Kamarie Chapman's award-winning play, "Deception Pass: An American Story," is staged at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, Jan. 24-26, and Jan. 30-31 and Feb. 1-2; and at 2 p.m. Feb. 2 at Western Washington University's Performing Arts Center's Main Stage Theatre.
A 2006 Western graduate, Chapman is now an adjunct professor in Western's department of theater and dance. The play contains adult language and situations. Deb Currier directs.
Question: When did you first become involved in theater?
Answer: I don't know that I can remember a time in my life where theater wasn't a part of my existence. I remember charging my parents 25 cents to come see a show where my little brother would perform acrobatics and big brother would be the ringmaster. Sometimes the shows would have a theme of science and the neighbor girl (who was a little older than us) would feed us strange things out of her chemistry set in front of an audience.
Q: What brings you pride?
A: I am proud that I have never been afraid to try new things. I guess I am most proud that I get to live in this great town as an artist and educator and farmer. I am proud that I am a representation of so many people that have left their imprint on me and that I try to always honor that. I am so proud of my students on campus and the work they do. And I am really proud that most of my professional training I learned right here in Bellingham, from working on campus and with the iDiOM Theater.
Q: What do you teach at Western?
A: I get the opportunity to teach diverse classes. This is my third year working at WWU. I teach dramatic writing (for the screen and stage); theater theory and criticism courses; theater history and outreach education - so far.
Q: Why do you enjoy teaching?
A: As an artist I believe that you can learn more about your craft by teaching others than most other ways. Naturally you still have to practice what you do, but opening yourself up to help others find their passion for the same thing you do is pretty powerful medicine.
I also get to work with people who are my mentors from when I was attending WWU's theater arts program.
I specifically like teaching playwriting because it might be one of the hardest forms of writing to teach. And everyone is scared of it at first ... but it's not that scary once you understand it. We design structures of stories. And by the nature of the job, you get this opportunity to be the voice of your personal culture.
Q: What inspired "Deception Pass?"
A: I wrote "Deception Pass" when I was in grad school, which was in Albuquerque, N.M. I was surrounded by vast and beautiful desert and people who had stories of the land and their families for generations. Some of the people I was going to school with would still spend time with their great-abuelas (grandparents) who would tell them stories about their abuelas. Generations of people sharing stories of their own voice and culture. Something that I felt horribly ashamed I didn't have.
And then I realized I did. I had my own unique culture. And even though I didn't know my great- great-grandmother, I did know my grandfather and he told me so many stories (which I wish I had written down). And my father had also told me so many stories. And I do come from a unique place (the Pacific Northwest) with a beautiful and sad history. And I thought, well, I'd better start writing.
I am eternally grateful to my Latino/a friends for teaching me about to honor yourself and your culture.
Q: What's it about?
A: "Deception Pass" is a strange weaving of stories based off of actual events that happened with this bridge and so many families of Whidbey Island. Part of the reason I wanted Deb (Currier) to direct is because she has a background in Asian theater. This production has two characters (the Moon Sisters) who are Chinese ghosts who wander the pass and are inspired by Beijing Opera characters. And while I have had a little input on the show, mostly I am happily trusting Deb to interpret and direct the show. I'm really excited to see what she's done with it.
This is not a good show for little kids. It's got a touch of swearing in it and the story is a bit of a murder mystery. However I would have loved to see something like this when I was a teenager. Most of us around here have been to Deception Pass and Whidbey Island. We know the land and area. And we can hear in the language that these characters are clearly from the Pacific Northwest.
Q: What else do you enjoy besides theater?
A: I love monthly Downtown Art Walks and running into all kinds of lovely people. I love seeing unique body art and gorgeous tattoos. I like supporting the plethora of good restaurants we have around here. I really enjoy my life on a small, sustainable farmlette and growing my own food, canning it and processing my own meat.
This last year I began reffing for the Bellingham Roller Betties and I REALLY enjoy that too.
I also enjoy working with other productions in town and am currently a member of WWU's Soapbox Devising project to premiere in May of 2013.