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Generations struggle in play's changing world

“Entanglement,” the second play in New Century Players’ current season, racks up several firsts: it is the first time the group has put on a play by a local author; it is the first time NCP has been part of Portland’s Fertile Ground Festival; and it is the first time director Colin Murray has worked with the group.

by: PHOTO BY DICK TRTEK - The cast of Entanglement includes, front row, left to right, Julianne Nelson, Arlene Daugherty, Allie Andresen and Zac Burgess. Back row: Kelley Marchant, Jeff Gorham and Marc Hakim.The play opens in Rex Putnam High School’s Blackbox Theatre on Jan. 24, and continues through Feb. 2.

“Entanglement” was written by Kevin Yell, the co-owner of the Ainsworth House and Gardens, a renovated historic property on Lot Whitcomb Drive in Oregon City that hosts weddings, dinners and other occasions.

The play came out of a writing project he set himself to do, featuring “inter-generational casts dealing with life changes and communication.”

In “Entanglement,” all the characters “are facing transitions due to the natural process of age, such as high school or retirement, or their world being changed by forces outside of their control. Yet none of these people are isolated, hence the title; they are entangled with one another, and the choices they make to deal with what’s going on impact each other,” Yell said.

“Even though change is not just in the air but in our DNA, for most people it’s the least welcome of the natural consequence of being alive, especially when it happens around matters of sexuality, fidelity and love.”

The play revolves around the archetypal perfect American family: mother, father and two children, but because the family must wrestle with some serious adult issues, such as sexual identity, it is most suitable for high school students and above, noted Kelley Marchant, who plays the role of Tammy, the mother, in “Entanglement.”

She is the drama teacher at RPHS, as well as the artistic director and one of the founders of New Century Players; Yell is a board member and has directed a number of plays for the group.

“Tammy is a no-nonsense, contemporary working mother, whose family is a priority. She feels like she is living her dream; she has been married to Paul for 20 years and has two great kids,” Marchant said.

Marchant has been working with Yell for two years, workshopping “Entanglement,” and identifies with Tammy so much, she feels like he wrote the character just for her.

“She prides herself on having it all,” Marchant said, adding that the most challenging thing about the role has been juggling her own personal and work schedule during the rehearsal period.

Fertile Ground Festival

The NCP board members have been interested in Portland’s Fertile Ground Festival for several years, but have never been involved until this year.

“It was time to step forward,” Marchant said.

“Having been in existence for several years, the Fertile Ground Festival is one of the most popular and exciting New Works Festivals west of the Rockies. Individual writers and companies in all the performance categories, including theater, dance, storytelling and performance art, can produce their own work in any venue they can find, along the lines of the renowned Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland,” Yell said.

The FGF then produces a “magnificent program, plus coordinates advertising and other great support to pull it all together, which is a task most small companies and individual writers or creators cannot afford to do for themselves for a short run, often only one performance,” he noted.

The festival has become so well known that it now draws in audiences from as far away as Seattle, Boise, San Francisco and beyond, Yell said, adding that a semi-staged production of “Entanglement” will also be produced at The Body Vox Studio in Portland for one night only, on Jan. 30.

Colin Murray

Although Yell has many years of experience as a director, he chose not to direct this production of his play, because he felt that an outside director would bring some objectivity to the process.

Murray, who is the technical director for Reed College’s theater department, “has been a delight to work with, and he very kindly included me in the casting process. He happens to be really good too, so I am learning from him as we go,” Yell said.

This marks the first time Murray has directed for NCP, although he said he has been working in theater as an actor and in the technical field his whole adult life; he recently acquired his master’s degree in directing from the University of Portland.

And he is familiar with New Century, he said, noting that his wife, Jessica Middleton Murray, was in “God of Carnage,” last year’s spring production for the group, along with Kelley Marchant.

“Kevin directed that play, so he and I started talking about ‘Entanglement,’ and through various connections it became more focused on me directing it,” Murray said.

Why direct a play by a local playwright?

“I am interested in new works, and developing new voices. During the rehearsal and performance process I am trying to make sure the voice of the author is heard and coming across to the audience,” he said.

“And Kevin is very confident as a playwright; my goal is to take the story he is trying to tell and give it life.”

Murray’s favorite moment takes place toward the end of the play, when “the walls have come down and the family is speaking truthfully and honestly,” and it is evident that they care deeply about each other. He hopes audiences like the family, the relationships and the struggles the family is going through.

“There are a lot of enjoyable moments. They will watch the family go through hard times, and I hope audiences will leave the show with a sense of empathy and understanding of the family,” Murray said.

“The cast is fantastic; I am lucky to have this group that is so committed and fun to work with. We have one high school student and one not long out of high school and the rest are adult actors. It is neat to have experienced actors working alongside those with less experience, but just as much heart,” he added.

Support from NCP

Yell is grateful for the support of Marchant and the NCP Board, he said.

“In the world of theater, getting a first, full production of a new play is amazing; most writers never even get that far, so I feel I’ve done remarkably well, thanks to being given this gift by NCP, and I cannot stress too much how valiant NCP has been to take on the risk of mounting a new work,” Yell said.

People buy theater tickets for shows, stars and writers they know, and full productions of new works by local authors are rare, he said.

“It’s a learning process,” he said.

“New Century broke some new ground last year, with ‘God of Carnage,’ and as a community theater group, we don’t fall into any category; we try to mix it up, and we know our audiences are looking for a quality production,” Marchant said.

Yell added, “When you look at the shows NCP has done in the past nine years, you’ll see a breadth and flexibility that’s remarkably uncommon, from Agatha Christie to the ‘Laramie Project.’ Mounting a new work by a local author in this 10th anniversary season is a great way for NCP to show its commitment to the local community and the future of live theater in Clackamas County.”

Hot ticket!

What: New Century Players presents “Entanglement,” by local playwright Kevin Yell

When: Jan. 24, 25 and 31 and Feb. 1, at 7:30 p.m. and Jan. 26 and Feb. 2, at 2 p.m.

Where: Rex Putnam Blackbox Theatre, 4950 S.E. Roethe Road, Milwaukie.

Tickets: General admission $18; students/seniors $12. They are available online at NewCenturyPlayers.org or by calling 503-367-2620.

Fertile Ground Festival: Find out more about FGF at fertilegroundpdx.org.

Cast: The cast of “Entanglement includes: Allie Andresen, Zac Burgess, Arlene Daugherty, Jeff Gorham, Marc Hakim, Kelley Marchant and Julianne Nelson. The production is directed by Colin Murray.  



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