Interview with Susi Brown and Sofie Kline

Susi Brown, Theater Diva.

Susi Brown makes theater happen in this region. Theater goers strongly applauded her one year experiment in launching her own small company Pier Pressure Productions, a few years back, and the venue, (post River Theater closure) on 10th that seated forty happy audience members nightly.

An educator, producer, director, actress, seamstress, the works.  After 2O some years of teaching arts/speech/theater/journalism at Knappa High – she took a two year sabbatical to earn an MFA in Theater Direction. She directed numerous plays at The River Theater, has produced several plays now at KALA, works with the AAUW Reader’s Theater program, directs at the Coaster, and keep things rolling in a time when it not easy to launch productions without supporting programs. Just when you haven’t heard from her, she always shows up with something new.

Q. What brought you to the craft of theatre?
A. My cousin and I would read the Sunday comics, and make plays out of them and our grandparents would very sweetly indulge us.  My dad taught school and also directed school plays. My aunt a country school teacher also wrote little musicals for her students and I would go to see them, and I remember staring down into the reflection of the floor and thinking, ‘when I grow up I want to be just like my aunt Ginny.’

Q. Favorite playwright?
A. Oh so many. I do love Ibsen and the ideas he held forth. I really enjoy Lillian Hellman as well. One of my favorite pieces is about Joan of Arc, called “The Lark.” I love the whole Joan of Arc idea, and the fact  that so many playwrights have attempted, so many filmmakers, and the passion that drove that person, at all costs, she held true to her visions. And the thing about Lillian Hellman, her strong characters, her lead characters are women. That’s hard to find.

Q. What is one of your most successful, memorable productions in the region?
A. That’s an easy one. When the Anne Frank exhibit came to Astoria, (mid 90s) organizer Carol Newman asked me to do the production. We had chosen our season already, and the students were excited about. But I invited them for a BBQ and thespian meeting, and asked them to consider Anne Frank and told them why, and that was the end of discussion.

The students who took that on were amazing. They did everything for it, research; a special viewing of the exhibit, they talked to Holocaust survivors in preparation of their roles. We did a 36 hour non-stop tech because that was the only time we could get into the PAC building. Not once did those kids raise a fuss. By showtime the only thing we had not found and needed was a menorah that was historically accurate. Then one night I felt a presence behind me and it was Phyllis Lobe. She was holding a menorah that her parents had carried from Germany when they escaped the Nazi occupation. She talked the kids about it. Their response was so appropriate, and so humbling. Every piece fell into place.

Q. What are the strengths of community theatre in this region?
A. I see a desire for community members to put on a show of quality.  At the Coaster, I also felt that strongly when I had Pier Pressure, the River set a wonderful precedent for quality. The other thing I see is the mix in community theatre. I’m really fond of working class coming forward and tasting art. Not that that’s an unusual thing, but community theater allows a venue.

Q. And what may be the challenges?
A. In community theatre you always you have talent and skill levels that are so far apart. The challenge is to try to find a nice meeting ground and still put on a strong, high quality piece. The other thing -  people are so diverse in what they do in their lives- is to find a sense of family, because when you are working on a show you develop that, and sometimes that’s a challenge, but it can also be an amazing reward.

Also, the attitude that theater is for  . .. thinkers. But working class people are thinkers and considerers. So when someone who is out there working hard, finds the time and desire to do theater, they bring in their friends, and theatre no longer becomes, for whatever reason,  a threat. I have heard it many times, ‘I’m afraid to go to theater because I don’t think I’ll understand it.

Q. What do you think is the future of theater here on the coast?
A. That’s a little delicate, because we are a little sparse right now. But I forever, ever hope that Liberty Theater is going to entertain more live theater. The Coaster I believe is solid. We’ll see The Coaster from  here to doomsday. That’s because they have very solid tourist traffic, they have strong benefactors. They have a beautiful space and a budget. Astoria is kind of in a whole right now, as far as live theater, but I don’t see it as  “the end all be all” of the situation.

Q.  How did you come to direct “Doll’s House?
A.   I wasn’t considering directing at the time, but I went to a show there, and saw the season line-up – so many good shows. I spoke to Patrick Lathrop during the intermission and said I would be interested in directing this season. He didn’t miss a beat, he said, “I’d like you to direct “ A Doll’s House.” Not one I was thinking about honestly. We met about it and found out we were on the same wave length about how to approach it.

Q. You have done the show before?
A. I was in the college production when Reed Turner was in the drama department at Clatsop, probably 81’.
There was a young woman, Teter Kapan, who played the role of Nora. When Patrick was pulling costumes, we still needed pieces from Jeanine [Fairchild,] he brought out this piece for Sofie Kline (the Coaster’s Nora) and it was originally what Teter wore. It’s had many lives, I think it was worn in Music Man as well, but I couldn’t pick my jaw up off the floor.

There was a time when the college had a very strong drama, music and arts department.  I miss it, as do many people. If you don’t have departments you can’t have a program. When we were talking about the future of theatre, that’s one of the biggest limitations in my mind. Oregon has not neccesarily supported high school theater and music programs – so we don’t have our feeder programs and in turn Clatsop does not have the programs. This situation is obviously prevalent in many places.

Q. What is your take on Ibsen Doll’s House? It’s been called a “feminist”  play?
A. I’m really not working from a feminist point of view – and try to remain true to what Ibsens’ intent was, and he was not trying to push a feminist idea. I’m actually more concerned with some of his themes about false morality and manipulation of reputation, and the discovery of self. That’s huge for me. There is a self-awareness that all the major characters come to in this play. Some of it comes too late.
Which is one of the reasons this play is under the headline of realism. All the big questions are asked in this play to. Poor Ibsen at one point was considered by his nation to be “an enemy of God,”an enemy of society, and an enemy of the bourgeoisie. I love this play because it is jammed packed with ideas. You go on an amazing tour from ignorance to recognition.

And I would like to add that Sofie Kline is doing an amazing job as Nora.  She’s grown the role leaps and bounds since we began reading for the part. It’s a great pleasure to work with such a dedicated actor.

Sofie Kline is Nora in “A Doll’s House”

To demonstrate the power, the value of community theatre, Sofie Kline is a young actress who is taking advantage of what it can offer here in the Lower Columbia Pacific Region.  As a viewer of several of her portrayals, her performances have been more than adequately refreshing. As Jill Tanner, the free-spirited 60’s girl-next-door in the Coaster’s “Butterflies Are Free,” multi-roles in Spoon River Anthology where she proves she’s can whip up a melody too, Kline has that certain je ne sais quoi, in addition the ability to strongly characterize her roles.

Her family moved to Astoria her senior year of high school, where Kline worked with drama teacher Jenny Newton, and prior to that she had been involved in many school productions. She’s been in seven  local community theater productions here and plans to attend Southern Oregon University Theater program in Ashland.

Q. What inspired you to work in the craft of theatre?
A. That’s a really tough question. It’s one of those things for me I’ve felt compelled to do. I don’t really know if there is a reason or particular moment that’s “it.” I have this memory of knowing that that is what I have wanted, and have thought of other things to do with time or life. But that’s always been there. Probably there was something in my childhood that really compelled me and don’t remember that moment but remember the feeling of wanting.

Q. What was your first role?
A. My first production was at a Boys and Girls Club when I was 9 years old (1999). Two guys running the theater department wrote this play, it was called “The Y2K Bug.” I played six different quick change roles. I had to go under the stage and change into a robot, a military person . . . it actually still is one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done, (she says laughingly).

Q. What was your first role as adult?
A. The first role that I did here in community theater was Land of the Dragon at The Liberty.  At Astoria High School I was in “Daughters,” a series of monologues.

Q. What has been your actor training?
A. Jenny Newton at Astoria High is a wonderful acting teacher, I took an acting class with Karen Bain last year, and just doing productions, from middle school to high school, to community theater.  I’ve also taken some acting-related workshops out of the area.

Q. Who is Nora?
A. Nora is an interesting woman. She definitely knows how to play the game, within her world. She very much understands where she is as far as what she can and can’t do in society as a woman. Her power, she understands where her powers are. Throughout the play she realizes she deserves more power, that her power is not full, that she is not actually engaged in her own life. For me, Nora is a heroine, she is someone who chooses a road that is not easy, but without going there, she would never have a full life, her life would always be absent of that choice.

Q. What is the challenge in playing this role?
A. With this character and with all of Ibsen’s characters, there is so much subtext, what is underneath what seems to be going on. To convey that on the stage is challenging. A good challenge, but definably a challenge. Most of the time Nora is absorbed in fear and unknown as to what’s going to happen to her, but she is very good at putting on a front to the world. She plays it off, like there is nothing wrong, as time goes on, she  breaks down slowly, and she loses it in a way – but having to convey two meanings to everything, two emotions happening at that same time and the challenge to convey it on the stage well.


Hitchin’ Revival – An Original North Coast Musical At the PAC

Hitchin Flats
Creator Ned Heavenrich (left) and the Brownsmead Flats, the band behind the musical.

February 7-9 and 15-17
Fri/Sat, 7:30 pm, except 2 pm on the 17th
Clatsop Community College Performing Arts Center
16th & Franklin, Astoria
$15 – adults
$10 – Student/Senior

Partners for the PAC presents Hitchin’, a musical play written by Ned Heavenrich, with music composed by Heavenrich, Robert Stevens and Dan Sutherland of the Brownsmead Flats, on February 7-9 and 15-17 at the Performing Arts Center (PAC) in Astoria. The play is the second in a series of fundraisers to keep the PAC open, accessible and affordable to the community. The first fundraiser, Bach and Rock Around the Clock, featured local musicians (including the Browsmead Flats) and an all-night film festival, which is slated to be reshown in the spring.

Performed to sellout crowds at the PAC in 1997 and again in 1999, Hitchin’ tells the story of a middle-aged man confronted with his rebellious teenage son and his past in what Heavenrich described as a “partially autobiographical tale about coming of age and letting go, a result of a mid-life crisis brought on by my dad’s death in ‘88.” In 2004, Hitchin’ was revived at the River Theater.

Walter Newman is a clothing store owner and workaholic whose 20-year-old son, Matt, is getting ready to leave the house to “find his own path.” Walter finds his journal from his days on the road, and the journal’s entries come to life on the stage. Walt (as he was known then) meets Lulu, a fellow hitchhiker who knocks his socks off and heads on down the road; Mary and James Erickson, a farm couple whose oldest son was killed in the Vietnam war, and whose other sons are now estranged, with the marriage suffering; Howie, a hippie gypsy and former Peace Corps volunteer who keeps a load of pot in his Deadhead VW van; Jack, a draftee at an air force base in North Dakota who’s not especially eager to go to Vietnam; Edna (named for Edna Packard, who played the original role as Ethel), an older widow who invites Walt to her house in the middle of nowhere to reminisce on her life; Marian, Georgia and Debbie, three lesbians on a camping trip; and Sylvester, a bat-swinging hitcher who’s headed “towards his destination.” The play ends with Matt leaving, Walter still leery and the cast singing Isn’t It Exciting!

“I would say that half the characters in the play I met on the road and half are composite characters from my life and other people’s experiences,” Heavenrich explained.

The orchestra for the musical is the Browsmead Flats, who will be joined by Janet Bowler, a flutist with the North Coast Symphonic Band and other musical groups in the area. Jayne Osborn, who stage managed the River Theater production, is directing. Osborn is a veteran director and stage manager who has worked with the Astor Street Opry Company (ASOC) and the River Theater. Musical direction is by Allison Wilski, a soprano with the North Coast Chorale. Amy Coughlin, another veteran of ASOC, is stage manager. Set design is by Craig Shepherd, manager of the Coaster Theatre in Cannon Beach, with set construction managed by John Fenton of the Brownsmead Flats. Josef Gault, former manager of the PAC, is in charge of sound and lighting. And Marco Davis, who played Jack in the original production of Hitchin’, is choreographer. The author is production manager, with able assistance from Heavenrich and Stevens (who played Howie in the 1999 production and was music director in the original production).

All proceeds from Hitchin’ will go to the Support the PAC fund, managed by the Clatsop Community College Foundation and the Partners for the PAC, and used for maintenance and operating costs of the PAC. Partners for the PAC is a coalition of performing arts groups that currently use the PAC for rehearsals and performances which was brought together in 2012 to help raise funds to keep the PAC open and work on ways to maintain and enhance the facility after the college suffered severe budget cuts and was unable to continue their operational support. For more information on the Partners for the PAC and how you can support the PAC, go to the Support the PAC website at

CAST: Bob Goldberg, Sandi Hilton, Jordan Okoniewski, Stephen Shannon, Sara Drage, Destiny Lish, Lenny Noller, ChrisLynn Taylor, Eddie Knick, Luke Hanflin, Lori Honl, Stephanie Rowe, Bree Heavenrich, Amy Coughlin, Jonathon Osborn, Daric Moore, Dave Bergquist and Emily Honl.

The Partners’ production of Hitchin’ is made possible by a generous grant from the Clatsop County Cultural Coalition and the Oregon Cultural Trust.


In the Mix

KALA CAFÉ to showcase eclectic regional acts.
First up? Performance poet John Kulm and hip-hop funsters, Showladies.

Showladies, Andrea Mazzarella (l) and Teresa Barnes (r).

Some of history’s great performers have found success by combining the unexpected: funk and soul plus African oral traditions begot hip-hop. Opera plus rock ‘n’ roll gave rise to the rock opera.

It’s a concept that also has strong foothold right here in Astoria, thanks to a long tradition of regional creative eclecticism. This month, KALA is gearing up to unveil a new performance medium that offers a vehicle for its continued expression.

The nascent showcase is called KALA CAFÉ, and its inaugural presentation will feature the multiform stylings of two regional acts: performance poet/humorist John Kulm and music funsters Showladies, featuring performers Teresa Barnes and Andrea Mazzarella.

KALA founder and HIPFiSHmonthly Editor and Publisher Dinah Urell is the evening’s emcee, lending a song, ‘here and there’ and in addition some sneak preview of acts to come to the KALA stage.

The KALA CAFÉ concept draws on traditional vintage variety floorshows, with a little camp, cabaret and commentary thrown in, says Urell, who has been reinventing the showcase concept through her years as a performing creative artist.

“My first entertainment inspiration was Ricky Ricardo,” she said. “And my alter ego Lucy, always conspiring to get on stage. I loved watching the Dean Martin Show with my father, I mean who the heck wants to play with dolls when the Gold Diggers are on the screen.”

It’s an ideal format for showcasing regional talent, she says, and she couldn’t be more thrilled with the opening lineup.

Both acts have a demonstrated taste for the eclectic: Showladies rap about a constellation of topics, from wolves and wizarding to club-hopping, while Kulm waxes poetic on Jungian archetypes, midlife crises and bucolic life.

John Kulm Performance Poet

Kulm is well known for his open-mic stints at the now-closed River Theatre, but he’s been working with spoken words in many forms for most of his life.

Kulm carved out a niche at poetry slams in Seattle’s heady grunge days two decades back, billing himself as a “cowboy poet” and was booked on tour, in the early days with the Lollapalooza festival.

“They liked me because it’s so odd to see a cowboy coming into that scene,“ Kulm recalled. “I picked up on a lot of the style they were using, real aggressive, free verse.”

Since, he’s tried out many creative and practical pursuits, including stand-up comedy, book writing, fatherhood, farming and postal work.

The goal is to get closer to who he really is with each incarnation.

During his two sets at KALA CAFÉ, he’ll share poetry, but he’s also got some brand new material brewing.

Lately, Kulm has been playing with archetypes – universal symbols and prototypes. He likens then to “modern fairy tales,” and he’s recently spent time teasing a few into prose.

“Archetypal work is like dreaming while you’re awake,” he said of this new process. “It’s like a storyline starts to unfold and you’re just experiencing it.”

Kulm is eager to share this more personal writing, but he remains committed to entertaining.

“I worked so many years in stand-up that I just won’t allow myself to be boring,” he said. Urell offers, “John Kulm is a unique humor experience. He utilizes the poetic form, as a vehicle to philosophize on the contradictions in life, coming in sideways, and giving us (the audience) an opportunity to laugh at our own absurdities.”

Showladies, too, is audience-centric, Barnes says. The act has gained notoriety for its off-the-wall performances, colorful costumes and colorful lyrics.

Barnes took her first stabs at songwriting a few years back, and Showladies was born when Mazzarella began performing with Barnes at venues such as the Voodoo Room, with Barnes on guitar and lead vocals and Mazzarella on bass and accompanying vocals. (A keyboard stands in as drummer.)

They’d noted a lack of what Barnes calls “rock starry, glammy” musical acts in Astoria.

“We wanted to fill more of a lady Gaga-ish place in town, bringing that element of crazy fun ridiculous danceable performance,” Barnes said.

Moving the audience – literally as well as cerebrally – is key.

Showladies draws inspiration from all over the place: ‘90s R&B and rap, YouTube videos, rhyming dictionaries.

They’ll also be performing two sets at KALA CAFÉ – a high-energy set and an acoustic set.

Heartbreaky guitar chords may seem an unexpected departure from glitzy gonzo rap, but that’s just the idea.

This is another artistic endeavor that is constantly reinventing itself, right down to the genre (hip-pop? Glam rap?) and name, which changes regularly.

The two say they don’t know what’s coming next – only that it’d better be good for a laugh.

“We really hope people have fun, and if they feel like dancing, dance,” Mazzarella said. “Hopefully people have half as good a time as we’re having.”

Urell hopes this mashup performance is the start of an exciting chapter for KALA – and for the creative-spirited community surrounding it.

It’s a concept that’s still developing, thanks to the hard work of a few additional key players, including KALA visual arts curator Agnes Field and sound stage man Les Kanekuni.

“As a presentation space, KALA is focusing on performance, visual art, and whatever delightfully falls under the category,” Urell said. “We’re having fun with diversity in art, and how we can shine the stage lights on the creative forces this coastal region inspires.”

Fri/Sat – AUG 17 • 18
Show @ 9pm – doors open 8:30
advance tickets at
advance tickets suggested

Beer/Wine and Cocktails available.

KALA is located at 1017 Marine Drive.
For more info call: 503.338.4878


The PAC – Its Wonderful Past and Uncertain Future

The PAC today. Photo by Bob Goldberg.
Trinity Lutheran Church, circa 1925

Mention “historic theater”
in Astoria these days, and perhaps the first thing that comes to mind is the Liberty Theater, which opened in 1925, and is in the midst of major renovations today. Or perhaps Shanghaied in Astoria, or the more recent take, The Real Lewis & Clark Story, melodramas performed by the Astor Street Opry Company, which tell Astoria’s history with a tinge of Scandinavian humor. But if you were around these parts in the 1970s, the only historic theater in town was the Clatsop Community College Performance Arts Center (PAC), a converted Lutheran church, which showcased an enormous amount of work of both local playwrights and traditional theater, amongst many other activities.

The PAC Stage

Designed by Astoria architect John Wicks, Trinity Lutheran Church was constructed during the Depression on the site of the original Convent of the Holy Name, at 16th and Franklin. In 1974, Trinity Lutheran merged with the Zion congregation to become Peace Lutheran Church, and the congregation was moved to another Wicks-designed building at 12th & Exchange. The abandoned church was then acquired by Clatsop Community College and reopened in 1977 as a performing arts center. The PAC, as it’s affectionately known, housed the college’s theater, music and dance programs until the mid-1990s. Initially, CCC introduced a series of music elective courses such as music history, music theory, and piano practice rooms in the basement level. Then local pianist/music educators, the late Betty Phillips and jazz composer Chris Parker were at the helm of the small music department.

Juanita Price, 2011 George Award winner for community service, branch librarian of the American Association of University Women (AAUW) in Astoria, and active with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), remembers the early years of the PAC well. She told me that the Tuesday noon concerts, originally for students only, became very popular with the community quickly. “The public starting showing up at these concerts and talks, because people didn’t want to go up the hill [to the main college campus],” Price reminisced. She remembers the Brownsmead Flats performing, and an atmosphere similar to many free noon concerts you see in bigger cities. In addition to music, dance and theater, Price said that the PAC has been used for political forums, speeches, lectures and other AAUW events, even in the early years.

Susi Brown, a retired teacher from the Knappa School District and most recently owner of Pier Pressure Productions, told me, “The college’s theater program produced a minimum of three shows a year, including student-directed one acts. For a time during the 1970s, CCC had a strong and very well attended summer theatre curriculum. At one time, there was an outstanding music program which included concert band, orchestra, jazz chorale, and private and class lessons in the curriculum. Also, during the 1970s and 80s, CCC had a full-time dance instructor offering jazz, modern, tap, yoga, choreography, and performance classes.”

A late 70s English comedy was one of the first fully staged theater productions at the PAC. Locals look closely.

According to Brown, some of the notable plays performed at the PAC as part of the theater program were HMS Pinafore, A Doll’s House, Endgame, Stop the World, I Want to Get Off, Carousel, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream (set on another planet, sometime in the distant future) under Reed Turner; Nude with Violin, Music Man, The Importance of Being Earnest, The Old Lady Shows Her Medals, and The Madwoman of Chaillot, under Del Corbett; Steel Magnolias, Nunsense, Rumors, and The Princess and the Pea, under Gay Preston (with Larry Bryant as tech director); Antigone under Karin Temple; and Talking With, Buried Child, and Lysistrata, Midsummer Night’s Dream, Bridge To Tarabithia, under Karen Bain.

The PAC also housed community and high school theatre productions by the Clatsop County Aids Coalition, the North Coast Readers Theatre, the Mossy Rock Players, the aforementioned Astor Street Opry Company, Coaster Theatre Readers, Columbia River Repertory Company (later to start the River Theater), Knappa High School, and Clatsop County Community Action (Diary of Anne Frank), according to Brown.

Jennifer Goodenberger, a local artist, pianist and composer, attended CCC in the late 70s and early 80s as a music student, and later returned as an adjunct faculty member in the music department. During her tenure as a student and teacher, she helped put on the many musicals that were performed in the PAC. She wrote a kabuki-style score for Rashomon, a Japanese crime drama based on a story by Ryūnosuke Akutagawa and the famous 1950 Kurosawa movie. She also wrote the score for the other-worldly version of Midsummer Night’s Dream. The repertory dance show Mood Indigo was one of Goodenberger’s fond memories. Put on by Vicki Durst, CCC’s dance instructor, Goodenberger was music director. She remembers a bustling PAC, with rehearsals, classes, recitals, lessons, listening rooms, concerts, plays, and huge audiences.

Josh Hilbur and Mark Davis in the original Hitchin’, 1997.

Measure 5 decimated the performing arts curriculum at CCC in the early 90s. This left a hole that a showcase of local talent filled with the original play Hitchin’, written by Brownsmead Flats’ member Ned Heavenworth, directed by Mark Loring (who designed many of the sets at the PAC and is the brother of local flutist Shelley Loring,), choreographed by Vicki Durst (who also coordinated the PAC’s Arts on Stage program) and Carol Newman (currently host of KMUN’s Arts Live and Local and dance instructor, among so many other activities), starring, among others, Marko Davis, Mark Erickson, Jason Hussa and Mike Wangen (all big names in local theater to this day), and featuring original music written and performed by the Brownsmead Flats. Performed to sellout crowds at the PAC in 1997 and again in 1999, Hitchin’ tells the story of a middle-aged man confronted with his rebellious teenage son and his past in what Heavenrich described as a “partially autobiographical tale about coming of age and letting go, a result of a mid-life crisis brought on by my dad’s death in ‘88.”

KMUN Troll Radio Revue, born of the River Theater and transferred to the PAC.

From almost the beginning, the PAC has been home to many local musical, choral and dance programs. The North Coast Symphonic Band has rehearsed and played at the PAC since 1979, participating in the college’s Arts & Ideas program for many years. The North Coast Chorale has put on many a memorable concert at the PAC, and some musicals to boot, including HMS Pinafore and Amahl and the Night Visitors. The North Oregon Coast Symphony has been performing at the PAC since their inception. Little Ballet Theatre students have participated in the Arts on Stage spring Young Choreographer’s Showcase at the PAC for many years. And since the closing of the River Theater, Coast Community Radio’s Troll Radio Revue has been staged at the PAC the last Saturday of each month. The Astoria Music Festival has used the PAC as the home of its apprentice program, as well as a venue for some great avant-garde performances (including J-Walt’s Spontaneous Fantasia this season).

Janet Bowler, former language teacher and flutist extraordinaire, remembers Foreign Language Day held at the PAC and the Masonic Temple across the street. “It was wildly popular with students who still remind me about it decades later,” Bowler told me. And Carol Newman remembers the Human Relations Task Force two-day conference in 1982, and many other speaking events about the Holocaust, war, environmental and local issues.

Recent years have seen some memorable shows at the PAC. Folk singers Jim Page, John Gorka and Tracy Grammer have graced the stage. Public radio personalities Jim Hightower, Amy Goodman and David Barsamian spoke to big crowds. Balkan dance group Balkan Cabaret gave workshops and concerts with crowd participation. The Tenor Guitar Gathering, in its 4th year, staged a 3-hour concert this past May that was truly inspiring. Spirit of the River, a fundraiser for Columbia Riverkeeper, has been held at the PAC for the past 5 years.

Marty Balin rocks the PAC

But the event that tops them all has to be the final afternoon of the Concert for Big Red, organized by the recently deceased Gordon “Gordo” Styler as a revival of the rock festivals of the 60s and 70s to benefit the recently half-demolished Big Red Building. When the musicians, stage, equipment, staff and audience at the Clatsop County Fairgrounds were soaked through and through by unusual, unrelenting rains in August 2008, Josef Gault, then the PAC coordinator for the college, found a way to get everything over to the PAC, and an overflow crowd witnessed an amazing show by Marty Balin and most of the original Jefferson Airplane, Country Joe McDonald, and Cold Blood.

With state funding falling every year, the college has recently indicated they cannot continue to fund the PAC at current levels, and has talked about selling the building. A coalition of local arts organizations, the Partners for the PAC, has formed to help maintain the PAC for affordable public arts and educational events.

If you’re interested in getting involved with this effort, please contact Constance Waisanen, 503-458-6853, or

Juanita Price summed up the sentiments of most of those community members I spoke with. As we finished our phone conversation, she said, “I can’t imagine the town without the PAC.”


In New Light: Four Original Plays by Keyaho Rohlfs

asocticketwindowA May Celebration and Much More than Melodrama at Astor Street Opry Company

Anyone familiar with the Astor Street Opry Company (ASOC) knows this hard-working theater group is responsible for bringing the community, and a great portion of those visiting the area, the fun melodrama, “Shanghaied in Astoria”. This humorous and historical musical provides audiences of all ages a great way to enjoy local theater, learn about the area, and have a great time hurling popcorn at the villains.

“IT’S THE HEART AND SOUL of the company and the community. We’ve become bigger than theater. It’s a tradition and an event that belongs to Astoria,” says ASOC’s Production Manager and Events Coordinator Judith Niland.

ASOC Founder Judy Niland says "Bye-bye porta potties, bye-bye!!!"

It is this “backbone” of the ASOC repertoire, running every summer for the last twenty-eight years, that allows ASOC to be a great deal more than just this one production. So, too, is Judith Niland. Her tremendous efforts as manager, publicist, grant writer, event coordinator, facilitator, and artist, make ASOC a far bigger thing than just a community theater. Current ASOC Executive Board President, Chuck Meyers, speaks of her, alone, as having been the ASOC for the last 25 years. She has devoted a large part of her life to keeping the theater arts alive, well, and housed in Astoria. Having lead the capital campaign to acquire the permanent home for ASOC, and having spent the last quarter century developing the management repertoire for the theater, she, now, wishes to teach, share, and pass on the duties and traditions of this outstanding community theater.

“ASOC’s been my life’s work, accidentally, and it was Del Corbett’s life work, too. He’s the one that taught me.”

Recently, after spending time away from the theater to recover from foot surgery, Judith realized she could no longer perform the myriad of tasks, and juggle all the balls required to make the variety of theater at ASOC happen, forever. This wake-up call drew her attention to the need to educate and share the finer points and details of what it takes to run this theater, as a volunteer, with the other ASOC Board and Committee members. She wants to offer the opportunity to other volunteers to become proficient in the many facets of ASOC operations, as well as, allow herself more time for her own artwork. As a trained children’s book and fairy tale illustrator with a college education in Book Arts, her first love is drawing. Arthritis has kept Judith from returning to the book press, but she remains very passionate about pursuing her metaphysical design style and symbolic art.

Her health, while keeping her from some art forms and reducing her relentless participation with ASOC, allowed her the time, while recuperating from surgery, to read more, and, specifically, lead her to more of Seaside playwright, Keyaho Rohlfs’ plays. This inspired the upcoming ASOC Fundraiser, “In New Light”, three one-act plays and one monolgue written by Rohlfs.

“It’s great to remind the community that ASOC has always done other kinds of theater. That’s why we existed, and people forget about that…’Shanghai’s’ always been the vehicle to get there, but never the end result. You have to give those growing beyond the melodrama something else to do. This is a chance to feed some of that. His (Keyaho’s) work comes from a place in his heart and really touches people,” commented Niland of her interest in working with Rohlfs.

“Everyone loves working with him. He’s very centered, intelligent, and strongly spiritual. His stuff works on multiple levels. He doesn’t care if people get it, or not, as long as they walk away thinking.” She continues, “I found his plays to be trips into a real, yet, imaginary world full of odd heartfelt characters, connections, and synchronicities that are similar to how I shape my world. I have studied the metaphysical world ever since I was a teen, and it is something that brings me peace and balance. Life is all about how you feel, and his work helps me remember that, and that is what is real.”

Director of Rohlfs’ one-act play “Centerpiece,” Anne MacGregor, agrees that his work is like poetry that goes in and out of time and emotions, and leaves audience members to ask “What was that?”, “How’d we get there?”, and “That was really interesting, what was it?” She added, “His writing is so superior, he is a channel. Everyone picks up their own thing-it’s amazing. I don’t know what he’s going to do with his work, but I would go on doing it forever. It’s a dream come true for any good director.”

To say that Playwright Keyaho Rohlfs speaks freely about his work and writing process is akin to saying, writing plays is a cakewalk. He draws the comparison of his play writing to pulling stories from an orphanage of abandoned imaginary friends.

“When kids get a certain age they’re told no more imaginary friends. I always wondered what happened to all the imaginary friends- where did they go?”

So, he offers them a place to reside, in exchange for their stories, which he diligently puts to paper in the form of stage productions-one act plays, monologues, and full-length plays.

In New Light cast
A partial cast for In New Light with playwright Keyaho Rohlfs (center).

“The really cool thing about theater is how you can manifest all these imaginary friends, and make it real,” says Rohlf, and explains that he explores the barriers between real and imaginary, looks inside and outside the self to channel the voices he believes are out there, and, if listening closely, can be heard. When asked about the layered, spectral quality of his work, Rohlfs replied, “I think that when we can see the invisible realm, then, we have something to talk about, and when we feel the full force of nature, then we have something to share.”

In his work with Astor Street Opry Company, Rohlfs believes it to be much more than a community theater. “This playhouse is really special; it’s the most community-minded, community theater around. There’s activity here year ‘round, day in and day out for all ages. It has a really big heart.”

And no stranger to the Astor Street Opry Company he is. In the three years of ASOC’s New Works Festival, an original script writing contest that solicits, celebrates, and produces selected one-acts plays and monologues submitted from all over the country, Rohlfs submissions have been selected and performed every year. This festival was initiated in 2010, for which his monologue, “Tallulah” was accepted and produced. The festival performance was directed by ASOC Production Committee Chair, Anne MacGregor, who performs the role in the reprisal of “Tallulah” for the May Celebration fundraiser.

In 2011, his one-act play, “Centerpiece” was a final selection, performed by Patricia Shannon, Bill Dodge, and Ann Bronson. In this year’s festival, his comedic monologue submission, “Captive”, was produced. Performed by Aly Hansen and Kirk House with direction by Del Corbett, this funny, sweet and talent-filled piece is about a teenage girl who appears center stage, singing, dancing, juggling and believing she is being held captive by a crazy bunch of community theater people. Rohlfs participation in the ASOC New Works Festival for the past three years has brought critical acclaim to the ASOC. In the name of creating a new slot for original stage productions, ASOC has chosen Keyaho’s two previously performed stage pieces, along with two new one-act plays to perform in a showcase of his work. His beautiful use of language offers an astonishing depth of emotions, as well as an alluring sense of human nature. This May Celebration of “In New Light” offers a unique opportunity to enjoy poetic and eloquently written theater concerning relevant issues of our time. This is a fundraiser to kick-off the phase three of ASOC’s capital campaign to build indoor restroom facilities and an office.

In New Light: 4 One Acts in a Night
The four performances of “In New Light: An Evening of Original Artwork from Playwright Keyaho Rohlfs” will reprise two pieces previously produced for ASOC’s New Works Festival (Centerpiece and Tallulah) and include two new one-act pieces. Included in the showcase is “Centerpiece” with Tom Brownson performing the lead role, originally performed by Bill Dodge in the 2011 production. This one-act play finds an elderly, homeless couple who have fallen on hard times, brought about by the current economic meltdown. They seek shelter and comfort in the warmth of stage lights, reflecting, reminiscing, and celebrating their lives together. Anne MacGregor directs this repeat performance, again. She also performs the monologue, “Tallulah”, an elderly woman’s poetic monologue about an adventuresome life, well-lived, joined by the playwright’s very own jazz saxophone accompaniment.

Premiering in this showcase production are two new one-act plays, “Signing Out” and “Mahpiya”. “Signing Out” portrays a road weary musician returning to his hometown to visit his father in a nursing home. Here, he gets help from a plucky nurse, and makes some unexpected choices. In “Mahpiya”(A Native American word meaning “Sky”) several stories combine, as a girl surrounded by devastation, manifests her identity in a spiritual journey, spanning generations; this tale includes an interesting amphibian.

Directed by Keyaho Rohlfs and Anne MacGregor, the cast includes: Anne MacGregor, Patricia Shannon, Tom Brownson, Ann Bronson, Markus Brown, Barry Sears, Mark Erickson, Elias Enyart, Avery Hartzel, Tiffany Simmons, Brian Allen, Jane Hill, Julie House, Anabel Knight and William Grammer.

In November 2007, Astor Street Opry Company acquired a permanent home in Astoria. By July 2008, the first production on the new stage of “Shanghaied in Astoria” was up and running. Where the cost to purchase a theater space was covered through a designated capital grant and donated funds, the additional $125,000 needed to make the building a safe and a comfortable public space was not. In Fall 2010, the ASOC Board secured a mortgage with Clatsop Community Bank to help where grant monies were being discontinued due to economic cutbacks. After years as a vagabond theater troupe, being set back with every move, ASOC was finally housed in its own stable and improved theater building. Now able to settle and to grow, the theater added more family programming and an original script writing contest.

“We’re still getting used to using the building-during the daytime, at night, rehearsing at dark. That’s what we (ASOC) have to do now to maintain a theater, and keep it going financially. We have to have something playing all the time, said Niland. Niland, whose efforts and countless hours made the theater purchase a reality, is now squeezing in a new fundraiser into the very full ASOC theatrical calendar. Two weekends in May between “The Real Lewis and Clark Story: or How the Finns Discovered Astoria” and the start of “Junior Shanghaied” offers a time slot for some alternative theater options to raise funds for the third phase of the ASOC Capital Campaign which will make possible the construction of public restrooms and an office.

The Astor Street Opry Company (ASOC) presents a special performance fundraiser, “In New Light”, featuring four original pieces by Seaside playwright Keyaho Rohlfs. Three one act plays and a monologue will be presented on May 18th, 19th, 25th and 26th at 7:30 pm at the ASOC Playhouse located on 129 West Bond Street in Astoria, Oregon; doors open at 7:00 pm. This is a kick-off for ASOC Capital Campaign Phase Three “Pennies for Potties (or Big Buck for Bathrooms) Drive”. This evenings is a celebration of live and local entertainment with a special silent auction of original art and the unveiling of the“Yakko~Eino” Fundraiser Thermometer and the “Toilet Seat Pennies Toss” collection jar. Tickets for this fundraiser are only $8 for singles and $12 per couple and can be purchased by calling 503-325-6104 or online at


ASOC presents And Then There Were None

And Then There Were NoneTen little Indian boys went out to dine, one chocked his little self and then there were nine. Ten strangers dinning on a secluded island, each accused of hiding terrible secrets.

Then, one by one, they begin to die…..horribly! That’s right! You guessed it! ASOC takes on the most famous murder mystery ever! Agatha Christy’s master piece, Ten Little Indians, adapted to the stage and re-titled AND THEN THEE WERE NONE by Queen of Mystery Agatha herself!

The show starts out with 10 strangers, meeting on a remote island by invitation by a mysterious host each perceives as someone different. As the crowd of various characters, such as a retired general, a surgeon, a retired police detective, a soldier of fortune, a young teacher and others gather around the evening meal only to beaccused of terrible crimes by a ghostly voice. Shortly there after, the first guest dies and as if by sheer horror of circumstances, one of the 10 soldier statues set upon the mantle is found broken! As the night progresses, the accusations fly as the surviving guests begin to die in a manner paralleling, inexorably and sometimes grotesquely, the old nursery rhyme, “Ten Little Soldiers”.

Directed by Markus Brown with Set Designer/Set Builder Edward James.

AND THEN THERE WERE NONE Opens Oct. 13th to 15th, 20th to 23rd & 27th to 29th Thursdays to Saturdays 7:30pm & one Sunday matinee on Oct 23rd at 2:00pm at the ASOC Playhouse 129 West Bond Street Uniontown Astoria.

Tickets are $15 to 8.00. At the door, but reservations recommended.

Purchase online:


Laughing Wild

Christopher Durang’s
SEPT 30, OCT 1
@ KALA Stage
in astoria

Laughing Wild
Featuring Jenni Newton & Bill Ham, directed by susi brown, photo by dinal urell

THIS SEPTEMBER, HIPFiSHmonthly announces the opening of The KALA Stage, in celebration of the continuum of locally produced theater, and the vital theatrical community of the Lower Columbia Pacific Region.

And now a word from Susi Brown – Pier Pressure Productions:
For those of you who enjoyed this past year of thought-provoking theatre at 260 10th, Pier Pressure Productions will be presenting a play just around the corner at the headquarters of KALA/Hipfish. If you haven’t taken an opportunity to attend one of KALA’s 2nd Saturday Art Walks, perhaps you will support the arts by attending PPP’s production of Christopher Durang’s “Laughing Wild”. When PPP announced that it was closing its doors, Dinah Urell graciously extended an invitation to the theatre group to use her new space for performance opportunities. Pier Pressure’s first production was performed in 2009 at the Columbia River Coffee Roaster in the area now known as 3 Cups. In addition to Urell’s offer, PPP as also been welcomed back by Tim Hurd and TJ Lackner (CRCR & 3Cups owners). It may be that PPP will be presenting something in the 3 Cups coffee shop again someday.

Curtain Everyone! By September 30, the blacks will be hung, the lighting system set, lighting technician waiting in the wings, the house full, and the diminutive black box stage will welcome two actors to enact its inaugural performance.

When we were doing the photo shoot for the PR for Laughing Wild, I was reminded by one of the actors, Jenni Newton, that we had coincidentally first met after a performance of playwright Christopher Durang’s Beyond Therapy (directed by then Clatsop College theater coach Gay Preston some 10 years ago). Ms. Newton portrayed the slightly (or is it tightly) wound psychiatrist. It was her actor-onstage introduction to the community. At an after-show party, I complimented Ms. Newton on her performance, I told her, “You’re good!” And there were numerous feelings mutual amongst attendees.

Since that time, we have not seen enough of Jenni Newton on stage, because she’s too busy being an award-winning, valuable high school drama instructor at Astoria High School, and the infrequent direction of community theater. We did see her as Annie Wilkes in Misery at the River Theater. A striking performance. Newton informs she likes a character that can take her on a ride, and an audience that’s willing to go with her. Hence, her interest in the character “Woman” in Laughing Wild.

William Ham, “Man” in the show, I have told recently, “I have a Bill Ham setting on my camera.” For Mr. Ham has been exercising his acting and comedy prowess on various stages in the region since he set foot on this coast. “Bullshot Crummond,” “Almost, Maine,” “The Zoo Story,” “Glengarry Glen Ross,” and “The Seafarer.” He also wrote, directed and performed three well-received one-man shows at the former Pier Pressure Productions space. Ham is a generous performer, giving us the full extent of the spirit and energy of the role, and his gift to make us laugh.

So, as we have witnessed, the theater community just keeps growing, maturing, changing, and thriving through it transitory times. It is the nature. KALA Stage embarks on its adventure, an embrace in diversity of theater and performance.

Laughing Wild is a provocative study about the perils and stresses of modern life in urban America. Jenni Newton and Bill Ham address the audience with two comic monologues which evolve into a shared nightmare and the isolation it creates. Christopher Durang’s characters battle with desperation, alienation, and life’s brutalities in his fiercely ironic comedy. See you there.

Purchase Tickets eve of show beginning 6pm at KALA.
Sept 30 – Oct 1
Doors open 7:30pm.
Show at 8pm. $15
Beer and Wine Sold. Snacks!
FMI: 503.338.4878


Be an Astor Street Opry Action Fun Figure…

Shanghaied in Astoria…In the Miss Virginia Run and Miss Vivian Contest and Pub Crawl, and don’t miss the 27th Season of

Shanghaied in Astoria!

It’s all about Miss Vivian and Miss Virginia Buttons
“Miss Vivian”, is the rough and sturdy saloon owner from the shanghaied story, who’s just trying to make a livin’ in this rough mans world. “Miss Virginia” is the Sweet Heroine who is trying to find her hero, Eric.  Local establishments each sell a custom made ASOC button with their image on it. Each button sale counts as a vote! Whoever sells the most…WINS! (YES… this truly is an election that can be bought!!!)

Saturday August 20th -  THE MISS VIRGINIA 2 mile + 4K almost  MILE K “FUN RUN COFFEE RUN” (or walk if you like!), hosted by Michael “Ole” Wangen and sponsored by Napa Auto Parts of Warrenton and Old Town Framing in Astoria.

It starts at East End COFFEE GIRL at 9:00am and will proceed 2 miles + 4K miles down the Astoria Riverwalk ending at Journey’s End Coffee Stand on the West End of Town. The winners receive fabulous prizes and the chance for bragging rights! Register the day of the event or by phone to ticket box office. Small fee for singles of $10 and for 3-Person teams $25. The first 50 registered runners receive a fabulous limited edition Miss Virginia tee shirt. Plus all runners will receive a free GIFT CARD Red Star World Wear with a value up to $500. Sign up before August 19th at Coffee Girl, Astoria Coffee Company, Street 14 Coffee, Wheelhouse Coffee, Rusty Cup Coffee House, 3 Cups Coffee, Kick Ass Coffee or by calling 503-325-6104.

Then, the fun continues into the evening of Saturday August 20th starting at 6:00 pm at the ASOC Playhouse when you can “Come Aboard” for a tour of “Shanghai Trap Doors.” Passengers will meet twelve 2011 MISS VIVIAN CONTESTANTS. At each stop sample their special “Shanghaied Cocktail” and hear their Trap Door Story created just for this unique event! There will be a fee for the crawl and space is limited so call 503-325-6104 to sign up!

In conjunction with the Miss Vivian traditional “button selling” fundraiser the ASOC has added a Raffle Contest! The prize is an exclusive one night only limousine tour for you and six of your closest friends provided by North Coast Limousines on the night of Saturday August 20th! This private tour includes: a stop at all 2011 MISS VIVIAN candidate’s watering holes. There, you and your company will be the 2011 judges for the Miss Vivian ”Shanghai Trap Doors Stories” and “Shanghaied Cocktail.” Also included: Champagne and snacks, souvenir Shanghaied Glasses, 2011 Shanghaied Sturdy Women Tees, front row seats to any of our upcoming shows, and free admission to the SHANGHAIED BALL! A package value set at over $700.00! These one in a life time, fabulous raffle tickets are only $10.00 a chance or three for $20.00.

8th Annual Shanghaied Costume Ball
On the night of August 20th, ASOC will hold the 8th Annual Shanghaied Costume Ball (10:30 pm to 1:00am). $10 fee at the door couples $15. Music by Dee Jay Nacho Biz!  Along with special entertainment and prizes for Best Costumes! At 11:15pm button selling stops as the judges go into a sound proof room to tally the results of the Contests. At approx midnight judges declare the winners for:  Best Cocktail, Shanghaied Tale, Miss Virginia Love Story, Coffee Drink and Best Costumes! Then comes the Crowning of Miss Vivian AND Miss Virginia 2011.

SHANGHAIED IN ASTORIA sponsored by Medical Spa LaCost runs through September 10th. Tickets can be purchased by calling the Ticket Hotline 503-325-6104 to leave a voice mail. Calls will be returned 10:00 am to 3:00pm daily. Tickets can also be purchased at the door beginning one hour before show time, but reservations are recommended.


COASTER THEATER SUMMER REP – chock-full of comedy and music

California Suite
Frank Jagodnik and Pia Shepard play a British star and her husband on their way to the Academy Awards -- one of four playlets in Neil Simon’s comedy, set in Los Angeles in the ‘70s, California Suite. through September 3. Tickets: $20 & $15.
Putnam County Spelling Bee
Putnam County, 2006... 6 student spellers with issues... a junior high school assistant principle with issues... a former champion speller with issues... a “comfort counselor” doing community service... 4 audience volunteers... great music, dance, and a lot of humor! It’s The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee by Finn & Sheinkin. An unusual aspect of the show is that four real audience members are invited on stage to compete in the spelling bee. Be one. (pictured l to r: Amanda Payne, Julia Shepherd, Richard Bowman, Darren Hull Cameron Gates, Todd Payne). Through Sept 17. TICKETS: $23 & $18.

Third in the Summer Rep Season: The Mystery of Irma Vep by Charles Ludlum. Manacrest Manor House, on the moors, some time in the 19th Century . . . 2 actors . . . numerous characters . . . an Egyptian crypt . . . a mummy case . . . quick changes . . . parody, vaudeville, farce, melodrama . . . lightning fast sleight-of-hand . . . vampires and werewolves! Written by NYC toast of drag theater, Charles Ludlum.

Through October 15. TICKETS: $20 & $15. PERFORMANCE SCHEDULE: Shows run Wed – Sat @ 8pm, Sun 7pm. See for schedule. 108 N. Hemlock in Cannon Beach,  503.436.1242 (photos by George Vetter).


The Riverbend Players – The Dolly Dialogues

THE RIVERBEND PLAYERS will present The Dolly Dialogues based on a novel by Anthony Hope, who wrote the more familiar The Prisoner of Zenda.  Anne Coopersmith has adapted the novel to a play.  Dolly is about the life and times of a British Victorian aristocratic flirt as witnessed by her special friend, Sam Carter. A witty and wonderful look at a time when behavior was very much a minefield of rules.  If you did something outside these strict rules the results could be devastating for your social standing.  Dolly never crosses the line, but she does come close.  Come and see how Dolly navigates the marriage market herself and tries to find a wife for Sam over the years, until finally she arrives at the Pearly Gates and encounters St. Peter.

CAST: Candice Wyatt plays Dolly and Bob LaTorre plays Sam.  They are ably assisted by Frank Johnson as Archie, Lord Michelham, Jane Knapp as Lady Musgrave, Dave Bell as Lord Musgrave, Eunice Massie as the Dowager Lady Michelham and Mrs. Wiggins,  JoAnne Johnson as Sophie the Sufferagette, and Sue Jelineo as Nellie and Phyllis.

Show Run:  August 19, 20, 26 and 27 and Sunday, Aug 21 at 2 pm.  In keeping with the theme of the play, an elegant English tea with delectable goodies will be served at intermission.  Tickets, which include the tea, are $10. The performances will be in the Riverbend Room at NCRD, 36155 Ninth St., Nehalem.


Magical, Musical Melodrama – SHANGHAIED IN ASTORIA

Miss MacieCHRISLYNN TAYLOR, Northcoast musical actress is being honored this year for her 20th anniversary with Astor Street Opry Company (ASOC). Known only to some as Miss Macie, the respected Lady of the Saloon, who runs a tight ship in ASOC’s award winning summer musical melodrama, Taylor has possessed numerous roles in the show, but she is truly the exalted spirit of the fish town Madam (who doesn’t need a marriage license for security).

Shanghaied is off and running this July, with the giant cast of stage goofballs, ready to overact and take the popcorn in the face. From cannery coquets to slimy waterfront rat type characters, the “stink” and the camp runs high in the hysterical, cannery musical classic, based on traditional local cultural folklore. Native or tourist – it’s a  ball!!!! The ASOC Playhouse is a charm too, with its old school saloon look. Local brew pub beer at the back bar sustains your thirst and the cast of Shanghaied sustains your laughter.

SHOW RUN: July 7th and runs every Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings until September 10th with four Sunday matinees on July 17TH, August 7th, August 28th and Sept. 4th at The ASOC Playhouse, 129 West Bond Street, and Uniontown. Tickets are $20 to 16 with a special “Champagne Gala Opening” on Thursday July 7th 2011. Tickets can be purchased by calling our Ticket Hotline 503-325-6104 to leave a voice mail. Calls will be returned 10:00 am to 3:00pm daily.

ASOC is also holding a fun drawing — an opportunity for you and six of your closest friends to “Get Shanghaied”! On the MISS VIVIAN’S WILD RIDE win a private limousine Pub Crawl Tour w/ Shanghaied bad girl Vivian during the 8th Annual PUB CRAWL on August 20th 2011. The prize includes an exclusive one-night only limousine tour provided by North Coast Limousines and includes: a stop at all 2011 MISS VIVIAN candidate’s watering holes. There, you and your company will be the 2011 judges for the Miss Vivian ”Shanghai Trap Doors Stories” and “Shanghaied Cocktail” created just for this unique event! Also included on this magical night for everyone: Champagne and snacks, souvenir Shanghaied Glasses, 2011 Shanghaied Sturdy Women Tees, front row seats to any of our upcoming shows, and free admission to the SHANGHAIED BALL! Tickets sold at the show. For general info on the upcoming Pub Crawl, go to


COASTER THEATER SUMMER REP – Chock full of comedy and music

California Suite
and Pia Shepard play a British star and her husband on their way to the Academy Awards –  one of four playlets in Neil Simon’s comedy, set in Los Angeles in the ‘70s, CALIFORNIA SUITE. July 8 – September 3 Tickets: $20 & $15.

Putnam County Spelling Bee
, 2006… 6 student spellers with issues… a junior high school assistant principle with issues… a former champion speller with issues… a “comfort counselor” doing community service… 4 audience volunteers… great music, dance, and a lot of humor!

It’s THE 25TH ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE by Finn & Sheinkin. An unusual aspect of the show is that four real audience members are invited on stage to compete in the spelling bee. Be one. (pictured l to r: Amanda Payne, Julia Shepherd, Richard Bowman, Darren Hull Cameron Gates, Todd Payne).
July 7- Sept 17 TICKETS: $23 & $18.

Third in the Summer Rep Season: THE MYSTERY OF IRMA VEP BY CHARLES LUDLAM. Manacrest Manor House, on the moors, some time in the 19th Century . . . 2 actors . . . numerous characters . . . an Egyptian crypt . . . a mummy case . . . quick changes . . . parody, vaudeville, farce, melodrama . . . lightning fast sleight-of-hand . . . vampires and werewolves! Written by NYC toast of drag theater, Charles Ludlum.

Opens July 20 – October 15 TICKETS: $20 & $15 PERFORMANCE SCHEDULE: Shows run Wed – Sat @ 8pm, Sun 7pm. See for schedule. 108 N. Hemlock in Cannon Beach,  503.436.1242 (photos by George Vetter).


This Month at Pier Pressure Productions

Dead Man's Cell Phone
Nancy Montgomery and Steve Wood

Sara Ruhl’s Dead Man’s Cell Phone

CONTEMPORARY PLAYWRIGHT Sarah Ruhl’s beguiling and off-beat comedy, Dead Man’s Cell Phone opens with an incessantly ringing cell phone in a quiet cafe.   Jean, an unassuming woman, sitting and enjoying her coffee just can’t let the ringing continue, so she answers the phone of the dead man, sitting in front of her, and he’s got a lot of loose ends.

She confiscates the phone of the dead stranger, satirically becoming his social secretary of sorts, and so begins her odyssey. Through Ruhl’s style of “non-linear realism, the character Jean  is forced to confront her own assumptions about morality, redemption, and the need to connect in a technologically obsessed world.

This surprising and hallucinatory comedy/fantasy welcomes familiar veteran PPP actors Nancy Montgomery, Susi Brown, Steve Wood, and new-to-the-Pier boards Markus Brown, Carrie Barnes, Sofie Kline, Lauren Dalton, and Dawson Shadd.  Directed by Jenni Newton, a cleverly staged production is enhanced by the as-if-by-magic, remarkable lighting design of Larry Bryant.

PERFORMANCES: Opens Friday July 15 and runs July 16, 17, 22, 23, and 24.  All shows begin at 8 pm.  Tickets are $15 and will be available 2 hours before curtain.  The seating is limited for this adult comedy which will be the last play PPP will be showing at 260 10th Street in Astoria.

Writers Tim Hurd and Donna Wright

WEDNESDAY, JULY 19 welcomes back Tim Hurd and Donna K. Wright, who will be reading their own short stories and poetry.  Strong imagery, engaging characters, clever word play, and sensitive themes mark their work.  Together they will present a dynamic evening not to be missed and never to be seen again on this stage.  There will be no admission fee for this event, though a $5 donation is suggested and appreciated.  Curtain time is 7:30 pm.

A trio of Jazz and more: Shelley Loring, Dave Drury and Todd Pederson

THURSDAY, JULY 20 at 7:30 pm. The dulcet tones, reedy and true, of Shelley Loring’s flute and Dave Drury’s fleet-of finger dreamy guitar playing create a beautiful marriage on PPP’s stage.  Joined by bassist Todd Pederson for a night of jazz renderings in the cedar-planked room at 260 10th Street.  The $10 tickets will be available at the door, the evening of this performance. Curtain 7:30pm.

Bill HamWriter/Actor/Comic Bill Ham

FRIDAY AND Saturday, July 29 and 30 at 8pm. Bill Ham brings his humorous writings to 260 10th Street one more time.  In October and January, Ham played to full houses of whom appreciated his smart repartee, sharp humor, satirical wit, and rapid-fire delivery.  The writer/actor/comic promises more new material as well as some of the more popular pieces from his yet-to-be-completed “Infomercials for Myself” in his third solo appearance at PPP. Ham has been an important figure at Pier Pressure Productions from its beginning in 2008.  In Edward Albee’s, The Zoo Story, he gave a jaw-dropping performance in the role of Jerry, a disturbing presence, lost in his disappointing world of despair and disgust.  Ham draws on his own life experiences, the writers who have influenced him, and his wide and varied interests and knowledge to create an evening that guarantees side-splitting laughter and well worth the ticket price of $10.

A sad but gracious note:

Pier Pressure Productions is closing its doors at 260 10th Street on July 31.  The intimate performance space was a hub of activity nearly every weekend since its Grand Opening during the August 2010 2nd Saturday Art Walk.  During the twelve months in its downtown home, this production company will have offered audiences opportunities to view the openings of a dozen visual artists, experience an interactive installation, attend concerts/CD releases, recitals, literary readings/book signings, and see over twenty plays in various forms from staged readings to fully mounted productions.  Fourteen directors, fifty actors, ten published poets and writers, and thirty musicians, high school to professional, have brought their visions and imaginations to this little space this past year.  Hundreds of audience members and friends filtered in and out the door to celebrate the arts in Astoria, support VOCA, and frequent the little theatre/gallery and its efforts to bring thought-provoking material to the community.

Susi Brown, retired high school teacher, started this production company in 2008 with a performance of Edward Albee’s The Zoo Story.  At that time, the company presented its plays in what is now 3Cups, a coffee house located on Marine Drive in the home of the Columbia River Coffee Roaster.  True to its motto, “the coffee that floats the arts,” CRCR has been a stalwart friend to PPP and if you went to any of the events held at PPP, you might have tasted the roaster’s signature blend, Thundermuck.  CRCR, Red Dwarf Graphx, Bent Rabbit Multimedia Studio, 2001 Productions, 3Cups, Astor Street Opry Company, Coaster Theatre, Knappa and Astoria High Schools, Clatsop Community College, Clatsop County Cultural Commission,  and a host of generous individuals donated time, expertise, and money to help PPP this year.  Even with the help of many, the running of this business falls on the shoulders of one very tired and ready-to-retire woman.  “It’s been a busy year, exhausting  and exhilarating,” Brown sighs, and now it is time for a long-needed rest.”


Laughing Wild At PPP

Laughing Wild
Bill Ham and Jennie Newton Converge in Laughing Wild

PIER PRESSURE PRODUCTIONS (PPP) presents a staged reading of Christopher Durang’s Laughing Wild “Laughing wild amid severest woe” from Thomas Gray’s “Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College” is a fitting description of this fiercely ironic comedy.

In Laughing Wild, two comic monologues evolve into a man’s and a woman’s shared nightmare of modern life and the isolation it creates.  From her turf battles at the supermarket to the desperate cliches of self-affirmations he learns at his “personality workshop,” they run the gamut of everyday life’s small brutalities until they meet, with disastrous inevitability, at the Harmonic Convergence in Central Park.

Jenni Newton and Bill Ham, seasoned Astoria actors will share the stage in this dark comedy.

Performance: Sat June 24, Sun June 25, 8pm. Tickets are $15 and available 2 hours before curtain. Pier Pressure Productions is located at 260 10th Street in Astoria.


Neil Simon’s Star-Spangled Girl

Star-Spangled Girl
Sam Kuzma, Chey Kuzma, Steele Fleisher.

Look for TAPA’s  production of Neil Simon’s timely favorite comingthis June. The Star-Spangled Girl tells the story of two struggling writers, portrayed by Sam Kuzma and Steele Fleisher, who are trying to keep their underground political protest newspaper afloat. While trying to expose government conspiracies and wrongdoings, they meet an all-American girl, portrayed by Chey Kuzma, who has just moved into their building. Love and politics dance together in this clever and witty play.

The Star-Spangled Girl kicks off TAPA’s summer season on June 17, 18, 24, 25, 26, and July 1 and 2. Following The Star-Spangled Girl is The Starlite Academy Children’s Workshop July 19–23 directed by Wally and Diane Nelson. Then rounding out the summer season is The Chicken Creek Diaries written by Marilyn Allen and directed by Wally Nelson. For ticket info visit or contact


June is Jr. Shanghaied at the Astor St. Opry Playhouse

Junior Shanghaied in AstoriaTHE 3RD ANNUAL JUNIOR SHANGHAIED 2011 (an ALL KID cast, but enjoyed by the whole family!)  runs every Saturday Evening and Sunday Afternoon in the month of June. This season opens Saturday June 4th at 7:30pm and will continue every Saturday at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2:00pm for the month of at the ASOC Playhouse 129 West Bond Street in Uniontown Astoria.

Junior Shanghaied is as fun and memorable as the BIG Shanghaied! Including: Music, Dance and Local Folklore and with other fun ASOC traditions like raffles and souvenirs!

Also Available for Your Eating & Drinking Pleasure…The Miss Virginia Sweet Soda Fountain (sponsored by The Rio Café) Features: Hotdogs & Chips, Popcorn, Soda Pop, Locally Made Columbia Chocolates Candy & more!

Tickets are $10 and can be purchased by calling our Shanghaied Ticket Hotline 503-325-6104 to leave a voice mail. Calls will be returned 10:00 am to 3:00pm daily. Tickets can also be purchased at the door beginning one hour before show time, but reservations are recommended. Be sure to ask about our GROUP and CHILD discounts. Check out our website for all our activities at

The 2011 show is directed by Shanghaied Veterans’ Michael Wangen, music direction by ChrisLynn Taylor, Choreography by Carleta Lewis Allen.


Summer Repertory Season opens with Neil Simon’s California Suite

On Friday, June 17, Coaster Theatre will open its first production of the 2011 Summer Repertory Season not with Boeing-Boeing, but with Neil Simon’s California Suite.  Very recently, the rights to present Boeing-Boeing were suddenly restricted by Samuel French, Inc.  “This is something that has never happened to us before, although royalty companies do retain the right to restrict the rights to any of the plays in their catalogue at any time,” says Coaster marketing person Pia Shepard.
In the true spirit of “the show must go on!” a new play was chosen, and the cast of Boeing-Boeing, director Julie Akers, the designers and everyone involved, quickly shifted gears without a moment to lose and began work on California Suite.  Coaster Theatre thanks Julie and the entire cast for their flexibility, dedication and hard work!.

California Suite is Neil Simon at his best, with 4 playlets all set in one suite in The Beverly Hills Hotel sometime in the 1970s. There’s a magazine writer visited by her ex-husband, a British star and husband on their way to the Academy Award ceremonies, an unsuspecting wife with an untimely arrival, and two couples on a vacation they should never have shared.  Laughter abounds with Neil Simon at his most humane, compassionate best.

The Gala Opening Night begins with a no-host wine tasting by The Wine Shack in the theatre lobby at 7:15pm, curtain up at 8pm and complimentary champagne and hors-d’oeuvres following the performance.  Tickets are $20 & $15 on sale at the box office and on line. Coaster Summer Rep opens The Putnam County Spelling Bee ( a musical), July 1, and comedy The Mystery of Erma Vep, July 20. 503.436.1242/


An Original Musical: Storms, Stories and Songs; a Celebration of Cannon Beach

The Cannon Beach Arts Association awards an annual $3,000 grant to an emerging or professional artist from the community.  The Artist Grant is intended to promote the work of local artists and to provide support necessary to expand their creative process.  It is also the intent to encourage a wider art audience and quality art experiences within the community.

The 2010 winner of the Individual Artist Grant, Patrick Lathrop will present his original musical Storms, Stories and Songs: A Celebration of Cannon Beach, at the Coaster Theater in June and early July.  Lathrop has been working with local school children to stage the production; which is an original musical play about the history of Cannon Beach. Over the course of the winter, Lathorp researched and wrote the play.  He utilized archives from the Cannon Beach History Center as a resource for defining his characters and the time periods, including historic images to create the scenery.

Admission to all of the performances are free. The opening night performance (followed by a Gala Event) will be on Saturday, June 11, at 7pm.  Subsequent performances are scheduled for the summer on Saturdays: June 18, 25 & July 2 at 12 noon.


Don’t – Miss -‘Em!

Lie, Cheat and Genuflect
Catch The Riverbend Players at the NRCD, Sat June 4, 7pm, and Sunday June 5, 2pm. Tickets are $10.  All proceeds go to the auditorium renovation fund at NCRD, located at 36155 Ninth St. in Nehalem.

The Sound of Music
Peninsula Association of Performing Artists (PAPA) continues with its production of the glorious classic The Sound of Music.  Friday and Saturday shows, 7pm. Sunday Matinees, 3pm. June 4 show at 7:30pm. Tickets are $15 for adults and $5 for children, and can be purchased at Okie’s Thriftway in Ocean Park, Stormin’ Norman’s in Long Beach or by calling 665-6530. June 3-5, 10 -12. At the Fort Columbia Theater (above the Chinook tunnel).


The Dixie Swim Club at the Coaster

FIVE SOUTHERN WOMEN, whose friendships began many years ago on their college swim team, set aside a long weekend every August to recharge those relationships. Free from husbands, kids and jobs, they meet at the same beach cottage on North Carolina’s Outer Banks to catch up, laugh and meddle in each other’s lives. “The Dixie Swim Club” focuses on four of those weekends and spans a period of thirty-three years.

As their lives unfold and the years pass, these women increasingly rely on one another, through advice and raucous repartee, to get through the challenges (men, sex, marriage, parenting, divorce, aging) that life flings at them.  And when fate throws a wrench into one of their lives in the second act, these friends, proving the enduring power of ‘teamwork’, rally ‘round their own with the strength and love that takes this comedy in a poignant and surprising direction.

Performances: May 6 – May 29. Friday & Saturday evenings at 8pm. Sunday matinees at 3pm May 8, 22, & 29.Thursday, May 26 at 8pmTickets: $20 & $15.Talkback Thursday: May 12 at 7:30. Informal Q & A with cast and director following the performance (special ticket price: adults: $14; students: $8.) Call the Coaster Theater to reserve, 108 N. Hemlock, 503.436.1242.