COLUMBIA GORGE ‘STAGES’ presents ‘Fun Home’

BRUCE (Peter Tappert, left) forges an openly-secret relationship with a much younger man, Roy (Miles Thoming-Gale, in multiple roles,) and his wife, Helen (Emily Vawter) watches her family torn at its core.

Photo by Kirby Neumann-Rea
BRUCE (Peter Tappert, left) forges an openly-secret relationship with a much younger man, Roy (Miles Thoming-Gale, in multiple roles,) and his wife, Helen (Emily Vawter) watches her family torn at its core.



Tickets and Times

Performances are Feb. 8-10, Feb.16-17, and Feb. 23-24 at 7 p.m. and Feb. 11 at 2 p.m. at Wy’east Middle School Performing Arts Center. Tickets are $15 adults (18 and over) and $10 for students and children. Tickets are available at the door and through gorgeorchestra.org. Due to adult language and subject matter, Fun Home is recommended for ages 12 and above. Running time is 100 minutes, with no intermission. Abby Rankin will play Small Alison on Feb 8, 10, 16 and 23. Fiona Larsen-Teskey will play the role on Feb 9, 11, 17 and 24.

Set in the 1970s, the themes of the musical “Fun Home” are as current as ever. The Columbia Gorge Orchestra STAGES production, directed by Mark Steighner, opens Feb. 8.

“Fun Home” is based on a graphic novel (published in 2006) by Alison Bechdel. It has music by Jeanine Tesori and lyrics and book by Lisa Kron. The lengthy one-act (100 minutes with no intermission) was developed as a musical between 2009-2013 and moved to Broadway in 2015. It won Tony Awards for Best Musical, best Original Score and a number of others.

The graphic novel has a non-linear plot and is full of literary allusions, Steighner notes. It has been banned or the subject of attempted banning many times due to its lesbian/gay content.

The plot centers on adult Alison, who is stuck in her writing and is looking back at her life, family, and past experiences to try and understand herself, in large part her relationship with her father, Bruce. Like the book, the musical is non-linear, and Alison is played by three different people: adult (Rachel Moore-Beitler), “Medium” Alison (Mila Fuentes) and “Small” Alison (Abby Rankin and Fiona Larsen-Teskey on alternating nights).

Familiar faces include Lauren Gray (Joan), Emily Vawter (Helen Bechdel), Peter Tappert (Bruce Bechdel) and Abby Rankin (Small Alison).

The story provides intimate glimpse into the home life of Alison and her family — outwardly traditional but inwardly in a tragic state of flux.

Steighner notes, “The character of Alison is one of the first leading lesbian roles in a musical, and the show is in part about sexual identity, coming out and coming of age, but it is not a ‘gay musical.’

“More importantly, the show’s major themes are universal: family secrets and dysfunction, coping with suicide and loss, connecting with the past, and how past events influence the present. It’s very important to note that while some of the events in the show are tragic, there is a lot of humor and warmth as well. It is hopeful and uplifting.”

photo

MEETING Joan (Lauren Gray, left), at college helps transform Alison (Mila Fuentes).

Yet the subject matter presents definite challenges in the lead roles.

“This was a liberating revelation to me and allowed me to embrace Bruce’s humanity,” Tappert said. “I am able to see my own father in certain manifestations of Bruce, and myself in others. My goal is to achieve an honest portrayal of Bruce, and if I am able to do so, I expect reactions to Bruce to be conflicted and wide ranging.”

Moore-Beitler said, “I would say that throughout the arc of the show, it’s Alison's longing to be seen for who she is that drives her search for connection amidst all her memories.

“It’s a unique role — being onstage the entire time, with almost no dialogue, yet being involved in the whole process. Alison as a character is more scientific and analytical than me; this is definitely the most nuanced and complex show I've ever done, with all the transitions and timing.”

Fuentes, 15 and a Trout Lake resident, said, “I've always felt a connection with Alison Bechdel's writing, and giving a voice to that writing is something that feels very personal to me. Even though the particulars of the transition that Alison undertakes in this production are not necessarily my own, dealing with the challenges of change is the reality of growing into adulthood, so being myself an American teenager, a lot about playing this character has felt really close to home.”

Steighner said, “Musically, ‘Fun Home’ explores many song styles: folk, 1970s pop, Sondheim-influenced melody, etc. There is a significant amount of spoken dialogue, but almost continuous musical underscoring,” he said. “I would describe it as a ‘chamber musical’ because the story and music are intimate and not ‘larger than life.’”

Although everyone in the cast has been on stage before, many are new to CGOA Stages including Rachel Moore-Beitler (Alison), Mila Fuentes (Medium Alison), Miles Thoming-Gale (Roy/Mark), Fiona Larsen-Teskey (Small Alison), Quinn Harty (John), and Wesley Parker (Christian).

LOCAL THEATER NOTES ...

Between auditions for multiple productions and new ones opening around the Mid-Columbia, spring is a busy season for actors and dancers in the region.

‘All in the Timing’ auditions

Columbia Gorge Orchestra Association invites actors of all ages to try out for “All in the Timing,” a series of six one-acts. Auditions are Feb. 10, 10 a.m. to noon and Feb. 13, 6:30-8:30 p.m., at Hood River Library in downtown Hood River. Barb Berry, Ashly Will and Will Thayer-Daugherty will direct the one-acts, by David Ives.

Performances will be April 12-14 and April 19-21. Auditions will be cold-readings from the plays, and between 16-20 actors are needed.

‘Chicago: The Musical’ auditions

Columbia Gorge Orchestra Association STAGES holds auditions this month for “Chicago: The Musical.”

Auditions will be in two parts, and all interested actors must participate in both. "Not every role requires an ability to sing and dance well, but I do want to evaluate every possibility during auditions," explained Director Bruce Ludwig. All roles are for men and women, and the large cast can accommodate many adult age ranges. There are no roles for children under 17.

The first round of auditions will focus on dancing. Participants may select one dance audition to attend, which are scheduled for Feb. 7 at 7 p.m., Feb. 10 at 2 p.m. and Feb. 11 at 7 p.m. Dance auditions will be at the Columbia Gorge Dance Academy, at 2600 May Ave.

Vocal and acting auditions are Feb. 18 at 2 p.m., Feb. 21 at 6:30 p.m., or Feb. 24. at 10 a.m. at the Hood River Valley High School Choir Room. For these auditions, people should prepare a song that demonstrates vocal range and ability. A piano will be provided (participants bring their own accompanists) plus a system to play MP3 accompaniment tracks. A musical accompaniment is required, as a cappella auditions will not be accepted. Questions regarding music can be sent to Music Director Mark Steighner at msteighner@gmail.com. The acting component will be cold readings from the script.

If necessary, call backs will be on Feb. 25. Performances will be the second, third and fourth weekends in June at the Bingen Theater.

Interested in a backstage role? Contact Ludwig at bludwig50@gorge.net, or call 541-380-0857.

Hood River Valley High School

Students will present “Steel Magnolias” by Robert Harling and “Terra Nova” by Ted Tally in early March at Bowe Theater. Tickets are $8 for students and seniors or $12 for both shows, and $10 and $15 for adults.

“Steel Magnolias” performances are March 2, 10, and 16 at 7 p.m. and March 3 and March 11 at 2 p.m.

“Terra Nova” will be staged March 3, 9 and 17 at 7 p.m. and March 4 and March 10 at 2 p.m.

Taking place in Truvy’s beauty salon, “Steel Magnolias” follows the eccentric women of the small Louisiana town as they deal with the life around them.

“Terra Nova” is drawn from the 1910-11 journals and letters found on the frozen body of Antarctic explorer Captain Robert Scott, the action of the play blends scenes of the explorer and his men at various stages of their ordeal, with flashbacks of Scott and his young wife and with fateful glimpses of his Norwegian rival, Roald Amundsen, whose party beat him to the South Pole.

Also at HRVHS this spring: April 27, 6 p.m., “Spoon River Anthology” is a series of monologues following the deceased residents of Spoon River, Ill., during the 1840s-1880s, talking of how they died, to love lost, to the hatred for those who’ve wronged them; directed by HRVHS alum Tay Camille Lynne. Admission is free.

This story has been updated. The print version omitted the venue for "Fun Home," which will be Wy'east Middle School Performing Arts Center.



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