COQUILLE — Fun is once again the name of the game at the Sawdust Theatre in Coquille, as dozens of volunteers get set to take the stage for the theatre’s 48th summer season of melodrama shows.
The melodrama is a type of performance that dates back to the early 1800s. According to Sawdusters’ website, it is the creation of “a perfect blend of music (melody) and drama.”
This year that blend will be on display, starting in June, with the opening of “The Colossal Cranberry Caper” or “Boondoggled In the Bog,” written by Sawduster Janet Bowen.
While the musical Olios are directed by Becca Jones and Maureen March, Becky Capps is back for third time to direct the play. She says, admittedly, the general construction of the play is very similar to the other 47 they have performed.
“Well, you know, (in a melodrama) your plays are basically all the same,” Capps said Monday night, during media night at the theatre. “Good overcomes evil every time; with just a little help from the crowd.”
Ah, yes, the crowd. Far from the usual decorum expected in a performance theater, these shows literally beg for audience participation. Booing the villain, swooning for the damsel in distress, and even yelling helpful suggestions to the characters is expected, and adds to the enjoyment of the performance.
Each character in the play is double-cast, so all summer long a variety of combinations perform.
Regardless of the combination, though, the cast will be comprised of volunteers; many of whom started out as fans who watched for years from the Sawduster’s seats.
Jesse Knudsen is one of those actors. This year he is playing the hero, Chester A. Goodguy, in just his second year on stage.
“I’d moved back to this area, and I’d been to the Sawdusters before, and I thought it’d be fun to get into and so I tried out,” he said. For Knudsen the secret to their success is simple. “I think (the audience) just likes the silliness.”
That silliness is not only what keeps the audiences coming back year after year, but it helps maintain a strong core of volunteers as well.
Leon Brown, one of two Dungeness Dans, will be taking the stage for his fifth time and says it is all about having fun.
“I got talked into it and I wondered, what the heck. I did the first year by letting them talk me into it,” Brown chuckled. “Try it and you’ll find out you can do it. Just being able to get in character, and try to stay in character, it’s a lot of fun.”
Fun is a repeated word backstage, whether you are talking to the actors, the Olios dancers, or the crew. But, that doesn’t mean they don’t put in a lot of effort, as well.
Capps says every part of directing a Sawduster melodrama is a challenge, but it is also — you guessed it.
“Everybody has to be costumed, we have new people, we have seasoned people, it’s just a group of people all working together for one happy goal. Nobody gets paid, so everybody loves what they’re doing and so, therefore, it turns out awesome!”
You can see for yourself just how awesome when the season opens on June 7 and runs through Labor Day. Just remember some of that awesomeness comes from your ability to let loose and boo, hiss and cheer.
For more information, visit their website at sawdusttheatre.com. The theatre is located on the corner of 1st and Adams streets. All seats are reserved and are available online, with all shows priced at $12.50. You can also call 541-396-4563 for reservations.