A tale for the ages
Where: Sylvia Center, 205 Prospect St.
WHEN: 7:30pm May 2-4, 9-11, and 16-18
Cost: $16-$20; tickets to "Art for Housing" are $95
Wednesday, May 1, 2019
Director Rich Brown was always clear about the way he wanted to approach bringing the titular character to life in playwright Sarah Ruhl’s adaptation of author Virginia Woolf’s 1920s-era master work, Orlando, which opens May 2 at the Sylvia Center for the Arts.
The biography follows an English poet and nobleman born in the 1600s who changes gender from a man to a woman and lives for centuries, but Brown says it wasn’t as important to find an actor who could believably change from a man to a woman as it was to find a capable bearer of Orlando’s message—which he did in Karlee Foster.
“Gender is a construct and exploring gender fluidity is one of the most exciting aspects of this text,” Brown says. “So to be honest, we’re not getting too hung up on it. We’re not interested in ‘portraying gender’ like wearing wigs and speaking in higher pitches for women versus pants and deep voices for men. It’s in the script when Orlando changes gender after a seven-year nap: ‘Orlando was a man till the age of 30, when he became a woman and has remained so ever since.’ Your gender identity is what you feel. Period.”
Brown, a WWU theater arts professor who has also overseen staged readings of Ruhl’s works at the Sylvia Center in recent months, says he re-read Woolf’s book before diving into the remake, and notes the main difference is that the contemporary playwright focuses more on the major characters and lovers in Orlando’s life. The novel, he notes, is much more expansive.
Woolf was married to a man but had a long love affair with a woman who was also married—and who is said to be the inspiration for Orlando—and Brown says all spouses were in the know and good to go, showing they were way ahead of their time in regards to understanding the fluidity of gender and sexuality.
Whether you’re in a seat for opening night of iDiOM Theater’s final mainstage production of the season or at the “Art for Housing” benefit for Lydia Place on Fri., May 3—which in addition to a viewing of the play includes food and drinks courtesy of Bellingham Cider Co. and entry to a silent art auction—be aware that what you’re seeing is a tale for the ages.
“Sarah Ruhl is one of our greatest contemporary playwrights,” Brown says. “People should know who she is and experience her beautiful imagery and dialogue. This production is fast-paced storytelling at its best; we go from the 18th century to the 20th century in under 90 minutes. Plus, it’s about love and the struggle of the artist and the desire to find one’s full heart.”
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