It might not be a first, but I can't recall another recent instance in the mid-valley when five separate theatrical productions were running at the same time.
But that's the case this weekend, with two new productions hitting area stages to join three other shows that are continuing their runs.
Let's start with the new shows first and then refresh your memory about the other ones:
For some movie fans, "Shakespeare in Love" will always be the flick that stole the best picture Oscar from "Saving Private Ryan." But on its own terms, "Shakespeare" is a delightful show, with witty dialogue from Tom Stoppard and Marc Norman.
The writer Lee Hall adapted the Stoppard-Norman screenplay for the stage, and the resulting production (which Oregon State University is staging over the next two weekends) puts more of a spotlight on the joys and frustrations of making theater. OSU's Elizabeth Helman is directing the show, and it feels like she's been laying the groundwork for years: She directed a production of Stoppard's "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead" a few seasons ago at OSU and she notes that half of the cast of "Shakespeare" was also in this summer's Bard in the Quad production of "Romeo and Juliet" — a play that figures prominently in the plot of "Shakespeare in Love."
And don't worry: The OSU production features the bit with the dog — in this case, two dogs, both members of the Helman household. Another dog auditioned, Helman told me, but was too well-behaved for the part.
The Linn-Benton Community College Theater Department is carving out a niche with its commedia dell'arte productions. Its latest offering, "The Duelist," debuts Friday night at the Russell Tripp Performance Center at LBCC's Albany campus.
The show is devised and directed by LBCC's Tinamarie Ivey, who has long experience with commedia dell'arte. Ivey proved to be an agreeable guide to the theatrical form, which dates back to the Italian Renaissance — and she explained why commedia dell'arte provides such good training for actors: Because so much of the show is improvised, it requires its actors to really listen and pay attention to what's happening on stage.
Audiences have been flocking to these shows for centuries, in part because it's always fun to watch true love overcome all obstacles, but also because the plays are packed with humor and physical comedy. In fact, Ivey told me, our term "slapstick" originated with commedia dell'arte.
"The Duelist" follows on the heels of LBCC's successful "I Got Guns!," which used the form to make some pointed political points. Ivey said "The Duelist" isn't as overtly political, but the improvised nature of the shows likely will allow some barbs to slip into the mix. Click here to read my preview story about "The Duelist"
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And don't forget three other productions which still are playing this weekend on mid-valley stages: "Next to Normal," the Pulitzer-Prize winning musical about a suburban housewife coping with bipolar disorder, is still up at the Majestic in Corvallis. "Tuna Does Vegas," the latest installment in the "Greater Tuna" series of two-actor comedies, is at the Albany Civic Theater. And "The Spitfire Grill," the musical production from CSD Theaters, continues its run at Corvallis High School's main stage.
The weekend also offers a couple of classical music offerings from small ensembles.
Carrie French's A Bene Placito Chamber Winds ensemble celebrates its first anniversary with a celebration of endings: Its Friday night concert at the United Presbyterian Church in Albany highlights the finales of several musical selections. French told me she's been delighted by the ensemble's first season, and its audiences are growing. Click here to read more about the Friday concert.
And the Arioso Chamber Players have a program full of youthful passion and energy planned, including a very early Beethoven trio, a piece Debussy wrote when he was just 18 and a work by the Russian composer Mikhail Glinka that's all about the heartbreak of young love. Jaclyn LaRue, who plays oboe in Arioso, loves the intense spirit that shows up in every note of the Glinka trio. Arioso plays Saturday night in Albany and Sunday afternoon in Corvallis. Click here to read more about the weekend shows.
You've probably seen the work of muralist and artist Rip Cronk around town; he created, for example, "The Athletics Mural" at LBCC. But he's active in other media as well, and a new show at the Benton County Historical Museum in Philomath offers a retrospective of other works by the 72-year-old artist. Click here to read more about the show, which opens on Friday.
If you're planning on spending time this weekend in a movie theater, you have a number of intriguing new titles to choose from:
A number of critics, including the Los Angeles Times' Justin Chang, are calling Bong Joon Ho's social thriller "Parasite" one of the very best movies of the year; you can find out for yourself when the Darkside starts screening the Cannes prize winner on Friday.
Good reviews are greeting James Mangold's auto-racing drama "Ford v Ferrari," with Matt Damon and Christian Bale.
"Jo Jo Rabbit," Taika Waititi's comedy about a young German boy during World War II and his imaginary friend — none other than Adolf Hitler — has been a film festival sensation. It starts Friday, and reviewer Richard Roeper says it's hilarious and thought-provoking.
Some of the early reviews for Elizabeth Banks' reboot of "Charlie's Angels," with Kristen Stewart apparently having a ball, are surprisingly positive: Check out what reviewer Katie Walsh had to say.
The reviews are not as strong for "The Good Liar," the con-man thriller with Helen Mirren and Ian McKellen.
As always, our Movie Scene feature is your guide to all the flicks playing in the mid-valley. Click here to plan your moviegoing weekend.
And our weekly arts and entertainment calendar is your essential guide to everything that's going in the busy mid-valley. Click here to check it out, and I'll see you back here next Thursday.