On Stage

Clear Space

The art of listening

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

As the artistic director of Lynden’s Clear Space Youth Repertory, Mijo Buiskool-Price has a few words of advice for other up-and-coming directors.

“Be humble,” she says. “Listen to those who know more than you, and listen to those who know less than you with equal grace. In theater, there will be many, many opinions, but know that you, as the director, have the final say, so you must listen well.”

The wisdom Buiskool-Price gleaned from years spent as an actor, director, stage manager and designer in a number of theater organizations around the county served to her advantage when she and co-creator and technical director Spenser Stumpf—another longtime Whatcom County stage veteran—presented Clear Space’s first festival of short plays in the summer of 2016.

With an aim to create theatre that is challenging, socially aware and honest, the young company is entirely directed, managed, designed and created by theater students from across Washington state.

“The purpose of Clear Space is all in the name; we intend to provide opportunities for students to engage in theater at every level of production,” Buiskool-Price says. “For actors, we select plays that provide complex and challenging characters. We allow designers the resources and opportunity a clear space to play and create. New directors can find a jumping-off point to build their resume and managers are allowed to develop their own unique style of management.”

Audiences will see how these ideas translate to the stage when they arrive to view Dave Carley and Glenda MacFarlane’s The Final Hour and Manuel Puig’s The Mystery of the Rose Bouquet June 28-July 1 at the Claire vg Thomas Theatre. The former zeroes in on the complexities of war by getting deep inside the minds of five Canadian soldiers preparing to touch down in Normandy during World War II’s D Day, while the latter explores the complexities of female friendship via the relationship between a nurse and her patient.

Although the two one-act plays were written by different playwrights in different eras, Buiskool-Price says they chose to present both of them on the same bill because of their similarities.

“They both have a restriction of only having characters of one sex,” she says. “In the plays, both casts of characters struggle with memories of the past, fears of the present and the uncertainty of the future. Each character deals with these questions in such beautiful and different ways. We wanted to embrace the celebration of difference of sex and gender in our plays, and both of these plays accomplish that.”

With support from the Lynden Performing Arts Guild, Buiskool-Price says theater-goers can expect to see Clear Space’s “sweet mixture” of education and production annually at the Claire vg Thomas Theatre—and possibly beyond that if they achieve nonprofit status and become a staple of the theatre community. Meanwhile, the director will continue pursuing both Spanish and theater degrees at Western Washington University.

“My heart has always been in Whatcom County,” Buiskool-Price says, “so I will most likely continue to create art here.”

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