On Stage

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Sylvia Center makes its mark

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

During the late-night showing of iDiOM Theater’s 48th iteration of its popular 48-Hour Theater Festival last Friday, there was a moment I was convinced I had gone back in time.

In addition to featuring familiar faces from the theater’s 16-year history, the evening’s performances were also the first in the Sylvia Center for the Arts’ recently completed Lucas Hicks Theater. And, like me, those who frequented iDiOM’s former digs on Cornwall Avenue probably couldn’t help but notice the similarities between the two spaces—from the tiered seating to the placement of the stage and the sound booth.

After the lights went up, exhausted cast member and iDiOM founder Glenn Hergenhahn-Zhao confirmed that although the 160-seat space was brand spanking new—as in volunteers-had-been-up-until-4am-the-previous-night-screwing-down-seats new—much of the design harkened back to the original theater.

But much is different. In addition to being much larger than its predecessor, the Lucas Hicks Theater also shares close proximity with a smaller studio theater, swanky restrooms, a green room that actually has enough elbow space for all cast members—plus its own bathroom—and a spiffy lobby that doubles as an art gallery.

The changes will come in handy now that the Sylvia Center is making good on its promise to integrate a variety of arts organizations and contributors into the creative hub.

For example, Bellingham TheatreWorks has been selected to be one of more than a dozen resident theater companies who will eventually make the space their home base, and will kick off its latest season with veteran actor Ian Bivins reprising his role in The Gun Show Thurs., May 17 at the Studio Theater.

“We have presented plays in shoe stores, high schools and nightclubs,” Bellingham TheatreWorks’ cofounder Steve Lyons says. “The last time we presented The Gun Show we performed in a brewery. Did we want to perform in a brewery? No. But Bellingham just has not had a real theater that is affordable to community performing arts groups.

“Now, due to the enthusiastic support of the community and the dedication of a core group of theater artists, we have the Sylvia Center. It is long overdue, and we are honored to be a part of its inaugural season.”

Opening on the same day as Catalina Sunshine—a family-friendly musical with an element of magic that will debut in the Lucas Hicks Theatre—Lyons describes The Gun Show as a heartfelt play about one person’s conflicted relationship with guns.

“Since we first presented this play in 2016, gun violence continues to escalate,” Lyons says. “The recent Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre is a reminder that the issue of guns in America continues to be relevant to our nation’s conversation.”

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