Looking for a summer adventure with a European flair? Cost of travel standing in the way? Really need to enjoy life, maybe even laugh a little?
Olympic Theatre Arts' production of "Shirley Valentine" is just the ticket. The one-woman play by Willy Russell (who in 1989 adapted the script for the silver screen and with a larger cast) takes place in Liverpool, England.
Shirley's a middle-aged housewife who finds herself talking to the wall while she prepares her husband's "chip 'n' egg." She compares her current life with how life used to be and realizes she's stagnated and in a rut. As luck would have it, her girlfriend wins an all-expense-paid vacation for two to Greece, and Shirley's adventure begins.
Personal, professional styles
Sequim actress Alexandria Edouart relishes the challenge of playing Shirley and is undaunted being a cast of one.
"How could I be lonely on stage?" said Edouart. "I have Shirley! I've had to like my own company most of my life. I play very well with others but also by myself and I'm never bored."
Edouart is a dynamo of energy and refreshingly candid about her life. Spending her early years in Malibu, Calif., she heralds from film genius (her grandfather Farciot Edouart parted the Red Sea and was a pioneer in the special effects industry). The San Fernando Valley became her new home during her teen years.
"When I was in junior high, I was over
6 feet tall and weighed less than 100 pounds. I was very bright and very sensitive so I was the perfect person to pick on. I became excessively shy at that point and what saved my life was getting into theater arts. I found out it was a way for me to build an armored persona that shielded me from the outside world. To this day when I tell people I'm shy, I know it's that successful persona that has allowed the 'me' to hide and function."
Complicating the usual angst of teen survival were undiagnosed physical symptoms, a bipolar disorder and Marfan syndrome (a connective tissue disorder that affects many different body systems). Edouart talks freely about these issues in hopes of removing inaccurate social stigmas.
"I'm on multiple medications and I was in a body cast for years, so the theater has saved my life. I don't know what would have become of me if I had not had that outlet."
Once an actor ...
Arriving in Sequim in 1996, she instantly got involved with Olympic Theatre Arts and the Port Angeles Community Players.
"I had not acted at all between California and here and thought I had 'it' out of my system, but I should have known myself better. Now I realize every few years I'm going to go back and do something else in the arts."
Since moving here she has performed in "Out of Order" and "Auntie Mame." "Shirley Valentine" may well be her biggest dramatic test. Director Loren Johnson is the person behind the scenes in the upcoming production and is excited about the challenge of a one-person drama.
"We worked together in 'Same Time Next Year,' said Johnson. "She's really fun and works hard and is very professional - lots of really good energy."
Johnson is the business manager for OTA. He has a degree in theater and spent years in behind-the-scene roles as well as being an actor, last seen in Sequim in Sam Shepard's "True West." But he is most comfortable in the director's chair.
Johnson said, "I've never done a one-person show before. First of all, to keep the blocking active and visually interesting to the story is tricky. Usually in a play you have two actors with reciprocal dramatic action between them. Now the action is between 'Shirley' and what she's remembering. Alexandria has to act both parts. One of her first lines is, 'I'm talking to you, wall.' It's funny. What's so good about this work is it's funny. It goes from something totally heartbreaking to something humorous in a snap."
Edouart shed light on why Shirley is such a wonderful character.
"Slightly edging this English woman's wonderful sense of humor is her courage, the courage to look at herself and her life with compassion. Her courage helps her gain insight and be able to make changes in her life. I understand her really well because I've had similar calls of courage at various times in my life."