By Ted Waddell
CLARYVILLE February 02, 2001 - James Jenner and Brenda Lynn Bynum look at the theater much like a master chef views a tasty stew filled with imaginative ingredients.
While they frequently perform works by classical artists such as Moliere, Shakespeare, Shaw, Chekhov and Ibsen, the two founders of the Oasis Theatre Company often add a dash of contemporary playwrights like Thornton Wilder, Tennessee Williams, Sam Shepard or David Mamet to their repertoire of magical creations to serve up to audiences.
The Oasis Theatre Company was founded by Jenner and Bynum in 1988 in NYCs famous East Village, where they produced over 100 plays. After taking a one-year hiatus when the couple decided not to renew their lease, Jenner and Bynum bought the old Bailey place on Wild Cat Mountain Road and relocated Oasis Theatre to the hills of Claryville.
Our productions vary from one-acts to well-known five-act plays and always focus on the text, said Bynum. It sees the actors role as storytellers. Utilizing language as the players tool, our desire is to spark the audiences imagination to explore the world created by the playwrights pen.
Jenner is originally from Dallas, TX. In the late 1970s, he spent what he called a very intense year studying the actors art at the London Academy of Music & Dramatic Art (LAMDA).
I fell in love with theatre rather late in life, he said. It was an artistic awakening on my part.
After LAMDA, Jenner traveled to Arena Stage in Washington, D.C. and then on to NYC, where he performed in a number of theatres. While on the stage in a production of Shakespeares Alls Well That Ends Well, he met Bynum, and shortly thereafter, they founded Oasis Theatre Company.
He has performed title roles in Molieres The Misanthrope, Don Juan and Tartuffe; Shakespeares King Lear and Hamlet; and Uncle Vanya by Chekhov. Other roles include Iago, Brutus, Leontes and the Evil Toymaker in The Toys Take Over Christmas.
Bynum was born in Farmington, N.M. and grew up in the Rocky Mountain State, where she got her first taste of the theatre as a nine-year-old, playing the role of a boy using her brothers borrowed clothes and baseball cap.
My attraction to the theatre came from my grandfather he was a real storyteller, she recalled.
In high school, I fell in love with Shakespeare, added Bynum. Shakespeare is almost like doing opera without the music . . . it has such wonderful language, and it has a heightened reality because it deals with kings and queens, as well as the common people.
As artistic director of Oasis Theatre Company, Bynums favorite roles include Liza Doolittle, Ophelia, Hedda Gabler and Nina from The Seagull.
(In real life, Jenner works the graveyard shift as a proofreader for a large investment banking firm in the city, while Bynum is a graphic designer.)
Theatre Is Just Magical
According to the founders of Oasis, the primary mission of the company is to create vital theatre, utilizing the language of the playwright, the imagination of the audience and the craft of the actor to tell the story.
Sharing the experience with an audience of the character you are portraying in this space called a theatre is just magical, said Jenner. There is a mystery to telling a story on stage. The exciting thing about acting is that its like being on a trapese wire without a net.
In addition to their debut performance on Feb. 3 at the Claryville Firehouse of a childrens play adapted from C.S. Lewis The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, on April 7, Jenner and Bynum will stage a performance of Shaws The Village Wooing at The Studio in Grahamsville. In late August, they will present a production of The Doctor in Spite of Himself by Moliere at the new home of Oasis Theatre on Wild Cat Mountain Road.
In the future, Jenner and Bynum plan to stage more plays at their new home. In addition, long-term goals include production of their own films. Bynum is working on several screenplays.
And A New Play
While the founders of Oasis Theatre Company are well versed in the ways of the Bard on the boards, on Feb. 3 they will take the audience on a trip to the land of Narnia as they perform The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, an adaptation by Le Chanche du Land of Lewiss first childrens book about this fanciful land of make-believe and adventure.
The imaginations of the audience, writer and performers are blended together to create this magical piece of theatre, said Bynum.
The two-person play will be presented at the Claryville Firehouse Community Hall at 11 a.m. Tickets are $5 for adults and $3 for children under 12. Seating is limited, so reservations are suggested. For information/reservations, call 985-0390.