WWU's 'Soapbox' wins spot in regional theater competition


Several weeks ago I heard from Rich Brown at Western Washington University's department of theater and dance (he has the cool job title of "associate professor of physical acting and directing"), who said he had exciting news.

The production of "Soapbox," an original work devised by 25 WWU students last spring, under his direction, was chosen as one of four productions for the eight-state region of the American College Theatre Festival.

About 30 shows enter each year, he said, and a committee of faculty members selects four to represent the region at the national festival at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.

The last time Western had a show selected was Brown's last devised work, "US," in 2012, which went on to win three national awards from the Kennedy Center: Distinguished Performance and Production Ensemble, Distinguished Production of a Devised Work (second in the nation), and Rich was honored with Outstanding Director/Lead Deviser of a Devised Work.

So having Rich say that having "Soapbox" selected for the festival this year is exciting evidence of the theater and dance department's effort to build a nationally recognized devising program.

Perhaps most exciting, Rich adds, is that he was able to work with Mount Baker Theatre to arrange for a Bellingham showing on their mainstage for one night only, at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 14.

With the show at Mount Baker Rich hopes to achieve two things.

He wants to make it a community celebration and honor, rather than something that occurs "up on the hill" at WWU.

Second, the main challenge of taking a production to the festival is tantamount to the challenge on Feb. 14, which Rich says goes something like this: The loading dock door at the theater opens at 6 a.m.; the crew has eight hours to set up the production and run a cue-to-cue rehearsal in a foreign space, eat a snack, and then perform at 7:30 p.m.; then take down the production before the theater loading dock door and truck door close at midnight.

"It is insane!" Rich says.

Created by college students for a college-age audience, "Soapbox" asks "how will you balance time and money; technology and relationships; and living for yourself or helping others, during your personal pursuit of happiness?"

With original songs and dances, characters both realistic and theatrical, and moments both comic and dramatic, audience members will be entertained as they explore the deeply personal question.

Rich plans to connect with area high schools to invite as many students as possible to the Bellingham show. Dealing with technology and relationships is a heavy theme in the piece, so "Soapbox" could provide a conversation starter for teens and their parents, he says.

After the performance at Mount Baker Theatre, "Soapbox" will travel to Boise for the KCACTF Regional Festival.

For a sneak peek, go to YouTube and search for "Soapbox teaser Western Washington University.


Do you have a spouse or partner who loves to read and you just can't find the perfect Valentine's Day gift? (Or maybe just treat yourself!)

Here's an idea: The Nancy Pearl Book Discussion Getaway, March 19-21 at the Willows Inn on Lummi Island.

Village Books and the Willows Inn present the two-day getaway at the inn with librarian extraordinaire Nancy Pearl so people can immerse themselves in two books recommended by her.

On Wednesday evening, Nancy leads the first book club discussion, followed by a specially prepared dinner by Willows sous chef Jason Brubaker. Nancy will talk about some of her favorite books over dinner.

On Thursday morning, guests will reconvene in the main dining room for a hearty breakfast followed by a second book club session with Nancy. After the discussion, get cozy with a good book, indulge in a spa treatment or wander the island in the afternoon before enjoying the menu prepared by Blaine Wetzel, Food and Wine's Best New Chef of 2012.

Cost of the discussions with Nancy, two books and a private dinner at the Beach Store Cafe is $125 per person. If you want to stay overnight, rates start at $135 per night.

For an extra splurge, make reservations for dinner in the main dining room on March 20 created by chef Blaine Wetzel for $165 per person.

To register, go to willows-inn.com or call 360-758-2620. Participants will be sent both books shortly after registering.

Reach Margaret Bikman at 360-715-2273 or margaret.bikman@bellinghamherald.com.

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