Bits 'n' Pieces: 'Steel' roles for stage women

By Ashley Swanson, Columbian features news coordinator

Published:

 
photoPatty Price-Yates, artistic director of Circle Theatre Project

Vancouver's Patty Price-Yates has been inspiring both on and off the stage, as she takes on the role of mother M'Lynn in Circle Theatre Project's current production of "Steel Magnolias."

The show will also feature Vancouver resident Lisamarie Harrison in the role of Truvy. Price-Yates is also the Portland-based stage company's artistic director. Circle Theatre Project is her "brain-child," which she founded with friend K.C. Andrew of Longview, to promote women and women perspectives in theater.

An actor for 40 years, Price-Yates was tired of seeing small and flat female roles. "I have seen how women are not really forward, not front and center in productions," she said.

Many of the region's larger theater companies create a season of plays without a single female playwright and productions heavily filled with male roles, she said. That shift happens behind the stage too, with fewer women in the positions for lighting or set building. Much of Price-Yates' inspiration comes from her mother, who was one of the first female Marines.

"We're making a point of letting young women know we want to teach them," she said, from offering script writing to technical roles. "We're committing to doing plays from a woman's point of view." The group is planning on featuring women playwrights and plays that are heavily weighed with women's roles.

"The reason why I decided to do this at this tender age is that I survived a very aggressive cancer, a chronic cancer," she said. "Let's just go for it, what's the worse that could happen, I fail?" Multiple myeloma is a cancer of the blood, affecting the plasma cells in the bone marrow. The cancer has been in remission for four years.

The group's first production was an adaptation of "Little Women" in November and December of last year, featuring nine female roles, with male roles referenced but not acted.

They're also working with WSU Vancouver professor Desiree Hellegersto adapt her book "No Room of Her Own," which examines the issues of women and homelessness, for the stage at Portland's Fertile Grounds Festival in January. "We're also going to be doing a play that premiered in Las Vegas called 'Motherhood Out Loud,'" Price-Yates said.

"Steel Magnolias is just so strong and so beloved, it's the only one with a male playwright (for the season)," she said.

"Anyone who hasn't seen ('Steel Magnolias') on stage is in for the treat," Price-Yates said, because the stage production allows the audience a chance to dive deeper into the characters. "The script is based on reality and these women are just so engaging, it's just a little bit of magic. Everyone can relate to each character, there are always a few Steel Magnolias in our lives," she said.

You can catch Patty Price-Yates in Circle Theatre Project's "Steel Magnolias" at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 1 p.m. Saturdays and Sunday through Sept. 1 at Miracle Theatre, 525 S.E. Stark, Portland. Some of the proceeds will benefit the Oregon/Southwest Washington American Diabetes Association. Tickets are $28, or $25 for students, seniors and military. Call 503-757-3991 or visit http://brownpapertickets.com/event/411299 for more information.

Bits 'n' Pieces appears Fridays and Saturdays. If you have a story you'd like to share, email bits@columbian.com.