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‘Stage Struck’ in Aspen

Stewart Oksenhorn
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Kent ReedKathy Pelowski and Lee Sullivan are featured in the Hudson Reed Ensemble's "Stage Struck," playing Sunday and Monday at the Rio Grande Room of the former Aspen Youth Center.
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ASPEN – Kent Reed has no idea what he’s doing.

Yes, he’s got a title for the latest show being presented by the Hudson Reed Ensemble, the Aspen-based performance company he directs. The show – “Stage Struck,” which plays Sunday and Monday, April 4-5, at 7 p.m. in the Rio Grande Room of Aspen’s old youth center – has a specific theme, involving transition points in romantic relationships. He’s got actors, songs, scripts, and even a set of panels that will transfer the bare-bones room into an intimate performance space.

But as for a label to describe the genre that “Stage Struck” fits into, Reed is at a loss. The show features music and dance, but it is far from a musical. It’s got readings of text, but it’s not reader’s theater – the Hudson Reed Ensemble did that at Christmas time at the Pitkin County Library, and Reed found the form in need of a little more oomph. When I mention the ‘v’-word, Reed hastened to clarify that it was not a variety show. But he ran into a stumbling block when trying to come up with the term that would describe “Stage Struck.”



“I’m sure in New York, someone’s put an evening together like this,” Reed said. “But I’ve never seen it.”

By the numbers, “Stage Struck” features three actors, six characters, four songs, one dance, one band, and five readings – two poems, one short story, one novel and one play. All are connected, loosely but noticeably, by the theme of romances in transition. The action itself travels through time (as far back as the 1920s and up to current times) and space (rural Scotland to New York City), with the suggestion of eras and locations in between.




“Stage Struck” opens with Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer singing the 1940s country chestnut “The Tennessee Waltz,” backed by the local teenage band Slightly White. Trommer then moves into recitation mode to read the original poem, “Holding Hands in the Dark.” Without interruption, the show then moves into a reading of “Above Duntrune,” a coming-of-age novel set in Scotland, written by Woody Creeker Claire McDougall; the Dwight Yoakam tune “As Fast As You,” sung by Lee Sullivan; a country-swing dance choreographed by Ricki Smith Newman; a reading of the Dorothy Parker short story, “Here We Are”; the Iris Dement blues number “Sweet Forgiveness,” sung by Kathy Pelowski; another Trommer poem, “Let Us Begin”; a scene from Terrence McNally play “Frankie and Johnny in the Claire de Lune”; and the Jason Mraz song, “I’m Yours,” sung by Slightly White frontman Obadiah Jones.

“The connection between these pieces is it’s all couples,” said Reed, who assembled the work – at one point, he referred to it as a “collage” – and directs. “It’s working things out between men and women. And the songs reinforce this overall theme of transitions in relationships.”

“Frankie and Johnny,” Reed pointed out, is about a couple embarking on a one-night stand, but hoping for more. “As Fast As You” involves a guy musing about being as carefree a lover as his girlfriend is. “Above Duntrune” is about 17-year-olds about to be separated.

Reed hopes to make “Stage Struck” into an ongoing, flexible event capable of taking on other themes: classical music with classic literature; jazz with Jazz Age poetry. And perhaps by the time he stages the next show, he’ll be clearer on just what it is he’s doing.

“Maybe at some point I’ll come up with a name to call it,” he said. “It’s a mixture of artists performing art forms. It’s theater, for sure.”

stewart@aspentimes.com


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