Although it might seem to be impossible to find a connection between "Winnie the Pooh" and characters in Chinese Taoist Folktales, Fayda Teeters found several. And then she turned those connections into Masque Alfresco's latest play "Winnie the Pooh and Lao-Tzu Too," opening Aug. 5 at George Rogers Park Iron Foundry in Lake Oswego.
The play has most of the beloved characters from "Winnie-the-Pooh" plus characters from Chinese folktales; also included are six original songs with music by Albert Palmeter and Michael Koach, with lyrics by Teeters.
Teeters, the artistic director of Masque Alfresco, noted that the hour-long play is infused with Taoist philosophy, commedia dell'arte slapstick schtick and colorful characters.
"Be sure to bring lawn chairs, blankets, picnics, leashed pets and your funny bones," she added.
"A.A. Milne wrote his beloved Pooh stories for his son, Christopher Robin, as a means of hearkening back to a simpler, kinder time before World War I. Likewise, Lao-Tzu, wrote the Tao Te Ching at a time of great war and unrest in ancient China," Teeters said.
In addition, Pooh is constantly referred to as "the bear of little brain," who does silly things that produce great results for everyone involved.
"This aligns with the Taoist notion of the Uncarved Block: an entity that is centered within itself, with no need to prove anything to the outside world; simple, but not dull-witted, uncomplicated, yet profound," Teeters said.
In addition, "a Taoist core image is that of a river that doesn't run in a straight line, but meanders on its way throughout the land in order to fulfill its true nature," Teeters said.
She added that "Milne also wrote similarly about a little stream that dances and bubbles about at its birth, but as it flows and gains maturity, it slows down, secure in the knowledge that there's no hurry, it will get there someday."
Keeping Commedia dell'arte alive
Teeters said that for the audience who has been following her group's performances for the past 21 years, this play is "both the pinnacle and culmination of our endeavors to update Commedia dell'arte for modern audiences, thereby keeping that 500-year-old tradition alive and well."
"All 21 years of our performances have incorporated commedia elements, mainly with the use of stock characters, familiar archetypes that infuse and influence modern theater," she said.
Examples in this play include Eeyore, who is the purveyor of complaining doom and gloom; Pooh Bear uncomplicated, yet can always be relied on to save the day; and Piglet the smallest, somewhat timid animal, who shows enormous courage when needed, she noted.
Also, Teeters said, she wrote all the original plays over the years with the idea that actors would "put their own individual spin on the lines, the same way the commedia troupes did for the past 500 years, since their plays were largely improvised around stock scenarios."
She added, "Yet another principle: as a company, all of us pitch in to set up the curtains, lay out the props, load and unload our cars. All for one and one for all.''
Teeters said she had devoted many years of her life to working with Masque Alfresco, and she has decided to retire after this show is over.
"For 21 years I've adapted all of our scripts, written four to six grants each year, served as both director and producer for the majority of our productions, took publicity photos, wrote press releases and created and printed programs and flyers," she said.
She said what kept her going was the knowledge that "Masque Alfresco was providing a unique service to people who normally don't attend live theatre."
The group's plays have always been free to the public, so when the hat is passed for no-obligation donations, the funds are divided equally among the actors, she said.
"Our plays have also endeavored to be family-friendly and multi-generational, inclusive with colorblind casting and non-gender specific role assignments," Teeters said.
After this show closes, Teeters said she will miss "the camaraderie, passing on what I know about Commedia dell'arte and theater in general to the next generation, watching my creative output come around full circle."
She noted that in this regard, a "minor miracle" has occurred.
"Mark Friedly, a founding member who has always played hilarious character roles and still serves as our current tech director, now has the pleasure of watching his two teenage daughters perform — Amanda Grace Friedly as Christopher Robin, and Sara Beth Friedly as Piglet.
The rest of the cast includes Kerry Kehoe, Kenneth Dembo, Michael Koach and Teeters.
Teeters added, "Watching our six company actors play 30 different characters with fantastically quick costumes changes should be a lot of fun."
What: Masque Alfresco presents "Winnie the Pooh and Lao-Tzu Too"
When: 7 p.m. Aug. 5, 6, 7, 12, 13, 14, 19, 20 and 21
Where: George Rogers Park Iron Foundry, 611 S State St., Lake Oswego
Details: The play is adapted and directed by Fayra Teeters, with musical direction by Albert Palmeter. Visit masquealfresco-redirectxyz for more information.
Other local events
Oregon City Festival of the Arts
The event is free to the public and will include food and beverage vendors, visual and performing artists from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Aug. 13-14 at the End of the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center. More can be found at threeriversartistguild.com.
Wonderful Wednesdays start at 11:30 a.m. at the Gladstone Library,135 E. Dartmouth St., through Aug. 24.
Aug. 17 — Cryptozoology Puppet Show, Shawnery Connery is on a monster quest to discover cryptids.
Aug. 24 — Angel Ocasio's Comedy, a zany comedy combination of magic, music, juggling and audience participation.
Fun Day Fridays
Fun Day Fridays are happening starting at 10:30 a.m. at the Oak Lodge Library, 16201 S.E. McLoughlin Blvd., through Aug. 26. Kids can get a free lunch from 11 a.m.-noon at all of these Oak Lodge events.
Aug. 5 — Good Stories From All Over, tales of adventure, enchantment, humor, and suspense told by Christopher Leebrick.
Aug. 12 — Camp Ocean, search for buried treasure and dive into the ocean's mysteries.
Aug. 19 — Takohachi, Japanese drumming, music and stories.
Aug. 26 — Angel Ocasio's Comedy, a zany comedy combination of magic, music, juggling and audience participation.
Music in the Park
West Linn Parks and Recreation's Music in the Park returns to Tanner Creek Park. Catch various local acts 7-9 p.m. Thursday, July 28, Aug. 4 and Aug. 11.
Blues act Norman Sylvester Band will take the stage Aug. 4 and the series will culminate with Hit Machine Aug. 11. Food and drinks will be available for purchase from local vendors.
Movies in the Park
Bring a picnic and a blanket and enjoy movies under the stars. All movies are free and begin at dusk around 9 p.m. More at ncprd.com/movies.
Saturday, Aug. 6: "Raya The Last Dragon" at Concord School, 3811 S.E. Concord Road, Milwaukie.
Gladstone Community Festival
This event will take place all day Aug. 5-6, with most events celebrating the spirit of the city at Max Patterson Park. Find a schedule of events at gladstonecommunityfestival.org.
Through its Movies in the Park series, the city of Wilsonville will feature the animated movie "Soul" at dusk (around 9 p.m.) Friday, Aug. 5, in Town Center Park. Attendees can bring their own food and beverages.
As part of the Rotary Club of Wilsonville's Summer Concert Series, Jennifer Batten and Full Steam with Rob Rainwater take the stage at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 4 at Town Center Park. Next, Radical Revolution will perform Aug. 11 at the same time.
Fitness in the Park
Join other citizens of the county at North Clackamas Park for Fitness in the Park classes running July 12 through Aug. 27, including tai chi, Zumba, HIIT and yoga. See the full schedule and pre-register at ncprd.com/fitness-in-the-park
Concerts in the Valley
There is a free concert series at Happy Valley Park, 6:30-8:30 p.m. on Thursdays, July 28-Aug. 25. Bring a blanket or lawn chairs, conveniently close to the splash pad and play area. Food, beverage, beer and wine are available for purchase.
Catch a play
Clackamas Repertory Theater presents "The Sound of Music" from Aug. 6-28; performances take place at 7:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday with 2:30 p.m. matinees on Sundays at the Osterman Theatre on the campus of Clackamas Community College, 19600 Molalla Ave., Oregon City. Tickets may be purchased at clackamasrep.org or by calling 503-594-6047.
Lake Oswego movies
The city of Lake Oswego will host the screening of the animated film "Sing 2" at dusk (about 8:45 p.m.) on Thursday. Aug. 4 at Westlake Park.
Lake Oswego concerts
Kalimba, an Earth, Wind & Fire tribute band, will perform at 6:30 p.m. at Westlake park Wednesday, Aug. 3.
At 6 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 7, the Aaron Meyer Trio, led by violinist Aaron Meyer, will perform at Millenium Plaza Park. Precious Byrd will perform at 6:30 p.m. Aug. 10 at West Lake Park. On Aug. 17, Shades of Huey will take the stage at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 17 at West Lake Park.
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