Fairhaven Receives New Summer Theater Program
In the heart of Bellingham’s Fairhaven district, a local theater seeks to combine performance art and community-based conversation in a new summer production series.
Over the course of four weeks in July, Bellingham TheatreWorks will present three productions for Fairhaven’s first Summer Repertory Theater: “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” “Wit,” and “The Clean House.” For six nights a week, the shows will alternate at the Fairhaven Firehouse Arts and Events Center.
This kind of repertory program, in which a company alternates between multiple production runs, has been lacking in the area since Mount Baker Theatre canceled their summer repertory series in 2016. However, TheatreWorks hopes their July performances will do more than fill an entertainment void.
CONNECTING PERFORMANCE AND REALITY
All three of TheatreWorks’ summer repertory productions feature a primary character diagnosed with cancer. Artistic director Mark Kuntz explains that these shows were chosen with Western Washington University’s Palliative Care Institute in mind.
Palliative care focuses on improving patients’ quality of life while dealing with the stress and pain of a serious illness. Western’s PCI seeks to create a non-cure-based healing space for those facing life-ending illnesses. One of TheatreWorks’ goals is to connect productions to community interest. Selecting these shows, which relate to living with a serious disease, “was right in the middle of [the company’s] mission,” Kuntz says.
Throughout the month, PCI and TheatreWorks will host a series of community conversations inspired by the plays. The series will include a dramatized lecture by actress Megan Cole entitled “The Wisdom of Wit,” an exploration of the production “Wit” and the perspectives it offers on end-of-life issues.
FOSTERING AN ARTS COMMUNITY
Selecting Fairhaven as the venue for TheatreWorks’ repertory theater was a deliberate choice. With the help of the Historic Fairhaven Association, this charming, old-school Bellingham neighborhood hopes to become a Plays With a Purpose “Certified Creative District” as designated by the Washington Arts Commission.
If selected, Fairhaven will receive access to training programs, grant and funding opportunities, support and advocacy, and other services provided by the Arts Commission. TheatreWorks hopes their summer repertory theater will contribute to the neighborhood’s creative community.
Kuntz and producing director Steve Lyons founded Bellingham TheatreWorks with the goal of featuring local performers and playwrights in productions with a connection to the Pacific Northwest. Producing director’s assistant Grace Heller describes it as “theater that involves local artists about local issues.”
Western graduate Eryn Elyse McVay wrote the most recent production, “How Sweet the Sound.” The January performances featured an all-local cast and crew.
1314 Harris Ave., Bellingham
360.296.1753 | bellinghamtheatreworks.org
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