alternative press serving the lower columbia pacific region

A Bicentennial Tribute

marks the Liberty Theater’s first locally produced production

Land of the Dragon

Girl with fan

Alice Whitaker is Jade Pure in Land of the Dragon

ON SATURDAY, MAY 21, at 7:30 p.m. the Liberty is hosting it’s “very first community theatre offering since the grand opening,” says the Liberty’s Executive Director, Rosemary Baker-Monaghan.

The play, “The Land of the Dragon,” is being co-produced by Coast Community Radio, directed by local creative, Sen Incavo, with casting assistance from regional director Karen Bain. It’s performance marks the  celebration of Astoria’s Chinese history and the Bicentennial Legacy Project: the Garden of the Surging Waves. In fact, the set has been designed so that the action taking place on stage, appears to be taking place in the Garden of the Surging Waves with the Moon Gate forming a focal point for the audience.

The play was written in 1945 by Madge Miller and first preformed in 1946 by the Philadelphia Children’s Theater.  “It’s a basic Cinderella story and all cultures have them but this play is done in what’s called the ancient Chinese stylized manner,” said Incavo.

Incavo, a Portland transplant, residing in Astoria the last 8 years, was prop master for Portland Repertory Theater for six years and with that company, won a Portland Drammy Award for the set design on a production of the pay “Angel Street.” He’s been involved locally with the River Theatre, and various projects. A degree in Theater with costume and set design concentration from Monmoth College in Illinois, Incavo was involved in a production of Land of Dragon.

Rather serendipitously, Incavo called Baker-Monaghan with a pitch to do the show on the Liberty stage. As told to HIPFiSH by Incavo, the director of the Liberty had been approached by the Bicentennial organizers to do a production in conjunction with the opening festivities. However, not privy to this, Incavo personally had envisioned the play a good fit for the Liberty stage. Prior to the meet, Baker-Monahagn glanced at her horoscope, which said, “ Something is going to be put before you – you should go with it.” Now if she had just been to Golden Star for dinner, and this had been a message from a fortune cookie.  . . Wow. All whimsy aside, synchronicity was at play here, planting seeds for future development of the Liberty’s intention on more local productions.

The play is rather comical and it’s suitable for anyone ages 8 to adult. There are real dragons, fake dragons, (puppeteering!) including “Small One,” played by Alan Isaksen. A lazy property manager, (John Howe) a wandering minstrel, (Sky Gager) a scheming step-aunt, (Precious Heart, played by Melissa McLeod) ensuing chaos, and of course, the lovely princess Jade Pure (Alice Whitaker) round out the cast.

While on stage, the Stage Manager (played by Incavo) narrates the action.

When Jade Pure is rescued from her malicious aunt Precious Heart and Precious Heart’s chancellor; Covet Spring, (played by Bill Ham) she becomes haughty with her hero, who quickly departs. Then it’s up to Jade Pure to find him again and change her fate. Jade Pure has many cousins who act as maids and aid her in her quest, played by Lori Wilson Honl, Kerri Hilton, and Sofie Kline. The “Twenty-fourth cousin,” is played by none other than – Slab Slabinski.

“Everything is mimed in the show.  This stylized manner is a beautiful art form partly because the kids watching it really need to use their imagination,” said Incavo. All of the props are portable. In one scene, a wall is erected: a scroll of paper painted with bricks is unloosed from the hands of the stage manager.

According to Incavo, the script was read and approved by the Chinese community both locally and in Portland. “We wanted it to be as authentic as possible,” he said. Even the costumes have been redesigned for added authenticity. “I was very lucky in being able to cast A-list actors in town who weren’t involved in other productions,” he added.

Liberty Theater WindowThe actors and actresses will be signing children’s programs after the show. “I want the kids to be able to see the dragon and the costumes up-close to generate interest from them so that they are getting something of value from this. I really want to do children’s theatre here and what I mean by that is adults performing for children  – not creative dramatics – which is children performing for their peers and families,” said Incavo.

“The Land of the Dragon” is “very different than anything that we’ve done here before,” says Baker-Monaghan.

In the past, the Liberty has brought in theater troupes from different parts of the country to do shows as part of its commitment to the educational enrichment of youth, and it will no doubt continue to do so. While this production is special for many reasons, it also represents just another step towards the Liberty’s goal of continued renovation and locally produced community theater. The theater already has educational alliances with Clatsop Community College and Portland State University and Baker-Monaghan already has half of the money raised to begin renovating the second story, back corner of the theater (above Columbia Travel and Lucy’s Books). In the future, the extra space would bring more opportunities to the theater for classes, rehearsal space, additional meeting space and the like.

It is also worth noting that during the show,  art from The Garden of the Surging Waves will be on display along with representatives who will be available to discuss the project and take donations. Presently, the Garden of the Surging Waves is Astoria’s Bicentennial Legacy Project. The Astoria Column was Astoria’s centennial project, so perhaps the importance of this project seeing completion should be on every citizen’s mind.

The Garden of the Surging Waves celebrates the importance of the Chinese population in Astoria and the lasting impact they have made. Chinese immigrants to Astoria worked hard in the canneries, built the jetties, and brought the railroad to Astoria, and struggled to gain a foothold in a rugged town not always willing to accept foreigners and a different culture.
The Liberty celebrates a rich, colorful Chinese heritage culture of Astoria, and welcomes all to enjoy this frontier production!

For more information on the Garden of Surging Waves and Chinese heritage go to www.astoriachineseheritage.org.
Performances and Ticket Info

May 21 at 7:30 pm Liberty Theater. Tickets are on sale now at the Liberty Box Office. (503) 325-5922 Ext. 55. Groups of 10 or more will receive a $2 discount on each ticket. May 28 at 11:00 am Clatsop Community College PAC. $2 donation at the door June 4 at 7:30 pm and June 5 at 3:00 pm Coaster Theatre in Cannon Beach. Tickets on sale soon.

Open Seating.  Adult $18.00 Student, Senior, Military $15. Box Office is open Tuesday – Saturday from 2pm – 5:30pm and two hours before the show.

Tickets may also be purchased through TicketsWest 503.224.8499 or 1.800.992.8499. Tickets subject to a convenience charge. Ask for your tickets to be put in Will Call at the theater and you can pick them up on show night and avoid the shipping charge.

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