Mid-valley theater veterans team up for reprise of “Chapatti”

by | Mar 21, 2023 | Arts and Entertainment | 0 comments

Charlotte Headrick, an Oregon State University emerita professor in theater arts, and Rick Wallace, director of the Corvallis High School theater program for 20 years before his retirement, are seen during a 2022 rehearsal of Christian O’Reilly’s play “Chapatti.” Harriet Owen-Nixon, another mid-valley theater veteran, directs. Another performance of the play is scheduled for Saturday, March 25, 2023, at Albany Civic Theater. (Photo by Harriet Owen-Nixon)

UPDATE, March 21, 2023: Another performance of “Chapatti” is scheduled for Saturday, March 25, 2023. at 7:30 p.m. at Albany Civic Theater, 111 First Ave. W. in, um, Albany. It’s a fundraiser for the theater. Tickets are $14; see the sidebar at the end of story for details. and you can buy them by clicking here. Here’s the preview story I wrote in 2022 about the play.

Harriet Owen-Nixon studied theater under Rick Wallace at Corvallis High School and Charlotte Headrick at Oregon State University. 

“Both Charlotte and Rick have been mentors for me for years,” Owen-Nixon said. “They’ve both directed me.”

So, in 2021, when the two invited Owen-Nixon to direct them in a reading of the play “Love Letters,” she grabbed the chance – but not without a touch of anxiety. “I was a little intimidated. I was.”

But that trepidation evaporated almost immediately, she said, beginning with the very first rehearsal.

At that initial rehearsal, she realized: “We can create something here, and I’m going to be part of it. It’s not just them doing their thing. I’m going to be part of this group and we’re going to create together.”

The 2021 performance, held at Tyee Wine Cellars south of Corvallis, drew well. And Wallace and Headrick gave Owen-Nixon high marks.

“They said, ‘You know, you did an OK job, so we’ll let you do it again.’ They both have said I’m pretty tough on them, and I told them that I learned from the best.”

So the three are giving it another shot this summer at Tyee, with two readings of “Chapatti,” a play by the Irish writer Christian O’Reilly. The first reading is scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday, with a second reading set for 2 p.m. Sunday. (See the end of this story for ticket information and other details.)

“Chapatti” isn’t as well-known as “Love Letters,” but Headrick, an expert on Irish theater, knew about the play, and thought it would be a good fit for this year’s reading at Tyee. Wallace designed the poster for the show, and Owen-Nixon thinks the description of the play Wallace put on posters almost gets it right – it’s about “love, loss and a dog.”

Owen-Nixon would make one addition: “It’s very much about love, loss, a dog — and kittens. I would add kittens.”

In “Chapatti,” Wallace plays Dan, a Dubliner still mourning the loss of his wife. When Dan and his dog, Chapatti, unexpectedly cross paths with the neighborhood’s cat lady, Betty (Headrick), and her 19 cats, an unexpected spark develops – but the play takes a few surprising turns before ending on what Owen-Nixon called a sweet note.

The show also features some hilarious moments, Owen-Nixon said. But, as you would expect from an Irish author, the humor sometimes has a cloud: “We find humor in some of the darkest moments,” she said.

And the readers’ theater format strips the play down to its essence – two veteran actors mostly using their voices – and Owen-Nixon likes that.

“That’s what these two actors definitely bring – they can bring you in with their voices,” she said.

And not just any voices – for Owen-Nixon, Wallace and Headrick are two voices who have been her teachers and now are full-fledged collaborators.

“I’m just truly blessed to be able to work with two people who have been such a part of my theater life and probably in some ways helped birth my theater life.”

If You Go

WHAT: A reading of “Chapatti,” a play by Christian O’Reilly.

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 25

WHERE: Albany Civic Theater, 111 First St. W. in Albany.

HOW MUCH: Tickets are $14 and can be purchased by clicking here. A livestream option also is available.

CAST AND CREW: The two-character play features Charlotte Headrick, an Oregon State University emerita professor in theater arts, and Rick Wallace, director of the Corvallis High School theater program for 20 years before his 2003 retirement. Mid-valley theater veteran Harriet Owen-Nixon directs; she was a student of both teachers in her high school and OSU years.

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