It was so sweet to hear their voices again.
That was my main takeaway from “Home,” a set of seven short new radio plays produced by a new company, Vashon Repertory Theatre, remarkably founded in the midst of the pandemic by islander Charlotte Tiencken.
The plays — some funny, some serious and others just wonderfully weird — made their debut on Vashon Center for the Arts’ website on Oct. 8, and are being re-broadcast on Voice of Vashon this week.
I caught the production from the comfort of my living room on Sunday night, after dimming the lights and making sure the little dog was settled in my lap.
And then, like magic — there they were again.
I heard the clear voices of local theater stalwarts Cate O’Kane, Tami Brockway Joyce, Jeanne Dougherty, Kat Eggelston, Amy Broomhall, Mik Kuhlman, Emily Bruce, Kate Dowling, Susan McCabe, Paul Shapiro and Michael Shook, who performed in the plays with other off-island talents.
I could also sense the way the performances had been shaped by local directors including Tiencken, Samantha Sherman, Darragh Kennan and Chris Boscia.
And of all the plays, my two favorites were by local playwrights Trista Baldwin and Bill Wood. Both of these were about married couples, one of them wackily happy and the other desperately in need of a divorce. My husband (and sole human companion these days) sat with me, listening to the plays, and we traded the most glances during those two offerings, as we telepathically exchanged jokes about where our own marriage fell on the spectrum.
Thanks to VRT’s partnership with Northwest Playwrights Alliance, there were also offerings from Arizona, Kentucky, Texas, New Zealand and Olympia, Washington playwrights — many of them either evocative of or directly about the experience of living through the pandemic.
Through it all, there were superb sound effects of everything from knocks on doors, to footsteps in the hall, to wind chimes in a garden, to waves lapping against the side of a boat in the middle of the ocean — kudos to Michael Golen-Johnson, Amy Broomhall and Gabriel Dawson for making so many different worlds come alive in an old-timey, radio theatre way.
The plays will be broadcast again, on Wednesday, Oct. 21, and Sunday, Oct. 25, on Voice of Vashon. Tune in — the program clocks in at a brisk one hour and fifteen minutes, and during it, you’ll feel time slip away and have the chance to experience a deep pang of pleasure in knowing that Vashon’s remarkable theater community is still out there, somewhere in the dark.
Of all the cruelties of 2020, perhaps one of the most acute, for me, is missing the joy of seeing my friends and neighbors perform.
I’m a rule follower, and a believer in science, and grateful for Gov. Jay Inslee’s many measures to keep the transmission of coronavirus in check.
But I’ve broken down in tears, more than once, at what I believe is the complete unfairness of Inslee’s almost total ban on live performances in Phase 2 counties on our state.
If restaurants can operate under complex rules, if weddings and funerals can still take place, if congregations can still gather together indoors for church on Sundays and beer drinkers can still stand around a brewery in the middle of town, then why can’t there also be strict protocols for small, outdoor, masked and socially-distanced presentations of theater, music and dance?
The arts have always been part of the air we breathe on Vashon. Let performers perform again, in some careful form or fashion, and let me be there to experience it.
I won’t really be home until then.
“Home,” will be re-broadcast at 2 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 21, and 8 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 25, on voiceofvashon.org. Vashon Repertory Theatre’s next radio theater production, “War of the Worlds,” will stream at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 30, at vashoncenterforthearts.org and on the Vashon Center for the Arts Facebook page. “War of the Worlds” is a classic piece of radio, first broadcast in 1938. At the time, it panicked thousands of listeners into the thinking of the U.S. was being invaded by Martians. On Halloween night, at 7 p.m. and 11 p.m., Voice of Vashon will also air VRT’s production of “War of the Worlds.”