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Front row seats at the circus

Robert Galvin

Let’s see if I’ve got this straight …

On April 30, Gov. Kate Brown categorized 15 counties across Oregon —including Jackson — as being in the extreme risk level for COVID-19 transmition … which meant restaurants and performance venues would have to turn away indoor customers for an undetermined period of up to three weeks.

Doors close.

THREE DAYS LATER, the governor retracts the restrictions on Jackson County (and the other 14 yo-yos), moving the threat level back down to high risk and signaling the resumption of indoor activities as of May 7.

Doors open.

Those must have been one heckuva three-day period!

It’s no wonder that so many follow the bouncing of this regulatory ping-pong are led to believe that something doesn’t smell right, doesn’t pass the sniff test and that someone’s trying to qualify for Oregon’s bovine manure tax credit.

(It is SO a thing … Sections 6 to 11 of House Bill 2066 of 2017, to be exact. There’s even a Bovine Manure Tax Credit Calculator at your disposal, for those wondering about utterances from certain family members.)

Instead of getting my nose out of joint, however, my thoughts turned to Mongo — the genial, steer-riding, horse-punching giant portrayed by Alex Karras in the 1974 Mel Brooks documentary “Blazing Saddles”.

During the film’s dramatic reenactment of a notorious bean-eating scene, Mongo — ain’t exactly a who, more of a what — sits by himself, chained to a post in front of his own campfire … persevering despite the stink all around him.

Later on, having been tricked and captured by the sheriff and his sidekick, Mongo’s philosophical side emerges as he realizes that he’s been moved about the chessboard by the machinations of others.

“Mongo only pawn … in game of life.”

And so it goes with the Rogue Valley’s restaurants, movie houses, theater companies and music venues in the months since partial re-openings were allowed under state regulations.

Uniquely impacted by the to and the fro has been Ashland’s Oregon Cabaret Theatre — where the production of “The Great American Trailer Park Musical” had its opening night April 29, then closed, and now … well, you know … lather-rinse-repeat.

Its status as a performance venue and a restaurant has put OCT through the ringer over the past year although, in true theatrical fashion, it has managed to maintain an optimistic persona through the shifting winds.

“Don’t worry about us,” the Cabaret posted on Facebook after the April 30 shutdown, “this theatre company is resilient.”

OCT’s management, to its credit as well as the delight of its loyal supporters, has even managed to poke a little fun at themselves and the circumstances — saying last month that its final show of the 2022 season would be the world premiere of “Christmas in Quarantine.”

Featuring such musical numbers as “Another Fight at Game Board Night,” “I Honestly Don’t Know Why We’re Yelling” and “Please Let This Be Over Soon,” the spirited take on OCT’s traditional holiday finale sadly was but a ruse … announced, as it was, on April 1 … but it was a moment of levity in the midst of chaos.

(Too bad, actually: A production number for “I Honestly Don’t Know Why We’re Yelling” would bring back so many cherished family memories.)

Over in Jacksonville, the hill has not been alive with the sound of music at the Britt Festivals since the 2019 season — but that has not dampened the enthusiasm of its leadership for its eventual return.

In a column written for the May issue of Jacksonville Review magazine, Donna Briggs (the festivals’ president and chief executive officer) made clear that hope remains for a summer of sound in 2021, if “a thoughtful and safe reopening strategy” would be given from the state.

Beyond that, though, Briggs wrote that there have been questions from Britt fans concerned with the chances of keeping the festivals going.

“Music lovers are worried that we might not be able to weather the storm,” Briggs wrote.

“Let me be very clear: No matter what happens this year — season, partial season, or no season — with your support, Britt will be back bigger and better than ever in 2022.”

Meanwhile, the shows are going on. Rogue Theatre Company is staging “A Doll’s House, Part 2,” with a cast including members of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, at Grizzly Peak Winery; the Randall Theatre Company production of “You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown” was on track to begin this weekend; and the Collaborative Theatre Project in Medford is scheduled to begin its three-week run of “into the Breeches” on May 13.

The least familiar of those three shows, “Breeches” is a comedy centering around a Shakespearean production determined to continue in 1942, despite the intrusion of World War II.

“A tribute,” director Todd Nielsen posted on CTP’s Facebook page, “to the power of theatre and community.”

And that is what really keeps propelling the arts in the Rogue— the nature of community inherent to its creative purpose.

That includes (at the risk of exposing you to just how the sausage is made), the acrobats and contortionists behind bringing you Tempo each Friday.

I’ve had a ringside seat as this magic trick has unfolded on a weekly basis — juggling schedules and reschedules, taming the comings and goings and goings and coming of wild beasts of closures and re-openings, keeping the balls in the air and the plates spinning … all under a constantly changing circus of circumstances.

In this year where we’ve all just been pawns in the game of life, getting through has been worth more than a hill of beans.

Mail Tribune news editor Robert Galvin’s bovine manure tax credit pays for the salaries at rgalvin@rosebudmedia.com ... and an order of fries.