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Eugene Weekly : Coverstory : 7.17.08

 

Oregon Shakespeare Festival:

Traditional Innovator A Q&A with OSF Artistic Director Bill Rauch

Organized Insanity OSF’s costume shop

Last Man Standing Othello on the Elizabethan Stage through Oct. 10

It’s All Just a Case of Mistaken Identity A Comedy of Errors on the Elizabethan Stage through Oct. 12

Postmodern Angst, Zany Style The Further Adventures of Hedda Gabler at the Bowmer Theatre through Nov. 1

Man Alone, and Whiny Coriolanus at the New Theatre through Nov. 2

Bare Bones Our Town on the Elizabethan Stage through Oct. 11

People in Motion John Sipes moves, but not to the music

 

People in Motion

John Sipes moves, but not to the music

By Chuck Adams

In Luis Alfaro’s surreal comedy Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner (through Nov. 2 New Theatre), the character of Minerva eats so much junk food throughout the show that eventually she floats into the air. To achieve this effect, the actor will be in a flying harness that allows her to rotate and move around while she’s wearing an enormous fat suit — a seemingly gravity-defying feat, one easily botched. 

John Sipes (left) with actor James J. Peck during rehearsal for 2007’s The Tempest. Photo: Jenny Graham

Enter OSF Movement and Fight Director John Sipes. “If there’s some unusual movement to do,” Sipes says, “I’m the one who’s called in.”

Sipes, who directed last season’s King John, has been involved at OSF for 15 seasons. He oversees the choreography on all the fight and non-dance-related sequences. How can you tell when a movement didn’t have Sipes’ involvement? “If there’s music involved,” says Sipes, he won’t touch it. “I’m not a dancer.” But he does work with the actors on mannerisms, posture, breathing … even internal movements of thought.

A major principle Sipes promotes is the Alexander Technique, which he teaches to actors on a case-by-case basis. The technique, developed in the late 18th century by F. Matthias Alexander in Australia, is a form of physical therapy used to align the body, release muscle tension and increase awareness of the body. Sipes says the technique gives the actor a “stillness,” allowing her to move with “efficiency and calm.”

If you wonder how an OSF actor can be running around the stage screaming in a seemingly chaotic action in one moment and then deliver a soliloquy over a slain soldier the next, it’s because of the actor’s equipoise and movement training, using techniques like the Alexander “to bring about a sense of release, which increases power,” Sipes says.

Sipes leaves OSF in the fall to take on a role at the University of Tennessee’s Clarence Brown Theater, but he will return to Ashland in 2009 to be movement director for the world premiere of Bill Cain’s Equivocation and to direct Shakespeare’s Henry VIII

 

 

 

Traditional Innovator A Q&A with OSF Artistic Director Bill Rauch

Organized Insanity OSF’s costume shop

Last Man Standing Othello on the Elizabethan Stage through Oct. 10

It’s All Just a Case of Mistaken Identity A Comedy of Errors on the Elizabethan Stage through Oct. 12

Postmodern Angst, Zany Style The Further Adventures of Hedda Gabler at the Bowmer Theatre through Nov. 1

Man Alone, and Whiny Coriolanus at the New Theatre through Nov. 2

Bare Bones Our Town on the Elizabethan Stage through Oct. 11

People in Motion John Sipes moves, but not to the music

More reviews can be found in our online archives