline, 726-4tks or online at ticketweb.com.




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