On Stage

Unsung

Back in time with Beowulf

See

What: Unsung

Where: Livestreamed from the Sylvia Center

More:

WHEN: 7:30pm March 19-20 and 26-27, April 2-3

Cost: Suggested donation is $5-$15

Info: http://www.sylviacenterforthearts.org

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Rosalind Reynolds would be perfectly justified at holding a grudge against the universe for blighting the world with a pandemic that closed down most performing arts venues right around the time she was set to begin her stint as iDiOM Theater’s Playwright in Residence. But during a recent interview about her newest play, Unsung—which focuses on the dragon-slaying Beowulf before he became a mythical hero—it became clear that simply wasn’t the case.

Cascadia Weekly: What do you see as the main difference between the short plays you wrote as a kid and the ones you’ve penned as an adult?

Rosalind Reynolds: I’d say my current work has a deeper engagement with the tender pathos of the human condition, and fewer flying ponies.

CW: You’ve expanded your talents to include writing full-length productions. What additional skills have you needed to acquire along the way?

RR: I’ve been writing all my life, but learning to adapt my writing style to the stage has been a whole new venture. I took some playwriting classes from Glenn Hergenhahn-Zhao, artistic director at the iDiOM Theater, to learn the fundamentals. Now that I’m Playwright in Residence, Glenn has been helping me edit my scripts, which has been like a master class in playwriting. I’m used to writing long fiction, so learning how to say more with less has probably been the trickiest lesson for me.

CW: As the PIR, you’ve contributed works that make iconic people and characters from the long-distant past come alive. Does having a PhD in medieval history come in handy when you’re pondering these story ideas?

RR: When does a PhD in medieval history not come in handy? I’ve always been drawn to stories from the past, and what they can teach us about who we are and where we come from. The story of Beowulf, for example, can feel distant and alien, until we realize how much the ideals of patriarchal warrior culture are still floating around in our collective psyche. If we want things to be different in the future, we first need to come to terms with our past and present.

CW: How has your playwriting process changed during the pandemic? What about associated creative collaborations?

RR: Well, my writing process involves shutting myself up in a room with a laptop, a cat, and a donut, so the pandemic hasn’t affected that much. And even though we’re meeting over Zoom or in masks, I still get to collaborate with a group of fantastic humans to make art. It’s a sweet gig.

If anything, the pandemic has heightened the urgency of what we’re doing. In hard times, people need art more than ever to process and give meaning to what they’re going through. My previous play, Julian the Humble, was born out of the pandemic experience, and I think that’s the reason it resonated with audiences as strongly as it did.

CW: Do you feel cheated because you’re not presently able to see your shows being performed in front of live audiences?

RR: We all miss live audiences, and look forward to having them back. But the livestream shows have worked better than I ever imagined. Thanks to masterful directing and camera work, they’re a pretty good theatrical experience in their own right. Plus, they give us the opportunity to reach a wider audience. We’ve been getting viewers from across the country and even the world, and not all of them are my relatives. If anyone has been avoiding tuning in to the livestreams because theater over Zoom doesn’t sound like fun, I’d encourage folks to give it a try.

CW: Your next play being livestreamed from the Sylvia Center’s Lucas Hicks Theater is described as “an imagined prequel to Beowulf.” How else would you describe it?

RR: The great hero Beowulf is about to face his final battle when his life flashes before his eyes. Or at least, a certain key period in his youth, back when it was still possible to imagine a different life. Transported back in memory, he sees the person he’s become through the eyes of the child he once was.

CW: In the play, Beowulf is seen as a kid struggling to grow up in a world that doesn’t yet value his strengths. Is he just a touchy teen, or is his struggle real?

RR: Well, he does get teased a lot. And his father is a famous warrior with PTSD and a drinking problem. And he’s about to get torn away from everything he loves and pulled into an unending cycle of violence and revenge, knowing that his eventual death will mean the obliteration of his tribe. So yeah, typical teen stuff.

CW: When you’re writing about characters people feel they already know, what are ways to differentiate them?

RR: Even if we think we know these characters, we don’t know them as three-dimensional human beings. Taking figures from the past or from legend and fleshing them out into something human and relatable is my favorite part of the process. I want the audience to forget that they’re watching an iconic figure, and instead come to believe that this character is a real person that they might bump into on the street and go have a beer with. If they see themselves in the character, all the better. Obviously a lot of this is on the actors, but it begins with the script.

CW: I noticed there’s a Jesse Reynolds in the cast playing the young Beowulf. Any relation?

RR: Yes. My son has been acting with the iDiOM for several years now. He’s actually the one who got me into theater, not the other way around. This experience of getting to work together on a project has been really fun for at least one of us.

CW: After Unsung, what other productions and projects are coming up for you?

RR: I’ve got a couple new scripts in the works. One is a quirky adaptation of Tristan and Isolde. The other is a slightly darker piece about Lord Byron. I feel sure I can work a flying pony into that one.

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Tulip Poster Artists, Past and Present

11:00am

The fifth annual “Tulip Poster Artists, Past and Present” exhibit can be seen from 11am-5pm Wednesday through Sunday through May 2 in Anacortes at the Scott Milo Gallery, 420 Commercial Ave.…

Sculpture Northwest Exhibit

11:00am

The works of 15 Sculpture Northwest artists can be viewed both indoors and out from 11am-5pm Fridays through Sundays (and by appointment) through April 23 on Camano Island at Matzke Fine Art…

Scatter Sunshine

11:00am

From 11am-5pm Wednesday through Sunday, visit La Conner’s Pacific Northwest Quilt & Fiber Arts Museum, 703 S. Second St. Currently on display are “Scatter Sunshine: La Conner in Bloom…

Spring Juried Exhibit and More

12:00pm

A “Spring Juried Exhibit,” “Winter Textile Explorations,” Lisa McShane’s “A Decade of Landscapes,” and Ron Pattern’s “The Seasonal Forest” can be viewed from 12pm-4:30pm Thursdays through…

Seeds of Culture at Whatcom Museum

12:00pm

View “Seeds of Culture: The Portraits and Voices of Native American Women,” “Fluid Formations: The Legacy of Glass in the Pacific Northwest,” “Jac Trautman: The Specter of the Indigenous,”…

A Road Well Traveled

12:00pm

“Max Benjamin: A Road Well Traveled” can be seen from 12pm-4pm Thursdays through Sundays at La Conner’s Museum of Northwest Art, 121 First St. The solo exhibit featuring the work of the…

An Artist's Universe

10:00am

View painter and mixed-media master David Syre’s latest installation, “An Artist’s Universe,” hanging throughout the corridors, lobby and dining room of Hotel Bellwether and the Lighthouse…

McKnight and DeLacy

10:00am

Mixed-media works by Bainbridge Island-based artist Aaron McKnight and sculptures by Marceil DeLacy can be viewed from 10am-5pm Fridays through Sundays through April 25 in Edison at Smith &…

Briggs Shore at Good Earth

11:00am

Vases, planters and drinking vessels by Briggs Shore will be on display and for sale from 11am-5pm Mondays through Saturdays (closed Tuesdays) and 12pm-5pm Sundays through April 30 at Good…

Whatcom Art Market

11:00am

Works by as many as 45 Whatcom Art Guild members can be viewed from 11am-5pm Tuesdays through Sundays at Whatcom Art Market, 1103 11th St.

Tulip Poster Artists, Past and Present

11:00am

The fifth annual “Tulip Poster Artists, Past and Present” exhibit can be seen from 11am-5pm Wednesday through Sunday through May 2 in Anacortes at the Scott Milo Gallery, 420 Commercial Ave.…

Scatter Sunshine

11:00am

From 11am-5pm Wednesday through Sunday, visit La Conner’s Pacific Northwest Quilt & Fiber Arts Museum, 703 S. Second St. Currently on display are “Scatter Sunshine: La Conner in Bloom…

The Work of Jesus Guillén

11:00am

“The Work of Jesus Guillen: An Artistic Legacy of Love and Courage” can be seen from 11am-4pm Fridays through Sundays through May 2 in La Conner at the Skagit County Historical Museum, 501 S.…

Rock, Paper, Paint

11:00am

“Rock, Paper, Paint” shows from 11am-4pm Fridays through Sundays through April 25 in Edison at i.e. gallery, 5800 Cains Court. The exhibit features new “drop” oil paintings by Allen Moe, rock…

Sculpture Northwest Exhibit

11:00am

The works of 15 Sculpture Northwest artists can be viewed both indoors and out from 11am-5pm Fridays through Sundays (and by appointment) through April 23 on Camano Island at Matzke Fine Art…

A Road Well Traveled

12:00pm

“Max Benjamin: A Road Well Traveled” can be seen from 12pm-4pm Thursdays through Sundays at La Conner’s Museum of Northwest Art, 121 First St. The solo exhibit featuring the work of the…

Seeds of Culture at Whatcom Museum

12:00pm

View “Seeds of Culture: The Portraits and Voices of Native American Women,” “Fluid Formations: The Legacy of Glass in the Pacific Northwest,” “Jac Trautman: The Specter of the Indigenous,”…

Art-iversary Exhibit

10:00am

From 10am-5:30pm Mondays through Saturdays through April 30, celebrate 20 years of ownership for Sheri Wright of Fourth Corner Frames, 311 W. Holly St. A wide variety of works are for sale as…

Seeds of Culture at Whatcom Museum

12:00pm

View “Seeds of Culture: The Portraits and Voices of Native American Women,” “Fluid Formations: The Legacy of Glass in the Pacific Northwest,” “Jac Trautman: The Specter of the Indigenous,”…