Arts and Entertainment

Best Bet: don't miss last-ever performance of 'Pickett', tonight

Mike Vouri, in the title role, and folksinger Michael Cohen join in a rousing rendition of
Mike Vouri, in the title role, and folksinger Michael Cohen join in a rousing rendition of 'Benny Havens Oh' in a benefit performance of 'The Life & Times of General George E. Pickett' in the fall of 2013, in Bellingham.
— image credit: Contributed photo

You can be part of history and bid a final farewell to one of the longest-running, if not the longest-running, locally created, San Juan signature, dramatic productions, as the last-ever performance of "The Life & Times of General George E. Pickett" takes center stage Thursday, Aug. 21, at San Juan Community Theatre.

Curtain goes up at 7:30 p.m.

Mike Vouri (in the title role) and folksinger Michael Cohen have presented the play throughout the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia, plus a trip to the East Coast, for more than 17 years.

They shelved the comedy-drama in 2009, and then returned to the stage in 2011 to raise money for National Parks Service Ranger Darlene Wahl, who was battling cancer at the time.

"I know, we said we were done once before," said Vouri, chief historian of San Juan Island National Historical Park. "Then the performance for Darlene was so successful that Merritt Olsen (then theater executive director) urged us to bring it back… so we did, and it worked again for a while.”

But dwindling houses here and the death of Chris DeStaffany in January have spelled the end of the San Juan performances.

“We may do the show in some other form elsewhere, sometime down the road, but it will never be the same without Chris,” Vouri said. “Besides, we estimate that we’ve done close to 150 performances by now. That’s enough.”

The show ends where it started, in 1996—then Gubelman Thetare.

“That was before the 'black box' theatre days when the room was primarily used for meetings and receptions, and we actually rented a Confederate general’s uniform from a costume company,” Vouri recalls. “Chris came on board the next year and polished the script, we moved to the Whittier Theatre and then we were signed by the Washington State Humanities Commission 'Inquiring Minds' series. It just took off.”

The play covers Pickett’s life, from his boyhood in Richmond, Va., to his untimely death in the 1870s. Along the way, Vouri, as Pickett, offers a brisk interpretation of the 19th century United States and its territories through Pickett’s life, which touched almost all of the major themes, while Cohen plays banjo and sings period songs.

A few of the main events in Pickett’s life included the “Pig War,” when Pickett confronted Vancouver Island Governor Sir James Douglas and the Royal Navy over ownership of San Juan Island. The story culminates in the disastrous “Pickett’s Charge” that brought ruin to the Confederate Army at the Battle of Gettysburg during the American Civil War.

Purchase tickets, $15 adults, $8 students, online,, or at the theatre box office; for information, 360-378-3210.



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