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On Stage

Piece of CAKE

Bellingham Children’s Theatre expands its options

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Drue Robinson is a difficult woman to keep track of.

As the founder and driving force of Bellingham Children’s Theatre and a longtime proponent and practitioner of putting the “community” in “community theater,” Robinson wears so many hats she, quite literally, has a trunk crammed full of them in her downtown studio.

For example, at a December rehearsal of How the Slug Stole Solstice, I watched Robinson direct actors of varying ages (from grade-schoolers to a guy who passed retirement age about 30 years ago), move heavy props around, dart behind the stage curtain to make sure the younger kids were in costume, and offer helpful suggestions about how to better move the action forward.

In short, Robinson accomplishes as much with her small space and limited funds as those with bigger spaces and much heftier expense accounts do. She writes her own scripts, casts and directs the plays, teaches classes to actors of all ages and abilities, gets public figures and young kids onstage, and rounds up volunteers to ensure things go off with as few hitches as possible.

It may surprise you, then, to learn that Robinson makes no money off the theater she first founded in 1994 and then revived after getting her Master’s degree in New York City. You may also be shocked to hear that a big chunk of what she earns teaching at Fairhaven College and in area elementary schools goes to paying the rent at the Cornwall Avenue space.

While Robinson is not ready to give up on the Bellingham Children’s Theatre—which, despite the name, also houses many classes and events featuring both teens and adults—she is at a point where she has to make some big decisions. Will she try and stay at the space and hope the community steps up and supports it? Will she give up the studio, but keep the theater going at various “found” spaces around town? Will she leave Bellingham to make a decent living?

For now, Robinson says she’ll stick around at the BCT headquarters through December and produce one more round of her homegrown holiday hoedown, The Wutcraker. But unless there’s some sort of financial turnaround by then, that will be the last production in the space.

Until then, there are a variety of ways those who’d like to see the theater continue at its current location can step up to the plate.

From now through August, every Friday night will be dedicated to “CAKE: Creative Arse-Kicking Endeavors” gigs, which will feature everything from theater shorts to poetry open mics, music jams, storytelling and improv performances, and more.

“I created the series to kick my arse, and other artists’ arses, to just perform already,” Robinson says. “We’ve been drawing larger crowds each week as people get to know about us.”

This coming week’s CAKE iteration will feature the improv stylings of Spontaneous Combustion. Robinson will be joined on stage by former Upfront Theatre performers Joan Prinz, Leslie Adamson and, yep, yours truly.

It’s also not too early to sign your youngsters up for the outdoor theater camps Robinson’s offering this summer. “Random Acts & Sneaky Set-Up,” “Sprinkle Park: The Musical,” “Wutcraker Boot Camp,” and “Wozard of Iz” are on the lineup, and parts for kids of all ages are available.

“I’m wishing so hard that my community will see what it is that I do and support the original and creative endeavors —sign their students up for summer camps, get involved in this year’s Wutcraker, etc.,” Robinson says. “I’d be grateful for a miracle group of people who have amazing skills and connections to somehow [help] turn this boat around.”

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