Sean Walbeck, 47, describes his involvement with community theater in Bellingham as "extensive and varied."
This month, the Bellingham Repertory Theatre Summer Series begins a run of three plays, "On Golden Pond," "Proof" and "Chapter Two," staged alternately through Aug. 5 at Mount Baker Theatre's intimate Walton Theatre. Walbeck plays Charlie, the mailman, in "On Golden Pond."
For a schedule of the plays, go to mountbakertheatre.com.
Question: What's your history with community theater in Bellingham?
Answer: Even though I first acted at the Bellingham Theatre Guild in "Sherlock Holmes" in 1982, since 1996 I've acted bunches; directed four plays; orchestrated four BOAT (Bellingham One-Act Theater) Festivals; served on the board and as president; and represented BTG as a playwright at two state, one regional and one national conference.
I'm also active at iDiOM Theater and the Midnight Mystery Players when they'll have me; run ANBAHAR's Black Market Theatre with my wife, Shawn Fuller; and I've worked with nearly all the local theaters in some capacity or other.
Q: Where did you grow up?
A: I was born in Vancouver, B.C., and spent the first five years living in Blaine where my dad was stationed at the Air Force base. We moved to his subsequent postings in North Dakota and upstate New York before returning to Whatcom County when he got posted in Alaska. In addition to eight elementary schools, I went to Blaine Middle, Whatcom Middle and Bellingham High schools; and the University of Montana, and got my master's degree at Western Washington University.
Q: Are you a political junkie? NPR says you are.
A: NPR should know, I'm a super-goober fan of Ken Rudin's online nonpartisan "Political Junkie" column and the weekly pun-soaked podcast he shares with Ron Elving. I've won a Scuttlebutton, a trivia question, at least five mentions in the online column, and was once designated as The Listener on the podcast. It's slightly embarrassing (humbling? shameful? just?) that all that comes up when I'm Googled, before any mention of my award-winning plays or my 2004 run for the Charter Review Commission.
Q: What are some of your interests in our town?
A: Bellingham's a place where dreams get tested, where activism is expected, and change always meets resistance, and that kind of fodder that makes for great drama, so a lot of my plays are set in a mythological Bellingham.
My service on the Historic Preservation Commission (and before that, the Municipal Arts Commission) helps me hear some arguments of what defines this place. Are we more or less Bellingham if we lose this building or add that sculpture? Is Fairhaven defined by the buildings that were or the buildings that will be? What's the best way to reuse a space? And the answer to that last one, of course, is to put a theater in it, like, um, the Walton Theatre at Mount Baker Theatre.
Q: How is it to be acting in a series that you once reviewed, namely the Rep Series?
A: It's easier, and less time-consuming, to review than to do a show, but it's nowhere near as social. (Also, as the designs for the Walton Theatre went before the Historic Preservation Commission, I "reviewed" the space as well, so it's odd to throw my socks on a dressing room table I first saw as lines on blueprints.)
Q: Why should people see this threesome of plays?
A: The theater-in-the-round setup puts the audience in the room, so when you're talking intimacy, these three plays beat 3-D movies like a drunken stuntman. The Pulitzer Prize-winning suspense of family trust in "Proof," the seriocomic Neil Simon relationship saga in "Chapter Two" and the bittersweet family dynamics of "On Golden Pond" are all chock full of transformative human transactions in living rooms, dining rooms, and porches performed by real live people right there in front of you, thus guaranteed not to include any robots fighting each other. Theater: the original 3-D entertainment.
Q: What do you like best - writing plays, acting, directing or reviewing?
A: In playwriting, you lay the foundation for all the actors, directors, designers, and technicians' contributions to the audience's experience, so you are a piece of every memory that an audience takes away. And since the job of theater is to create memories, playwriting earns the richest harvest. But you should see me act anyway - you get good memories either way.