Ian Bivins, who just turned 33, performs the role of Ilya in a two-night production of Anton Chekov's "The Seagull," Friday and Saturday, Aug. 30-31, at Inspire Studio, 1411 Cornwall Ave.
The production is a fundraiser for director Glenn Hergenhahn's new theater ensemble, Northwest Theater Lab. It's the first performance by the Lab's parent company, Northwest Passage, which has heretofore concentrated on teaching acting classes and workshops in Bellingham.
Question: What's your background?
Answer: I was born in Helena, Montana, grew up there and after high school moved to the Seattle area. I went to Western Washington University with every intent of pursuing a degree in political science or biology.
Somehow, it makes perfect sense that I ended up in the theater department. I received my B.A. from Western in 2002. Then I spent most of this last decade training, traveling and performing with master teacher Kari Margolis and the Margolis Brown ADAPTORS Theatre Company. I am a certified instructor of the Margolis Method, a dynamic approach to theater training.
Q: Why did you stay in Whatcom County?
A: I fell in love with Whatcom County a long time ago. After traveling around the U.S. and establishing myself in upstate New York for a good chunk of time, re-establishing my connections here felt like a natural choice in order to expand as an artist and an educator.
Q: When did you first realize that you enjoyed performing?
A: I grew up in a household where theatricality was openly encouraged. My father directed a small theater company in Montana and had previously run away with the circus to be a clown. Spirit gum and rubber noses appear frequently in my memories of childhood.
The joy of being on stage came immediately as a child. This was harder to find as a young adult once I realized that my acting, if you could call it that, was mediocre at best. I used to be really bad!
Luckily, I've had several mentors throughout my career who have helped me through the muck. The idea that performance was a craft that I could get better at really made me take my work and myself more seriously.
Q: What's your career history?
A: I like to look at my "job" as that of being a theater artist, as opposed to just an actor. I find myself directing, acting, playwriting and doing technical work often on the same production.
What I've found through my training and what I work to teach, is this idea that an empowered performer can and should have all of the skill sets vital to creating amazing theater.
Q: What have been some of the projects you've been involved with in Whatcom County?
A: Since I've been back in Whatcom County I've worked closely with Kuntz and Company on several projects. Most recently is "Hello my Name is You," a dance and theater piece about Asperger's, which we are touring this fall.
I've also been fortunate to work closely with the Lummi Nation and students of the Lummi Youth Academy, creating theater that is specific to the lives and histories of the aboriginal peoples of the Pacific Coast. Also, I've been an occasional guest artist with Bellingham Repertory Dance.
Q: What brings you joy about being on stage?
A: The joy of performance for me is really tied to the crafted experience that I can give to the audience.
Q: Tell me a little about "The Seagull."
A: "The Seagull" is most often called a comedy, even though it has a dark ending and is littered with tragic events. A lot of people have the misconception that Chekov is stuffy or difficult. In reality Chekhov is strange, and funny and very accessible.
I play Ilya Shamrayev. You get the sense that he missed an opportunity to become an artist early in life. Instead he went into the military. The absurdity of the play centers around unrealized dreams and the inability of the characters to acknowledge what is right in front of them.
Q: What's the Northwest Passage Theater Lab all about?
A: This production of "The Seagull" is a fundraiser to pay actor stipends for the Northwest Passage Theater Lab ensemble. This group will consist of seven actors who will work away from language and performance and concentrate on creating fundamental skills and developing curriculum for future collaborations. I look forward to helping build that curriculum.
Q: What's fun for you besides performing?
A: I'm big into gardening and ornamental plants. The outdoors is where I find my "little moments." I suppose that makes sense with all the time I spend inside theaters.
Reach Margaret Bikman at 360-715-2273 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Read her Entertainment Blog at bellinghamherald.com/entertainment-blog or follow her on Bellingham Entertainment on Facebook or @bhamentertainme on Twitter.