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Both Kelley Marchant and Vassar Byrd agree that the new partnership between Milwaukie’s New Century Players and Rose Villa Senior Living is a win-win-win situation.


PHOTO BY KEVIN YELL - Gathered around the piano as they rehearse for 'Stairway to Paradise' are, left to right, Dirk Foley, Brian Smith, musical director David Hastings, Sarah Kelley and Brandee Leibrand. The theater company wins because Rose Villa’s new Performing Arts Center provides the community theater group with a new venue, said Marchant, NCP’s artistic director. Rose Villa wins because its residents don’t have to drive to Portland to see plays and musical productions, said Rose Villa CEO Byrd.

And the entire community wins because everyone is welcome to come to Rose Villa, park for free, have a meal, and walk to the theater to see a production.

Playgoers can dine at Rose Villa’s Harvest Grill, open until 7 p.m. The menu is “fast casual,” said Tina Moullet, Rose Villa’s director of marketing and communications. In mid-September, the Heirloom Restaurant will open, featuring fine dining on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings, she said.

About three years ago, as the renovation project at Rose Villa got underway, Byrd began meeting with Marchant to see how the 160-seat Performing Arts Center could become a working space for NCP.

“We spent a lot of time looking through [architectural plans] to see how we could have a flexible space with lighting capabilities and audio equipment,” she said.

“I feel good about how it turned out; it really is a theater,” Byrd said.

NCP is splitting its slate of productions for 2016-17 between Rex Putnam High School, where Marchant is the drama teacher, and the new space, so the group can see what it can and cannot do in the Performing Arts Center, Marchant said.

“For the last eight years we have done shows in one-off venues, so it is very nice not to have to learn a new space every time. And it is time to get us back out into the community; to give us a space we can learn about,” said Kevin Yell, an NCP board member. He will stage NCP’s initial offering at Rose Villa, a musical cabaret titled “Stairway to Paradise,” that opens at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 9 in the Performing Arts Center. It also will play at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 10, 16-17, 22-24, and at 2 p.m. Sept. 11, 18 and 25.

Visit newcenturyplayers.org for tickets and more information.

“We have focused on bringing more depth to Oak Grove, and hosting a theater group is just one more thing people can do. At Rose Villa, people like to be involved and they will make a good audience,” Byrd said.

“Our residents go places and do things, and it makes sense to involve the community,” Byrd said, adding that Rose Villa residents will get discounts on tickets to NCP productions.

NCP has developed a partnership with students at Rex Putnam, and students and adults alike have benefited from that, Marchant said.

But the high school has its own theater department that puts on seven to nine shows a year, and it has been “a little overwhelming” to try to fit NCP productions into that schedule, she said.

“Being able to stage another set of shows in another space will ease up on that chaos, and my students will still be supportive,” Marchant said.

Also, “I love models I’ve seen where students work with seniors. In our collaborative shows [with NCP] every adult says it has been the best artistic experience, and we can recreate that experience here,” she said.

There is such a “wealth of resources [at Rose Villa],” Marchant said, adding that residents might be interested in “helping us artistically.”

“Working with young people at Putnam has been fabulous. Now we’ll be working with the other end of the spectrum,” Yell said. “If we build a loyal audience here and give them good work, it challenges us to create and choose a repertory with special resonance [for the residents] here. All theater is about sharing.”

Yell, and David Hastings, a pianist and accompanist, co-created “Stairway to Paradise,” a celebration of the birth of Broadway.

The cabaret-style show features the music of George Gershwin, Cole Porter and Irving Berlin.

“For our first show in the new space we wanted to create a cabaret-style show, because it is something we haven’t done before. We hope it becomes an annual event,” Yell said.

When he and Hastings, the musical director for the show, looked at Gershwin’s music, they realized it fit perfectly into that period between World War I and World War II, and also was the time period when Broadway became Broadway, and Porter and Berlin were popular composers.

The time period of the 1920s, 1930s and early 1940s should appeal to certain age groups in the audience, Yell said, noting that all the songs in the show will provide “a wonderful trip down memory lane.”

New Century Players 2016-17 season

The New Century Players will produce plays in two venues this season: Rex Putnam High School and, new this year, Rose Villa’s Performing Arts Center.

The new venue has allowed NCP to expand its season to include five productions this year, and Kelley Marchant, NCP artistic director, said “we chose crowd pleasers” for the new season.

First up is “Stairway to Paradise,” a cabaret-style show featuring classic Broadway tunes. It will be staged Sept. 9-25 in the Performing Arts Center.

NCP will reprise “Glorious!” a comedy about Florence Foster Jenkins, who gained fame in 1940s New York as being the world's worst singer. It will be performed Nov. 4-20 in Rex Putnam’s Blackbox Theatre.

It was produced last year to sold-out houses.

Next up in January at the Rose Villa Performing Arts Center will be “The Belle of Amherst,” about poet Emily Dickinson, and “First Lady Lou,” about Herbert Hoover’s wife, two one-woman shows featuring Jane Fellows.

Marchant will direct a joint NCP/Rex Putnam High School production of “Midsummer/Jersey” at RPHS in March.

The final show of the season will be “Persuasion,” based on the Jane Austen novel of the same name. It will be staged in May in the Rose Villa Performing Arts Center.

Visit newcenturyplayers.org for more information or call 503-367-2620. Rose Villa is located at 13505 S.E

. River Road, in Oak Grove. Visit rosevilla.org for more information or call 503-654-3171.

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