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The Little Apple Players offer fresh, relevant, homegrown theater…

by Christina Ammon

I’ve always accepted that there are certain things you give up to live in the country:  Art museums, sushi bars, theater. The trade-offs are good. Here in the wide-open spaces, Mother Nature is van Gogh, acorn woodpeckers are stand-up comics, and high-drama is a red-tail hawk honing in on a kill.

That is, until I learned about the Little Apple Players, a local theater group pulled together by long-time Applegate resident, Maud Powell. Now in its sixth production, this year the group will perform The Sky is Falling, a series of eight vignettes which Maud describes as a “peri-apocalyptic.” The performance will be staged in The Shiny Barn, a gorgeous high-ceilinged structure up Yale Creek Road. Performance dates are February 23, 25, 26 and March 2, 4, 5.

Maud Powell, owner of Wolf Gulch Farm, started the Little Apple Players.

Don’t underestimate the power of small, local theater. I first attended a Little Apple Player production a few years ago. When the stage lights dropped, I was astonished to watch people I knew –local bread bakers, farmers, and kids–transform into characters as they acted out vignettes, including one that was silly homage to Leo Tolstoy.

These days the productions are next level: The Players are writing the vignettes themselves. Maud praises the change: “This is culture that is born out of our landscape, and deals with familiar issues—logging, climate change, pot grows, farming, and California.” The plays also speak to personal issues the players are dealing with: empty nest, aging parents, or friends moving out of the valley.

Maud doesn’t have formal theater experience, but grew up in a family where performing plays was a tradition. In fact, her great-grandmother, from Northern Ireland, converted a chicken coop into a community theater where children could put on plays for one another.

Maud caught the bug. “Community theater has always been a little sparkle in my eye,” she says.

The Little Apple Players change up a bit each year. Maud recruits participants through networks of friends and family –and sometimes employs a bit of unrelenting charm to pull people in.

“Some people have never tried theater before, and for others, it was traumatic as a kid. This is an opportunity to try it out as an adult in a collaborative and supportive environment. It’s amazing the actors we’ve discovered through this.”

Maud says scheduling proves to be the biggest barrier. That’s why she chooses vignette-style performances. Each scene only requires two or three actors, which cuts down on rehearsal time and makes it easier for busy local farmers and producers to participate. She describes the process as “super-accessible, fun and stress-free.”

One of the things she loves most is the community collaboration. She’s partnered with another local theater group, Wanderlust Theater. They lend technical and production expertise.

“It’s such an iterative process,” she explains. “The playwright has the original concept, the actor animates it, and the producer adds the bells-and-whistles.

Joe Ferneau and Rosie Demmin from Rise Up! are part of Little Apple Players.

The Little Apple Players run on a shoe-string budget, but this year received an Innovation Grant through A Greater Applegate. This will help them with some of the infrastructure costs. Still, Maud wants to keep the budget modest and the event low-waste.  The focus will remain on the local actors, who lie at the heart of the production:

“It’s really brave to get up on stage in front of people. This an opportunity to help people shine.”

Tickets are $20 and all profits go to Girls Build.

Reserve your tickets by clicking here.