One-act plays coming to Ridge stage
John Deaderick and Michael Baranowski, well known to local theatergoers, are teaming up in August to direct one-act plays under the stars on the San Juan Ridge.
The “American Living Room” plays – described as wacky, surprising and provocative – run on consecutive weekends at the North Columbia Schoolhouse Cultural Center amphitheater from Aug. 1 to Aug. 22.
“We wanted to continue to work together, and we wanted to honor our dear, dead friend Robby (Thompson), so we came back to the Ridge to do just that,” Deaderick told The Union.
Last spring, Deaderick and Baranowski collaborated on Samuel Beckett’s “Endgame” at the Off Center stage in Grass Valley. “Endgame,” considered by many critics to be Beckett’s greatest single work, is Deaderick’s favorite 20th-century play.
The two theatrical talents conceived of the “American Living Room” during the production of “Endgame.”
“We wanted to have fun, we wanted to work with friends, we wanted to be here at the schoolhouse, and most important, we wanted to honor Robby,” Deaderick said in his director’s notes. “In the ’70s and ’80s, before he became too sick to work, Robby directed a series of madcap, zany, provocative, rough, amateurish and always entertaining plays with casts largely comprised of non-actors.
“Working out of his house, or here at the Schoolhouse, Robby was a tirelessly inventive creator. My personal debt to him is huge: It was Robby who first brought me to Samuel Beckett, Moliere, German Expressionism, Euripides.”
Deaderick added: “Robby shaped my personal aesthetic. Sure, sometimes it was rugged going, with no budget, the ever-present “Ridge-time” work ethic, my own youthful arrogance, but Robby always found a way to make it work. He was just fabulous to work with; it always felt good to be in a Robby production. And no one taught me more about demolishing the fourth wall, that artificial barrier between actor and audience.”
Baranowski’s credits also include directing “Flower Drum Song” for the Community Asian Theatre of the Sierra. Both men also are longtime actors. Under Deaderick, Colfax High has an award-winning drama program.
Due to the adult content, only mature audiences are requested to attend the “American Living Room” plays. The event is a fundraiser for the Cultural Center.
Players include Roo Contada, Peggy Dart, Marion Jeffrey, Jimmy McCammon, Ken Miele, Janis Johnson and Harriet Totten. Audience members are encouraged to bring lawn chairs or enjoy the wooden benches in the historic amphitheater.
Prospector Editor Pam Jung interviewed Deaderick:
Prospector: Tell us more about yourself, these honors and awards: Twice honored for his theater work as a California Arts Council Artist In Residence, John has also garnered three National Endowment For The Humanities Fellowships as well as being named a Fellow Of The American Antiquarian Society.
John Deaderick: OK, although I am a little uncomfortable with this old stuff: I was California Arts Council Artist in Residence at the Neighborhood Center of the Arts for 3 years in the late ’80s. I directed “Oedipus the King” there, among other plays. I also served as Artist in Residence in Downieville, where I started a small theater group.
The Humanities Grants were study grant awards; I studied Greek tragedy at Stanford and the plays of Samuel Beckett in Philadelphia at the University of the Arts. I also received an independent study award from the NEH which I used to explore the nature of the audience in Classical Athens. The Fellowship from the Antiquarian Society took me to Mass. to study visions of the expanding American frontier on the 18th and 19th century American stage.
I have been an adjunct professor in theater arts at Sierra College since 1985. I collaborated on the opera “St. Adolf Ring” with Terry Riley and wrote a libretto based on Homer’s “Odyssey” for Jay Sydeman. I am a member of the Screen Actors Guild and formerly was a classical music announcer on KXPR in Sacramento and at KVMR. I have hosted and been a guest storyteller at the Sierra Storytelling Festival. In my day job, I teach English and theater at Colfax High School.
Pros: How did you and your co-director Michael Baranowski get together to put on this entertainment:
JD: I met Michael in the early Foothill Theatre Company days. He played Sky Masterson in my FTC production of Guys and Dolls. We both were also into guerilla performance, street Theatre, irreverence. We worked with the late great astounding director Robby Thompson on the San Juan Ridge; Michael in the ’70s, me in the ’80s. This production is dedicated to Robby’s memory. Last year, Michael directed me in Samuel Beckett’s “Endgame,” my favorite 20th c. play.
We wanted to continue to work together, and wanted to honor our dear dead friend Robby, so we came back to the Ridge to do just that.
Pros: What is wacky, surprising and provocative in this performance?
JD: Our plays, both set in American living rooms of the mid-20th c. offer satirical views of American “family values.” Of the 2 plays, Naomi in the Livingroom is slighter; it’s almost pure farce. The title character is a mad woman. You never know what she’s about to say or do. Michael is directing Edward Albee’s terrific The American Dream, truly a great, original, thought-provokingly weird play.
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