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‘Journey’s End’ begins at Rep

Posted: March 11, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: March 11, 2012 1:55 a.m.

Left to right, Owston rehearses a scene from “Journey’s End” with actors Reid Gormly and Daniel Lench.

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Editor's note: This is one in an occasional series examining the work and lives of members of the creative community that resides in great numbers in the Santa Clarita Valley.

He is known around the Santa Clarita Valley simply as "O."

Ovington Michael Owston, the co-artistic director of the Repertory East Theatre in Newhall, has spent the last nine years working in theater in the SCV.

Assuming control of the Rep theater from founder Craig Duswalt in 2005, Owston has acted, directed and produced dozens of shows in eight seasons at the modest 81-seat equity waiver house.

‘Journey's End'
Opening Friday at the theater on Main Street in downtown Newhall will be the Rep's latest endeavor, "Journey's End."

The World War I drama, written by R.C. Sherriff in 1927, is about Sherriff's experiences as a captain in the British Army.

The play is set in 1918, in the trenches in northern France. It portrays the experiences of officers of a British Army infantry company.

The show premiered in 1928 in London's famed West End theater district and starred a "young Sir Laurence Olivier," said Owston.

"We try to do an educational community outreach piece every year," said Owston. "Last year, we did ‘Diary of Anne Frank.'"

Owston said when he read "Journey's End," he realized "this was a great piece of theater."

One of the challenges in putting on a period piece is finding costumes.

Owston, the show's director, said finding WWI uniforms was difficult, but that the show's costume designer, Tonya Nelson of No Strings Attached, is "amazing. I've also got a great cast and production staff," he said.

Veteran's museum
In addition to the play, Owston had the vision of opening a veteran's "museum" to run concurrently with the show. The museum will be on display in the Rep's lobby throughout the run of the show.

To facilitate the production of the show and to fund the creation of the temporary museum Owston applied for and received a $7,500 grant from the city of Santa Clarita.

Owston wants audiences to be able to relate to the service of all veterans and currently serving military with the museum.

"We are interested in items from any service and from any time frame," Owston said. "We would like to display artifacts and stories and pictures to create a SCV museum of appreciation for our local veterans."

The theater is looking for items "as far back as we can find, and as current as soldiers currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan," Owston said.

Currently, the theater is working with the American Legion in the SCV to obtain stories and artifacts from local veterans for the museum.

"We want to honor veterans," said Owston. "When you see a man or woman in uniform, you should shake their hand and say thanks. We should talk to older veterans, especially WWII veterans, who we're losing so quickly. There's great stories, great lessons to be learned."

Anything from medals to writings, photos, dog tags and military art is being sought, Owston said.

"We want people to see this great story, but also to experience the human stories of people in the SCV, like seeing dog tags from a solider from WWII," he said. "That has so much meaning, history and richness to it."

Additional art
Also a sculptural artwork is being sought to add to the theater's growing art collection.

"We have a chalk painting by Lorelle Miller, one of the premiere chalk artists in the world and we also have artwork by Jane Mick, an artist who works in oils," Owston said. "We are looking for an artist to donate a piece for this museum, preferably a sculpture that we can display permanently on the piano in the lobby."

The piece would be a permanent tribute to SCV veterans but add "to the little art gallery we've been developing the past few years," Owston said.

Any kind of artwork relating to the military is also being sought to display in the veteran's museum.

Finding the Rep
Born and raised in the Detroit area, Owston is a graduate of Western Michigan University with a degree in theater. He moved to the SCV in 2003.

"I worked at the Canyon Theater Guild before getting the opportunity in 2005 to take over the Rep," he said. "I did the struggling actor thing a lot, but I became an instructor in the summer children's theater program at the CTG. Then I became the facilities director at the CTG."

Owston said his greatest struggle with the Rep is getting the word out and letting people know that the theater is here.

"I want people to know that they can see some of the best theater in L.A. County here in the SCV," he said. "We're here, and we're in your own backyard."

The theater also has a cocktail bar that serves liquor, beer and wine.

"I have the greatest job in the world," he said. "Every day, I get to come to work and play make-believe. There's something magical about that."

Owston is a single father to a daughter Isabelle, who will be 5 in a few weeks.

Ovation Award
Owston said "Journey's End" is being submitted for consideration of an Ovation Award. "That's the Los Angeles equivalent of a Tony Award," he said. "We've submitted some past productions up for consideration, and we've come close. It would be the coolest thing ever to bring back an Ovation Award to the SCV."

Owston encouraged audiences to attend "Journey's End."

"We have a great story to tell and we're excited to tell it," he said. "This is a great homage to veterans."

"Journey's End" will play 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sundays March 16-April 14. There will be no show on Easter, April 8. Tickets are $20, seniors and students $17. Recommended for ages 12 and older. Reservations recommended. Visit www.repeastplayhouse.org or call (661) 288-000. To contribute art or for information on contributing to the veteran's museum call Owston at (661) 288-0000.

 

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