Opinion

There’s no place like home for quality theater

Last night after hearing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” I remembered how my siblings and I, who had watched the “Wizard of Oz” at least a dozen times, were in our 20s before we realized that the entire Oz sequence was in color.

The TV of our childhood rendered the world in simple shades of black and white. No yellows erupted across our screen. No reds danced like cherries drowning in a hot spring rain. No blues lounged lazily, no orange, not a single emerald green seen.

A world without color, like a world without art, wholly functional, practical and sadly all we knew.

Can you miss what you don’t know?

Possibly, if you’ve been skipping Western Washington Center for the Arts’ (WWCA) shows, like me, out of a sense of loyalty to the Performing Arts Guild of South Kitsap (PAGSK).

How fair is it to myself or to you, though, to live in a world of black and white and miss all the vibrant, vivid, exploding colors that make up WWCA’s performances?

I want PAGSK back, of course. I want that entire old troupe of performers to find their way together and locate or build a new home.

I want theater to be so robust in South Kitsap that we have groups and choices galore.

In fact, I would love to see WWCA, the PAGSK and the Port Orchard Community Theater (POCC) work together to build a theater complex as part of a family cultural and recreational center at our South Kitsap Community Park.

We could have a 300-seat theater, a theater in the round and an outdoor theater not too far from our HOPE (Boys and Girls Club) Center.

You’re thinking, “We already said, ‘No,’ Mary. (We’re) not building a recreational center or a theater. So enough already. Communities that support arts are healthy, thriving communities. And, we’re…”

We’re what?

Exactly. That’s precisely the reason why we need to support our arts and the reason why I couldn’t miss anymore colorful performances at WWCA.

Plus, my friend, Matt Tumaliuan, has a lead role in “Pajama Game,” the group’s current show, and missing him would be worse than missing colors, it would be like losing the ruby slippers and missing the chance to get home to Auntie Em.

But, enough “Wizard of Oz” talk. How good is Matt? He’s so good, I regret not seeing him in “Barefoot in the Park” and “The Mousetrap.” His scenes, especially the ones with Breanne Armentrout, who played Mabel, were extraordinary.

This sweet, gentle kid, who used to show up for church youth group and sit quietly by himself strumming his guitar, has taken the theater world in South Kitsap by storm.

It’s amazing, if you know how shy he once was. OK, one more “Wizard of Oz” image. It’s like the contrast between Dorothy’s black and white farm and the Emerald City. He makes characters that bright, vivid and funny.

“And, he doesn’t know what he has,” said Paul Olson, who plays the role of Hasler in the play and who keeps telling Matt, “to go to school or somewhere big to hone your craft, because you got it, Man, you got it.

“He’s so smart and funny,” said Lynn Olson, Paul’s wife and a fellow actor. “He takes these small directions that Jan, the director, gives him, thinks on them and takes them so much farther, adding clever touches here and there that leave you in awe.”

Matt wasn’t the only performer who made me regret holding out on seeing WWCA’s shows. The Olson family came as a clan, missing only Andy and Emily, who are off in college.

Katie, who teaches music at EPO, joined first and persuaded mom, Lynn, and dad, Paul, to join her.

Paul and Katie had performed in “Seussical,” as the mayor of Whoville and his wife. Katie called her dad about that show saying, “Come on Dad, when would you and I ever be able to sing duets together in a musical?”

When this show opened up, the role of shop owner Hasler, was a natural for Paul, whose facial expressions are worth the price of admission.

A second-time performer, he appears to not only love the work, but to relish it.

Together with Katie and a slate of other performers who revel in the joy and spirit of the show, they show us that the beauty of local theater, the strength of WWCA lies in pulling out latent talent and hidden expertise.

Like that of leads, Amy Musselwhite, who hails from Georgia, and Justin Carrell, a U.S. Naval Academy graduate from Wyoming, whose singing is professional in scope and whose little Western trills will make the song, “There was a Man,” a new musical favorite.

Or that of Sarajane Rants, WWCA board member extraordinaire. An artist in a range of media, Sarajane worked as a florist for 30 years, traveling the country, teaching classes and judging flower arrangements.

She lost her husband in 2003 and in her grief found the theater.

“It was a natural fit,” she said. “My husband and children have always been educators. My husband taught high school music and my son still does. The place for me is community theater.”

A quilter, knitter and soft sculpture artist, Sarajane finds a lot of artistic inspiration and stimulation within her Yukon Harbor neighborhood. Living next to a professional costumer, Jane Shafer, she has been able to see and help professional costumes come together.

“I love to work with color and design,” she said, “and Jane has taught me so much, especially costuming techniques. I worked with her on costumes for Cats and Seussical for the Maryland theater and then on Seussical here at WWCA. As a volunteer, Jane coordinated and designed all 67 costumes for ‘Seussical.’ ”

With that knowledge, Sarajane then went on to co-coordinate the costumes for “Pajama Game” with Diane Densmore.

“I nicknamed my home ‘Petticoat Junction’ for a while,” she said. “We had so much fun, finding the costumes, tailoring and making them. We’re especially proud of our prison pajamas (worn by Katie Olson and Matt Tumaliuan) because the fabric stores didn’t sell black and white striped material and so we cut strips, serged them and sewed them together to make stripes and then sewed them into the pattern. It took three days to do, but when you see them...”

When you see them, you’ll agree, WWCA shows dazzle — and not just because there are lights sewn into costumes by Sarajane, like there were in the headdress and two piece bathing suit worn by the star of “Gypsy,” another WWCA show, but because our local talent sparkles there.

Sarajane, an all around theater cheerleader, wants to invite you all to two fundraisers to be held to raise money for WWCA programs.

Two dinner theaters will be held as part of the show’s run, which goes from April 25 to May 25.

The dinners will be on May 3 and 10, starting at 5:30 p.m. at the Purple Fig for hors d’oeuvres and conversation, followed by a 6 p.m. buffet dinner and a return to the theater for the 7:30 performance with dessert, coffee and tea served at intermission.

All proceeds will benefit theater programs (and someday maybe a theater complex) insuring that this community does not have to live in a world of black and white.

Call (360) 769-SHOW (7469).

Mary Colborn is a Port Orchard resident.

We encourage an open exchange of ideas on this story's topic, but we ask you to follow our guidelines for respecting community standards. Personal attacks, inappropriate language, and off-topic comments may be removed, and comment privileges revoked, per our Terms of Use. Please see our FAQ if you have questions or concerns about using Facebook to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus

Read the latest Green Edition

Browse the print edition page by page, including stories and ads.

Oct 17 edition online now. Browse the archives.

Friends to Follow

View All Updates