Arts and Entertainment

Friends bring Redshaw's pair of 1-act plays to life

Two one-act plays by Rebecca Redshaw continue Friday on the Elaine and Robert Caldwell Main Stage at Olympic Theatre Arts in Sequim.

Often local talent is dismissed as "local" talent, but that's not the case with "Spider on the Sill" and "Dear Jennifer," which opened April 16 at OTA.

Author/playwright Redshaw has lived on the peninsula for almost 10 years and, although her work has been performed at many venues in other states, this is the first time her plays are being produced in her backyard.

Recently several cast members from both plays, along with Susan Shaffer (director of "Spider on the Sill") and Redshaw (director of "Dear Jennifer") shared their recent experiences. In the process they revealed what an opportunity the plays presented.

Sequim Gazette (SG): Why did you get involved with OTA?

Redshaw: OTA board member Janet McDonald e-mailed me in December 2008. She had read the novella "Dear Jennifer" and asked if I'd thought about adapting it as a play.

I responded that not only had it been adapted, it had been produced. That started the ball rolling at OTA. "Spider on the Sill" was presented as a perfect partner to it.

Shaffer: I was asked by OTA to read "Spider on the Sill." I identified with it since I had been the caregiver for my mother the last eight years of her life.

I also loved Rebecca's unique style, a way of showing people what's in the head of her characters. As soon as I read the play, I committed to directing the project.

Elizabeth Kelly ("Dear Jennifer"): I had read Rebecca's book "Dear Jennifer" and seen two of her other plays performed. When she asked me to be a part of the cast of "Dear Jennifer," I felt honored. I love epistolary books and was curious to see how it would work as a play.

Elaine Gardner-Morales (original music and lyrics): Although I have

composed music in a variety of styles, including symphonic works, this is the first time I've written music for a play. My challenge was to capture the essence, message and theme of each play in a single piece of music. I read Rebecca's plays and tried to bring extra meaning to the scripts through the lyrics and style of the music.

SG: Auditions were held the end of February. How have the last few months been? Have you learned anything about yourself? About your characters?

Marie O'Neill ("Spider on the Sill"): Well, I certainly don't look at spiders the way I used to!

In most productions I learn a bit more about me, and this play is no exception. We all have the power to influence another person's life and we need to make sure what we say and do comes from the heart and our intentions are honorable. Ebony, the spider, is like the voice in our heads giving sound advice. The question is, "Do we listen?"

Roger Presley ("Spider on the Sill" and "Dear Jennifer"): One of my favorite aspects of acting is the close bond you develop with your fellow actors. I play four characters in the two plays, all quite different and challenging. I prefer playing characters that are the antithesis of my personality. These four characters, although not totally different from me, were different enough to put my acting chops to the test.

Redshaw: This is my first time directing a staged production and "Dear Jennifer" is told through monologues that present their own set of challenges. The demands on each actor can't be overemphasized - each stands alone on what seems like a very lonely stage.

What have I learned about the characters? In spite of the fact that I created each one and have lived with them for years, I realized each actor brings his or her own unique quality to the role. I love seeing that happen.

SG: What's the best part about community theater? Other than having the playwright on set, what's different about "Spider on the Sill" and "Dear Jennifer"?

Sharon DelaBarre ("Spider on the Sill" and "Dear Jennifer): The community. "Spider" and "Jennifer" are written by a local playwright, special original music has been written for the shows, and both plays deal with very human situations and emotions that impact members of our community on a daily basis.

"Spider" addresses dealing with aging parents and family dynamics; "Jennifer" deals with friendship while looking at health care issues and prejudice. These plays allow our community to be aware and to discuss challenging topics.

Carrie Graul (set designer): It allows everyone to get involved. You can be part of the action, in the spotlight, providing the lights or behind the set. It can be challenging, but you learn about yourself and teamwork. You overcome obstacles, create magic and share your hard work with the whole community.

Redshaw: Community theater? Well, there's certainly no union time clock to worry about.

Usually the playwright submits a play and then goes to the opening. The director in community theater casts actors, paints flats, advises on lights and sound, moves sets, sweeps the stage and just about anything that needs to be done. It has given me added appreciation of the process.

SG: Why should people come to see "Spider on the Sill" and "Dear Jennifer"?

Charlotte McElroy ("Dear Jennifer"): To learn, laugh, cry and experience firsts: First time a local playwright directs her own work, first time for original music composed for these plays, first time to hear letters come to life as monologues, and a guaranteed first to experience a beautiful spider and want to take her home!

Helen Carrick ("Spider on the Sill" and "Dear Jennifer"): Great entertainment with good messages. "Spider's" fantasy and humor remind us that everyone deserves respect and dignity. "Jennifer" is about relationships, particularly friendship.

Redshaw: "Spider on the Sill" and "Dear Jennifer" deal with serious life issues but with a sense of humor. I hope people will talk about similar situations in their own lives and possibly be more open and understanding. Mostly, I want them to have a good time at the theater.

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