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Veteran actor Michael Streeter looks to expand audience at local productions

If You Go

What: Readers Theatre Gresham presents "The Thanksgiving Play"

When: 7:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 11

Where: Gresham Chapel and Evening Event Center, 257 S.E. Roberts St.

Tickets: $9 for adults; $4 for students

For season schedule and information: visit "Readers Theatre Gresham" on Facebook

COURTESY PHOTO: MARY MAC - Readers Theatre Gresham Artistic Director Michael Streeter (second from left) performs with Mark Schwan, left, and Peter Baker in the Pulitzer Prize-winning play Art. Readers Theatre Gresham Artistic Director Michael Streeter is an experienced actor who lives in Gresham, but heads west to Portland for most of his jobs.

That dual existence allows him to compare some of Portland's finer performers with those he works with in East Multnomah County. And it turns out the latter group fares pretty well compared to its larger city counterparts.

"I'm amazed at the talent," he says of the Readers Theatre. "Quite frankly we have great talent in Gresham, like Tobias (Anderson, actor) and Kelly (Lazenby, director). And we have amazing, willing people from Portland who come out to Gresham."

Some of that area talent will be on display at the Readers Theatre's second production of its fall-winter season, Larissa FastHorse's "The Thanksgiving Play," to be performed at 7:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 11, at Gresham Chapel and Evening Event Center, 257 S.E. Roberts St.COURTESY PHOTO: GARY OWENS - Readers Theatre Gresham Director Michael Streeter

Directed by Claire Soister, the performance portrays the conflict of "trying to form a politically correct Thanksgiving play without Native Americans, allowing it to take on an amusing satirical tone as it discusses important issues concerning Native Americans in American society," according to a Readers Theatre synopsis. Underneath the humor and satire in the play, the protagonists subtly touch on ways Americans in the past and even today have inaccurately portrayed Native Americans.

Streeter, who took on the artistic director position at Readers Theatre in September, said planning for this season's eight performances started last spring.

"We put together the season, picked the plays and hired directors," he said. "We usually have some kind of superficial (theme), so we're having something loosely associated with a holiday each month. It gives people a smile.

"It's also quite fun to look at what people have to suggest, what they're interested in and the concepts they have for various shows," Streeter added. "The actors get up and read. There's no staging, per se, and no costuming. "

The theatre's Dec. 9 production, "Greetings," written by Tom Dudzick and directed by Tobias Andersen, involves Andy, who brings his Jewish atheist fiance to meet his sweet Catholic mother, sour Catholic father and intellectually disabled younger brother Mickey. The inevitable awkwardness implodes when Mickey, who previously only said "oh boy" and "wow," suddenly says "Greetings!" and "turns the entire family's belief system upside down," the description says.

Streeter has been acting for more than 40 years. Last summer he performed as Sgt. Merryl in Mocks Crest's production of Gilbert and Sullivan's "The Yeomen of the Guard" and this month stars in "Shakespeare in Love" at the Lakewood Theatre in Lake Oswego.

He also has his own theater production company, +Street Scenes, and has acted, directed and produced theater in Los Angeles as well as Portland.

"I'm very excited about the future of Readers Theatre Gresham," Streeter said in September, noting his decision to move performance start times from 7 to 7:30 p.m. to "allow people that work in Portland time to travel here and catch a show."

Keeping with the Readers Theatre's stripped-down approach, those interested in a performance only need to show up at the Gresham Chapel and pay the $9 adult or $4 student ticket, then sit back and enjoy. COURTESY PHOTO: MARY MAC - Michael Streeter, center, exchanges odd looks with his fellow actors in a recent production of Art.

"It's a relatively simple program," Streeter said. "That's one reason we've been able to last. We try not to get too fancy. It's not productions — just readings. It's a system we can easily manage."


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