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September 21, 2006
Ashland By the Sea?
Redwood Curtain Envisions Its Future
It's been almost
exactly a year now since Redwood Curtain closed its last show.
A compact legacy of costumes, props and scenery were hauled away
from its abandoned digs in a Eureka shopping center and stored.
But its current homelessness has not darkened the vision its
founders have always had.
"It's been a roller coaster ride," admitted
one of those founders, Peggy Metzger, in a recent conversation
on the HSU campus, where she works as Associate Director in the
Financial Aid department. "But right now we're in negotiations
on a space we really want."
"Our vision has always been to be a professional
theatre providing living wages to artists," she said, "and
to be a tourist destination — to be part of that economic
development world. That's one of the reasons a Eureka waterfront
location would be ideal — right where redevelopment is
So no surprise that this is the location of the
building that Redwood Curtain hopes to soon inhabit. "It's
a big building in Old Town that's been abandoned for years, that's
never been a theatre," she said, and laughed. "Even
though we can't say what building it is, everybody figures it
out pretty quickly from that description."
If ongoing negotiations are successful (they've
been proceeding for about six months), Redwood Curtain has the
designs ready for the construction of a brand new theatre. But
there's another key piece of the plan as well. "We've partnered
up with Curley Tate, of Curley's Bar and Grill in Ferndale, who
always said, 'wherever you guys end up permanently, I want to
be with you.' So half of the space will be the new theatre, and
half a fabulous new restaurant."
Besides the negotiations, Redwood Curtain has been
active in other ways in the past year. They've ducked out from
under the umbrella of the Ink People and are organizing their
own non-profit. With Cassandra Hesseltine presiding, there's
the new casting agency and a conservatory that's offered acting
classes. But always the main attention has been on finally making
the theatre vision a reality.
"We learned a lot from our last space,"
Metzger said. "So the playing area we've designed is basically
the same — a three-quarter thrust stage — but the
backstage will be very different. We've also designed it so it
can be used for other events like weddings, conventions and conferences,
with catering available from Curley's. We'll build a classroom
and rehearsal space, so we can do events in the theatre and still
rehearse and hold classes."
But perhaps the most immediate revolution in Humboldt
County theatre will be the restrooms: two new ones, each accommodating
four people at once.
Artistically, Redwood Curtain will maintain its
niche of offering mostly contemporary plays that haven't been
performed elsewhere in Humboldt before. "Fresh, thoughtful
and funny, sometimes a little edgy," as Metzger described
it. "Even if we would do a classic, it would be a rethinking
of it. We want to produce the highest quality we can manage,
using the top talent we can find, even bringing in outside talent."
"Contemporary work that excites our artists
and our audience," added Clint Rebik, Redwood's Artistic
Director, who joined the interview from his job in the HSU Registrar's
office. "Work that we feel a connection to."
Both Metzger and Rebik travel to other theatres,
always looking for ideas they can use at Redwood Curtain. But
there's one particular model, or at least ideal. "Ashland
has been kind of a guiding force for us," Rebik said, "because
of their rural, small-town location, and what they do and how
they do it, the venues, how they've grown. Of course, they have
a 60-year head start on us."
But that's the nub of the vision, as Metzger described
it: "Ashland by the sea." Eventually they hope to be
doing two plays in repertory in the summer, "so that tourists
who wouldn't come here for one play might come for two,"
she said, referring to Ashland's system of multi-play packages
that attract visitors from up and down the coast.
Restaurants and other businesses in Ashland have
adapted to serving visitors that the theatres attract, but Redwood
Curtain hopes to build in part of that process with Curley's.
"Imagine having a great grilled salmon dinner," Metzger
said, "and when you get your bill, your theatre tickets
are tucked under it, and your server tells you, 'your performance
starts next door in 10 minutes.'"
Getting a good beginning on this vision may not
be so very far away, either. "We're hoping for a 2007 season
in our new venue," Metzger said, "four shows, beginning
(As for the actual Ashland, theatergoers have only
another couple of weeks to see this year's offerings on the outdoor
Elizabethan Stage: The Merry Wives of Windsor closes Oct.
6, Cyrano de Bergerac on Oct. 7, and The Two Gentlemen
of Verona Oct. 8.)
Once a year Jeff DeMark reprises his first one-person show, Writing
My Way Out of Adolescence, and it's happening this week on
Friday, Sept. 22 at 8 p.m., at the café formerly known
as Muddy Waters, now under new ownership — and with a whole
new look — as Muddy's Hot Cup. Tickets are $5 at the door
... North Coast Rep opens The Ladies of the Camellias
on Friday as well, and Ferndale Rep begins previews of The
Mystery of Irma Vep on Thursday, Sept. 28 ... HSU Dept. of
Theatre, Film & Dance presents a multimedia dance performance,
Journeys Before Waking, exploring the landscape of dreams,
for five successive nights, Tuesday through Saturday, Sept. 26-30,
with a Sunday matinee on Oct. 1. The evening performances start
at the new 7:30 curtain time for HSU shows.
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