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The E: 'Now. Here. This." How to be present for the last? Majestic musical

The E: 'Now. Here. This." How to be present for the last? Majestic musical

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Fans of mid-valley musical theater, take note: You have a chance to see a show this weekend, but you might not get another one for a while.

The Majestic Theatre in Corvallis will be abiding by new mask requirements released Oct. 20 by the Oregon Health Authority, which is recommending masks instead of clear plastic shields.

And, well, masks make singing onstage kind of difficult, even for a recording.

Luckily for the cast of “Now. Here. This.” however, the rules didn’t take effect until just after filming wrapped. So viewers who tune into The Majestic’s livestream at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 14 and 20 will see and hear the six-member cast perform using face shields, possibly for the last time.

Digital tickets are available at www.majestic.org for “pick what you pay” - $10, $15 or $20 — and the livestream link will be accessible for 24 hours following each performance.

It’s appropriate, in a way, for the show that might temporarily close out The Majestic’s ability to offer musicals to be titled, “Now. Here. This.”

The show, a six-person collaborative work first performed off-Broadway in 2012, centers on being present in the moment, however much you might be affected by past (mis)deeds or future dreams.

“It’s basically a montage of a group of friends reliving pivotal moments of their lives,” said Emily Ferrin of Corvallis, who makes her directorial (and choreographic) debut with the show.

The friends have gathered at a local natural history museum for this particular outing. The exhibits prompt discussions and flashbacks about the Big Pictures — life, love, death, identity — through drama, laughter and song.

Ferrin picked the show for a practical reason: “It was one of the only musicals available we could stream,” she explained. But she soon found its premise dovetailed neatly with current conditions.

In this time period, for instance, friends trying to hold a gathering would wear masks and stand at least 6 feet apart, so wandering at arm’s length around a museum while wearing face shields doesn’t look out of place.

Neither is it surprising, in the midst of a global pandemic and a digital sea of political rhetoric, for the characters to find themselves questioning who they are and who they want to be.

None of the six characters are named. The cast members — Colin Salisbury of Lebanon, Ruth Mandsager of Philomath and Bryony DuPont, A.J. Millet, Jocelyn Eisenlohr and Matthew Otten of Corvallis — essentially take over the roles as themselves.

That’s a different experience, DuPont said, although the preparation is the same: “You’re really trying to understand the motivations of the character, it’s just a little closer to home.”

It helps that the characters’ experiences are near-universal, Otten added. Things that, when you were young, made you feel you were alone in the world are actually “so commonplace there’s a song about it.”

Case in point: wearing knockoffs made to look like the brands worn by the in-crowd. Otten has had that experience.

“The whole, ‘I don’t belong here. I’m an imposter. They’re going to find out about me somehow,’ ” he said. “This is really, really easy to play.”

Diane Slamp, Andrew Freborg, Rachel Kohler and Ariel Hicks join the cast as tour guides and narrators of the museum movies, while Jim Martinez, musical and vocal director, leads band members Evan Smouse on keyboards, Eddie McAllister on lead guitar, Mark McAllister on bass guitar and Andy Weiss on drums.

It’s hard to be stage actors without an audience, Mandsager said. With no reactions, she said she finds herself asking, “Is that even funny? I can’t even tell if that’s funny,” or, “It’ll suck, and I can’t even tell how much yet.”

Weirdly, however, the construction of the show lends itself to that kind of distancing, Salisbury put in. “There’s not a ton of interaction. A lot of drama is characterized by the songs.”

And anyway, the takeaway for both actors and audience is that it’s better to get out of your own head and be present here and now — no matter what “now” looks like — if you want to really experience life, Millet said.

“I’m homeschooling my kid all day,” Eisenlohr added wryly. “This keeps me sane.”

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