Can we celebrate through grief?

‘The Year of Magical Thinking’ tackles the question

By Emily Fitzgerald, News staff writer

Opening May 10, a one-woman show exploring the nature of grief, and how we as a society handle it, is the next show on the docket for the Columbia Gorge Orchestra Association (CGOA)’s 2019 season.

“The Year of Magical Thinking,” a reader’s theatrical performance, runs May 10-11 and May 16-18, 7 p.m., at Riverside Church in Hood River. Admission is by donation at the door.

“My goal (with the show) is to open up a dialogue with the subject matter of grief and mourning and how our society in America tends to have no sense of celebration for that part of life,” said Deborah Langlois, the show’s sole performer.

“The Year of Magical Thinking,” by Joan Didion, recounts the author’s experiences of grief following the death of her husband and tracks Didion’s emotions through the illness and eventual death of her daughter. The book was published in 2005 and adapted into a one-woman theatrical production in 2007.

“I love the script and I love her (Didion’s) honest portrayal of the subject matter,” said Langlois, “(Didion has) an honest voice without being too sentimental.”

When asked why she was motivated to do a one-woman show, Langlois said, “I guess at this point in my theatrical career, I wanted to do a solo performance because it’s easier. To do a full blown production, whether I’m directing or acting in it, takes a tremendous amount of energy and time.”

On the show’s serious subject matter, Langlois said, “In theater, we always deal with … the tragedy and the comedy aspects of life, and people may see death as a tragedy — well, they do see death as a tragedy — and it’s just part of a theatrical experience that, in my mind — in my theatrical mind — we should experience.”

“I think it’s my age, too,” she added, “I’m approaching 70-years-old, so I’m thinking more about the end of my life.” She also commented on the death of her mother as a motivator for picking up this script, and the three weeks she spent with her as she was dying. With help from hospice, she said, “I was able to get through the experience in a positive way.”

A panel consisting of hospice workers, grief counselors, a musical art therapist, a chaplain and Langlois herself, will moderate a discussion immediately following each night’s performance. “I’m hoping that it (the discussion) will open up audience members to express themselves about death.” The discussion includes wine and dessert.

Langlois, who currently lives in White Salmon, has previously directed Columbia Center for the Arts’ production of Edward Albee’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolff” and CGOA’s production of “Death of a Salesman,” by Arthur Miller, as well as several high school musicals. As an actor, she has played over 20 major roles across nearly 30 years.

For more on the production, visit www.gorgeorchestra.org.

‘Love in 4/4 Time’ staged in May

“Love in 4/4 Time” is next up at Adult Center Theater.

Shows are May 24 and 25 at 7 p.m. and May 26 at 2 p.m. Admission is $10 at the door. ACT is working with local care facilities to provide free admission to family members and caregivers of people with Alzheimmer’s.

In the cast are John Bryan, Alison Bryan, Jim Tindall, Pam Tindall and Pam Rield.

Playwright Gary Young said this about the production:

“‘Love in 4/4 Time’ presents the story of two couples struggling with the affects of the Alzheimers and dementia and the life changes the illness brings to the diagnosed person, their spouses and their families.

“‘Love...’ provides a gateway for understanding and admission that “What is, is.” Which, is the undergirding truth that the characters fear, ignore and by which they are confronted.”

“Love...” recently received a grant from the Salvador Fund of the Gorge Community Foundation. It will be presented as a staged reading during Older Americans Month, as part of a Dementia Friendly, community awareness program in Hood River, this May.

‘Mulan Jr.’ fills stage at Wy’east this weekend

Dual casts handle multiple roles in musical folk tale

A large cast and an action-packed musical take the stage this weekend courtesy of the Wy’east Middle School drama department.

The students are staging “Mulan Jr.,” based on Disney’s Oscar-nominated film.

Hailey Stuben and Halyie Cox share the titular role. Alternate casts fill the roles of Ancestors, Mulan’s Family, and Villagers.

All told, more than 30 students appear on stage in shared or multiple roles, and 10 students handle tech and backstage duties.

“Mulan Jr.” is a “heartwarming celebration of culture, honor and the fighting spirit,” according to director Jennifer Graves.

 With hit songs and a story packed with action, humor and heart, “Mulan Jr.” brings ancient China to life with a modern sensibility.

The Huns have invaded, and it is up to the misfit Mulan and her mischievous dragon sidekick, Mushu, to save the Emperor.

Defying the village matchmaker, Mulan takes up arms and disguises herself as a boy in order to spare her father from having to serve in the army.

As the great battle with the Huns approaches, Mulan must choose between revealing her true identity as a girl or saving all of China with her clever plan.

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