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You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown
Anderson Valley Theatre Guild Debut

Mendocino Real Estate Magazine, May 19, 2006

Story and Photos by Lisa Norman

Rod Basehore lives at the end of an uphill two-and-a-half-mile dirt road on a tranquil plot of land in Anderson Valley. Two twenty-acre lots: one, a developed horse ranch with a big Silverlite horse trailer parked by the barn; the other, a protective view shed between him and his next neighbor. Roger, Bandit and Frijolita -- -his dogs -- greet me at my car and with a constant wag of their tails escort me to the house. I am surrounded by quiet, a stillness that numbs my ears, so used to the noise of the city and the hum of the office space.

"What's your breeding?" Rod asks me after a quick "hello," and confirmation of identity.

"What's my breeding?" I ask with some pause.

"Ahh, that's just horse talk," he says.

Rod was born in Hershey, Pennsylvania of Dutch Mennonite stock and raised on a thoroughbred horse farm. Rehearsal for Rod's next production, You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown, starts in roughly an hour and in that time I get the grand tour. "The thing we like is silence," he says, standing on the hill overlooking a mixture of trees. "There's a pond over there. We Re to skinny dip in the summer until the mosquitoes come," he continues, describing the landscape.

"Judy (his wife) is also used to sleeping outside, and taking a bath there, so. we got an outside shower, too," Rod shares from the new patio to their year-and- half-old home, the newest addition to the ranch site. They'd been living above the barn that they put up in ten days, frame and roof, and with the first flush toilet in their neck of the woods.

Rod and Judy came to Boonville in 1972.

Rod describes the time. "We had just finished a six-week road show in seven European countries. The show, Brass Menagerie, was comprised of thirty-two theater students and a Dixieland band. We came here at the end of the tour to find land to purchase for retirement. We found it in the hills of Philo. "At that time the Anderson Valley was an economically depressed area and land prices were within our budget. When the soil was discovered to be excellent, for growing grapes, things started to change. "We had an Appaloosa horse breeding ranch in the southern California desert close to Palm Springs where we raised, trained and world world class horses and we wanted to have a northern ranch to be able to service mares in northern California as well.

"The difference between the location is like black and white, in the geography, people, attitudes and economy. We chose the northern ranch for retirement, and after retirement in 1994, we sold the southern ranch. It was the right and wise choice." Wisdom flows easy now for Rod. With over two hundred plays under his belt, he is a seasoned director who taught for thirty-four years and understands the human spirit. "We are not tired of theatre or horses as we are still doing both in a smaller S(,ale," Rod qualifies. "Why the Anderson Valley? Because of the quality of the people, the climate, the wilderness trails, the space. Here, there is so much talent trying to find a venue. The closest theatre companies are a forty-minute drive, which means we as participants must travel that distance at night, sometimes in bad weather. We need a theatre company locally so I decided to start one and approached the local grange to become our venue. The Anderson Valley Theatre Guild was formed in January of this year and we produce theatre at the grange with all profits going to the grange for the improvement of the facilities."

As a high school student in Honolulu, Hawaii, Rod was "heavy into the drama program." He then attended Pacific Lutheran University in Washington where he was awarded his bachelor's degree with an emphasis in theatre and speech education, having studied speech under then-chairman of the Western Speech Association, T.O.H. Karl. He continued studies and earned his master's degree in theatre art s from San Diego State University and his master's of fine arts from UCLA.

His teaching career began in the sixties and during that time he created a high school speech and drama program, established a self-supporting student the- atre company with curriculum to "educate its members in communicative skills with theatre production as the catalyst," in addition to receiving a "Double Diamond" speech coach award, serving as president for the Southern California Speech Association and vice president for the California Speech Association, and working on the high school's drama program which produced seven major shows a year, including original material, children's theatre and community theatre.

"It's not much different than teaching horses," Rods says of his tenure in theatre arts. "It's positive reinforcement. Having them get what you want them to do, and well, without heavy handedness." It's no wonder Rod reared a national champion, a world class stallion nicknamed Teddy, or as history knows him, the stud who fathered two hundred and was tenth in the nation, A Musical Tradition. Rod's technique is top class, as is his wife, he praises.

Judy taught for thirty-nine years as an elementary teacher and became a "master teacher" before she retired in 1993, Rod notes. "Judy, my wife, best friend and top hand in our theatre and horse world, decided when I reached sixty-five that my 'starting horses' should come to an end as I wasn't moving as fast any more and it was just a matter of time before I would really get hurt and I didn't have time to waste healing. So we sold the stud, the mares, the southern ranch, and now we just train horses for wilderness riding and packing.

"I got involved with horses because they were a big part of my childhood. When I asked Judy, 'Let's get married or something?' She replied, 'Let's get married or nothing.' I asked, 'What's it going to take to corral you?' She said, 'I have to have a horse by age forty-five.' I said, 'Done deal.' And in five years we had a world class stallion and twenty-seven head of horses. "Judy had horses during her early years and was a trick rider. We both learned that the training and teaching of horses and students are very complementary to each other. Horses are students that only communicate to you through body language so the skills we used with horses really helped us as teachers in the classroom. Key words were 'positive reinforcement.' "

"The rewards were the productive students that found their 'niche' and became successful and happy," Rod adds. "The daily e-mails we get from for- mer students seem to attest to our success." He reflects admiringly on former students: one the voice of Jimmy Neutron, and two others from the TV shows, "Las Vegas," and "CSI."

Nowadays Rod doesn't crave the up-and-down ride atop a trotting horse, nor the excitement of fracturing "four vertebrae, two ribs and turning an arm upside down" like when he "broke" his Appaloosa, Fibber Magee. He prefers instead the gaited horse, a gentler ride for those coming up in age, or a sweet ride in his 1969 Mercury Marquis convertible, and with Judy, he continues his enjoyment of life, , training horses for wilderness riding: teaching horses how to jump a log, go through water, ground tie, pack, not be afraid of the wind, a deer, or "things that go 'boo.'"

Rod and Judy's operation continues to be top quality. With six stalls in their barn, training at the High Shams Ranch in Philo (High Shams Ranches were the horse breeding ranches where they bred, raised, trained and sold world class Appaloosa horses) consists of one or two horses at a time, coupled with two older ones--a focused training.

With the same measure of focus, Rod describes the "how" and "why" of the design of his house, detail by detail on our walk, an impressive list of motivations for action. "Thirty-inch wide doors", "forty-inch high counter", "all one floor", "roughly three thousand square feet," he continues, "I was thinking about age, if we needed a wheelchair, the chair would need to move around in it." He adds, "Judy and are into space. We're both a bit claustrophobic."

Not to mention, Judy likes to dance a lot. And the two of them enjoy visits from friends and relatives. They have three kids, and "six or seven grandkids." Who's still counting?

The following excerpt from the Charlie Brown program, also shows Rod's talent for revealing the "how" and "why" of his drama.

Thoughts Behind The Anderson Valley Theatre Guild's Program
Ever since the Greek Playwrights first discovered the power of theatre for mass communication, (a way to influence and instruct the people), the creative people of theatre have been caught between using the theatre to educate or using the theatre for its commercial value, (making money through entertainment). The choice need not be either or but rather a combination of both.

The Anderson Valley Theatre Guild's philosophy encompasses that of educational theatre, to teach. Towards this end the Guild has four major objectives. to increase the communication skill of the actors, to enhance a positive self image by pursuing excellence, to stimulate development of the creative aspects of the mind through cooperative learning and finally to contribute to the cultural environment of the community.

We will accomplish this through a program akin to the real world. A program that is in business, self supporting, responsible and professional. We operate under the "umbrella" of the Philo Grange #669, a well-established, non-profit, community organization. All ticket proceeds go to the grange to use in development of the Grange Hall and its facilities to better meet the community's needs.

The basic method by which the Guild accomplishes the goals of educational Theatre is through the ensemble concept, i.e. support group, company of family. Just as a family cheers and supports a child when it first learns to walk, so do we, as creative artists, support and cheer those taking their first artistic steps in the public eye. We do not compete against each other We do, however, compete against ourselves. Hence, the "guild" In it everyone is important, no one is small; therefore the "total" production is the substance of growth for everyone, community audience included.

By helping others develop, we develop with them. That's why we have so much fun developing the talent in our own community through play production. We thank you for your support as an audience. .

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