Spotlight on Lewis County: ‘Into the Woods’ production offers a trip down memory lane


By Julie McDonald / For the Chronicle

As we waited inside the Corbet Theater on Saturday night for production to begin on Centralia College’s musical “Into the Woods,” I perused the schedule listing the actors and their backgrounds.

I recognized several names, including Nick Hall, who I recently saw perform in “Flight Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” at the Evergreen Playhouse, and Lucy Page, the owner of Santa Lucia Coffee in Centralia. I stopped when I read Odette Mohr’s name, thinking back to the 1980s when I worked in the Daily Chronicle newsroom with Orlo Mohr, who covered southern Thurston County. I wondered if Odette was a descendant of Orlo and his wife, Opal.

As the musical unfolded, with talented actors and musicians in beautiful costumes singing on stage accompanied by an orchestra, I immersed myself in the unique storyline of the late Stephen Sondheim interweaving the fairy tales of Grimm. I’ll admit that even with my brand new hearing aids, I’ve always wanted subtitles at times, which proves that I’m pretty spoiled with live streaming at home. We started using subtitles while watching British dramas like “The Crown” and “Downton Abbey”, where the accents challenged us to understand the conversations, but we became dependent on them every time we just can’t make out the words spoken – or in this case, sung.

Production was originally scheduled for the 2020 season, but the COVID-19 pandemic pushed it back two years. The PG-13 performance continues this weekend with performances at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday and a matinee at 2 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets are $12, $10 for students and seniors. It is worth attending.

‘Into the Woods’ is absolutely filled with incredible talent, gifted vocals, remarkable sets, beautiful music and an intuitive message that resonates today,” said retired Centralia teacher Doris Wood Brumsickle. College that sits on the board of directors. “Don’t miss the last chance to see this fantastic Broadway show right here at Centralia College. What show!”

“We had a great time and had a lot of fun! It was a joyful evening with dear friends,” said Debbie Campbell, who recently retired after two decades as the United Way’s Executive Director. She is also a trustee of Centralia College. “The Corbet Theater is a great place for the community to come together and enjoy such a wide range of talent. Although it’s a fairy tale musical, “Into the Woods” does a great job of introducing characters grounded in reality. The show has such wonderful music and lyrics. The fairy tale characters are familiar but are treated with interesting twists. And the idea of ​​finding out what happens after “happily ever after” is part of the charm of this show. It was funny, sad, challenging and very entertaining.

I sat in awe of the talent displayed by the colorful costumes, the rolling backdrops of the rooms, and the intricate woods with tall trees, velvety grass, flowers, ferns, and the loud-voiced Rapunzel’s castle. weaving the imaginary tales of Cinderella longing for Prince Charming, a baker and his wife yearning for a child, and Jack pulling a white wooden cow to market. Music filled the auditorium as I thought of the decades of productions performed by talented actors on the stages of our nearly century-old Centralia College campus. I thought of Phillip Wickstrom, who directed more than 150 of the college’s 221 productions during his tenure from 1962 to 1991, and Frank Rosa and Gordon Aadland, English teachers who starred in numerous plays. I interviewed all three men on the compilation Centralia College: These Are the People and Their Stories. It’s thanks to them and people like Richard Lindner, Marilyn Crosta and Anne Caldwell that we have the Evergreen Playhouse, a treasure in Centralia formed in 1959 that also showcases local talent every year.

My mind also crossed now-famous people who showed their talents on the Centralia College stages, like the late Ford Rainey, a Hollywood film actor who graduated from Centralia and guest starred on such TV shows as “Gunsmoke” and “Bonanza.” ; world-renowned dancer and choreographer Merce Cunningham; award-winning country music singer Brandy Clark of Morton; Charlie Albright, classical pianist and composer who often collaborates with Yo-Yo Ma and gives concerts around the world; Angela Meade, an American lyric soprano who sings at the Metropolitan Opera; and so many others. Maybe someday we’ll add singers like Kat Sheridan or Heather Matthews of “Into the Woods” to the list.

Finally, I thought of my own brief stint in Grimm’s Fairy Tales in the 1970s in eighth grade. Believe me, if there had been musicals, I would never have been allowed near the stage. Instead, in a small town in southeast Colorado where my family lived for only a year, we performed for elementary school students in four fairy tales, all in Spanish. Maybe it was my long auburn hair (or maybe my behavior?) but I was cast as a witch in “Hansel and Gretel” and “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.” I tied my hair under my chin as the middle goatee in “Three Billy Goats Gruff,” and narrated “Little Red Riding Hood” in English. We created the decorations for each room by painting on large butcher paper.

While a fascinating plunge into the drama, I discovered during visits to Mexico small calls to recite in Spanish “Mirror Mirror, on the wall…” and “She will die!” She will die!”

Although I experienced trauma in my early teens in this city, I also had three of my best teachers whose influence shaped my life, including Mr. Tanner. My social studies teacher, Miss Schmeiser, encouraged us to build a replica of Bent’s Old Fort, a trading fort erected in 1833 along the Santa Fe Trail in southeastern Colorado. We outlined the sugar cube fort on a spray-painted wooden board and I wrote a script featuring brothers Bent, William and Charles, Ceran St. Vrain and Kit Carson. We recorded the stories on tape and donated them all to the local museum. I doubt they still have it all these decades later.

Finally, Willard R. Stevens taught us how to outline sentences and put me ahead of every English teacher I had later, including at the University of Washington. When I moved to Vancouver, Washington, I approached my ninth grade English teacher with a question after he described something as an adverb.

“Isn’t that a predicate adjective?” I asked him.

He looked at me for a minute before answering. “Well, I know it, and you know it, but they don’t, so let’s pretend.”

Thank you, Mr Stevens. He also oversaw a journalism club and oversaw the publication of the school newspaper. You can probably see how he influenced my life.

As I rode up and down Interstate 5 for the past few weeks, stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic through Seattle and Portland, I was reminded of why I love living in the boonies of Lewis County. Saturday’s play at Centralia College and my memories of this small town in Colorado reminded me of hidden gems in the small communities of this great nation.


Julie McDonald, personal historian of Toledo, can be contacted at


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