DIANE URBANI DE LA PAZ: ‘Breath and resonance in real space’

DON’T DREAD THE winter, I tell myself. Dread doesn’t help anything. Going outside does.

Let me explain. On a recent rainy, windy afternoon I saw Port Townsend High School’s fall play, “Our Town.” In it, we’re immersed in a rural community.

One of the townspeople dies in her 20s. Seated with others who are deceased, she asks to go back and relive one day of her life. Choosing her 12th birthday, she watches her mother cooking, then sees the neighbor boy who would later become her husband.

“Our Town” is about appreciating the people in your life. This production, staged by teenagers, was a classic example of live theater’s power — and the reason to leave one’s comfy couch to go see a show.

You never know when a performer will mesmerize you the way Zoe Cook, as the Stage Manager in “Our Town,” did me. This girl, at 14, was in complete command of her role and message. The everyday things — coffee, sunflowers, hot baths, sleeping and waking up — they’re the stuff of life, so pay attention.

“We don’t have time to look at one another,” the heroine of “Our Town” laments. But I think we do have time. We see each other in the art taking shape all around us. Be it a comic play, a local blues band, a sculpture or a painting or a choir singing, the arts can be depended on to show us something new about our fellow humans.

I recently ran across the words of Lauren Gunderson, writer of the play “Silent Sky,” on now at Sequim’s Olympic Theatre Arts. In a 2017 profile in The New Yorker, she spoke about how going to a live performance can help us live better together.

Theater is “congregational,” Gunderson said.

“It’s a real-time interaction, with real people saying those words, with breath and resonance in real space. That’s not something you can get from watching TV.”

I’ve spent much of my career writing about the local arts scene. My motivation: the desire to inspire people to come see plays, concerts, art shows — all manner of events where discoveries and epiphanies are possible. Those sparks to flame come not only from the beauty in the work of art, but also from the conversation with a stranger or the laugh shared with a friend.

Indulge me, please, as I lay out a sampling of our local playbill. “Silent Sky” has its last three performances this weekend. Then comes “Mercy Falls,” a brand-new thing at Port Townsend’s Key City Public Theatre starting Nov. 29. Jeni Mahoney, a member of the Indie Theater Hall of Fame, wrote this irreverent story about a woman who, just when she thought she was a hopeless jinx, becomes the hero of her own story.

Come mid-December, “Mercy” runs in repertory at KCPT with “Spirit of the Yule,” a musical whose heroine, Miz Henrietta Maynard, is a real-life Jefferson County entrepreneur. The show, created by two more local women, Denise Winter and Linda Dowdell, provides a sharply different take on Dickens and Scrooge.

At the Port Angeles Community Playhouse from Dec. 6 through 22, the Community Players will do “The Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Townswomen’s Guild Dramatic Society Production of ‘A Christmas Carol.’ ” According to Backstage magazine critic Tom Jacobs, this British romp is “better, and more disorienting, than spiked eggnog.”

Circling back to Olympic Theatre Arts in Sequim, “Another Night Before Christmas” plays Dec. 13 through 22. This one introduces us to a world-weary social worker, Karol. An epiphany — a shining of light — may be involved.

What do you say? Let’s go out and see it.

_________

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 Dec. 4.

Reach her at [email protected]

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