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A new theater career opens with ‘Earnest’

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student holding new magazine

There’s a new theater director at PCC and she’s ready to entertain you.

Gretchen Icenogle is the new theater arts director and instructor for PCC, replacing the departed Michael Najjar who left in the summer to pursue a doctorate at UCLA.

"Michael is much missed," she said. "It was an unanticipated loss, but also for me, a total stroke of luck. The new job has been a blast."

Icenogle may be new to running the PCC theater arts productions, but she isn’t new to accolades. She won a 2006 Drammy for her play, "The Mark," with Stark Raving Theatre. The play centered on three deaths in three acts and involved three actors. The production ran for five weeks and was a hit.

"The award came out of the blue," Icenogle said. "I was at home when my phone started ringing off the hook. That was great fun. To be honored by my peers was shocking and thrilling."

Icenogle now turns her attention to the opening play of the 2007-08 season – "The Importance of Being Earnest," by Oscar Wilde.

Directed by Julie Akers, the play follows the romantic misadventures of a pair of English cads and the strong-willed women whose hearts they hope to win. In their pursuit of love, Jack and Algy confront the merciless strictures of tea time and the pitfalls of sincerity.

Performances will be at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 8-10 and 16-17, and at 2 p.m. on Nov. 18. All showings will be held in the Performing Arts Center at the Sylvania Campus. Prices are $10 for adults, $8 for students and seniors, and a $5-per-person group rate. Tickets are for sale by calling the box office at (503) 977-4949, or visit the Sylvania Bookstore.

"It’s a laugh riot," Icenogle said. "We have a terrific director and a great cast working on one of the most deliciously subversive scripts written in the last two centuries."

The student cast is a good one, she said. "The Importance of Being Earnest," features Logan Loughmiller as John Worthing, Peter Ashenberner as Algernon Moncrieff, Gary Romans as the Rev. Canon Chasuble, Danny Fishback as Merriman/Lane, Tamara Sorelli as Lady Bracknell, Molly Brooks as Gwendolen Fairfax, Amanda Modrell as Cecily Cardew and Lauren Modica as Miss Prism. The crew includes Frances Marsh (technical director), Dan Hays (scenic design), Katherine Ogilvie (lighting design) and Margaret Chapman (costuming).

"Whether a student is an actor or a technician, the opportunity to get a real-world theater experience is tremendous," Icenogle said.

Icenogle is a San Diego native who has lived in many parts of the U.S. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Brown University and her master’s degree and doctorate in dramatic arts from U.C.-Santa Barbara. After living in the Bay Area for a spell, she was ready to make a change in 2001.

"When we moved here, we felt almost immediately at home," she said. "Portland has a wonderful ethos of inclusiveness."

Once in Portland, Icenogle found work as a script writing instructor for PCC in 2002 and later became the literary manager for Stark Raving Theatre. In 2003, she began teaching a theater appreciation class and advised the student one-act plays in the spring. So when Najjar left last summer, Icenogle was the perfect choice.

"I have many passions going on in all directions in theater," Icenogle said. "Here, I get to indulge them all. It’s a double-edged sword. In any collaborative project, you have to learn to surrender your work to others’ vision and inspiration. It’s often very difficult. The experience is different for every production."

About James Hill

James G. Hill, an award-winning journalist and public relations writer, has been the Communications Specialist for the Office of Public Affairs at Portland Community College since November of 1999. A graduate of Portland State University, J... more »

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