Arts and Entertainment

Outdoor performance captures local history

Elizabeth Mendana Shaw will perform in “Waves Across Vashon.” - Courtesy Photo
Elizabeth Mendana Shaw will perform in “Waves Across Vashon.”
— image credit: Courtesy Photo

In celebration of its 100th anniversary, the Episcopal Church of the Holy Spirit will put on a dance, music and poetry performance based on the history of Vashon this Saturday.

“Waves Across Vashon,” a secular, 25-minute performance, will tell the history of the land and people of Vashon “from glacier to glacier,” said Rev. Carla Pryne. It will tell the happy stories and the horrific stories, to form a complete, true history, she said.

“We are not trying to make light of past mistakes of the human race,” said dancer and choreographer Elizabeth Mendana Shaw. “We are trying to move forward and honor it for what it was.”

The piece, encompassing 15,000 years of history, will not focus on specific events, organizers say, but will be one flowing piece. In addition to the dancing by Shaw, Tom Amarose will read poetry he has written, and Paul Swenson will perform original music.

Shaw moved to Vashon three years ago from San Francisco, where she had her own modern dance company. Amarose and Swenson are also highly acclaimed for their work in writing and composition, respectively. All of the performers are islanders, and the show is for islanders specifically.

“There are some references that you will only get if you are an islander,” Pryne said.

The event marks the second year of the church’s three-year celebration of its centennial, which has had a strong focus on history. Last year, the church made 5-foot tall history panels, one for each decade of the church’s existence. Pryne said she sees the upcoming event as a way to look at the parish in the wider context of the island and the people of Vashon.

“We want to celebrate and give thanks for the gift of this land and the people who have called it home,” she said.

Pryne also sees it as a way to bring the island together. She consciously made the performance a secular piece, so that people of all faiths and backgrounds could relate to it, “striving for the common sacred language,” she said. She wanted it to be about telling local stories, which she sees as being more prominent here than in some other communities.

“Everywhere you go, there is a story,” she said. “You feel it here. The stories are much nearer to the surface here. They haven’t been paved over.”

Stressing the goal of unity among the community and with the land, Pryne said she felt it was important that the piece take place on public outdoor land, settling on Ober Park as the perfect spot.

“The only thing we all share is the gift of this land and the people who cared for it and struggled with it before us,” she said.

The Vashon-Maury Island Heritage Museum and the Land Trust are co-sponsors of the event, which will be free.

Although the performance will not leave out the hardships of the island’s history, Pryne said it will also include elements of humor and playfulness.

“It’s playful because the human experience is about love and suffering and humor and play,” she said.

The performance will be at 2 p.m. Saturday in Ober Park. The rain date ill be Aug. 31.

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