— by Margie Doyle —
“Whatever we hold as our culture, this is our Center,” Orcas Center Board of Trustees President Tom Fiscus said as the new season was “rolled out” last week. Islanders at the Orcas Center on Wednesday Sept. 27 got a sneak preview of the performances and festivals planned under the leadership of its new Director, Brian Kemp.
Kemp and Center staff and board members introduced new and innovative as well as traditional and beloved acts that will grace the Center Stage, the Black Box, and venture outdoors and across the street in 2018. Kemp said, “We are committed to bringing a diverse, fresh and family centered line up with something for everyone. Our goal is to balance our programming, with musicals, drama, screenings, playwriting, and other new ideas.”
The audience then got a “taster’s menu” of some of the events coming our way.
The Center’s pre-Halloween production of “The Addams Family Musical” depicts a ghoulish American family with an affinity for all things macabre. Cast member Bailey who portrays Wednesday, the morose teenager, sang a powerful and well-acted number from the play, directed by Sam Pettit.
Orcas Center Board Member Rick Markov, who portrays the character Lurch in the play, followed the finesse of Bailey’s performance with his own well-executed song: — “Uhhhhhhhhggg!”
Director Didier Gincig announced the November performances of the family musical “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” with actor Christopher Evans playing the local cast. Gincig described the Gene Wilder Classic as “a 10,000 piece puzzle. We’re climbing the mountain and now we’re in the foothills.”
“A Christmas Carol” with music by Jim Bredouw will be back this December, and director Melinda Milligan gave the roll-out audience a glimpse of the twists she’ll bring to this much-loved tradition: life-sized puppets in the style of Japanese Bunraku puppetry. Bethany Moreradiant explained how the traditional Japanese puppetry will work for the characters of Jacob Marley and the three Christmas ghosts, with extended backpacks and puppets on caster wheels.
A surprise appearance by this year’s wizened, miserly Scrooge in the person of Lesley Liddle dramatized the introduction, particularly as she scolded the audience, in lieu of Bob Cratchit, “Quit your daydreaming get back to work!”
Brian Kemp then showed clips for three musical performances later this winter:
- the return of the Good Lovelies, Canadian folk/country singers who have appeared to sold-out audiences at Orcas Center
- Heart of Song for Valentine’s Day, where Island singer/songwriters Susan Osborn, Melody Funk, Carolyn Cruso and Mandy Troxel will serenade audiences
- Six Guitars, a new-to-Orcas one man show illustrating six different musical genres from flamenco to folk, rock to blues on the guitar.
Kemp showed a brief clip of the Utah Repertory Dance Theater which will return to Orcas Center’s Main Stage in January, and even tried a little footwork himself beside Dancer/Choreographer Anthony Manuel as they introduced the choice for a spring Community Musical “Billy Elliot.” Manuel said “You are about to see a musical like you’ve never seen before. It’s quite different so check it out.”
Director Robert Hall spoke simply of his role in the contemporary musical, with music by Elton John and book and lyrics by Lee Hall, who wrote the 2000 film’s screenplay. Hall said, “I can’t wait. This is an incredible journey, a different musical with a lot of heart about a boy who wants to express himself in a different way. It’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever had a hand in.”
Then Aristotle Luna took to the stage with an emotionally-charged dance performance that illustrated exactly what Hall and Manuel had been speaking of. Luna will have the title role and Manuel’s Island Inspiration All Stars dance troupe will also be featured in the community musical.
In partnership with Orcas Island Lit Fest, Orcas Center will co-produce a literary festival, April 12 through 15, a unique opportunity to bring writers, publishers, the community and visitors to participate under one roof.
Lit Fest Founder Jule Treneer announced from the stage that the Lit Fest, with its theme “Escape into Words” will bring “the work and wisdom of great modern writers — emerging authors and established writers — in panels, and open mikes, author readings, writers workshops, children’s event and a Book Fair Bistro in the Madrona Room” during the inaugural Lit Fest. This literary festival will take place next April.
Kemp announced two totally-new events to the Orcas Center season lineup: the first, a 2-day animation film festival in late April with its “startling innovations and creative borrowing.” The fest will be called “Anim8!” and will include a Film Camp with collaborations using claymation, hand-drawn and computer generated animation.
The second event will be “Project Greenlight,” a one-act playwriting competition with four $2,500 cash prizes. The winning plays, expected “to bring a more diverse mix of voices to the island,” will be performed in the Black Box on two weekends next June.
Building on the popularity of multi-day festivals, Orcas Center will launch a Summer Concert Series in 2018 with “Field of Blues,” to be staged in July at the Mount Baker Farm. Kemp said the new venue will “push beyond the containment of our 213-seat theater.”
Orcas Center Trustee Cynthia Abolin introduced the new season’s live-streaming events, including an encore performance of “Hamlet” with Bernard Cumberbach in the title role. Abolin thanked Center donors Helen Bee and Carl DeBoor for their support of the Live Streaming programs from England’s National Theatre, the New York Metropolitan Opera and the Russian Bolshoi Ballet that have entertained Orcas Center audiences in recent years.
Fiscus said, “We are thinking big. There are many opportunities to support the exciting line-up in store for the 2017/2018 season with your donations, time and talent. If an idea pops into your head, let us know. We can make it happen: for example, the outdoor stage in the September 23rd ‘Reclaim the Rock’ to wish the tourists well as they go home had a successful first year.
“We hope to use your ideas to engage your friends, families and coworkers to sponsor events. Please contact Brian Kemp at 360-376-2281 x/3 with your ideas or to discuss the arts passion you want to support at Orcas Center.”
To recap, 2017-18 Orcas Center programming offers performances in five categories:
The Addams Family October 26-31
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory November 6-19
A Christmas Carol December 13-7
Billy Elliot the Musical March 22-25 and March 29- April 1
Project Greenlight Playwriting Competition June 14-17 and June 21-24
The Good Lovelies January 8
Heart of Song February 10
Six Guitars May 8
Field of Blues July 12-15
Shook Twins July 20
Utah Repertory Dance Theatre January 8
WWU Graffiti Dance July 14
Anim8! April 28-19
Live on Screen Series
Met LIve in HD
Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema
To help sponsor any event, or to volunteer, call Brian Kemp at 376-2281, ext 3 or email email@example.com