By Diane Urbani de la Paz
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He's interested in sharing this benign sorcery, starting tonight on the stage at 414 N. Sequim Ave.
That's the Olympic Theatre Arts Playhouse, and Graham's offering is “The Woman in Black,” a play cloaked in secrecy.
“We have told no one outside of the production staff who is in the show,” Graham said.
As director of “The Woman in Black,” he made a pact many moons ago with Olympic Theatre Arts manager Loren Johnson to keep the cast a secret. And as the play runs through the next three weekends, the two men are inviting theater-goers to enter into the same agreement.
“This is a ghost story,” said Graham, “and my intent is to build suspense from the moment people walk into the theater.” That suspense comes from not knowing what — or who — is about to materialize on the stage.
“The Woman” is in fact about two men: a lawyer and the actor he hires to tutor him in recounting to family and friends a scary story that has long troubled him. The story concerns events that transpired when he attended the funeral of an elderly recluse in the small English town of Eel Marsh.
During the funeral, the lawyer caught sight of the woman in black. The mere mention of this woman terrifies the locals, for she is a specter who haunts the neighborhood where her illegitimate child was accidentally killed. Anyone who sees her will die.
“The Woman in Black” has gripped audiences for a long time now. It ran for 23 years on stage in London's West End, and is England's second-longest-running play after Agatha Christie's “The Mousetrap.”
Its magic comes not from blood and gore, but from the emotions of the actors and their audience, Graham said.
“A show like this relies on not knowing which shadow is just a shadow, and which one hides something more sinister.”
Johnson, for his part, remembers the feeling he had reading “The Woman in Black.” As a member of the committee that screens plays for production at Olympic Theatre Arts, Johnson has plowed through many a script.
“The Woman” spooked him but good.
“There are some startling moments,” Johnson said. Upon closing the book, “I had creepers going up my neck and back.”
“We are planning on taking our audiences on an emotional roller coaster,” added Graham. He also hopes to hear a collective sigh of relief as the house lights come up at last.
This being community theater, “The Woman in Black” doesn't have much of a budget for special effects. But the Olympic Theatre Arts crew has risen well to the occasion, Graham said.
“Everyone at OTA has been very open to my crazy ideas,” he added, “and worked hard to make them a reality.
“That has been the most rewarding aspect of the show so far. It is one thing to envision something you would like to see happen. The problem is getting it to occur in a venue that doesn't have hundreds of graphic artists and access to the folks from Industrial Light and Magic.
“But when those visions become reality on the stage of a live theater . . . and when that reality continues to give the performers in the show chills, even after they've seen it a dozen times, then you know you have something special.”
Live theater, for Graham, is a last vestige of enchantment, a separate dimension that reveals itself inside the playhouse.
“When you can make an audience forget about the trials and tribulations of their daily lives, show them a different place . . . and get them caught up and focused on just this moment in time,” he said, “it is magical.”
Curtain time for “The Woman in Black” is 7:30 tonight, and as is the custom at Olympic Theatre Arts, a champagne reception will be held just before the show. “The Woman” then returns each Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. through Nov. 17, and Sundays at 2 p.m. through Nov. 18. Tickets are $16 for adults, with a $2 discount offered to OTA members and active duty military while youth 15 and younger get in for $11.
For information and reservations, visit www.
OlympicTheatreArts.org or phone the business office between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. weekdays at 360-683-7326.