Entertainment

Artist Profile: Brian Toews directs live cast alongside ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show’ in Bellingham

“The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” a cult-film favorite, is always one of the most well-attended Halloween events across the country, and Mount Baker Theatre’s annual production often sells out. Advance tickets are recommended.

The movie, accompanied by live actors, runs Oct. 30 through Nov. 1 at Mount Baker Theatre.

Here’s a peek at what’s in store for audience members (who are encouraged to participate with call-backs, rice-throwing and more, as tradition dictates) from Brian Toews, 23. He is directing the cast of live actors who will perform alongside the film actors each night. Toews just finished performing with iDiOM Theater’s production of “These Seven Sicknesses.”

Toews was born in Redmond and grew up in Lake Stevens. He receive his bachelor’s degree in English literature and theater from Western Washington University.

Cavea t: The general rule for throwing props is “up and back,” never at the performers or the screen. The show contains mature content and may not be suitable for all audiences.

Question: How did you become interested in theater?

Answer: I caught the theater bug in fifth grade, in a class production of “A Christmas Carol,” in which I was cast as Ebenezer Scrooge.

I remember loving the freedom of being someone else and felt like I was truly “good at something.” That was important to “little Brian” back then; I was bullied as a kid, so you can’t blame me.

Throughout grade school I acted in a few plays here and there, but it wasn’t until I went to Western that I started taking theater more seriously and working a lot harder at it. In college I was able to perform, write, direct and artistic direct a handful of productions. In every single one I’ve garnered a newer understanding of the art form of theater.

I experienced plenty of trial and error, welcoming sagely advice from my peers and professors that has helped me grow as an artist. Some of my favorite productions at Western include “Equus,” “The Nerd,” “The Hob Nob,” (a play I wrote), and WWU’s Theatre Ambassador’s Tour 2014.

Q: You’ve been pretty active in shows at iDiOM. Why do you like being involved with shows there?

A: The iDiOM Theater is an amazing community of artists, embracing the strangeness, innovation and absurdity of new works and fringe theater. I am grateful and excited to be involved in any production iDiOM mounts. I believe they are one of the only theaters in the Pacific Northwest (arguably the country) that’s revitalizing the art form of theater. I encourage my peers to take advantage of off-campus opportunities like the iDiOM Theater, in which they could apply their “training” outside the bubble of academia.

Q: Why do you like about what you do in the world of theater?

A: I think theater is the underdog of the arts. I like the fact that it requires the audiences’ full attention. Time to put your smartphones away and unplug; it’s time to have a one-on-one live human experience.

Theater audiences are generally more open to empathy and understanding the complications of the human condition, made possible by the ensemble and production company and the content being mounted. If an audience member is a different person or carries a different perspective about the world around them after leaving the performance, we’ve done our jobs as artists. That challenge and journey to get to that point is what brings me joy.

Q: What do prospective audience members need to know about this production?

A: There are a bevy of local actors from all facets of our Bellingham and Whatcom community in this production, and I have the immense pleasure of directing them. They will be re-enacting “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” as the “shadow cast” while the film is projected on the screen. The theater will provide prop bags for audience members for $5 at the start of the show. Audiences are encouraged to sing, call-out and interact with the “shadow cast” as much as allowed.

Q: Anything warnings or caveats?

A: I believe that no one under 18 will be admitted into the theater. If you’re asking me “what might offend people about this show,” then it’s probably not a show for the demographic asking that question. I encourage audience members who aren’t familiar with the film to do some research before they consider attending.

For die-hard and casual fans of the show, they’re going to love it!

Q: What’s next for you?

A: Sleep, ha ha! Not really. After closing “These Seven Sicknesses” at the iDiOM and opening “Rocky Horror,” I will be continuing rehearsals for Elai Shine’s “Masterpiece Theatre” directed by Elai Shine and myself, which opens Nov.14 at iDiOM.

On the horizon, I’ve been writing two new plays, dabbling in performance art and continuing to advocate and foster the arts with my work on the iDiOM board of trustees, as well as in the public schools as an English and drama teacher. (Toews was recently informed he’ll be student teaching with drama instructor Ruben Van Kempen at Roosevelt High School in Seattle).

Q: What else is going on in your life?

A: I’m getting my masters in teaching in secondary education at Woodring College of Education at Western. I work as a mail courier for Postal Express on the weekends.

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