Haven’t been around that much lately. I admit it.
Part of it’s just been tedious real-life things. I won’t go into those because they’re, well, tedious. Also, it’s not really our stuff but other people’s. Friends we’ve been helping out. So those are not really my stories to tell.
But another one of the recent demands on our time that have been taking me away from regular columns is something I’m delighted to share. It’s August, so here in Seattle it is time for another Hello Earth theatrical production in the park.
Julie and I started volunteering for this effort a couple of years ago and it continues to be HUGE fun for us. For seven years the company adapted classic Star Trek episodes for live theatre. This is an excerpt from “Day of the Dove,” which was Julie’s and my first year volunteering.
Last year, though, Hello Earth’s co-founders Joy DeLyria and Kris Hambrick changed it up and put on Wars Outdoors: A New Hope In The Park. (Joy says, “After seven years we felt a little rebellion was in order.”)
So naturally, this year it’s The Empire Strikes Back in the Park.
People, when I tell them about this, are baffled at how anyone can adapt such an effects-heavy space war film into an outdoor theatrical play. Hell, I was baffled when I first heard about it. But the Hello Earth company are beyond ingenious when it comes to using the space available in the park and figuring out costuming and props…. and the thing I can’t emphasize enough is that the audience is totally with them. These are stories we love and they are essentially modern folk tales at this point. The show becomes a celebration of everything we liked about these stories in the first place. My favorite example of this from both last year and this year is when the characters of Threepio (Abby Pierce) and Artoo (Jamie Sumire Costantino) first appear on stage.
Jamie does the entire thing on roller skates, and she has a little novelty whistle to approximate Artoo’s sound effects. The first time Artoo replies to Threepio with the trademark beep-boop-beep, the roar of delight from the audience is huge; YES, we are HERE for this, we are SO WITH YOU. After that it’s on rails.
Nowhere is this more apparent than when the kids in the audience mob the cast after each performance.
Julie and I aren’t in the show, but we help with ushering (everyone involved, from Joy and the actors on down, are volunteers; the entire effort is supported by donations from the audience.)
So the weekend time that I usually reserve for writing is taken up with the play through the end of August, but I thought I could at least show you the pictures.
Here’s Julie talking with assistant director Sarah (“S.G.”) Grant. You can see we already have a packed house and it’s forty-five minutes till showtime.
This is Joy introducing the show and coaching the audience on how we’re all going to read the pre-credits crawl together. “It is a dark time for the Rebellion…”
We use all of the space, the show often comes up and out into the audience. Here’s Leia (Natalie Schmidt) and Han (Nathan Ureta) having A Moment. “Scruffy nerf herder!”
Luke (Kris Hambrick) runs into a little trouble on patrol.
Imperial Walkers attack!
Darth Vader (Shaina Ward Siegel) decides it’s time for a staff shakeup.
Another angle on the battle with the Walkers.
Diverting to Dagobah.
The Millennium Falcon hiding out from the Imperial cruiser.
Luke meets Jedi master Yoda (Kaysy Ostrom.)
Luke, the ghost of Obi-Wan (Merri Ann Osborne), and Yoda.
Han and Leia, having another Moment.
Chewbacca (Ian Stone), Leia, and Han meeting Lando (Jordan Richards.) I should add that the first time Ian makes the throaty Chewbacca noise, it is almost as big an applause moment as Jamie’s Artoo.
Looks like Lando wasn’t being entirely honest…
“I am altering the deal. Pray I don’t alter it any further.”
Luke’s final confrontation with Vader. Or is it?
“I AM YOUR FATHER!” …oops. Spoiler, I guess.
I hope this gives you a little bit of a sense of how much FUN everyone is having– audience, cast, and crew. We’re back again tonight and tomorrow, and the two weekends after that. Blanche Lavizzo Park, just off 22nd and Yesler in downtown Seattle, five P.M. Come see us if you’re in town.
Back… well, maybe not next week, but soon, I hope, with something cool.