LIVE THEATER IN A LIVELY MUSEUM
by Kirby Lindsay
On Saturday, October 17, at 2 p.m., History House of Greater Seattle, located here in Fremont at 790 N. 34th St, will host a free, live, theatrical performance of an Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition story called “Two Wheels North”. Book-It Repertory Theatre adapted the book, by author Evelyn McDaniel Gibb (who will also attend), and assembled actors to perform. Additionally, on November 5, at 6 p.m., Intiman Theatre will stage an excerpt of Abe Lincoln In Illinois, with a mediated group discussion to follow as part of their Front Porch Theater series.
History Comes To Life
“I’ve always liked the idea of merging theater and history together,” admitted Eric Taylor, of King County’s 4Culture-Heritage. The 10-performance series of Two Wheels “is a pilot project,” Taylor explained. As one of the four divisions of 4Culture - Heritage provides technical assistance and support to local organizations that explore and preserve history, such as History House.
This project started with the book, which Taylor discovered when he met the author at a Pacific Northwest Historian Guild gathering. He contacted Book-It, whose mission includes transformation of great literature into great theater, and director Annie Lareau raced to create a work before the A-Y-P Centennial ended.
Adaptation, she explained, requires “calling down the book to its bare essence,” made slightly more difficult “because this is a one-hour performance.” Then “workshopping with the actors,” she admitted, “sometimes we switch lines.” All is done to reveal “the heart of the book,” Lareau explained. Without the use of lights, costumes, sets and/or props available at their mainstage in the Center House of Seattle Center, Lareau admitted, “I incorporated a lot of sound effects.”
“It starts at that basis, a staged reading,” Lareau explained of the process, “then blows it out of the water.” This is history brought to life, and Taylor wanted to see it support his partner organizations, as “a way for them to expand their programming.” Lareau acknowledged, “The response has been overwhelmingly lovely.” According to Taylor, “I would like to do it again, with a different vehicle – a different work.”
History Discussed In Current Time
The Intiman performance, and discussion, on November 5, also at History House, serves as a part of an established series. Front Porch Theater offers an excerpt of an Intiman work from their American Cycle and a mediated discussion of themes and issues from the play in area communities. Jessica Avellone, Education and Community Programs Coordinator for Intiman, acknowledged that they tried to expand the program this year. “We are aiming to do 30,” she said, and “we have scheduled 20 right now.”
This informal, interactive event begins with a professional actor performing with community member volunteers who read other parts from the play. “The big part for us is the discussion,” Avellone asserted, “opening up that dialogue.” In this performance, questions may arise about the ways community creates leaders, and encourages one another to fulfill their potential.
“Once people come, they want to come again,” Avellone described, “but it doesn’t sound very sexy on paper.” Still, for Fremonsters, hungry for free, live theater and willing to discuss or explore performance art, these can be seen as major opportunities not to be missed.
©2010 Kirby Lindsay. This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws. Reproduction, adaptation or distribution without permission is prohibited.