Westlot Readers Theater
When the stage is a parking lot
What: Westlot Readers Theater Series
Where: Bellingham Theatre Guild, 1600 H St.
WHEN: 2pm July 31 (She Kills Monsters), Aug. 14 (The Further Adventures of Nick Danger, Third Eye), Bellingham Playwrights Grab Bag (Aug. 28), and Sept. 11 (The Guys)
Cost: Entry is by donation
Wednesday, July 28, 2021
On a recent Saturday afternoon, the parking lot at the Bellingham Theatre Guild was buzzing with action. Wannabee thespians had gathered to audition for the inaugural Westlot Readers Theater Series, and even though they were doing so on hot tarmac, they were thrilled to be there. To find out more about the series, we caught up with director Sean Walbeck, who will debut the parking lot plays Sat., July 31 with Qui Nguyen’s oft-produced dramatic comedy, She Kills Monsters.
Cascadia Weekly: What was it like hosting open auditions in a parking lot?
Sean Walbeck: Hot! And fun!
CW: Were auditioners nervous or excited—or both?
SW: We were worried nobody would show and we got 35 people—and everybody was excited! They were keen to get to read parts with other people, to listen to the different plays we read from, and excited about the upcoming BTG season of opportunities. There was a genuine sense that theater was back.
CW: Will rehearsals also take place in the parking lot?
SW: So far, yes. The weather’s been on our side, and it gets you used to how vibrant the outdoors can be for performance. We reserved space indoors in case of inclement weather, but it hasn’t been an issue yet.
CW: How did you come up with the lineup for the series?
SW: I picked plays that would read well outdoors—big personalities, big reputations, and surprisingly haven’t played in Bellingham yet. She Kills Monsters is one of the most produced plays in the U.S.; The Further Adventures of Nick Danger, Third Eye is a stage version of the Firesign Theatre radio spoof, and The Guys is based on the true story of a woman who helped a New York City fire chief write funeral speeches in the aftermath of 9/11, which we’ll read on the 20th anniversary of 9/11.
CW: What’s up with the Bellingham Playwrights Grab Bag?
SW: Bellingham playwrights were asked to rummage through their trunks and submit short plays that hadn’t been produced in Bellingham before. We’ve got directors reading the scripts to see which ones they’ll direct as a reading, and those readings will be Westlot Readings number three on August 28.
CW: How does it make you feel to be back at the BTG?
SW: Did I ever leave? With all the administrative work getting The Harry & Sam Dialogues to their award-winning showing at AACTFest’21, and securing rights for Marla Bronstein’s Virtual Play Series and the upcoming season, it feels like I’ve been as busy at BTG as ever, with fewer plays to physically attend. Though seeing actors rehearsing in their camp chairs, laughing at what they get to do, that surprised me how much that feels like home to me.
CW: What was the biggest lesson you learned about yourself during lockdown?
SW: If you don’t work your art in the downtimes, maybe it’s not your art. It forced me to double down on why I do what I do.
CW: Can you explain how readers theater differs from a traditional play for people who may not be in the know?
SW: Readers theater is a rehearsed reading with no technical extras like sets, costumes, sound or lights—just the actors, the text in their hands, and the audience. Like bedtime narratives, it’s an inexpensive way to tell the stories of the stage with the emotional impact of radio drama, the experienced voices of audio books, and the communal feel of story time.
CW: Since the lot will be off-limits, where should people park?
SW: It’s not off-limits. Bellingham Theatre Guild has an enormous parking lot. We’ll just be blocking off the H Street entrance during showtimes, and we’ll have traffic cones separating parking from people watching. The best time to come and set up is between 1:15pm and 1:45pm.
CW: How long are the shows?
SW: Most are around 90 minutes or less. They are filled with adult language and adult situations, so bring your openness, your own snacks, maybe sunglasses, and your own chair! You don’t want to sit on the pavement, do you?