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Theatre announces its happiest season ever

by: PHOTO BY TRAVIS NODURFT - CRT company member Jayson Shanafelt communes with his friend, a 6-foot-tall rabbit, in the light-hearted comedy 'Harvey.'David Smith-English calls Clackamas Repertory Theatre’s ninth season “a happy season,” and for a number of good reasons.

Smith-English, the artistic director of CRT, announced the new lineup of plays Feb. 2, just after the performance of “Dirty Work at the Crossroads,” the group’s big fundraiser event.

The 2013 season begins June 27 with “Harvey,” Mary Chase’s light-hearted comedy about Elwood Dowd, a lovable eccentric, and his invisible best friend, Harvey, a 6-foot tall rabbit, whom he introduces to everyone. Company member Jayson Shanafelt plays the lead, with Amanda Valley as Veta and Tobias Andersen as Dr. Chumley. “Harvey” runs through July 21.

“Harvey” is a show that Smith-English said he has wanted to do for a long time, but wasn’t interested in doing unless he had the cast to make it work.

“I had Jayson in mind, even though he might seem a bit young. When he said he would be available I became very interested,” Smith-English said. “Then Doren Elias expressed interest in directing, in fact, more than just interest; he really wanted to direct ‘Harvey,’ and I liked his concept for the show.”

CRT’s annual musical, Aug. 3 through Aug. 25, is Cole Porter’s classic “Kiss Me Kate,” about a second-rate theater company’s musical production of “The Taming of the Shrew.”

“I wasn’t willing to even consider it without the male lead and a bunch of dancer/singer performers that I could identify,” Smith-English said. “Leif Norby agreed to do the show, and many of the ‘Cabaret’ cast from last year were committed to doing another show with us. That has given me courage to try it. ‘Kiss Me Kate’ is a show that I played the male lead in many years ago when there used to be summer theater in the outdoor space at Washington Park. I liked the show then, and I like it today.

“This show is an example of just pure fun in the theater with great music and wonderful dancing, and we plan to exploit that concept as much as we can. Someone probably should be there to tell me when I have gone over the top.”

The final offering of the season is a mixture of a Hitchcock masterpiece, a juicy spy novel and a dash of Monty Python called “The 39 Steps.” It will be staged from Sept. 19 through Oct. 6.

This play “is a grand farce which I believe will fit nicely with the rest of the season,” Smith-English said. “It also is an opportunity to showcase some of the unique talents of our CRT company and, with Tim True’s direction, I think it will be a barnburner of a show.

“The cast is made up of three men and one woman who play 151 characters. Bringing Tim’s talent and perspective into a CRT production was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.”

Staged readings

In addition to these three productions, CRT is continuing its staged reading series called “Sundays at Three,” featuring new works by American playwrights.

The first of this year’s plays is “Good People,” on March 17. It is a play about the insurmountable class divide between those who make it out of Boston’s blue-collar Irish neighborhood and those who are left behind. It is by David Lindsay-Abaire, and will be directed by Doren Elias.

Next up on April 14 is “A Small Fire,” by Adam Bock and directed by Smith-English.

The play follows a long-married couple whose lives are upended when the wife falls victim to a mysterious disease that strips away her senses. She resolves to remain engaged, relying on her husband, whose devotion she has taken for granted.

The final offering, on May 5, is “Lonely I’m Not,” a play combining suspense and quirky charm. It is by Paul Weitz, and will be directed by CRT company member Travis Nodurft.

All play readings are at 3 p.m. in the Osterman Theatre on Sundays, for one day only; tickets are $10 for one, or $25 for all three performances. Plays contain adult language.

“The people who have come to the readings really want to be exposed to these new and edgier plays,” Smith-English said. “We have begun to establish a following of people who look forward to this unique kind of experience in the theatre. The after-show discussions with cookies and coffee have been delightfully spirited.”

He noted that some people still don’t understand that a staged reading has blocking, costumes, lights, sound and a set, but the actors have only had three rehearsals and carry their scripts.

“It never ceases to amaze me how much can be accomplished in such a short time,” Smith-English said. “There is always a bit of danger in the air, an edgy energy that you might not experience in a more extensively rehearsed production.”



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