‘James and the Giant Peach’ cast, rehearshing

Fall theater production undergoing time table changes, first showing set for Nov. 3, on Withycombe Hall Main Stage

For Elizabeth Helman, the head of the Oregon State University Theatre Department, her favorite production is a show called “Topdog/Underdog” that she did in St. Louis. 

“It’s a good, hard show,” Helman said. “It just tears you up inside.”

Helman has brought this attitude to OSU and this is the type of passion that is fueling OSU’s theatre renaissance. Helman says that there is an abundance of new blood in the program, from the actors to the faculty, and it’s sparking an exciting new transition.

The current production, “James and the Giant Peach” is entering new territory in the form of an ambitious timeline. Instead of the usual, and already rapid, six week production cycle, the play will be fully casted, rehearsed and performed in just over three weeks. In addition, the show will feature extensive practical effects, including puppetry to reflect the cartoonish nature of the work.

“It’s fast. It’s real fast,” Helman said. “It’s a delicate dance right now, you know, getting all the moving parts working together.” 

She said that despite the tight schedule, the cast knows they’ll be able to complete the show in time.

The rehearsal process is strenuous, but doable, according to Hellman. The cast rehearses four hours a day for five days a week for a total of 20 hours a week—the equivalent of a part time job.

Tinamarie Ivey was chosen to direct this show because of her experience with

childrens’ theatre. 

Before settling into her current tenure at Linn-Benton Community College as a theatre professor, Ivey worked extensively in California at institutions such as Cornerstone Theatre Co. and Dell’Arte International, as well as co-founding Sanctuary Stage. 

“I believe being highly organized is paramount,” Ivey said. “I also believe that actors can rise to their full potential when given clear expectations and opportunities to feel successful in their work.”

Annie Parham, who has been cast as James, the lead in the show, sees potential for the new changes to be a real positive for the program.

“With there being so much turnover in the recent year, it’s great. There’s the new staff coming in, and they have great new ideas. I think this influx of new ideas is going to be great for the department,” Parham said.

Helman chose “James and the Giant Peach”  because it is all about imagination, and about building things from the ground up. She believes these concepts are a great way to kick off the department’s

theme of ‘Metamorphosis.’

 This is meant to reflect the changes occurring within the department.

“But also, it’s a sweet show,” Helman said. “And it’s weird. You know?”

Helman knows that these changes aren’t going to take hold overnight. She does add that she hopes every student will see a play on campus at least once. And the way the program is growing, she has reason to be hopeful.

“James and the Giant Peach” can be seen on the Withycombe Hall Main Stage on Nov. 3-5 and 12 at 7:30 p.m. and on Nov. 12-13 at 2 p.m. General admission is $12, seniors get in for $10, students/youths are admitted for $8 and students with ID is $5.