On Thursday night, islanders can tune in to the world premiere of “Penny Tahlequah and the Ms. Olsen Incident,” a new murder mystery radio play created and produced for Vashon by novelist Amy Drayer, who grew up on Vashon in the 1980s and 90s.
The show, produced by Take A Stand Productions and directed by its artistic director Chris Boscia, features an all-local cast including Meghan Ames, Sarah Howard, Kaycie Alanis, Megan Hastings, Elric Baker and Toby Nichols, with sound design, Foley and FX by local artist West McLean.
The premiere will happen at 7 p.m. Thursday, July 1, on Voice of Vashon. Two live performances of the show will also be presented in Snapdragon’s outdoor garden patio, at 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, July 3.
The play couldn’t be set in a more recognizable place, with the action taking place in 1986 on a thinly-veiled fictional island in Puget Sound. The plot centers around the legendary hydroplane races that take place in the island’s surrounding waters every July 4 (sound familiar?) and characters in the play include a nosy reporter for the local newspaper and a bevy of other irascible and endearing island types — one of them a murderer.
Drayer, who now splits her time between Vashon and Denver, said that she had written the play as a love song to the place she came of age — and also hidden a few “Easter eggs” throughout the show that shout out some of the people and places she remembers from her childhood.
Working with Boscia and the all-local cast of “Penny Tahlequah,” she said, has been a joy — and her way of giving back to the place she came of age.
“Vashon is unique in the world that our moat gets ever smaller,” she said, adding that her purpose in writing the show was to celebrate the island’s heritage in a way that called to mind “old school local newspapers meets Prairie Home Companion meets old time radio.”
The show isn’t Drayer’s first foray into inserting her old hometown into her literary efforts. Recently, she published the novel “Revelation” — the first in a three-part series called “The Makah Island Mysteries,” set on another Vashon-like island in Puget Sound.
A writing career is a second act for Drayer, after years spent in Washington, D.C. where she worked in electoral politics. Since leaving all that behind to devote herself to writing, she has graduated from the Lighthouse Writers Workshop Book Project and published short stories and novels. She is the managing editor of the museum of americana literary journal, and editor of the 2022 Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers anthology.
“Penny Tahlequah” marks Drayer’s debut as a playwright.
For director Chris Boscia, the show is both a return to form as a well-traveled and experienced theater artist, and also, his launch as artistic director of Take A Stand Productions, a local company now devoted to celebrating and centering voices that have been excluded, misrepresented, or silenced in traditional theater.
“Our vision is becoming clearer than ever and is now focused on producing more and more BIPOC and LGBTQ productions as well as continuing to present women playwrights,” Boscia said.
He also said he was thrilled to bring “Penny Tahlequah” to islanders after the long hiatus of live theater during the pandemic, and he gave high praise to his ensemble.
“The cast and crew for ‘Penny Tahlequah’ have made me look very good, to be honest,” he said. “They are not only a hoot to work with, but have brought very solid voices and personalities to a very unique old fashioned murder mystery with a twist.”
There is limited seating for the live performances of the show, taking place at 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m Saturday, July 3, in Snapdragon’s outdoor garden patio.
If still available, tickets can be purchased at brownpapertickets.com; a few seats will also be sold at the door, for cash only, shortly before each performance.
To find out more about Drayer’s Makah Island Mysteries Series, visit makahislandmysteries.com.