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Sept. 16, 2004
Behind the Stage Door


Earth Matters On Stage graphicEcodrama


The next two weekends bring a rare opportunity to local theatergoers, to attend staged readings of award-winning plays entered in Earth Matters on Stage: A Redwood Coast Festival of New Plays [EMOS].

The idea that became the EMOS Festival hatched more than a decade ago as Larry Fried and Theresa May began their cutting edge work on ecodrama with a series of workshops and conferences titled "Theater in the Ecological Age," and a subsequent book, Greening Up Our Houses: A Guide to a More Ecologically Sound Theatre.

According to Fried, who serves as artistic director for the EMOS Festival, "What came out of the conferences covered the whole theater perspective, not just what happens in the organization, but how theaters could be more environmentally responsible." Fried noted that participants also looked at a number of theatrical pieces, looking for the connection between theater and the environment.

Three years ago, when Fried and May moved to Humboldt, he said they realized, "Ecodrama is a natural for Humboldt County." Ultimately Humboldt both inspired and supports ecodrama and this playwrights' festival, a partnership community event by Humboldt State University and the Ink People Center for the Arts.

EMOS emerged with a roar on the national theater world. The competition -- the first of its kind -- drew 147 entries from the U.S. and Canada. Several winning plays will be read or presented as staged readings during the course of the festival. Additionally three local theater groups are participating in EMOS: Dell'Arte presents Shadow of Giants by Matthew Graham Smith; Redwood Curtain Theatre premieres Bindlestiff's Dance Hall by Sue Bigelow-Marsh; and the Klamath Theatre Project reads its latest, Salmon Is Everything.

Fried said this year has begun a process of "building relationships between local theaters and HSU, which is committed to the idea of sustainable economy, in environmental studies, theater and in partnerships with the community."

Humboldt State President Rollin Richmond will open the awards ceremony for the winning plays, kicking off the festival at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 24. in HSU's Gist Hall. A staged reading of the winning entry in this year's festival, Odin's Horse by Robert Koon, will be presented at 8 p.m. in Gist Hall.

A staged reading is a presentation with actors, minimal staging, sets and costumes. It gives the audience an opportunity to help develop new theatrical pieces: A laugh or a frown in a critical moment can lead to new insight, or the awareness that something isn't working right.

Odin's Horse, based on the poetic Edda composed in Old Norse around 1200 A.D., describes Odin's agony as he sacrificed himself and hung for nine days from the tree of life. The name of the tree translates to "Odin's Horse" because he rode it through the depths and heights of his mind until he learned the secrets of the runes. The poet wrote that Odin said, "I grew and took joy in my growth, I was led to a word, from a deed to another deed."

In the play, a writer struggling to reorient himself in the face of professional and romantic success meets a tree-sitter whose commitment to the forest causes him to reexamine the trade-offs that support his good fortune.

Simultaneously at 8 p.m. another treesitter drama, Shadow of Giants, plays at the Dell'Arte's Carlo Theatre in Blue Lake, while Bindlestiff's Dance Hall premieres at the Redwood Curtain Theatre in Eureka.

Bindlestiff's Dance Hall repeats at 8 p.m. on Sept. 25 and 30 as well as Oct. 1 and 2, with a matinee at 2 p.m. Sept. 26. Shadow of Giants has three additional shows: 2 and 8 p.m. Sept. 25, and 8 p.m. Sept. 26, all in Blue Lake.

The remaining four theatrical events in the festival are a reading of Salmon Is Everything by the Klamath Theatre Project at 5 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 26, at Dell'Arte's Carlo Theatre; a reading of The Basketmaker by David M. Baughan at 8 p.m. Sept. 29, at Gist Hall; and two staged readings of Girl Science by Larry Loebell, at 8 p.m. Oct. 1 and 2, in Gist Hall.

A panel discussion on the nature and meaning of ecodrama will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 25, in Gist Hall. Panelists include Theresa May, visiting playwrights Lisa Giordano, Larry Loebell and Robert Koon, Michael Fields, managing director of the Dell'Arte Players, award-winning playwright Jane Lapiner of Petrolia's Human Nature theater troupe, and Jose Cruz Gonzalez, from Cornerstone Theater Company in Los Angeles, one of the festival's judges.

An EMOS pass good for all the events is available for $36 from the HSU ticket office, 826-3928. Dell'Arte (668-5663) and Redwood Curtain (443-7688) have tickets for their individual events. More information is available on the EMOS Web site:




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