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Second installment of 'Queens Girl' at CRT posted on 04/01/2022

Portland actor, musician and writer Lauren Steele was ready to perform the one-woman show “Queens Girl in Africa,” by Caleen Sinnette Jennings, last fall at Clackamas Repertory Theater (CRT) when the pandemic took a turn for the worse and the production was delayed. This month, Steele’s performance as Jacqueline Marie Butler and 17 other memorable characters can be enjoyed by theatergoers as the show will go on.

“It’s been a really cool experience to have something marinating in your mind for months and months,” Steele said, adding that while this is her first time back as an actor due to the pandemic, she has also been working on her musical endeavors, including a new album and a single that’s now available on music platforms.

“Queens Girl in Africa” is the second play in the “Queens Girl in the World” trilogy, and Steele also tackled the first play in 2019 at CRT, winning a Drammy award for Best Solo Performance.

The second play picks up with Butler as she finds herself at a crossroads of personal and political upheaval when her family abruptly moves to Nigeria following the assassination of civil rights leader Malcolm X, a close family friend.

Steele played more than a dozen characters in the first installment, and noted that she’s spent time on the characterization of the array of characters in “Queens Girl in Africa,” with the biggest challenge in tackling a variety of African dialects.

“We have the comfort of some of the same archetypes as last time, (but) different circumstances and personalities,” she said, adding the only characters that appear in both plays are Butler and her parents.

Steele sees parallels between the play and the world around us, as Butler has to deal with different aspects of her identity within the larger context of war and political upheaval.

“I think that’s kind of where we’re at now,” she said. “I hope people walk away with some comfort in that it’s not the first time we’ve been through something like this. What you’re feeling is okay and you’re not alone.”

Steele also noted that the audience will also enjoy the humor in the play.

“I hope people have a whole lot of fun,” she said.

CRT presents “Queens Girl in Africa,” by Caleen Sinnette Jennings and directed by Damaris Webb, through Sunday, April 24, at the Osterman Theatre on the Oregon City campus of Clackamas Community College, 19600 Molalla Avenue in Oregon City.

Show times are 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and 2:30 p.m. on Sunday. Ticket prices are $40 for adults and seniors and $30 for youth (ages 6-25).

For more information, visit clackamasrep.org or call 503-594-6047. A free pre-show lecture will be held one hour before the Sunday matinees on April 3, 10 and 24.

Music in Boring

Americana singer Larry Wilder will be back this month at the Nutz-n-Boltz Theater Company (NNB) in Boring for a weekend of music. Wilder, who performed last April at NNB, spent much of time since then working on a variety of cruise lines, including a ship docked in The Dalles for the Fourth of July.

“I’m so glad to be doing this,” Wilder said about his NNB performances.

He noted that the last two years have given him a chance to evolve as a performer. Wilder’s approach is to try and make a connection and engage with the audience through his songs (and jokes).

“Without question, the pandemic gave us pause to reflect on everything, family relationships, personal philosophy and faith,” he said.

Wilder doesn’t plan on mentioning the pandemic (or politics) in his performance, but will focus on the songs, ranging from The Kingston Trio to Harry Belafonte to John Denver to Rodgers and Hart and more.

“The song stories are phenomenal,” he said. “I want to keep the people having fun; make them feel part of the great American musical heritage. I’m pretty lucky to get to do this.”

NNB presents Larry Wilder at 3 p.m. Saturday, April 2 and Sunday, April 3 at the Boring Grange, 27861 Grange Street in Boring. Tickets are available at the door or online. The performance will consist of two 45-minute sets with one intermission and is appropriate for audience members of all ages. For more information, or to make reservations, call 503-593-1295 or visit nnbtheater.com.

By Garth Guibord/MT

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