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Sunday, July 12, 2020

Move over, Shakespeare

Six Western theater students fundraise for an upcoming trip to New York and London by performing short plays at the Bellingham Theater Guild on Wednesday, March 4. // Photo by Maddie Takata
Six Western theater students fundraise for an upcoming trip to New York and London by performing short plays at the Bellingham Theater Guild on Wednesday, March 4. // Photo by Maddie Takata

A man taking a metaphorical taxicab through life. A mother and daughter arguing over an eating disorder. A woman in a romantic relationship with her cat.

These are all scenes from Brit Tour, an arrangement of eight short plays performed by a group of six Western theatre students.

In a few weeks’ time, this small group of performers will board a plane to New York before traveling to England for two weeks. They will perform together to benefit the “Sophie’s Silver Lining Fund” scholarship.

“Sophie’s Silver Lining Fund” is a scholarship dedicated to Sophie Large, who died in a car accident at the age of 19 on her way to her home in Chacombe, England from a theatre rehearsal. Large was always passionate about the arts, and her parents set up the fund to help young artists with costs for training in acting or singing.

“Donating money for people in arts really does mean a lot, and for such a big cause, too,”  Kerianne Nelson said.

Nelson is theatre major and also acts in the plays.

The group has been performing at community colleges and other local venues to raise money for this trip. Tuesday, March 10, marks their final show in Seattle.

“It’s a really cool experience for the actors because we get to play roles that we probably wouldn’t get otherwise.”

Apart from donations received from their local performances, the students will have to pay their own way to Europe.

The Large family converted a barn on their private property in Chacombe into a theatre venue, where these six students will perform.

“I love all of them to death. They’re super fun to work with and a super talented cast,” said senior theatre major Sam Schultz, a cast member who is acting in four of the eight plays.

Schultz’s roles range from a judgmental narcissist in the play “Narcissus and Tiresia” by Sammy Scott, to an alcoholic and washed-up Billy Joel in the play “Second Wind” by Dan Erickson.

The plays were selected from a collection submitted by playwrights from all over Washington state. The directors, professors Jim Lortz and Mark Kuntz, the cast, and stage manager Angelica Metcalfe selected the eight plays.

 “We picked our top ten and then we got that down to eight, because we can get that done in an hour,” Metcalfe said.

Her role was to make sure sound and lighting are on cue, as well as coordinate with everyone involved and plan rehearsals.

Nelson starred as both a woman in a romantic relationship with her cat and as a young woman who contemplates taking her life on the side of a bridge.

“It’s a really cool experience for the actors because we get to play roles that we probably wouldn’t get otherwise,” Nelson said.

The students were given the chance to write plays, which they acted in too. The first play was written by junior theatre education major Kendall Uyeji, with music and lyrics written by senior music major Tim Albertson. Uyeji and Albertson were both actors in the show.

“This one’s been a little bit different, because it’s not like, here’s the words and here’s the music. We really had to work together and make sure we were both on the same page,” Albertson said.

The musical piece for Brit Tour features the entire cast.

“We’re all good friends, and I think it really helps with the dynamic of the show,” Uyeji said.

Schultz emphasized how important it is for actors to have trust in each other. Each performance brings them closer as actors and friends, he said.

For Nelson, having the tour continuing for almost 10 years amazes and encourages her. She hopes it will keep going.

Director and theatre professor Jim Lortz has been a part of Brit Tour for the last three of its eight years.

“For me, it’s a great time,” Lortz said.

To the actors, the curtain closed on their latest show. Their stories end, happily for some, but the memories remain. 

The taxi driver takes the man on the winding road through life, where he finally finds happiness. The mother and daughter work toward a solution to her eating disorder. The woman and her cat resolve never to part again.

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