Tag Archives: theater

A dazzling new class act is coming to Whatcom

Whatcom Community College is debuting a new acting for stage and film class in Winter 2020. Whatcom’s drama department offers courses in acting, introduction to theatre and theatre production. Students can take classes such as Drama 101, where they will learn the significance of plays, themes, playwrights and discussing the history of theatre, plots and character developments and the differences between performances from around the globe.

In the classes Acting I and Acting II, students learn what it means to be an actor through exercises, compositions, scene study, improvisations, and movement. They then move on to studying text, character analysis and perform realistic scenes.

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A spin on thespian

By: Max Singer

 

Whatcom students Sean Romond (left) and Christopher Bowman (right) performing the play “The Apple” in Whatcom’s annual One -Act Play Festival. Photo by Max Singer.
Whatcom students Sean Romond (left) and Christopher Bowman (right) performing the play “The Apple” in Whatcom’s annual One -Act Play Festival. Photo by Max Singer.

Whatcom Community College’s drama classes are teaming up with the Drama Club again this year to produce both full-length productions and shorter segment plays. This spring quarter, Whatcom’s annual One-Act Play Festival was held June 5 through June 7. Continue reading

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Theater Review: “The Lion King”

By Christina Latham

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One of my musical dreams came true on March 13. I finally was able to go see Disney’s “The Lion King” on stage! Taking an organized trip by Whatcom Community College’s Student Life, I was able to have transportation and my ticket for only $25. I knew the seats would be up and in the back at Seattle’s Paramount Theatre, but it didn’t matter to me.

When I was young, my mom took me to musicals in Seattle: Camelot, The Sound of Music, Phantom of The Opera, and Les Miserables. I also have seen many local community productions. After seeing over 50 other stage productions, this was it!

As the lights dimmed, the excitement built and the music started. It was everything I imagined. The opening scene brought me to tears.

The costumes were unbelievable. People were on stilts walking down the aisle and onto the stage as giraffes. Elephants, rhinos, birds and cheetahs graced the stage.

Hearing the live orchestra play the song “Circle of Life” and the halting boom at the end, I had chills.

I knew this would not be the same as the movie. New musical numbers were introduced that kept right in line with the story and many lines from the movie were brought to life on the stage as well. Africa came to life before my eyes.

While I enjoyed the incredible costumes that made people into savannah grass blowing weightlessly in the wind, I found myself disappointed in other parts of the musical.

The artistry of the actors was wonderful, but the singing was not a strong as I expected. Many words could not be understood and the vocals were drowned out at times by the orchestra.

After reading the biographies of the actors and seeing many of them have been touring with the show, it makes me hope that this was an off night for them. Many of them have been with at least one other tour of Disney’s The Lion King and were not strangers to the stage nor this musical.

I also noticed at times some of the choreography was off, slightly, but still enough to notice one person spin or kick before the rest of the other dancers. Also during several scene changes, the movement of sets could be heard and distracted me from the scene that was being acted out on stage. I have seen stronger high school productions.

After I talked with the group of 45 students and faculty from Whatcom that were able to go to the show, everyone thought I was a bit crazy for being disappointed and maybe I am.

If I had the chance, I would go again in a heartbeat. The way the actors moved like animals in the beautifully done costumes, the mastery of the puppetry and the overall music and story is not to be missed.

If you have the chance to go, don’t miss it. Luckily, live theater allows for a different experience every time. The crowd, the venue, the cast, and even where you sit plays a role in the overall experience.

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Upfront and personal

By Max Singer

Sit down OGLocated in downtown Bellingham on Bay Street is The Upfront Theatre, a venue dedicated to live improvisational comedy, also known as improv. “If you’re not having fun, you’re doing it wrong,” said William “Billy” Tierney, 33, the Upfront’s artistic director and theater manager.

The Upfront, which seats 100 people, offers shows from Thursday through Saturday, as well as improv classes and workshops.

“It’s a place that’s very fun and playful, it’s an enjoyable experience,” said Matt Benoit, 24, a previous Upfront actor and former Whatcom Community College student. “It’s a really cool part of the Bellingham community.”

The Upfront Theatre was founded by actor and comedian Ryan Stiles in 2004. Stiles, who lives in Bellingham, is most famous for his part on the television show, “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” Every now and then, he appears as a guest in shows at the theater.

“You get used to it, but it’s still surreal sitting in the greenroom with him,” Benoit said.

The theater has since evolved into productions where the community participates in live comedy performances, Tierney said. Improvisational acting is all spontaneous and real-time, making each show experience different.

Tierney has been at the Upfront for the past eight years and said he is the “main man in charge.” The core ensemble features 25 actors, Tierney said. There is also a “Satellite Ensemble” twice a month, which is a tryout for main-stage performance opportunities, he added.

The titles of the shows, such as the recent “Dynamo” and “Space Trek,” indicate the theme for the performance, but because each show involves audience participation it can go in any direction, Benoit said. During the show, an actor will ask for audience suggestions on things such as character names or a setting. The actors also alternate between short and long-form games, each with a specific set of rules to guide the scene, he added.

“For college students it’s something to do while supporting the local arts,” said Daniel Morris, 30, an improv student at the Upfront. “I know they’ll find fun in the humor.”

The Upfront offers a variety of improv classes through its Improv School starting at $160 for an eight-week course, and anyone can sign up.  Separate courses are held for adults and youth. A new workshop begins in March.

Benoit said he took the improv classes offered by the Upfront before he started performing there.

Tierney said that unlike traditional theater, the actors have no scripts, which changes the nature of the performance. “It really is a different craft,” he said.

“I think there’s an emphasis on spontaneity, there’s a real-time duration of stories. I would say the hardest thing is learning the rules of improv,” Morris said.  “You really focus on building something together, making other people look good, and just supporting them in general.”

Tierney said the Upfront does not try to attract any particular age group, they just “shoot for a large demographic and try to be hip.”

Mario Orallo-Molinaro, the Upfront’s marketing manager, said the main sources of income are tickets sales, the Improv School, and the BizProv workshops they hold for local companies to encourage teambuilding and effective communication. He said the theater doesn’t receive any grants or donations.

Morris said the experience has been worth it. “It’s changed how I interact with people in a very positive way. I’m relaxed and open,” he said. “It’s all about the social interactions and taking chances.”

Tierney said his advice for nervous actors is to not spend so much time worrying about the performance. “You don’t want to see someone struggle. You need to allow your vulnerabilities to show, and you need to learn how to wear those vulnerabilities,” he said.

Information on scheduling, tickets and classes, is available online at www.theupfront.com.
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Alive with the sound of music

By Henry Slater

A stage sits bare and deserted, with nothing but a closed curtain hanging a few inches above it. The stage lighting comes from overhead. A girl walks out from behind the curtain and uses the stage as her pedestal.

Her voice begins to fill the room as she sings about her character’s life struggles. More actors emerge from behind the curtain to join her after she finishes the number, and as the story progresses, the audience begins to see the story of a woman named Percy attempt to jump-start her life.

The production is entitled “Spitfire Grill,” and is the first musical that Whatcom Community College has done in nine years.

“This is the second time in Whatcom’s history that we’ve done one,” said stage director Shawn Fuller.

The musical follows a story in which a young woman decides to move to the fictional town of Gilead, Wisconsin and take up a job at a restaurant called the “Spitfire Grill.”

“It’s a story of how her arriving in town affects the people who live there, and how the people affect her,” said Fuller.

The young woman’s name is Percy, and is played by 23-year-old Comfort Israel. “It’s my first lead role,” said Israel. “I auditioned at the last minute expecting to get into the chorus, but then I surprisingly got a call saying I landed the lead part.”

Israel is also excited about the content of the story. “It’s a heartwarming story of redemption and reinvention,” she said. “There’s a cool dynamic between Percy and the people, because Percy initially sees something good in the people that the they never saw before, and the people see something good in Percy that she never saw.”

The musical is appropriate for an audience of college students because of its messages having to do with financial struggle, said Fuller. “Something going on at Whatcom, and at colleges in general is financial burden, and this show really speaks to that portion of our populace,” she said.

It is a story of hope, Fuller said. “It starts in the low part of a downward spiral, and these characters find the beginnings to finding their way out of it.”

Producer Gerry Large is excited about the musical because this year, they are members of the American College Theater Festival he said. “This is a national organization and we are a part of one region.”

Being a part of this organization means that the production will be judged by three regional industry professionals.

“After they adjudicate us, they will choose three actors to go and compete at the regional festival,” said Large.

The show opens on November 14,and goes through the 17, starting at 7:30 p.m. with tickets going for $12, and $8 for students.

A free preview will be shown on Tuesday, Nov 13, at 7:30 p.m. All events are in Heiner Theater.

“Spitfire is a story musical,” said Fuller. “So instead of that ‘YA-HA-HA-HA!’ kind of musical, there’s a little more natural movement. The characters really go on an emotional journey.”
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