Brush Creek Players

Silverton, Oregon

Soon after moving to Oregon in 2003 I noticed a tiny theatre beside the highway not three miles down the road from our house. I found a number and called and was invited to come to the next board meeting and introduce myself. It turned they had no one to set up the lights for the show they were then rehearsing, “Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean.” The equipment was primitive; it was like going back in time. It was decades since I had seen tin can lights or run a show on household rotary dimmers. I wound up running the lights for the performances so I saw every show. It is a nice play, well-written and imaginative, but it was so miscast that it was nearly unintelligible, and most of the acting was wretched.

Brush Creek Players started as the Silverton Community Players, and it remains in every way a typical small-town community theatre. The playhouse was originally a one-room school, then a grange hall, then given to the Players, whose season these days includes plays for children and for teenagers and melodramas as well as plays for grownups. The building was in pretty sad shape, and there is no running water or toilet: we rely on a permanent portapotty. Nonetheless, I was happy to have found an accessible stage.

I joined the board and had an opportunity to direct a play. I decided to introduce myself to the community by doing something funny, so I put on “Beyond Therapy” by Christopher Durang, a play that made me laugh every time I read it. The Brush Creek stage is tiny, with no wing space. I figured out how to represent the varied locales by defining areas with light and minimal furniture. People were surprised that a little theatre like ours would do something so daring, but “Come Back to the Five and Dime” was just as daring if you could make sense of it. There are a few talented people around everywhere, and I managed to channel some wonderfully lively performances. It was quite satisfying to make people laugh.

As a result of the success of “Beyond Therapy,” I was invited to direct Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” al fresco for a Silverton Arts Association benefit the following summer, and another play at Brush Creek Playhouse. In spring 2005 I seized the opportunity to do a wonderful play I had been carrying around for a few years, “The Flight of the Butter Boy” by Guy J. Jackson, and my son Alfred came from Santa Barbara for two months, helped me build the set, and played a leading role—a collaboration we both enjoyed.

I served as secretary of the board of the Brush Creek Players for two years, and we made some progress in stabilizing and improving our historic playhouse. In spring 2006 I accomplished my personal goal of upgrading the stage lighting system, thanks to a grant from the Meyer Memorial Trust, and left the board at the end of the year.

I volunteered to direct another production at Brush Creek Playhouse in January 2007, and thought about the following short list of plays that I have been wanting, more or less seriously, to direct:

“Otherwise Engaged” by Simon Gray
“The Knights of the Round Table” by Jean Cocteau
“Who Are We This Time?” (suggested by Dennis Pinette)
“Spring’s Awakening” by Frank Wedekind
“Histrionics” by Thomas Bernhard
“Garbage, the City, and Death” by Rainer Werner Fassbinder
“Abingdon Square” by Maria Irene Fornés
“Victor, or Children in Power” by Roger Vitrac (trans. MS)

However, most of these plays are obviously not suitable for a provincial family audience. There are also two good plays of my own that have never been produced, “Half Life” and “Heavy Pockets”. All of them demand more scenic resources, not to mention acting talent, than I am likely to find here. Sensibly concluding that if I was going to expend the huge effort it inevitably takes to engender a production, I ought to do my own work, I wrote a new play tailored for the occasion, “Deep in the Woods”, q.v.