One of my favorite community theatres in Southern Oregon is Camelot Theatre, located between Medford and Ashland in Talent. Home to a small but professional and delightful artistic company, Camelot offers musicals, plays and spotlights on musical greats, as well as a summer youth conservatory for training the next generation of performing artists.

Founded in 1982 as Actors Theatre, Camelot’s home from 1990 to 2011 was at a former feed store that was converted to a 104-seat theater. In May 2011, supported by donors, foundations and loans, the new 164-seat state-of-the-art James Morrison Collier Theatre Building opened in downtown Talent. The new theater has a larger capacity, a beautiful interior, much-needed backstage enhancements –  and there’s not a bad seat in the house.

Camelot’s current production is “Woody Guthrie’s American Song,” running through September 9. Conceived and adapted by Peter Glazer, the musical debuted in 1989 and has been performed all across America. This humorous and heart-wrenching tribute to Guthrie shines as local, talented actors and musicians take us on a journey through his life as a troubadour and extraordinary observer across the country in the 1920s and 30s. The actors do a great job singing more than two dozen Guthrie songs and sharing his stories about the hardscrabble times of the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression. I’m always amazed by the versatility of theatrical sets in small theaters; this one is another winner.

Peter Wycliffe, Tyler Ward and Scott Woolsey robustly sing the role of Guthrie at three different ages, interwoven with the characters of two of the women in his life, portrayed by the very talented Tamara Marston and Kendra Taylor. Not only do the performers sing, dance and act, but they also play musical instruments throughout the production, supported by the onstage musical trio of Peter Spring (bass), Mark Tuttle (fiddle) and James Abdo (guitar). Under the direction of Livia Ginese and musical direction of Mark Reppert, it’s very obvious that this tightly-knit company has fine-tuned “American Song” into a performance worthy of big city venues with small town prices. Such is the beauty of the arts scene in Southern Oregon.

“Woody Guthrie’s American Song” runs through Sept. 9. Curtain is at 8 p.m. Thursdays through Mondays, and at 2 p.m. Sundays. Tickets are available online at www.camelottheatre.org.

About the Author: Pam Cooper

Pam Cooper has lived primarily in Southern Oregon for more than four decades. She has written for more than two dozen periodicals in Oregon, Hawaii and Texas as a reporter, freelance feature writer, grant writer, managing editor, opinion and humor columnist. When she first arrived in Oregon many lifetimes ago, she took one look at the mountains here and said “Bye, y'all” to her home state of Texas.

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