DIANE URBANI DE LA PAZ: Theater is sustenance for actor, audience

SWEET, BITTER, SPICY: The fare at the local playhouse varies.

It comes to us fresh, thanks to those working in the theatrical kitchen.

This column is about the artists who devote months to readying themselves, memorizing lines early in the morning and rehearsing late at night.

They do this in addition to their full-time jobs, and they do it for free.

They’re community thespians, people who put themselves out there on stage, in hopes of transporting us.

Take Josh Sutcliffe of “Time Stands Still,” the drama about wartime journalists at Olympic Theatre Arts in Sequim.

He’s director and cast member, so heaven knows how many hours he’s given to the production.

During the day, he’s the Port Angeles Dog Guy.

He runs dogs for a living.

Imagine the physical stamina.

And that’s before he leaps, greyhound-like, onto the stage.

“Exhaustion,” Sutcliffe quipped, “pairs well with satisfaction.”

Jennifer Horton, who wowed me in “Steel Magnolias” at Olympic Theatre Arts a few years back, is an actor and a lighting designer, costumer and hair and makeup artist.

She, too, has no energy shortage, as evidenced by her performance in “Time Stands Still.”

“Theater fuels me,” she said. “People inspire me.”

Then there’s Michael Aldrich, costar of “Heisenberg,” the romantic drama opening this weekend at the Port Angeles Community Playhouse.

A licensed mental health counselor, he’s a child welfare expert for the state: a draining job, you’d think.

But like his fellow actors, Aldrich clearly has more to give when he steps out under the lights.

“For me, I really want to create a quality experience, not only for the audience, but for myself,” he told me, adding that it’s a thrill to breathe life into a character like Alex, the Irishman in “Heisenberg.”

This play, the story of two people who connect by chance and set out on a strange adventure together, has two casts.

Pat Owens and Anna Andersen open the run, with performances this Friday, Saturday and Sunday; they reappear March 6 and 9.

Then come Aldrich and his costar, Mindy Gelder, in shows next Tuesday, March 2, 3, 4, 10 and 11.

Andersen has no problem with the fact of so few performances.

The theater, she said, is where she feels happy and complete.

Rehearsal is the best of all, because it’s where the growth happens.

She gets to explore both the character and herself.

Owens is known as one of the best and busiest actors in the region.

For the past 16 years he’s lived and acted in Sequim and Port Angeles, in productions ranging from “The Real Inspector Hound” and “I Hate Hamlet” to “Private Wars” and “Picasso at the Lapin Agile.”

With his soft voice, he makes it all look easy.

“It’s fun,” he said, “but it does take a lot out of you. When I have a day off, I generally collapse.”

Owens plans on taking a break from theater after “Heisenberg.”

And Andersen, who is primarily a director, rarely acts these days.

Now is the moment to make your plans to catch the show — even see both casts, to compare, contrast, discuss — at the Port Angeles Community Playhouse.

For information, visit www.PACommunityPlayers.com or stop by Brocante, the ticket outlet at 105 W. First St., Port Angeles.

“Time Stands Still,” meanwhile, has just four more performances to go: this Thursday at 6:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. See olympictheatrearts.org.

These plays are but two examples of the art out there.

It is sustenance, best when shared.


Diane Urbani de la Paz, a freelance journalist and former PDN features editor, lives in Port Townsend.

Her column appears in the PDN the first and third Wednesday every month. Her next column will be March 7.

Reach her at [email protected]

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