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On Stage

Back on the Soapbox

WWU students feel the love

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

It’s serendipitous that Soapbox, a play that focuses much of its far-reaching subject matter on relationships and the pursuit of happiness, will be remounted at the Mount Baker Theatre on Valentine’s Day.

When I got a missive from Western Washington University Department of Theatre & Dance’s Rich Brown a few weeks ago informing me that the student-devised play I’d reviewed last May had been selected from more than 30 works as one of four productions that will be shown at the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival in Idaho (following its gig in Bellingham), it wasn’t long before I was peering into Cascadia Weekly archives for a refresher course about the work.

I was reminded that Soapbox is a wholly original production, and that many of its thematic story arcs came directly from the hearts and minds of the 25 students who spent nearly a year putting it together—with Brown’s help.

The important questions the cascading story lines ask include: How will you balance time and money, technology and relationships, and living for yourself or helping others during your personal pursuit of happiness? One of the story lines I made note of that attempts to answer those questions focused on a couple who relied on technology to vet each other before they’d even met, and were torn apart by that same technology (the iPhone she gave him for Christmas spelled their doom, thanks to a hussy named Siri).
Still others included a lesbian couple at odds over their life paths, a funeral for cell phones that had bitten the dust, drunk texting and the perils of downsizing.

Although Brown had told me that Soapbox was created with a later college-age audience in mind, those who show up to share the love with the students at the Feb. 14 performance should be aware that many of the themes the play explores are universal in nature, and aren’t confined to those pursuing university degrees.

In fact, Brown says, he’d be thrilled to see audience members of all ages in attendance at the MBT showing of the production. He’s already made plans to connect with area high schools and invite as many students as possible to the Bellingham showing, hoping the themes of technology and relationships could provide a conversation-starter for teens and their parents.

“[We’re] making this a community celebration and honor, rather than something that occurs ‘up on the hill,’” he says.

Another reason Brown and company are looking forward to presenting the play to the community before taking it to the American College Theatre Festival is that it will give them a test run of the craziness that awaits them when they mount it in Boise just a couple days later.

“The main challenge of taking a production to festival is the challenge of the day, which goes something like this,” Brown says, “The loading dock door of the theatre and door of our truck open at 6am. We have eight hours to set up the entire production and run a cue-to-cue in a foreign space, perform a 2pm matinee, eat a snack, then perform again at 7:30pm, then strike the entire production back into the truck. The theater loading dock door and truck door both close at midnight. It is insane.”

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