In the world of theater, there exists an imaginary fourth wall at the front of every stage, designed to help actors forget about the audience.
But sometimes, an actor chooses to break that fourth wall and communicate directly with audience members. Actor, musician, auctioneer and longtime islander Kevin Joyce will do just that with his original songs in a new concert, “Music and Healing,” at 7 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 20, at Vashon Center for the Arts’ Kay White Hall.
As co-founder of UMO Ensemble, Joyce is well known for his improvisation and humor, and for creating characters and musical scores for the ensemble. He’s also sung his own tunes around campfires at the Oregon County Fair and beyond, but presenting his private collection of personal songs — without the protection of a theatrical role — is novel, and performing them brings a certain level of vulnerability.
“This show is much more intimate,” he said in a recent interview. “Music is my first love, but it’s been my avocation. Not pursuing music as a career allowed me to pursue it for other reasons.”
Joyce grew up singing and playing guitar and piano, and though he wrote songs and choral scores for UMO, he often turned to music for solace, as a medium to “work things out.”
Some songs are serious, he said, and some provoke cathartic laughter — which isn’t surprising, considering the renowned humorist that he is.
And some he composed for his wife, Martha Enson, also co-founder of UMO and co-principal of EnJoy Productions, an event production company the duo established in 2003, together producing and performing over 500 events throughout the United States and abroad.
It wasn’t until VCA’s production and operations manager, Joe Panzetta, asked him to create the show that Joyce pondered the significance of his own music and what it meant to him.
“The opportunity to have a concert coincides with my phase in life right now, as I transition from being a performer to a creator/performer,” he said. “It’s an opportunity to share with my community some of the art I’ve made for myself and my tribe. At some point in life, you ask, ‘What can I do to help?’”
For Joyce, helping includes healing, which he claims happens in the process of making music. When he’s “confounded by something, and there’s no resolution, music allows for an expression of that very contrariness without being self-indulgent.” The purpose, he said, is to universalize it.
“It’s my job to use my musical voice to help articulate things I don’t know how to articulate and then share the experience,” Joyce said. “It’s ineffable — to the extent that I can get out of the way, the universal experience can be shared. The healing experience of playing the songs is like walking through a labyrinth, and I want to share them to see if they help others. In that sense it is the ancient shamanic — it is a sacred thing.”
Sharing in that sacred process will be island vocalists Kat Eggleston and Rebekah Kuzma, along with multi-instrumentalist Bill Moyer, and pianist, and reed player Eric Vanderbilt-Matthews.
With a deep bow to VCA, Joyce said he is “going out on a limb with this concert,” breaking the fourth wall and becoming vulnerable, because that’s what VCA and the Blue Heron have always provided for him — “a safe place that nurtured my creativity and my family and mini-tribe, where I can be super honest and real, and do it for the good of the community.”
And while he said he’ll be presenting his new song, “The Best Time to be Alive,” he added, with his trademark, infectious laugh, that he won’t be performing “I Hate Flip Flops” — no matter how many times he’s asked.
Tickets for the November 20 performance are available at vashoncenterfor thearts.org.