From page to stage

Rogue and Blue Room theaters bring words of local writers to life

Photo illustration By Mazi Noble

1078 Gallery

820 Broadway St.
Chico, CA 95928

(530) 343-1973

Blue Room Theatre

139 W. First St.
Chico, CA 95928

(530) 895-3749

The approach of summer marks the end of the regular season for local theater companies. Chico’s Blue Room and Rogue theaters are celebrating by showcasing new works by local playwrights—the Blue Room with its long-standing annual Fresh Ink Festival, the Rogue with its second annual The Joke’s On You Fringe Festival.

Fresh Ink 2009 features three one-act plays—all centered on the theme of faith and forgiveness—written this spring by Kathleen Tomko, Daniel Penner and Audrey Arn. The three were chosen to have their plays produced after a selection process that began in February whittled down the entrants.

Saturday night’s Fresh Ink show, though not especially well-attended, was quite entertaining.

First up was Tomko’s The Forgiveness Tree, a serious piece directed by Winston Colgan that opened with a quotation from Dylan Thomas (one of the required common “ingredients” of all three plays appeared to be the inclusion of quotations by famous writers and/or philosophers).

Actors Rachelle Parker, Keven Angelo, Rebecca Jines and Lindsay Ashcraft did a nice job of conveying troubling emotions in this story about two sisters coming to terms with the death of their hippie journalist mother and her relationship to a deceased Japanese World War II pilot.

Penner’s The Catholic Witchwife, directed by Loki Miller, and Arn’s Sisterhood 123, directed by Erika Soerensen, were lively and often hilarious.

Arielle Mullen’s portrayal, in The Catholic Witchwife, of a juvenile, “girly” God was one of the highlights of the evening. Mullen’s on-stage interaction with Catherine Beeghly as Eartha Scott—a soft-porn-reading, interim God figure who ran things in Mullen’s character’s 30-year absence from Her duties—is refreshing, as is her interaction with Monique Birtwell and Erin Aust, as the witch and the Catholic, respectively.

Sisterhood 123 features a blue-haired Emerald Behrens as a punkish hooker who is afraid that her client’s death will be blamed on her. Dana Moore and Amanda Flanders support Behrens with their funny, over-the-top performances. Teri Ensslin as “the vegan” dramatically saves the day at the end of this comic gem.

A small complaint: There was no information in the Fresh Ink program about the common elements in each play or about the voting process.

For the Rogue Theatre’s upcoming The Joke’s On You Fringe Festival, producer and emcee (and widely known local actress) Betty Burns collected five teams of varying sizes (“I put the word out on the Internet and went with the responses I got”).

On June 6, each team was given “a really stupid joke” and the same “set pieces,” such as a table and a chair, that they have to incorporate into their play. By June 16, each team is expected to be ready for tech rehearsal with a 15- to 20-minute piece that’s “written, rehearsed and ready to go.”

“I’m excited,” said the delightfully scrappy Burns. “It’s such a challenging thing for actors to be given time restraints to come up with something fresh and new.”

Burns knows that challenge firsthand since she has both acted in and written plays for the Blue Room’s Fresh Ink Festival, in the days when she was a member of that theater company.

“Your mind is just spinning,” Burns shared, “because you want it to be so good and you want it to be so funny.”

Last year’s Rogue winner was Rob Wilson’s solo performance piece in which he played a mandolin, gave a monologue and did an interpretive dance. One of Burns’ favorites was Joe Hilsee and Amber Miller’s performance of “an abridged version of The Taming of the Shrew, but set on WKRP in Cincinnati.”

All five pieces will be performed each of the four nights of this year’s show, with audience members voting each night. The winner will be announced at the “little party” immediately after the closing night’s show.

“Everyone is welcome to stick around and dance a little,” said Burns.