7th Street Kids prepares for 31st Summer Theater Workshop

The popular 7th Street Kids musical theater workshops will present Disney’s “Aladdin KIDS” and Disney’s “Newsies JR” at Hoquiam’s historic 7th St. Theatre this July. Auditions for Grays Harbor children ages 7-16 will take place Saturday, June 4. Parts are available for 60 children who want the life-changing opportunity to hone their acting, dancing and singing skills to become part of a live theater production after a concentrated time of rehearsals. Both shows begin rehearsals in mid-June, with “Aladdin KIDS,” a 30-minute show, rehearsing for three weeks and performing July 8, 9 and 10. The second program, “Newsies, JR,” a two-hour show, is a six-week workshop with performances slated for July 28, 29, 30 and 31.

In 1992, Micki Colwell, a theater enthusiast from Aberdeen, realized her dream of establishing a musical theater program for Grays Harbor kids in the 7th Street Theatre where she had enjoyed many wonderful theatrical productions. Sadly, Colwell died the year of the 10th anniversary production. She certainly would have been proud to see how her 7th Street Kids Summer Theater Program is still going strong 31 years later, continuing its mission of “fostering and encouraging the growth and development of children and children’s theater for our community.”

Mary Nelson, current 7th Street Kids president and treasurer, joined the board in 2001. “I don’t have any kids. I was recruited by Micki for board diversity,” she quips. Nelson recalls that after Colwell’s death, Brad Duffy, who was the Grays Harbor College drama instructor at the time, stepped in as producer. Now retired, Duffy still acts as a consultant and advisor to the board of the non-profit organization.

Some new elements have been introduced to the 2022 program. The former mini-camp, which already saw some expansion last year, has grown this year to the fully costumed, 30-minute production. Karin Noble will direct the cast of 30 kids in three performances of “Aladdin KIDS.”

Photo By Christine Vincent

Noble is a theater pro with a background in theater instruction, choreography and directing. She moved to Ocean Shores in 2014, taking part in three shows with Stage West before joining the board of 7th Street Kids in 2018.

Noble gets emotional when talking about the community-building aspect of the 7th Street Kids productions: “Everybody helps, parent volunteers, grandparents. We are a theater family! We draw from all school districts.  Kids come here, meet each other, form life-long friendships and learn valuable life skills. We are also raising actors for Grays Harbor’s amazing stages.”

As for the two-hour “Newsies JR” show, Kendall Cavin, will direct its four performances.

“‘Newsies’ is an inspirational story about the 1890 New York City newsboys strike,” explains Cavin. “They gave me three shows to choose from. I picked “Newsies JR” because of the great music and because this true story is one that kids should know about.”

Cavin, a 2019 Aberdeen High School graduate, is a theater student at Whitworth University in Spokane. She is one of the many former 7th Street Kids who graduated from the program at age 16 and remained involved with the production team. She worked herself up from education and activity director to assistant director of “Matilda” in 2019, and finally to director of the JR show in 2021. “I just love to spend my summers here,” she says.

With two fully costumed shows, Jeannie McNeal, will be busy. She has been with the 7th Street Kids from the beginning, when her daughter Meghan performed in the very first show, “The Wizard of Oz.” McNeal is known for her competent and inventive work as costume designer and costumer.

As head of the production committee, McNeal explains the selection committee’s criteria for choosing shows: “They need to be popular with the public, and they need to be shows the kids would love to do. They also need to appeal to younger and older kids. And, Covid 19 still prevents our pit orchestra from playing, so we needed a show with an accompanying music track.”

Photo courtesy of 7th Street Kids

The 7th Street Kids summer workshops are financed through community donations, tuition, ticket sales and an endowment by the Bishop Foundation. Nelson mentions a new scholarship fund by private donors, administered by the Grays Harbor Community Foundation. “The new fund, along with the Bishop Foundation endowment, will ensure that no child will be left out for financial reasons – for generations to come,” she said.

Registration and audition information is on the website www.7thstreetkids.org. Inquire until June 4 about available space in the workshops.

Live theater bringing song, dance and laughs back to Bishop Center

After two years of coping with a pandemic, what Grays Harborites need is to gather together and have a good laugh – albeit with their masks on.

That’s exactly what Grays Harbor College’s Andrew Gaines and the cast and crew of “Something Rotten!” hope to provide in live performances at the Bishop Center for the Performing Arts in early March.

“For our return to in-person musicals, we selected a contemporary comedy to provide our community some needed relief from stress of the last two years,” said Gaines, who is directing and choreographing the show.

“We can’t wait to be back in the Bishop Center with everyone to enjoy the healing power of live theater again,” he said.

The Tony-nominated Broadway hit from 2015, “Something Rotten!” is set in the 1590s. Brothers Nick and Nigel Bottom are desperate to write a hit play but are stuck in the shadow of that Renaissance rockstar, “The Bard.” 

When they find out that the future of theater involves singing, dancing and acting at the same time, the two are determined to write the world’s first musical. However, the Bottom brothers have several obstacles to overcome before opening night. 

Photo by Rick Moyer

Gaines can relate to obstacles in putting on a play as he readies the cast and crew to perform a live show during a pandemic. “Rehearsals have been frustrating at times right from the start due to disruptions beyond our control,” Gaines said. “We’ve been forced to run rehearsals with a Zoom room because of Covid infections, being a close contact, cold or flu symptoms, the snow storm, and then floods. Nevertheless, we are soldiering on.” The last time Grays Harbor College produced an in-person show was “Oliver!” in March of 2020.

 “We were lucky enough to perform one weekend of shows but had to shut down the second weekend as Covid arrived,” the director recalled. “It was heartbreaking for everyone – totally surreal and shocking.” With that lingering memory, it’s not surprising that Gaines said that he’s finding returning to in-person performances comes with mixed emotions.

Photo by Rick Moyer

“Foremost is gratitude, joy and hope. Our cast, crew, administrators and audiences have been craving this homecoming. Preparing this hilariously clever show makes the return even more satisfying. In the midst of Omicron’s scary rise, we get to laugh, dance and sing!” “Witnessing the show step closer into focus with every rehearsal is incredibly satisfying. Yet all that joy is somewhat tempered by a constant low-grade fear,” Gaines said.

“Not only of infections spreading in the cast and crew, but also that ‘Something Rotten!’ will meet the same fate as ‘Oliver!’  or worse – no performances at all.” The cast has been rehearsing masked and maintaining distance whenever possible.

“The plan is to perform unmasked and we will be taking several measures to increase our safety, including frequent testing,” Gaines said. In addition, audiences will be required to present a vaccination card or proof of a negative Covid test taken within 72 hours. Audience members must also wear a mask at all times.

In addition to Gaines as director and choreographer, the large production team includes William Dyer as music director, Ian Dorsch as vocal director, Tamara Helland as associate choreographer, and Natasha Brown-Williams as both stage manager and assistant director. Also, Natasha and Karin Noble are assistant choreographers.

The primary cast includes Matthew Kline and Jake Conrad as the Bottom brothers, Casey Bronson as Shakespeare, Julayne Fleury as Nostradamus, Al Holt as Bea, Libby Carrico as Portia, and Bryan Blackburn as Brother Jeremiah. In addition, many other actors and singers are part of the ensemble and featured chorus.

As proud as Gaines said he is of the virtual music revue, “Songs for Another Day,” which was presented online in the spring of 2021, his excitement about doing live theater again is palpable. “Nothing compares to the feeling of being in the theater and hearing the applause, laughter, or that on-the-edge-of-your-seat silence,” he said.

“Something Rotten!”  plays at the Bishop Center for the Performing Arts, Grays Harbor College. Some material in “Something Rotten!” may be inappropriate for children. Viewer discretion is advised for those under 16.

March 4, 5, 6, 11, 12,13

Friday, Saturday at 7:30 p.m.

Sunday 2 p.m.

adults $25; seniors $22; students $15,

and 12 and younger $10

Tickets: www.ghc.edu/bishop

or (360) 538-4066.

Proof of vaccination or a negative Covid test within 72 hours prior to the performance is required for entrance to the theater. Masks will be required at all times while at the Bishop Center.

The show must go on for Brad Duffy

Brad Duffy loves a good story. He loves to watch a good story and he loves to create a good story for others to watch.

After 26 years teaching classes and directing plays as the communications and theater arts instructor for Grays Harbor College, Duffy retired in 2018.  He was now free to enjoy a life of leisure, spend more time with his two daughters and granddaughter, and play more racquetball, bridge and pinochle.

“It’s worked out well. I get to do all the things I want to do and none of the things I don’t want to do,” says Duffy, 71. Turns out – no surprise – what he likes to do is theater, to tell a good story. 

Not only is Duffy still the executive producer of the 7th Street Kids Theatre, a role he’s had since 2000, but he’s also the new president of Driftwood Players, Aberdeen’s all-volunteer community theater. He’s recently done some acting himself and he’s currently preparing to direct two more plays this 2021-2022 season for Driftwood! “Brad’s love for theater is immense,” says Debbie Scoones, who has acted in 20 productions directed by Duffy, as well as served in other roles, including musical director for 17 of his productions. “Brad has broadened my love for theater and I will always be grateful for that. I have acted for many directors, but no one can hold a candle to Brad,” she says.

Photo by Katie McGregor

Professional, prepared, kind and talented are the words often used by those who have worked with Duffy as he transforms words from a paper script to a live performance where actors embody their characters and audiences are drawn into the story.

Surprisingly, Duffy says, about half of his preparation time to stage a play occurs before the auditions to cast the production. During this time, he divides the play into what are termed “French scenes,” which are created every time an actor enters or exits the stage. For instance, in the play, “The Humans,” which will run in February at Driftwood, there are 83 French scenes.

“My job is to determine why the playwright included each one,” he explains. “So, for instance, it’s clear, that this one is all about introducing this character and his personality, and this one is about revealing the drama or problem, and maybe this one is about unveiling that there is a lie going on among some of the characters. I want to make sure that what the playwright wanted gets translated onto the stage.”

Photo courtesy The Driftwood Players

After the cast is selected, he encourages them to interpret what they think is going on in the scene, and makes a point to encourage his actors not to just parrot the words from the script but to listen each time to the other characters and react as their character would from what is actually said.

This mindset is crucial when something doesn’t go as expected, such as someone forgetting a line, accidentally saying a line too soon or even if a key prop is not where it should be. It’s in those situations where it’s especially important that the actors stay in character and move the story forward.

All that preparation pays off, says Scoones. “What makes Brad a good director is he knows the show forwards and backwards. He gets a tremendous response from his actors,” she says. “He asks actors what is going on in the scene, what are they feeling or experiencing.” He also requires his actors to have the lines memorized early on. “It’s only after they have their lines down that they can begin to act,” he says.

As a director, Duffy says that he likes to work with actors who aren’t afraid to be wrong. “I like it when they try something in rehearsal. If it doesn’t work, I will tell them, but having the courage to try something is important.”

With all the different genres of theater, Duffy says he especially loves to tackle a musical. “I love the idea that the songs help tell the story and help develop the characters,” he says. “And, I love the collaborative effort of a working as a team with the musical director, choreographer and others.”  

The last two years has been especially hard on live theater due to the coronavirus. But Driftwood was able to meet the challenge by offering three shows virtually. By choosing plays with small casts and streaming them, audience members could enjoy watching a live performance from the comfort of their own homes. In fact, Driftwood was one of very few theaters in the Pacific Northwest that took on that challenge, producing “Constellations,” “Daddy Long Legs,” and “Gin Game” that way.

Duffy experienced “that side of the stage again” by starring in “The Gin Game,” directed by Stacey Hopkins. “When everything was shut down during the pandemic, I was talking to a very good friend of mine, Pat Sibley, who is a professional actress in Seattle,” he recalls. “She normally goes all over the country doing stuff, but everything was shut down. I invited her to come live with me for six weeks and do ‘The Gin Game’ with me. So, she did. When we weren’t rehearsing at the theater, we were rehearsing at my house, and we had a such a great time doing that.”

As fun as the show was, it did feel weird to act without audience reaction, he says. “A big piece of theater is the relationship between the audience and the actors; that is what makes each performance unique within itself,” Duffy says. “Not having that audience reaction was odd, but I’m so glad we still were able to provide a performance experience.” 

Producing live theater during a pandemic wasn’t the only challenge Driftwood faced this past year. An arson fire damaged the building in May. Thankfully, Duffy and the cast and crew of “Daddy Long Legs” were there for a tech rehearsal and able to alert the police and fire department. However, the fire was able to get into the walls and ended up doing a bit of damage to the back of the building. Even the stage curtains were so smoke damaged they needed to be replaced.

“The good news is that the Aberdeen Fire Department saved the theater. I’m so grateful we were there.  If we hadn’t had tech rehearsal that day, we would have lost the theater,” he says.

For someone who has acted in, directed and attended hundreds of plays in various cities over the years, the obvious question arises: Which one is his favorite?

“It is always the one I’m working on,” he quickly answers.

Right now, that is “The Humans,” which will play at Driftwood Theatre in February. He is also slated to direct the next production at Driftwood, “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” in the spring.

Driftwood Theatre’s website, www.aberdeendriftwood.com  includes the latest information about the theater, year’s schedule, current show and upcoming auditions. It also has a catalog with pictures of every past show that Driftwood Players has performed in the last 60 years.

Driftwood Theatre

Upcoming Shows

“The Wedding Singer”
November 26, 27
December 3, 4,10, 11:
7:30 p.m. Friday, Saturday
December 5, 12 1:30 p.m. Sunday
Directed by Alex Eddy

“The Humans”
Feb. 11, 12, 18, 19, 25, 26
7:30 p.m. Friday, Saturday
February 20, 27 1:30 p.m. Sunday
Directed by Brad Duffy

“The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time”
April 30, May 6, 7, 13, 14, 20, 21
7:30 p.m. Friday, Saturday
May 22 1:30 p.m. Sunday
Directed by Brad Duffy

Some Harbor theaters scheduling summer and fall plays

It’s awfully hard to perform live theater without a live audience, but the days of shuttered playhouse doors seems to be drawing to a close. Some area theaters have live performances scheduled for this summer or fall.

7th Street Kids

The 7th Street Kids program will present two different plays this summer by separate groups of kids.  The three-week workshop will present “Winnie-the Pooh KIDS,” directed by Karin Noble. Performances are set for 7:30 p.m. Friday, July 16, and 2 p.m. Saturday, July 17, at the 7th St. Theatre in Hoquiam. Admission is $10 per person, $5 for those 12 years and younger.

The six-week workshop will present “Frozen Jr.,” directed by Kendall Cavin. Performances are set for 7:30 p.m. Thursday – Saturday, July 29-31, and 2 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 1. Admission is $5 for those 12 years and younger, $10 for students and seniors, and $15 for adults.

For more information, visit their website at 7thstreetkids.org.

Driftwood Players

The Driftwood Players wasn’t able to perform its last five shows in a typical way. However, three of them were available to patrons via the internet. 

“Performing theater without the audience reaction is really different for the actors,” said Terry Rogers, Driftwood president. “The audiences participate whether they realize it or not by their reactions. Not getting the laughs and the responses is hard, but so far the actors have just done a wonderful job,” she said.

Driftwood is optimistic about having a live audience in September for “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.”  The play by Simon Stephens is based on a bestselling novel by Mark Haddon. It was originally scheduled for the spring of 2020.

“How it will look just depends on what the governor says and what is going on with Covid-19 and how many people will be allowed to have in the theater itself,” Rogers said.

Bishop Center for Performing Arts

As for the Grays Harbor College Bishop Center, administrator Arlene Torgerson said nothing has been programmed for the summer, adding that the college will continue its virtual entertainment in the fall and hopes to offer live performances in 2022.

“Decisions need to be made months in advance for scheduling and booking artists or activities,” Torgerson explained. “We can only make decisions based on current guidelines which limit the amount of patrons we can have at a performance. This limits the amount of ticket sales we have to help cover the cost of performances,” she said, adding that sponsors and donors have made it possible to offer virtual programming during the pandemic at no cost.

Stage West Community Theatre

Stage West Community Theatre of Ocean Shores has discovered a new way to perform before live audience.  It is presenting a variety of radio theater shows at 7 p.m. each Sunday on KOSW, 91.3 FM, out of Ocean Shores. The shows include suspense, drama, comedy and mystery presentations.  For more information about these plays from the golden age of radio, go to Stagewestcommunitytheatre.org.

Plank Island Theatre

At the new Plank Island Theatre group, co-founder Julayne Fleury said “Writing Wrongs,” a series of original monologues, will be performed virtually in June.

To learn more, visit plankislandtheatre.com. 

Aberdeen Shakespearean Theatre

According to the Aberdeen Shakespearean Theatre’s Facebook page, “there will definitely be a Shakespeare show this summer.” Check the group’s Facebook page for up-to-date scheduling information.

Inside summer issue – Grays Harbor poets, musicians, actors, artists keep creating

Mermaid Museum
Mermaid Museum (Photo by Marguerite Garth)

After more than a year of being closed-in and cloistered, the warmer summer weather and opportunity for outdoor entertainment and activities leaves us with optimism that our world is slowly getting back to normal in the wake of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

As you can imagine, publishing a magazine celebrating art, music, theater and food in Grays Harbor has certainly been a challenge this last year when quarantine rules necessitated the shutdown of plays, concerts, art shows, museums and many restaurants, as well as the cancellation of much-anticipated festivals and celebrations.

Still, reporting on creative people gave us a leg up. Not even a world-wide pandemic can stop artists from producing art, musicians from making music, writers from writing and actors from honing their art. And it certainly can’t stop art lovers from appreciating creativity!

For some artists, their creativity genius turned to exploring new ways and mediums through which the audiences could experience the creations – virtual concerts, drive-in celebrations, outdoor performances, online Q and A’s about the creative process and more.  For other creatives, the year served as a sort of sabbatical to nurture their own creative process, take a break, delve into new genres, or just create, create, create and simply wait to share their passion with others once it was easier to do so!

And while many restaurants, galleries, museums, theaters and concert halls took a financial hit during this time, we predict a great resurgence in their popularity after people realize, after a near starvation diet,  how much the arts inspire and feed their souls.

(So, before we go forward, we want to look back and thank all of our advertisers for allowing us to continue to bring this magazine free to you! Please honor and help them by patronizing them. Put your money where your mouth is and show them how valuable they are to our community! And while you are at it, do us a favor and let them know that you saw their ad in the magazine! It helps them and us.)

Tony Robinson, Chainsaw Artist
Tony Robinson, Chainsaw Carver (Photo by Marguerite Garth)
(Photo by Rick Moyer)

The good news is that things really are opening back up again!

At press time for this summer issue, however, some uncertainty still exists about whether society will close down tighter again for a season. Thankfully, we’ve selected stories about people and places that should be accessible regardless of quarantine concerns.

Let’s start with our cover story on the Westport Winery Garden Resort. If you travel on Highway 105, you can’t miss the oasis that Kim and Blain Roberts have built halfway between Westport and Aberdeen.  There’s even a lighthouse to show you the way! Either before or after a meal, a bakery treat or a glass of wine, take time to stroll the well-designed gardens filled with both whimsical and reflective sculptures. Or, play one of the many outdoor games available for adults and children. You may want to also explore the recently opened mermaid museum!

This issue of Coastal Currents also features the personalities and lore of area chainsaw artists. Read about Tony Robinson and the close-knit community of area chainsaw carvers.

Rex Valentine is a well-known name on the Harbor, especially in East County. Learn more about this musician and internationally acclaimed poet.  His books are available via his website or can be checked out through the Timberland Library.

Music and faith are the lifeblood of pianist Bill Brown, who not only follows a centuries-old tradition of using his talent within the church, but also enjoys playing for local theater as well as training up the next generation of musicians.

Bill Brown (Photo by Rick Moyer)

This issue of Coastal Currents also introduces you to the area’s craft breweries.  A cool glass on a warm day is appreciated by many – and we were aware that many of these breweries offered outside seating, both pleasant in the summer and helpful during pandemics!

We’ve also carefully gathered the information for upcoming events into our Coastal Currents events calendar, which begins on page 43. However nowadays especially, it goes without saying – but we will anyway.

Bill Brown playing piano
Bill Brown (Photo by Rick Moyer)