Coming of Age: A man and his friends.

Special Features
Outdoors: Enjoy awesome views of the Three Sisters from a nearby peak.
Gardening: Some drought-related do's and don'ts.

Coming of Age
A man and his friends.
By Aria Seligmann

Danny (Stephen Massott) listens to Caroline (Valerie McMahon) in SWM.
Nice to see so many new faces decorating an opening night audience. It'd be great if the world premiere of Judge Gregory Foote's play, SWM, which brought his legal colleagues into the ACE Annex Friday night, would spur this usually undramatic crowd to attend more local theater. The infusion of funds collected from suit and settlement fees (great intermission conversation, by the way) would be a huge shot in the arm to our local theater scene.

It's important to give Actor's Cabaret credit for showcasing new works by local playwrights. That's community building at its finest, and any venue willing to offer local artists a chance to share their creative projects is to be thanked.

And if you're Greg Foote, you're luckily in good company. Foote, the board president of Willamette Rep, went to none other than Kirk Boyd to direct his play, which explores the sexed out psyche and potential maturation of Danny Travis, a chronic bachelor.

This well-cast, well-acted, well-directed play is chock-full of ticklish one-liners and witty references to Eugene and Seattle that strike chords with the audience. Obviously based on Foote's own life -- with only gentle brushstrokes altering the landscape enough to establish the "I" personae -- the script revolves around Danny (Stephen Massott), a divorce lawyer whose job hazard is to become romantically jaded, and his relationships with his best-friend-who's-also-gay, Barry (Ryan Manderfeld); his other best friend, Sally (Elise Bales); Sally's son Josh (Ezra Lebank); and the latest-woman-he's-dating, Caroline (Valerie McMahon).

The play comments not only on relationships but on types of people. Danny is a bachelor who doesn't cook, only "heats." He's a great friend to those he lets in. Danny's ideal woman is a "tall blonde with no morals" and he's intimidated by chicks he can't seduce. He dates a lot of women and ends any relationship as soon as it begins to show signs of intimacy. But he works it out that it's the lady who leaves first. "Always be the dumpee, never the dumper," he advises. Got that guys?

Sally is a new-age type to be made fun of, but loved because she's good-hearted, after all. Sally flips through the personal ads in the paper looking for a date for Danny and comments that there are enough radical feminists around, wouldn't want to create another one. Barry says (in a line that drew huge guffaws) that his dad believes he wouldn't be gay if he'd gone to Oregon State, and Foote also has Barry say that "commitment is as rare as a laughing lesbian."

You get the picture.

The script also editorializes on the effect of divorce on kids. Josh's dad is a loser, who promises him big things then bales. His mom is afraid his father will disappoint him and then he does. Josh reacts in an equally big way. Barry suffers a really big blow and it's all this bigness that finally convinces Danny to maybe change his hedonistic ways. And it's an equally big reason that in turn affects that decision.

It's a first play, after all.

The talented cast makes for a powerful ensemble, led by Massott who is in nearly every scene. The play is about relationships and the necessity of friendship, and Boyd does a fine job drawing out what layers exist between each combination of characters. Likewise, the actors fill out their roles with talent and experience. All of the actors excel in this production, with Massott leading the way from beginning to end. Ezra Lebank is a powerhouse as Josh. He's a teenager playing a troubled teenager and he reveals depths of emotion that are way beyond his years.

The staging is minimalist, with a sparse set that keeps the focus on the characters' relationships. The cast doubles as crew moving props on and off the stage and this generally works save for a few awkward moments. But attention must be paid to the details to make this type of set work. Chairs aligned just so, tablecloths even on tables -- these details are absolutely crucial. What's nicely done are Danny's onstage costume changes, from legal to athletic to casual -- very smooth and sleek.

SWM continues at ACE Annex through June 30.

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Horsepasture Mountain
Enjoy awesome views of the Three Sisters from a nearby park.
by James Johnston

June is the time to knock off work early, head up the McKenzie and ponder the Three Sisters from an alpine meadow. If you can escape work around lunchtime, you can be on top of 5,700-foot Horsepasture Mountain by 2 pm and back in town in time for your evening softball game. The top of Horsepasture offers superlative views of the snow-covered Sisters.

Directions: Take Highway 126 east from Eugene/Springfield for about 42 miles. After McKenzie Bridge, just past the McKenzie Bridge General Store, take a right onto Horse Creek Road. Take Horse Creek Road for 1.7 miles. Then take a right onto Forest Service Road 1993, just past Horse Creek Campground. Stay on the paved 1993 road for 8.5 miles to the Horsepasture Trailhead, the second trailhead you'll pass on the right.

About 150 feet from the road, the trail splits off into three directions. Stay to the far left. The Horsepasture Trail climbs gently through a classic alpine forest of Pacific silver fir, noble fir and mountain hemlock. The forest floor is covered in vanilla leaf, bunchberry, huckleberry and devil's club. After about half a mile you'll cross a number of small springs and begin hiking through a more open forest of Engelmann spruce and sub-alpine fir. Grab a handful of sub-alpine fir needles and rub them between your fingers — it's a scrumptious smell.

Bear grass is the dominant ground cover in the more open forests and meadows toward the end of the trail. Bear grass, which grows in distinctive large clumps, will sprout a stalk almost as tall as a person, topped by a fat yellow blossom later in the summer. Bears eat the succulent bases of the grass clumps in the spring. The Kalpuya and Mollala people who once frequented these alpine meadows in the summer months used the tough wiry grass extensively to make clothing.

After a mile and a half, the trail brings you to the top of the mountain where you'll find two rocky outcroppings and several beautiful wildflower meadows. Among the many flowers in the riot of color are penstemon, larkspur, paintbrush and phlox. Four iron anchors at the top of one rock outcropping are the remnants of an old lookout tower. From here the Three Sisters will seem near enough to touch. On most fairly clear days you'll also be able to see rugged Three Fingered Jack, the church-steeple shape of Mount Washington, as well as Mount Jefferson and Mount Hood to the north. Bachelor and Diamond Peak are the peaks to the south of the Sisters.

The Oregon Cascades are actually two different mountain ranges. The high jagged peaks you contemplate from Horsepasture are the so-called "new" Cascades, the result of lava flows and volcanic upheaval from 10 million to 2,000 years ago. The newest of the Sisters, the South Sister, last erupted 1,900 years ago. Interestingly, scientists have recently detected a 12-mile-long bulge to the west of the Sisters that has pushed the earth several inches skyward, probably as a result of magma accumulation more than 4 miles underground. The forests surrounding the Sisters are protected as the 290,000-acre Three Sisters Wilderness; the sweeping valley of unbroken forest you see to the east is Separation Creek.

The "old" Cascades — approximately 25-45 million years old — are the somewhat shorter hills and mountains to the west of the Cascade crest, including Horsepasture Mountain. The advance and retreat of glaciers during past ice ages created the extremely steep and rugged valley walls of this region. The pristine, high-elevation forests protected as wilderness to the east have relatively little commercial value. But the lower elevation national forest lands to the west of Horsepasture contain some of the most valuable timber in the world, and have been heavily logged over the past 50 years.

Enjoy your half-day off, and return in late summer for the bear grass blooms.

Water Woes
Some drought-related do's and don'ts.
by Rachel Foster

All over the Northwest, gardening columnists are writing about drought-tolerant plants. Why do they bother? It's far too late to establish the kind of yard that could survive the coming months without water. Perhaps they hope we'll clip and save their columns until fall, when, following this year's grim experience, we will wisely start drought-proofing our gardens for the future.

But I'll tell you the real reason writers are casting around for drought-related topics. Those annual rainfall figures are like the proverbial elephant in your sitting room: they make it very, very difficult to think about anything else.

The rain that fell this month is a welcome refresher, but summer rain is unlikely to change things very much. We may have to cut back on water use, if only voluntarily. I have to believe that gardens are a legitimate use of water. But I also know that, living as we do where there is usually plenty of it, most of us use water rather thoughtlessly. We've all seen the run-off from yards where sprinklers hit the patio, or deliver water faster than the lawn can take it up. In-ground sprinkler systems are relatively indiscriminate, especially where the zones have not been revised to keep up with a changing garden. If you have such a system, and a manageably small garden, this could be the year to turn it off. By watering according to need rather than location or habit, you may be able to cut your water use in half without permanently compromising the garden.

Vegetables probably require the most water. Fruiting plants (until harvest), annuals and container plants come next, along with newly planted perennials and small shrubs. Established gardens need less frequent watering. If you have been slipping annuals and new plants into established beds, supplemental spot watering with a soft-spray attachment on a hose may be the answer. Letting a lawn go brown usually won't kill it, although it gives the advantage to deep-rooted weeds such as dandelions. Walking and playing on a brown lawn will inflict serious damage, however. If you need to use your lawn this summer, keep it green by watering once every week or 10 days.

Don't neglect established trees and shrubs completely. To let them die is just another form of waste, and you can't always tell when they are in serious trouble until the following year. Trees and shrubs need much less water later in summer than they do in May and June. After that, a good soak once a month can make the difference between life and death. Drought-tolerant landscapes, including native plantings, may survive without any water but they'll look a whole lot better with a monthly watering.

Some drought-related do's and don'ts:

-- Don't use sprinklers on hot, dry gardens when the sun is shining. You'll lose more water to evaporation, and you may damage your plants. Wait until evening, or even the next morning, and make sure you run the sprinkler long enough to moisten the soil several inches down.

-- Don't assume that summer rain eliminates the need to water. Check to see if it actually reached the root zone. Container plants, in particular, usually transpire more water than any summer rainfall can provide.

-- Mulching is a great way to conserve soil moisture, but make sure the ground is damp before you mulch. Once the mulch is on there it can be surprisingly difficult to moisten dry soil with sprinklers.

-- Black soaker hoses made of porous, recycled tire rubber are efficient, cheap and easy to install. They work best under several inches of mulch.

-- For watering small areas without waste, check hardware stores for inexpensive "small area coverage" sprinklers with no moving parts made by Green Thumb. They deliver water fast. Set out empty tuna cans to see how they are doing. Another inexpensive device is a simple slotted head on a spike you stick in the ground. It delivers a fan-shaped spray which I find useful for small slopes and awkward corners.

Correction: The price I quoted last month for Ellen Schlesinger's Guide to Nearby Nurseries was incorrect. It costs just $12.95, plus $1.50 for shipping and handling if you order it by mail. The address, again, is Waccabuc Books, P.O. Box 26009, Eugene 97402.

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