There's been a lull on local stages since the holidays, but that's about to change. Over the next month or so there's a parade of comedy (including commedia) and drama (classic, modern and contemporary), all beginning with a radio show.
This coming Saturday (Jan. 21) Redwood Curtain presents the latest in this locally favorite form in its fifth annual fundraiser, appropriately titled A Fifth of Zounds! Artistic Director Clint Rebik describes it as Prairie Home Companion meets Saturday Night Live, with a Humboldt County twist. It's presented in the Sapphire Palace at the Blue Lake Casino (along with drinks and dinner) and broadcast live on KHUM.
Participants include Pamela Lyall, James Floss, Randy Wayne, Bonnie Halverson, Ron Halverson, Terry Desch, Steve Carter and Christina Jioras. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Information and tickets at www.redwoodcurtain.com. "Last year's event was a virtual sell-out," Rebik adds, "so we encourage folks to purchase tickets quickly."
The following weekend North Coast Repertory Theatre opens the Neil Simon comedy, Laughter on the 23rd Floor. In a way it's a sequel to Simon's autobiographical trilogy (Brighton Beach Memoirs, Biloxi Blues, Broadway Bound) since it is based on his "big break" job, writing for the early 1950s television hit, Your Show of Shows, starring Sid Caesar. NCRT's production opens on Thursday, Jan. 26, with the usual gala benefit for cast and crew. It runs through Feb. 18. Information and tickets: 442-6278, www.ncrt.net.
Also that weekend, the Young Actors' Guild juniors and seniors of Northcoast Preparatory Academy present Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale: A Retelling, directed by Jean Heard Bazemore. It's a limited run: just Friday and Saturday (Jan. 27 and 28) at 8 p.m., and Saturday at 2 p.m. It's at the Arkley Center in Eureka, which is also handling the tickets at the box office, by phone (442-1956) or online (arkleycenter.com) -- but be advised, there's a hefty service charge for online purchase.
The annual VDAY Humboldt benefit happens on Friday and Saturday, Feb. 3 and 4, with the first North Coast performances of Any One of Us: Words From Prison by Eve Ensler, author of the Vagina Monologues. These are also monologues based on stories that originated in a writing group Ensler conducted with 15 women prisoners, combined with writing from women in other prisons.
The cast includes Vanessa Pike-Vrtiak, Jamie Carroll, Savannah Edwards, Jennifer Bravo, Gina Figueroa, Nichole Umayam and Sistah Soul. Performances are at 7 p.m. at the Native American Forum on the HSU campus. Proceeds go to the North Coast Rape Crisis Team and the Prison University Project. Information: 530-448-9458.
Also that weekend, Dell'Arte students present their Commedia dell'arte Finals, Feb. 2 through 4 in the Carlo Theatre at 8 p.m. Box office: 668-5663, dellarte.com.
The first HSU Theatre, Film & Dance Department production of 2012 is Venus by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks, directed by Jean O'Hara. This multi-dimensional play is based on the true story of a South African woman who was displayed as a carnival freak in England in the early 19th century, before ending up as a "scientific" exhibit. Eboni Session plays Venus, with Shannon Bass, Robert Davis and Zach Scott in the other principal roles.
This production breaks the usual mold for HSU: It's at Gist Hall Theatre for only one week, and it opens on a Wednesday (Feb. 8) at 7:30 p.m. Evening performances continue through Saturday, with a 2 p.m. matinee on Sunday. Information: HSUStage.blogspot.com. Tickets: 826-3928.
The winter play at Ferndale Repertory Theatre was scheduled to be Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew, but it's been cancelled due to the director's illness. Instead, director John Heckel has stepped in to replace it with a production of John Osborne's landmark 1956 drama, Look Back in Anger. It opens on Friday, Feb. 10, at 8 p.m.
Heckel has directed many plays over the years at HSU and he's assembled an impressive cast for this one, which includes Ethan Edmonds, Greta Stockwell, Charlie Heinberg, Tisha Sloan and Bob Morse. Tickets and information: 786-5483, ferndale-rep.org.
Redwood Curtain presents Julia Cho's contemporary comedy The Language Archive beginning Feb. 16, directed by James Floss. February ends and March begins with the one-week HSU production of Noel Coward's spooky comedy, Blithe Spirit, directed by Jyl Hewston. And then ... it's spring!
A sad note: North Coast playwright Wendy J. Williams has passed away. She came to Humboldt as a journalist but found a home in theatre, first by acting for the Pacific Arts Center Theatre, Ferndale Rep and NCRT (including in their production of Blithe Spirit) in the 1980s and 90s, and then earning an MFA in dramatic writing at HSU. Among her works was a one-person show, Motherhood: Made in China, based on her own experiences adopting a girl in China. Her play Range of Light, inspired by the life of Eureka's Carole Sund, was produced at HSU in 2006. Of her portrait of motherhood in that play, she told Journal reporter Cynthia E. Gilmer: "Even the little, everyday acts of kindness can lead to greatness." It's one kind of greatness by which Wendy will be remembered.