On Stage

Rep Reset

A stage under the stars


What: Opening reception for Mr. Burns, A Post-Electric Play

When: 6 pm Fri., Jun. 29

Where: Sylvia Center, 205 Prospect St.

Cost: $20-$30

Info: http://www.idiomtheater.com

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Car alarms, rabbits, strong winds and train whistles all made appearances during iDiOM Theater’s first performance of Anton Chekov’s The Seagull at Bellingham’s Maritime Heritage Park last Thursday.

But despite those distractions, director Glenn Hergenhahn-Zhao says the cast and crew held it together, and kicked off the theater’s second Open Air Summer Rep season with more than a hint of magic.

“When you can create moments of heartbreak and absurdity in a bubble created by the focus of actors, the audience is ready to be there with them,” he says.

Hergenhahn-Zhao is hoping that bubble will enthrall audiences throughout the summer. First, when Anne Washburn’s 2012 masterpiece, Mr. Burns, A Post-Electric Play brings dystopian dark comedy—and a society based on The Simpsons—to the park’s bay-view amphitheater starting Thurs., June 28, where the play directed by Shu-Ling Hergenhahn-Zhao will show in repertory with The Seagull through July 15.

The second set of rep rotations begins Thurs., Aug. 9 and continues through Sept. 1 with staggered showings of Adam Szymkowicz’s Marian, or The True Tale of Robin Hood and Hergenhahn-Zhao’s new translation of Aphra Behn’s The Rover. It’s an ambitious lineup, and one he says differs from the other 1,000-plus outdoor theater festivals in the country.

“The plays are diverse, but they have in common that they are new on an outdoor stage,” he says. “The Seagull is more than 100 years old, but this is the world premiere of this brilliant translation. Mr. Burns is on The New York Times best 25 plays written in the last three decades, but it has never been done outside. Marian is a west coast premiere, and The Rover is a new adaptation of a restoration comedy.”

Since this is the second season of bringing free outdoor theater to the masses, Hergenhahn-Zhao says they’ve learned a few lessons. For example, new microphones have made the sound system “100 percent better,” and those attending are advised to bring things to make them comfortable—whether it’s layers of clothing, cushions and blankets, water, sunglasses or a lawn chair.

Each show is supported by an opening reception just up the hill at the Sylvia Center for the Arts—the one for Mr. Burns happens Fri., June 29—making for a delicious and social way to help fund the gratis productions. Purchasing season passes and memberships to the Sylvia Center are also great ways to assist the arts.

But once you’re in the bubble, be aware of the alchemy that happens when audiences and actors enter into the pact of experiencing a play not inside a theater, but under the waning sun and emergent stars.

“I think the experience of seeing something outside with a group of people creates a community that is special and a bit different than inside a theater,” Hergenhahn-Zhao says. “We are collectively claiming a small piece of the earth for the sake of art—at least for a couple of hours.”

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