A theatrical journey
Cast comes of age in Blue Room’s latest production
Sue Pate is quick to profess a great affection for working with teenagers, specifically the ones she is directing in the Blue Room Theatre’s latest Young Company production, a Native American-style coming-of-age tale called Crow and Weasel.
Part of Pate’s enthusiasm comes from the fact that her 18-year-old son “just left the nest,” as the pretty 58-year-old brunette wistfully put it. She says she’s a little lonesome for teenage company. Another reason is directly related to her son as well: He is part Chickasaw, and directing the play was a way for Pate to celebrate her son’s Native American heritage.
This is the first project with the Blue Room Theatre for Pate, who normally works with college-aged actors in Chico State’s Theatre Arts Department, where she has taught for 22 years.
“It’s absolutely work hard, play hard,” Pate said, referring to the cast, which ranges in age from 12 to 18.
Pate fell in love with Crow and Weasel when Blue Room artistic director Gail Holbrook brought the script (penned by Indiana playwright and TV dramatist Jim Leonard Jr., and based on the popular Barry Lopez book by the same name) to her attention.
The Blue Room’s Young Company production follows the vision quest of two young members of the mythical “Tribe of Animal People” as they travel from the Plains all the way up to the home of the Inuit tribe in the Arctic Circle and back home again. During their journey, the youths travel through a number of dangerous places and learn a lot about themselves and the larger world in which they live.
Crow and Weasel is intended to be a colorful and sonically and visually exciting piece, perfectly suited to Pate’s background in dance (she has a Ph.D. in dance history and choreography). Her young costume designers, Whitney Thayne and Julia Dalton, stepped up more than admirably to the plate, doing hours upon hours of extensive research into the customs and dress of numerous Native American tribes to produce the necessarily somewhat-abstract outfits worn by the characters.
Assistant-director duties are being handled by 18-year-old Butte College student Nicole Collado, whom Pate describes as amazingly talented.
“Nicole is gifted as a director,” Pate said. “Not only can she capture the vision [of the play], but she can also do the hard work. She is a treasure.”
Crow and Weasel is Collado’s first directing experience (she studied drama for four years at Pleasant Valley High School and has acted in numerous Blue Room Company plays), and she glows when talking about it.
“This is a really good show for [Sue] to direct because she’s really into movement,” said Collado. “The characters have to take on the physicality of animals, and she’s really good at helping them discover that. This is a story that, even if there wasn’t any dialogue, the audience would still understand the story.”
Taking on the role of Weasel is 17-year-old Vance Lynch, who will be a senior at Pleasant Valley in the fall, while a recent PV grad, 18-year-old Lindsay Ashcraft, plays Crow. Pate was keen to praise the work of PV drama teacher Tamara Jensen, pointing out that several of the actors from the eight-person cast came to her very well-trained, having gone through Jensen’s program.
Pate is calmly effusive when talking about the fortune of being able to work with a young cast and crew.
“These kids are here to do a show and to have a good theater experience,” she said. “But they’ve learned at a young age [the responsibility and work ethic] that most people never learn in a job, because we have a deadline that we have to have things done by. I mean, we’ve already sold tickets for opening night.”