by Jake Perrine
Artistic Director, Orcas Center
What an unfortunate time to be in the “gathering together” business. I sure miss all your many beautiful faces, and all the hard work and creativity we put into the endless parade of celebrations that burst forth from your community arts center.
I’ve grown accustomed to the rise and fall of energy each week, gearing up for nearly every weekend’s shows. And I’ve learned (the hard way!) how to budget my energy for the inevitable final push up the ramp to a big run of shows.
I’m sure by now most of you have heard about the mighty train of talent that is “Chicago” that was in sight of the summit — just four days from opening, final cues in place, an all-star live band, and (no exaggeration!) the hardest working cast I’ve ever witnessed at OC — when it all had to come to a stop. Robert, Tiffany, Martin and Grace have assembled something truly special for us, and we hold out hope that one day soon you will see it in all its glory.
What you may not have known about are the many other gatherings that also are not happening in the coming two months. April tends to be our busiest month of the year and all four rooms were positively packed to the gills on the calendar. I wanted to take a moment and give a proud shout out into the vacuum of social distancing for all the events we will not be gathering for this time around. Not as a “woe is we” plea for sympathy — surely there are far bigger concerns that need our attention and sympathy right now — but more as a “let’s gather around the imaginary campfire in our hearts and minds as we salute the mountain of creativity and gusto being offered in a parallel universe right now”!
Currently, the most prevalent events at Orcas Center are ones most of us never even see: the classes. Did you know we have over 50 classes a week happening every week? Twenty-two Island Aerial Acrobatics classes, 22 dance classes, two yoga classes, painting, youth and adult acting, lighting, directing and a kids art class, plus various monthly and one-time classes. To all the teachers and students: I salute you! You are the lifeblood of Orcas Center.
The many Saturday on-screen offerings were canceled because the shows around the world themselves were canceled so they could not be broadcast. Monthly offerings by The Garden Club, The Madrona Club and Visual Arts Committee’s gallery art openings were canceled.
And as far as events go, savor this (imaginary) buffet of delights for a moment:
3/28: The San Juan Makers Guild fair, showcasing the hand-made artistry of local makers.
4/4: The closing night of “Chicago” and Black Box dance cast party with DJs Charlie Eon and KEXP’s Darek Mazzone.
4/10 and 11: Island Aerial Acrobatics end their rigorous class season in this Center Stage show, this year’s offering titled “Rites of Passage”, incorporating short films of their students shot around the islands in a canoe. I was particularly excited to see and help this one come together.
4/18 and 19: Lit Fest – Back for their third year, this has quickly become a staple of our season, bringing together headlining authors and enthusiasts from far and wide to mix in a lively weekend across a wide range of topics. The number of dedicated volunteers needed to pull this off is non-trivial.
4/22 and throughout the month of April: The 50th Earth Day Celebration. Led by the fearless Asifa Pasin-Welch and ORS, this is another “little festival that could” in the making. Guest presenters, live music, classes, and the incomparable “Trashion Fashion show” made from upcycled materials. I guess the Earth had other plans for us this year.
4/24 and 25 : Anthony and Tiffany’s spring dance concert showcasing the fruits of their many ongoing classes. Dozens of talented dancers coming together for two great shows. They are a force of nature.
5/1 and 2: The Youth Acting Class show also led by MVP Tiffany “I’m Everywhere at Once” Loney was to be a new offering: 18 students 8-15 years old, many of them on stage for the first time, to perform a highly physical rendition of some of Shel Silverstein’s classic poetry. They’ve been in class learning and rehearsing together since January with enough enthusiasm to power a small country!
5/9 and 10: Choral Society spring concert: “A Glad New Song.” A program of lively and uplifting new songs by living composers (how timely and apropos). Included a premiere work by Norwegian composer Ola Gjeilo, commissioned in part by Orcas Choral Society and guest instrumentalists Martin Lund and the Skyros Quartet. Always the best way to celebrate spring with a stage full of glorious local voices and…
5/17: Sinfonia spring concert with local musicians! Pulling together the talent of so many local heroes…
5/21-30: Wrapping up the list is my own production of Namoi Iizuka’s “Polaroid Stories,” the cast of which has been rehearsing since December. Intense, edgy material about the lives of urban street kids overlaid with the Greek tragedies of Ovid’s Metamorphosis tackled by a fearless cast of 10: Adia Dolan, Ashanti Makeba, Ewan Lister, Kai McGreggor, Trevor Wareham, Ayjah Wright, Hailey Klein, Pedro Lopez, Mindy Sonshine and Silas Beardslee. I miss playing with all of you more than you know! This show WILL happen one day.
And that is just April and May. What of June, July and August? The calendar is already mostly full for the 2020-21 season starting in September.
How many of these events will we see come to light? How many will morph into next year’s offerings? How many will fade into the memories of those who never made them?
I’m not sure. These are unprecedented times for all of us. But in my prayers, all this creativity lives on and is bursting at the seams into everything you are doing for your family, neighbors and community right now. We need our collective creativity to bring us through this time with grace, style and goodwill. So don’t skimp: bring your bravest, highest-self to whatever you are doing right now. How you do it is as important as what you do, and just like any show, you will remember this time out of time forever.
Stay safe, stay sane, be good to one another.