Us and Them
Fewer walls, more communication
Wednesday, February 21, 2018
When neighboring groups from the East and West show up in the same space, building a wall seems to be the best way to keep their communities separate. The tale may remind you of misbegotten edicts of the current presidential administration, but Us and Them was written in 1982. We asked Bellingham Arts Academy for Youth director Ian Bivins what drew him to the play that will be staged Feb. 23-25 at the State Street theater, and he shared a few insights.
CW: What made you realize this was a story that would benefit from being told on the BAAY stage?
IB: After the third time through the script, I started to visualize just how much story there was living in a seemingly simplistic format. At only 21 pages and with dialogue that is rapid- fire and intentionally repetitive, we dive into a world of echoes and absurdity. I started dreaming of what we could do with a minimal set and the fantastic roster of the BAAY senior age group.
CW: Was author David Campton commenting on the effects of a real wall—like the Berlin Wall—or do you think the cautionary tale is simply a metaphor?
IB: The play was written in 1982. I’d define that as in the midst of the Cold War, when it was easier to rely on mutually assured destruction than it was to create productive dialogue between superpowers. Let’s presume he was making a direct commentary on a barrier that stood for 10,315 days, in many cases dividing families as well as perceived ideologies. I’d say he got to the metaphorical root of what was a very real wall. That metaphor is still equally relevant in today’s discussion of division versus dialogue.
CW: You’re using the Margolis Method for this play. What are the basics?
IB: It’s is a dynamic approach to theatre making that puts the actor at the center of the creative process. It seeks to take the mystery out of acting by offering tangible, practicable exercises that allow the actor to build and hone their skills as a true craftsperson.
CW: How are your young performers handing the timely material?
IB: I find they grasp the parallels between this subject matter and current events. However, they don’t approach it in a heavy-handed way I would expect to see from adults without lots of direction. They understand that you can approach a touchy subject, yet still maintain enough distance to reveal the metaphors of the situation.
CW: Do you consider yourself to be pro-wall or anti-wall?
IB: Once I built a fence to keep trash from being blown or thrown into my yard. But that didn’t stop the fact that I can still wave to my neighbors. When I’ve built walls between other people and myself, I can’t say I’ve ever reaped any benefit. A lack of compassion and communication has been the only thing to grow. So yeah, I’m not so into walls.
More On Stage...
A Queer Comedy Showcase
Seattle-based comedian El Sanchez has been called everything from a “brilliant new voice” to a “grumpy nugget of delight” from admirers, and audiences in Bellingham will have a chance to experience the nonbinary comedian’s acute observations about life when they headline “Make.It.Work: A…
Of boats and butterflies
An uptick of performances set in the great outdoors this summer has meant that patrons of the arts in Whatcom and Skagit counties have been able to enjoy quality theatrical fare without having to give up the revelations of the evening’s waning light.
Caravan Stage Company is upping the…
Inside the summer of blood
In between watching an aged King Lear go stark raving mad and witnessing the bloodbath brought on by a Roman general known as Titus Andronicus, audiences at Shakespeare Northwest’s annual Ironman marathon can take a breather from the carnage by viewing The Grimm Shakespearean Tales of Uncle…