In Good Company
Gresham's Kelly Lazenby expands East County's arts scene with creation of Nutz-n-Boltz Theater Company
heater, and her love for it, has shaped much of Kelly Lazenby's life. It helped her escape the awkward shyness of her adolescence growing up in South Dakota. It inspired her in college to learn the importance of the behind-the-scenes work like building props and sewing costumes.
It propelled her to create her own theater company in East County. And it brought her together with her husband, with whom she fell in love on the set of the children's play, 'Princess and the Pea.'
Nutz-n-Boltz Theater Company, now in its second season, has been a true labor of love for this Gresham resident and newlywed (she and husband, Justin, got married on Feb. 10 in a theatrical black and white wedding at McMenamins Edgefield).
The volunteer-based community theater group will open a new play next week, 'The Rainmaker,' by N. Richard Nash. Kelly plays the female lead, an old maid named Lizzie, and her husband plays the slickster, Starbuck, who sashays into a Texas farmhouse promising rain for a mere $100.
The play is about many things, but for simplicity's sake, it's about believing in your dreams, but not getting carried away in them. It's just as important, as Lizzie points out at the end of the play, to be yourself.
It's a lesson Kelly learned, too, moving to Gresham from South Dakota in her 30s and trying to break into the Portland acting scene. She played a few parts in Portland theater, but found the people 'aloof and cliquish.' Then she tried the Gresham Little Theater, and found it wasn't quite the right fit either.
So she struck out on her own, and Nutz-n-Boltz Theater Company was born. Its first production was 'The Complete Works of Shakespeare (Abridged),' held at the Sandy Bank building.
Things seemed to fall into place for Kelly's fledgling theater group after that. An audience member and Marylhurst University choir teacher asked the company to produce a play at Marylhurst. Kelly rewrote Charles Dickens' classic, 'A Christmas Carol,' turning it into 'A Dickens of a Christmas.'
For a while, Nutz-n-Boltz was a traveling show, a group without a home.
Then Kelly had a light-bulb moment. She remembered the importance of the local grange in South Dakota and approached the Boring-Damascus Grange hall about holding productions there.
'That was kind of a funny meeting, because the grange members were like, 'Sure,' and then I looked at the stage,' she said.
The place needed some work. So Kelly and company cleaned and painted. A grange member supplied scaffolding. Special theater lighting was installed. The group bought 100 red leather 1920s seats from an old theater in Northeast Portland. The hardwood floors and stage still need refinishing, but the grange began to look like a theater.
Another audience member, an elderly woman, called Kelly one day and told her she'd been a play director in her younger years. The woman donated an attic full of props and costumes.
The plays continued. A children's production soon followed, then a musical. Now the theater has come full circle and is back to a classic. The company also offers theater games every other Sunday night. Anyone can come to participate or watch.
To Kelly, it feels exactly like what was supposed to happen.
'This is something I do because I love it,' Kelly said. 'This is why I like Gresham. It's simple and people here just want to enjoy life. … We're a really easy group. We just want everyone to come and play.'
Theater is something that builds community, she said.
'This is something we can do to offer a place to take the talent out there and have fun with it in the theater,' Kelly said. 'We make new friends, and friends are like family, so with every play, we just have a bigger family.'
What: Nutz-n-Boltz Theater's new show opens Friday, March 9, with a special benefit night on Thursday, March 8. The classic, 'The Rainmaker,' by N. Richard Nash is a comedy in three acts. Anyone age 12 and older will enjoy it.
The Plot: The setting is the dust bowl of Texas in the 1930s. The Curry family is plagued with drought, high temperatures and despair. The family is falling apart, and their cattle are dying. Lizzie, the only daughter, is an old maid. Then one day, a slickster named Starbuck shows up, promising rain - for the mere cost of $100. But Starbuck gets more than he bargained for with the Currys.
When: Show opens March 9 and runs through March 25. 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2:30 p.m. Sundays.
Tickets: $8.50 at the door; $7.50 in advance.
Sneak preview: Come at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 8, with two cans of food for the Oregon Food Bank and see the show for $5.
Where: The Boring-Damascus Grange Hall, off Highway 212 in downtown Boring.
For more information: Call 503-593-1295 for reservations. Special rates for groups. Web site is www.nutz-n-boltztheater.com.
Spaghetti dinner benefit
What: Dinner and a show to benefit the theater company and the grange hall. The Nutz-n-Boltz Theater company presents 'The Rainmaker.' Dinner includes pasta, garlic bread, salad, dessert and beverage.
When: 5:30 p.m. Saturday, March 17. Show starts at 7:30.
For more information: Call 503-593-1295 for reservations.
Cost: $12 for dinner and show. Dinner only costs $7. Show only costs $8.50.
Where: Boring-Damascus Grange Hall, off Highway 212 in downtown Boring.