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Eugene Weekly : Culture : 04.28.05

Theater:

Cuentame Coyote


Bilingual theater company brings Spanish/English play to Eugene.

Theater:

Get Wild and Wing It

Wymprov performs without a net.

Dance:

Road Tour 2005

UO Dancers excite in this season-ender.

Books:

Run Out of Town


A tale of Japanese American mill-workers in Oregon

 

Cuentame Coyote

Bilingual theater company brings Spanish/English play to Eugene.

BY MELISSA BEARNS

The coyote is one of the trickiest, most mythic characters in Latino literature, mischievous, and often malevolent. May 6 and 7 the Portland-based bilingual theater company Teatro Milagro brings its charged performance of Cuentame Coyote to the Lord Leebrick Theatre.

Written by Teatro Milagro Artistic Director Dañel Malan, the story, presented so that both English and Spanish speakers will understand, follows two orphaned sisters as they try to sneak across the border into the U.S. They enlist the help of a "coyote," a person who helps people cross the border, and agree to smuggle drugs for him in exchange for his aid.

But the human coyote abandons them in the desert. Dangerously dehydrated and near death, the sisters meet another coyote, an animal, who shares stories with them. Translated, Cuentame Coyote means, "Tell me a story coyote."

The desert scene is surreal and creates a sense that the sisters are somewhere between worlds — between life and death, reality and fantasy. Latino authors, from Gabriel Garcia Marquez to Isabel Allende, frequently blur the lines between what is and is not real and the genre of magical realism originated with them. By employing this technique, Malan gives a nod to an important Latino literary tradition.

The use of the coyote in both his human and animal form also plays on the important character of the animal in Latino culture and highlights the good and bad in all of us. "It's really exploring the idea that we have the potential for both inside us," said Craig Willis, managing artistic director for Lord Leebrick. "And which side do we want to bring out?"

The bilingual aspect of the play is easier to pull off than you'd think. "One person will ask a question in Spanish and the other person will answer it in English," explained Malan. "Important points of the story are woven throughout and repeated in both languages so you don't lose the important points. But it's also not repetitive if you know both languages."

Whether you know Spanish or not, Cuentame Coyote should be an exciting, challenging, bi-cultural experience dealing with magic, real world issues and myth.

Cuentame Coyote shows at Lord Leebrick Theatre at 8 pm, May 6 and 7, $10 / $8 stu./snrs. Teatro Milagro is also hosting a bilingual workshop at 2 pm, Saturday. To sign up or for more information, call 465-1506.

 

 

Get Wild and Wing It

Wymprov performs without a net.

BY VANESSA SALVIA

Picture yourself onstage. Another actor speaks and now it's your turn. There's no script, so you flounder for what to say next. Sound like a nightmare? Not if you're into improvisational theater. The improv stage is the one place where winging it is wonderful, and the players involved in improv comedy thrive on the uncharted territory.

WYMPROV! WOW HALL, 8 pm, Saturday, April 30/ $15. 687-2746.

For 12 years, four local women have been working that stage as WYMPROV!, an improv comedy troupe. They'll share the stage with the only other known West coast-based all-female troupe — Ashland's Hamazons.

What's improv's appeal? It's impossible to see the same show twice. There's no memorizing lines and no rehearsals. And improv is a live performance, subject only to the participants' own creative limits.

For players and audience, it's memorable to be part of something existing only in the moment, with no do-overs and a constant threat of the whole scene collapsing with a misplaced line. It's like standing in front of a blank canvas every performance. Whether it's a masterpiece or a flop, it gets erased at the end of the night.

Debby Martin, a WYMPROV! member along with Sally Sheklow, Enid Lefton, and Vicki Silvers, described WYMPROV's style as "short form." The players ask the audience questions like, "Where do you go on vacation?" The audience shouts answers and the first one heard sets the scene. When dialogue falters, games like "Tip of the Tongue" keep the ball rolling, with the audience shouting out words to fill in. "Each game is about five minutes," said Martin. "We'll set up each one and tell them what's going on and when we need suggestions." The game "Paper and Pen" gives audience members a chance to share a line of dialogue. "There's all sorts of different games, literally hundreds of them, but each has the common denominator that there's audience involvement," Martin said.

Unscripted, uncensored input means things can quickly get outrageous. "It's fun when it gets wild and crazy," Martin laughed. "People are really amazed that we make everything up!" Anything goes for subject matter. "Sometimes it's political, sometimes it's not political at all, depending on the crowd," Martin said.

Adding the Hamazons to the mix spices things up. "It's a jolt of energy to join forces with another group that you're not used to," said Martin. WYMPROV! shows are family appropriate. "When there's kids in the audience they're not going to shout out things they might shout out if it's a 21-plus audience," Martin explained. "As children, you grow up improvising. You pick up a stick and it turns into who knows what. Children enjoy [improv] a lot." And remember kids, in this venue, you don't have to raise your hand first before you speak!

 

Road Tour 2005

UO Dancers excite in this season-ender.

BY RACHAEL CARNES

All hail the conquering heroes! Like Odysseus sloughing off his road-weary mantle as he returns to the cozy manse, the University of Oregon Repertory Dance Company concludes its spring tour with performances in Eugene and Cottage Grove. The seven-member company, currently in its seventh season, recently showed them how it's done in Newport, Cannon Beach and Astoria — performing and holding community class until they were ready to drop. Over-crowded shared housing and food on the road: It's a tour!

Companies such as the UO-RDC serve a dual purpose. Participation offers students the opportunity to work with new choreographers, to try challenging movement and gain experience performing in the home court as well as in new venues. And the UO dance department focuses on the educational opportunity for audiences, too. Exposure to dance throughout the state raises expectations and understanding of the art form. It's a win-win.

The company's latest offering is a dance sampler that matches youth with eclectic innovation. Highlights include UO alum and "veteran Broadway dancer" Barry McNabb's Fosse-Fosse-Fosse "For Jamie," performed to tunes by silky-smooth Nat King Cole.

Also on the bill are two pieces by department chair Jenifer Craig, including "Waiting," a new work that explores the unsettled themes of those left behind when loved ones work at sea. Skip The Perfect Storm and see the dance.

Walter Kennedy's "Crossed Purposes" is a collaborative effort for five dancers. The piece intertwines spoken word within a shifting, amorphous dance space. Other new works include pieces by Rita Honka and Amy Stoddard.

UO-RDC performances are scheduled for Eugene at 8 pm on April 29-30 in Dougherty Dance Theater, Gerlinger Annex. Cottage Grove performance is at 8 pm on May 13 at the Cottage Theatre.

In other news, community-wide kudos to Alito Alessi, who recently received a 2005 Guggenheim Fellowship for choreography. Alessi, choreographer, dance instructor and artistic director of Joint Forces Dance Company/DanceAbility, said he intends to use the funds in 2006 to create new choreography in Eugene, Hong Kong and Buenos Aires. Alessi has worked in the Eugene dance community since 1972, pursuing a unique contact-improvisational inquiry. He co-founded Joint Forces with Karen Nelson in 1979 and later became the company's sole artistic director. Alessi developed the "DanceAbility" dance method, which strives to ensure inclusive dance involvement of people with and without disabilities.

 

 

Run Out of Town

A tale of Japanese American mill-workers in Oregon

BY DAVE JOHNSON

THE TOLEDO INCIDENT OF 1925: Three Days That Made History in Toledo, Oregon by Ted W. Cox. Old World Publications, 2005. Paperback, $17.95.

Corvallis author and historian Ted Cox's new book, The Toledo Incident of 1925, is the true story of tempestuous days in the Oregon coastal village, when an angry mob forced Japanese American mill-workers to leave their homes and return to the Willamette Valley. Cox will read from the book at 7 pm on May 5 in Tsunami Books. Free.

Cox's book is a thoroughly researched, deftly penned tale of the expulsion of the workers from their homes. The legal precedence set by a successful civil lawsuit filed against the mob leaders adds a significant page to the history of race relations in the Pacific Northwest.

Cox first learned of the anti-Japanese incident 25 years ago from his 95-year old friend, Roy Green, who was 15 years old in 1925. Green told Cox his dad was so disgusted with the mob's intentions he took his boys fishing.

Intrigued by what was a significant yet untold story, Cox decided in 2003 to tell the story. He conducted research at the Lincoln County Historical Society Museum, the Toledo History Center and the Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center in Portland. He pored over newspaper clippings and interviewed people on all sides of the incident, including descendants of those involved.

The result is a lively narrative, lavishly illustrated with photos of Toledo, pictures of some of the people who lived there, the large lumber mill that had hired the Japanese American workers, their housing along Tokyo Slough, and the site of the confrontation. The drama began with anger over job displacement by foreign out-of-towners, boiled over into vigilante action, led to a frightening displacement at the edge of violence and ended with mob leaders slipping out of town under the shadow of disgrace and an inability to pay damages.

Cox includes articles from Japanese newspapers (in Japanese and translated into English), which followed the harrowing chronicle as it unfolded across the Pacific. The book includes appendices on Japanese immigration to the U.S., the history of Japanese laborers in Oregon's sawmills, the founding of the Japanese Association, and civil rights issues for Japanese resident aliens tempered by the verdict of the Toledo lawsuit. The book closes with biographies of a few of the participants.

A native of Eugene, Cox owns and operates the Old World Deli in downtown Corvallis. He earned a masters in education from OSU, has taught in Africa and Central America as a Peace Corps volunteer, and has studied Northwest Native American history. He's writing a biography of Roy Green and The Butter Tub Book: A History of Wooden Butter Tubs in America.

Cox will also read from The Toledo Incident at the Corvallis Public Library at 7 pm on May 12 and at noon on May 16 in the Asian Pacific Heritage Room, at OSU. The book can be ordered from the author at: www.oldworldpublications.com