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The Big Mad 

Dell'Arte leads a summer-long festival

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For more than a generation, it's been mad in Blue Lake in June, ever since Dell'Arte created the Mad River Festival of stage performances. The festival got pretty hefty for a while in the '90s, and in more recent years it's been smaller. But this year it's bigger than ever, absorbing seven weeks of the summer with much more than the usual number and variety of events starting June 19 and ending August 3.

There's more music: in addition to the traditional Folk Life Festival from July 14 to July 19, there's also a Blue Lake Blues Festival on August 2 and the Eureka Symphony performing Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf on July 26. (Last summer's Dell'Arte Life Achievement Award winner and Dell'Arte founder Jane Hill was recently named Eureka Symphony's first-ever executive director.)

A major catalyst for the festival's expansion is a big ArtPlace America grant, which accounts for several Blue Lake-centered events, many of them free, including Blue Lake: The Center of the Universe Party on June 29 and the Trash Mash-Up community workshops from July 10 through 13. There are additional Blue Lake venues, such as Perigot Park and the banks of the Mad River, where Laura Munoz will lead One Multitude, a "movement choir" of 50 participants of all ages performing at sunset on June 25.

There's a new performance venue, as well. In addition to the Rooney Amphitheatre and Carlo Theatre, several shows appear in the new Pierson Building Center Big Hammer Tent, adding a circus big-top topography to the summer madness.

That's particularly apt since this summer's Prize of Hope (given by Dell'Arte in conjunction with the Danish Institute of Popular Theatre) goes to Clowns Without Borders International. The award dinner is on June 28. The following day, Mooky Cornish, former lead clown for Cirque de Soleil, leads a benefit performance for Clowns Without Borders before entertaining at the Center of the Universe party in the big tent. Cornish also performs a comic solo show, The Glories of Gloria Revue, July 10 through July 13 at the Carlo.

In addition to the annual Red Light in Blue Lake adult cabaret (July 5) and the acrobatic performance (this year called Taken Away, performed five times between June 21 and June 27), there are several other stage events.

Mad Lab (July 2) is an evening of works-in-progress by Dell'Arte School grads Meghan Frank, Janessa Johnrude, Emily Newton and Darci Fulcher. July 23 is the official world premiere of Elisabeth's Book, created by performers Joan Schirle, Laura Munoz and Ruxandra Cantir and director Alain Schons, with original music by Schirle, Gina Leishman and Tim Gray. Drawn from a Holocaust survivor's memoir, the music and movement-based play runs through July 27.

On July 31, Jeff DeMark brings his band The Gila Monsters (Rick Levin, Ron Sharp, Jean Browning and Paul DeMark) for an evening of music and stories about summer called Acting On A Dream (and of course, there's a story about the title). Besides Jeff, storytellers include Marvin Samuels, Lizzy Moonbeam and Charlie Gilbert.

But it all starts with the big show in the amphitheatre beginning June 19 and continuing for three weekends. Korbel V: The Secret is the latest in Dell'Arte's outrageously epic working class soap opera that has seen death, a wedding, a birth and a fateful accident amidst much local color and family angst.

This summer's story finds the surly and unemployed Tommy Dugan living in a ramshackle trailer, eventually confronting the Korbel Timber Company as it evicts workers' families from company housing. It's written and directed by Lauren Wilson, who wrote the memorable 2010 summer show, Blue Lake: The Opera. Returning are Michael Fields as Tommy and Joan Schirle as his mother Dorothy, who, despite having died in the first play, has appeared in all the sequels. Music is provided by Marla Joy, Tim Randles and Mike LaBolle.

In a TV commercial for the festival, Fields as Tommy Dugan describes the show: "They say it's a comedy but my life ain't so funny to me." That nails the mood of this series. It's been satirical, melodramatic and over the top, but with heart and eyes open to the Humboldt of the moment. Off-camera, Fields said, "It is pure 'theatre of place,' Dell'Arte style ... I don't know of another theatre that follows characters over decades with keen attention to the times, looking at it all through the lens of place."

Dell'Arte offers a festival pass to any four shows plus some extra benefits. 668-5663.

Coming Up:

Thursday, June 12 at Ferndale Repertory Theatre is an actors benefit performance of the ongoing production, The Dixie Swim Club by Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope and Mamie Wooten. All proceeds on this night go to cast and crew. Otherwise the production continues Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. through June 22.

This comedy portrays four North Carolina reunions of five women, college swimming teammates, who get together one weekend a year for 33 years. Directed by Leira V. Satlof, it features Marilyn McCormick, Marilyn Foote, Rae Robison, Dana Zurasky and Natasha White. Scenic design is by Ray Gutierrez, with costumes by Lynnie Horrigan. 786-5483.

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