Vashon Theater Fest opens this week, bringing theater-starved islanders the chance to see Shakespeare, a musical about Woody Guthrie, UMO Ensemble’s take on Samuel Beckett and readings of new plays — all taking place from June 22 to Aug. 1 at Ober Park, Open Space for Arts & Community, Snapdragon Bakery & Cafe, and Vashon Center for the Arts.
Ober Park and Open Space shows will take place outdoors, while those at VCA and Snapdragon will be held indoors. Previously, the festival had announced that Spapdragon’s shows would take place outdoors, but this week made a last-minute switch at that location, citing the indoor space’s better sound system as the reason for the move.
At Vashon Center for the Arts, an award-winning one-woman show, “Bo-Nita,” is set for four performances at Vashon Center for the Arts at 7 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, July 27 to 31, and 2 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 1, in the Kay White Hall of Vashon Center for the Arts.
“Bo-Nita,” written by Seattle-based playwright Elizabeth Heffron, picked up the 2019 Best Storytelling Show Award at the United Solo Festival in New York City and the 2014 Edgarton New Play Award from the national organization, Theatre Communications Group (TCG). The play had its world premiere at Seattle Repertory Theatre in 2013.
Terri Weagant, a New York actor, will reprise her bravura performance in the one-woman show, playing both the title character of a precocious 13-year old Midwestern girl as well as six other characters who are part of the girl’s dysfunctional family life.
Weagant has won praise from many critics for her nimble and deeply moving portrayal of so many characters — while keeping the focus on the resilient child at the center of the story.
Sarasota, Florida’s Your Observer called Weagant’s performance “a quick-change performance worthy of the late Robin Williams.”
“Bo-Nita” is just one part of the Vashon Theatre Fest — an endeavor presented by Vashon Repertory Theatre that will include 33 performances over the course of two weeks.
Charlotte Tiencken, a longtime islander, theater professional and the founder of Vashon Repertory Theater, described the festival as an exciting chance for audiences to come together to experience multiple types of performances in a concentrated time. Her aim, she said, is to get people thinking about the arts in a different way.
She also said that the eagerness of the island theatre community to get back to work and Vashon’s high vaccination rate contributed to her conviction that the time was right for the festival.
“This has been a dream of mine for some time, and my feeling is, if not now, when?” she said.
Elizabeth Klob, the executive artist of UMO Ensemble and the director of “Fail Better,” said she and the cast of the show were looking forward to their return to live performance on Vashon — and would do so with a show she believes will resonate with islanders after the long pandemic year.
“What most excites UMO about recreating this work is continuing to explore the timeless themes of Samuel Beckett — isolation, longing for connection, questioning the very purpose of existence,” Klob said. “I feel like the pandemic has laid these issues bare for many of us. We are excited to move them in our bodies again and talk to the audience afterward.”
The first weekend of the festival has a packed schedule.
Theatrical takes on two very different writers — Woody Guthrie and Samuel Becket — will open the fest on Thursday, July 23, with outdoor performances of the musical “Woody Guthrie’s American Songbook” at 6 p.m. at Ober Park, and “Fail Better” at 6 p.m. at Open Space For Arts & Community.
On Friday, July 23, new works by Northwest playwrights will be read by local actors at 4 p.m at Snapdragon Bakery & Cafe, and a production of Shakespeare’s The Tempest will open at Open Space at 6 p.m.
On Saturday, July 24, there will be four more performances: a 2 p.m. performance of “Woody Guthrie’s American Songbook, at 2 p.m., at Ober Park; “Fail Better,” at 2 p.m., at Open Space; more play-readings at 4 p.m., at Snapdragon; and “The Tempest” again presented at 6 p.m. at Open Space.
On Sunday, July 24, the festival rolls on with more play-readings and additional performances of “The Tempest,” the Woody Guthrie musical, and “Fail Better.”
For complete information about the schedule for the entire festival, and to purchase tickets for both weekends, including “Bo-Nita” on the fest’s second weekend, visit brownpapertickets.com. Festival passes give attendees access to all the festival’s offerings. Admission to individual shows starts at $15, with a 5% savings on the purchase of a weekend pass.
COVID protocols in place for the just-announced indoor readings at Snapdragon will include limited seating, opening doors and windows in the space, and encouraging those who want to wear masks to do so, organizers said.