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Monthly Notes from 21ten's Artistic Director Ted Rooney


Now that we have put all of that treacherous ice to rest...which ostensibly “froze" our opening week of A Number (grrr)…Let's turn our attention to 21ten's thawing plans for this year. Admittedly these are ambitious goal. And ones that we would not be even dreaming about without our fine supporter base…and Ronni Lacroute.


Only having produced shows for a year and a half now - even I am surprised at how far 21ten has come (not that I am not as proud as hell of the very first show I brought here - “Holy Days”). It blows my mind that we are starting this year off with a show that sports a great director (Mike O’Connell), great lighting designer (Kristeen Willis), great set builder (Brian Guerrero) and two actors at the top of their game. To boot, A Number is a prime example of the kind of theatre I originally imagined welcoming into this old Shoebox. And that is, excellent stories told well…up close and personal. I drew inspiration from The Writer’s Theatre in Chicago ( that originated with 18 seats and the best actors in town. They have kept their vision over 30 years: "dedicated to creating the most intimate theatrical experience possible”.


The set of A Number features a meticulously constructed semi-circle as the backdrop that “traps" the characters and draws us into the claustrophobic atmosphere. Turns out, it’s also an amazing sounding board that traps the performers voices - and funnels them to our ears. Hearing is just not an issue with this set, as it truly seems like the actors’ voices are amplified. We don’t miss a word without the actors having to project. In fact, both Bruce and Alex turn their backs on the audience while speaking, and I swear their voices are then MORE easily heard (Makes me wanna figure out how to incorporate this backdrop into all our future shows!)


Taking advantage of our small venue means to bring very naturalistic behavior that is only elevated just enough to fill the space...and not one bit more. With the understanding that the more a performance is heightened, the greater the effort needed to suspend disbelief (both for audience and actor).  As things become more naturalisic and more they become film-like and therefore, more real and present to the audience. This is the kind of theater that really floats my boat. Scary as hell to most actors, but it can be a stunning experience for an audience, when done well.


I’ve always seen the "blackbox" experience for an audience to be so unlike watching a show in a large auditorium. Not necessarily better, but oh-so different. A horse of a different color. For me, as for many this experience is more desired. The irony here is that folks are required to pay extra for the large venue experience and less for a more intimate show. The average audience member at 21ten has seen A Number for 25 bucks. On a large stage, it may run you upwards of 100 bucks. Not that the big experience can not be amazing!…but my logic says that one is getting way more bang for ones buck for a horse of 21ten's color.


Your welcome.


NOW. On to bullet points of what 21ten has ahead of us this year.


ONE: Building The Infrastructure of BareBones Theatre

This is 21ten’s wing that seeks to bring intimate storytelling locally to the underserved and statewide to theaters that have a spare weekend or two in their calendar. This way we are getting more actors more work and serving a much broader swath of our community than with only our 40 seat house. Because we are filling a need, it is not like we are competing with anyone. It is just waiting to happen. Therefore, the sooner we get support to build the BareBones ins an outs, the sooner it takes off. Eventually, I see the BB wing becoming the most self-sustained offering 21ten brings to the community. Getting it jumpstarted by building the infrastructure is the hard part.


By the way, we just had our 4th BareBones performance of Here We Are Again Still at Mirabella Portland Senior Living. They enjoyed us so much that they immediately have put in an order for our second BareBones show, 52 Pick-Up. And we now have another prison performance of HWAAS booked for March 5th.


TWO: Picking Next Season

We are hoping for one new play, one established contemporary, one classic or semi-classic, a comedy and at least two more BareBones shows. Guest theatre-wise, we hope to have Corrib and TAC back and I am determined to bring Musica Univeralis with story creator Stepan Semek back into the fold for a Holiday Season story-with-music event! The atmosphere and emotion and they brought via beautiful storytelling puppetry and music this last fall was such a…sensorially fulfilling experience.


THREE: Building Our Summer Program

The intention with this program is to welcome in an excellent guest production that might not otherwise have been able to be mounted. We would offer financial support and/or manpower to help make this possible (We hope for this to be a part of our yearly routine going forward).


FOUR: Broaden Teaching Staff

As Brooke Totman moves into her own studio, we have some big shoes to fill! We hope to build a core of teachers with varying skills. We feel this is an important part of a healthy arts ecosystem. We are also looking for space in the neighborhood in which to expand our classes.


FIVE: After School Acting Classes…and Performance Program


SIX: Increase Fundraising.

We already have our dynamic fund grant writer Barry Carman on the job, but we need to bring on more supporting staff to free me up from office stuff, so I can to get out there and share our story more.


Though our pizza fundraisers have been hella-fun and effective, we hope to be having our first larger scale fun-fundraiser this year.


AND FINALLY: Bringing On More Volunteer and Paid Staff.


We have so many “hats” that we cannot afford to pay someone to wear…yet. Curious? Interested in being more a part of the 21ten community? Ask us ;-)



*Artistic Director - (part time position) I’m finally gonna hire me!

*Company Manager (part time) - for taking care of all things “business”

*BareBones Manager (part time…potentially full-time) Finding gigs and booking them and taking care of all the ins and outs of the BareBones wing.

 *Technical Director (part time)


As you see, this is a very ambitious plan - for only our second full year of producing. Too much? Hmmm. So far, 21ten has more than met my expectations…surprised me, even (Perhaps you, too?) Check in with me in a year, and let’s see how outlandish these dreams are ;-)


Hope-fully. Ted

Ted with Color Contacts


As I write this, I am indeed grateful for the obvious reasons like all the people and good things that I have been blessed with in this life...and also for some of the hard things, from which I have grown. However, his year I have a special thanksgiving for all the people that I have gotten to know because of 21ten Theatre.


The move in 2006 with my wife Lori from lonely Los Angeles back to my home town of Portland was prompted by the deep desire for connection in a community (Plus, Lori had asked me: “Can we not live here?”). Initially, the my greatest source of feeling a part of a community here was my acting classes in mine and Robert Blanche’s first studio, which led in time to the inception of 21ten Theatre, a place now busting at the seams with classes, original shows, community events, and outreach. As an introvert by nature, and prone to wander away from people, the force that is the community of 21ten Theatre holds me accountable to delving deep into the values I hold dear, and for this, I am so grateful. 


Please join us in the community of 21ten Theatre. Yes, we are dedicated to having a fabulous time bringing great stories to life and sharing them with our village. But it is the village that matters most….or so I believe. 


I wish for all of you this season, love. Look for it in your neighbor and dish it out wherever you can, and I promise you will find purpose and contentment. I am not there yet, but thanks to the burgeoning community at 21ten, I am closer!


Peace, Ted

Ted in a Doctor costume with his lines on his prop clipboard

Very proud actor playing a doctor on a Hollywood movie set last month…but look closer. See the clipboard? Closer. Even closer and you will see that this proud actor has his lines hidden on said clipboard. This hypocrite teaches other actors to always get "past” the lines so you can have fun - this means very memorized. And yet here he is in a scene with a movie star and still needing a cheat sheet!


As I mentioned in the last newsletter, there is so much going on at 21ten that it’s hard to pick what to highlight.

The obvious ONE is our world premiere of Taking Care Of Animals that opens next week. I think Jerrod’s (Jordahl) play is going to be huge for 21ten and something special for Portland theater…But I don’t ‘know’ this. Will it be as funny and moving as it was to me when I first read it? It pushes conventions - but does it go too far? The story is unique and takes risks - but in a good way? Will it even work or will it fall flat on its face? Will it not actually be as fresh and surprising to audiences as it was to me when Alex (Hurt) first handed it to me.  Time will tell. But to me this quirky story WITH HEART is the play that needed to be done right now. Never before have I felt that so clearly. And I love that it’s character driven as opposed to all message-ey. Intrigued?

Here are my stabs at briefly describing each of the four characters. Mine is an asshole with a DEEPLY BURIED heart. Illya’s (deTorres) is a dude dying to do the right thing.  Annie’s (Trevisan - from 52 Pick-Up) is the abused rising like a phoenix from the ashes. Michael’s (Heidingsfelder) a simple soul who brilliantly adapts. I am so curious how you are going to react to this new story!!!

There is one more thing on the horizon I am excited to tell you about... But for now it will have to remain a mystery. “What the hell is this thing Ted is talking about?” Look for the announcement of the launch date and come find out. We want to have a huge party to celebrate going live WITH THIS. 

For now, I’m afraid I can’t say anything more. “Oh such a mystery! What could this be? I’m sure it is just bullshit talk! But still, I am curious! I want to be there on the day when this mystery is revealed!” Well, good.

One way or another, I hope to see you soon at 21ten. For Taking Care of Animals. Or at our 6 PM cocktail hour this Friday, or AT our movie night this Sunday evening (Fargo). Or to our next Sunday reading (soon to be announced). Also, it won’t be long ‘til our January production of Caryl Churchill’s A Number GOES LIVE...directed by Mike O’Connell and starring Alex Hurt and Bruce Burkhartsmeier.

SEE YA. Ted.

Ted as Abe Lincoln


I think everyone knows how excited I am about 21ten’s BareBones Productions (Look for updates on performances around the city and state and expect our next BareBones show to be christened soon). But I am uncertain the word has yet spread of the remarkable season we have for our main stage. I feel so fortunate to have had a couple projects simply fall into our lap. Shows that normally might’ve been done on a much larger stage are included in 21ten’s 40 seat house season. Remarkable.


Opening November 17th, we have our first world premiere in Taking Care Of Animals. It’s an off-beat, dark, and funny play - Think Coen Brothers. New York Playwright Jerrod Jordahl has taken a shining to us, choosing 21ten as the theater to first tell his wonderful story. Jerrod will be collaborating with us during the rehearsal process, and he and his wife will be flying in for opening. It is such an honor to have him here with his good friend Alex Hurt directing.


In January, we are giving Portland its first full production of Caryl Churchill's A Number. This with two of Portland‘s top actors (Bruce Burkhartsmeier and Alex Hurt) and with longtime Portland actor, teacher, and director Mike O’Connell at the helm. I just can’t get over those two things happening here in only our second season.

To top it off, I have recently been able to take on three part-time employees to help get this place shipshape and running smoothly. Along with several dedicated volunteers 21ten is growing into a wonderful team! And we hope to soon be taking on a part time managing director... knock on wood.


It seems that my hope of using the space to build community by way of great stories being told in an intimate environment by great storytellers may be happening sooner than imagined.


I am also very grateful to have Corrib Theatre again in our space in March. And The Actor's Conservatory (TAC) is bringing their production of Hamlet in April. 


And finally, I am hoping we haven’t bit off more than we can chew – and I am slightly terrified – but we are going to take a stab at Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya in May. Chris Conner, our director, thinks we are ready….

- Ted

Ted in Castaway Ad
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