SEQUIM — Traditionally portrayed as a readers’ theater, actresses with “The Immigrant Garden – Letters” said the story took deep root in them and constituted more than a traditional reading.
“It’s just too beautiful of a story not to be brought to life,” said Kait Saffold, 28, who plays aspiring Washington gardener Cecily Barnes.
“It needed to be told as vividly as it is written.”
Saffold’s character begins a friendship via letters across the globe with English gardener Louise Beauchamp, played by Sharon DelaBarre, 72.
The play runs two weekends at Olympic Theatre Art’s main stage July today through Sunday and July 19-21 with Friday through Saturday shows at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday shows at 2 p.m. A Pay-What-You-Will night is slated for 7:30 p.m. Thursday.
Cathy Marshall directs “Immigrant Garden – Letters,” based on Caroline Wood’s book.
DelaBarre said it’s been some time since she’s acted with OTA and she felt a calling to come back to acting in Sequim, particularly after reading this play.
“The script is just beautifully written,” she said. “It flows beautifully.”
In the show, Barnes reaches out to Beauchamp through her catalogue, “Mrs. Beauchamp’s Mystical Flower Seed and Herb Emporium.”
From there, the amateur and veteran gardeners exchange letters with stories and life experiences from 1910 England and Washington.
“It’s not just about flowers and seeds,” DelaBarre said.
“It’s about a beautiful relationship that develops in a short period of time and the life lessons that go with it.”
Saffold said the play investigates timeless themes, such as love and friendships.
“[It explores] relationships between the young and old, relationships between a father and a daughter, [and] romantic relationships,” she said.
“It explores those human connections and those connections inside yourself. It’s important themes we need to go back to especially today with everything going on.”
“There’s a surprising amount of things referenced in this play that are so applicable to today,” DelaBarre said.
“There are so many reminders to be a better human,” Saffold said. “If it was a book I was reading, I’d highlight it.”
As Saffold readies for “Immigrant Garden” she’ll take the stage for the first time as an adult actress.
“I’ve always wanted to,” she said. “It sounded fun and my sister-in-law has been in plays before and told me about it. We’re also going through some things with my son’s health, so I figured I’d do something for myself and try out for a play.”
On the audition day, Saffold said, she was concerned because she had lost her voice earlier due to a bad cold.
“I ended up coming in and [Marshall] took me anyways,” Saffold said.
“Immigrant Garden” is a readers’ theater play, but both DelaBarre and Saffold feel it has become more second nature.
“You read it enough and you get to know it,” DelaBarre said, “and there are some points where both of us aren’t reading [the letters].”
Saffold said their goal is to engage with the audience as they share letters to make theater-goers feel like they’re part of the discussion.
The play isn’t static either, the actresses said, as they engage with the set, particularly their gardens.
“Immigrant Garden” will play one of its weekends during Sequim’s busiest weekend, Sequim Lavender Weekend.
DelaBarre said she sees it as an opportunity for locals and visitors to follow the sights and smells of lavender with a meaningful theater experience.
Saffold said the play features numerous references to lavender, and “lavender even plays a role as a hero in one letter.”
“Immigrant Garden – Letters” features Della LaCour as a Helen Curtis, a friend of Beauchamp, while Joe Schulz plays an arborist John Burrows.
For more information about the play, visit www.OlympicTheatreArts.org or call 360-683-7326.