Arts and Entertainment

100 years of stories: A special centennial Playwrights Festival opens Jan. 28

Joy Van Camp portrays Ruth Sundstrom in
Joy Van Camp portrays Ruth Sundstrom in 'Salt, Pepper, Sugar,' in the Islands Playwrights Festival.
— image credit: Contributed / Janet Ludwig

Unique glimpses into San Juan Island’s history, people and culture come alive in San Juan Community Theatre’s intimate Gubelman Theatre during the 2010 Islands Playwrights Festival, Jan. 28-31 and Feb. 5-7 and 11-14.

The annual festival’s 2010 theme, “Centennial Stories,” marks the final event in the celebration of Friday Harbor’s Centennial. The festival’s four short plays, four monologues, staged reading and special lecture range from broad comedy to drama and mystery.

Presented in three separate groupings, each runs over a different weekend.

The road to the Gubelman has been an extensive one. During the winter of 2008-09, writers submitted play proposals based on an island individual, historical place or event that occurred during the last 100 years. Once proposals were accepted, and thanks to a grant from the San Juan Island Community Foundation, the writers were trained in April in “story circle” techniques by Donna Porterfield of Appalachia’s Roadside Theatre. The process continued with more research, readings, production preparations and finally, auditions and rehearsals.

Playwright Greg Sutherland said the story circles and group sharing opened “the tap for stories to just come pouring out” and that it gave him the ability to add more details and textures to his play. Don Pollard, who crafted his short play around the value of memories and the loss when they are no longer remembered, hopes “the group of plays we produce will rekindle memories and record them for others to discover ... and possibly remember.”

Here’s the schedule.

Jan. 28-30, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 31, 2 p.m.
— “The Fair.”
Written by Greg Sutherland, directed by Doug Schirmer. Celebrates the island’s annual tribal gathering and the fabric of family.

— “Delivered.” Written by Debbie Emery, directed by Anita Welch. Birth stories from three eras.

— “Salt, Pepper, Sugar.” Written by Emily Reed and Carolyn Haugen, directed by Tony Vivenzio. Monologues of three island women: Martha Gubelman, Dixy Lee Ray and Ruth Sundstrom.

The playwrights listened to oral histories at the San Juan Historical Museum in doing research for the play.

Feb. 5-6, 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 7, 2 p.m.
— “Walking to War”
(a staged reading). Written by Wendy E. Shepard, co-directed by Ernest Pugh and Wendy E. Shepard. A dramatic dialogue on how the human family can transform itself into one that settles conflicts without violence.

Shepard met with local veterans in researching for her play.

— “The Art & Craft of Playwrighting,” a lecture by Antoinette Botsford, San Juan County storyteller and playwright. The fine connection between storytelling and playwrighting.

Feb. 11-13, 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 14, 2 p.m.
— “Tangled Memories,”
written by Don Pollard, directed by Jane Campbell. Memory, dreams and reality meld at Memorial Park.

— “Charlie Holds a Meeting,” written by Chris DeStaffany, directed by Ed Wilson. An imaginative recounting of Charlie McKee’s speech on the vices of drink.

— “Light at Limekiln,” written by Jennifer Beck Furber, directed by John Davis. A memory piece about 1930s Limekiln Lighthouse residents told in narrative verse.

The festival’s business partner is Best Western Friday Harbor Suites. Tickets are $17 for adults, $9 for student reserved, with $5 student RUSH one hour before the show if there are still seats available. A special series discount is available at the box office for tickets to each of the three weekends.

The box office is open Tuesdays through Fridays, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tickets may also be purchased online at www.sjctheatre.org.

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