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Island Theatre takes its show on the road
In 1909, a mere 100 years ago, a young Jew fled Czarist Russia and landed in the unlikely refuge of Hamilton, Texas. The story of his integration into American culture, and the small rural community’s acceptance of its exotic resident is the subject of “The Immigrant,” a play by Mark Harelik chosen by Island Theatre founder Steve Stolee as this year’s traveling production. The 100-minute play will be performed “on book” at all nine Kitsap Regional library branches over the course of three weeks.
Sharing several of the themes with “Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet,” KRL’s 2010 selection for its One Book, One Community reading celebration.
“Harelik’s play is wonderfully robust in its invocation that we all come from somewhere else,” Stolee, who will direct the reading, said.
The phrase “melting pot” is a common term in our language, he said, but we still suffer from the misunderstandings born from different backgrounds and perspectives. “Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet” focuses on the Asian immigrant experience while “The Immigrant” pivots on the European population. Both are high-profile groups, he said. Regardless of the specifics, though, the tale of fitting in is universal. As is the human urge to risk the unknown in search of a better life.
The production is minimialist theatre, an Island Theatre signature.
“The art is the art,” Stolee said. “It can be engaging, meaningful, full of great artistic moments.”
The spareness, economic al and technological, allows for more diversity, Stolee explained. The nimble ad-hoc troupe is able to showcase work that would be too expensive to produce with venue rental, stage sets, costumes, lighting, etc. And it allows selection of edgier work that might not draw the large audiences that blockbuster musicals attract.
The smaller venue, Stolee said, sometimes helps create an emotional intimacy that makes the work accessible.
“I’ve seen the kind of heat, the emotional dimension that you might see in a play with professional cast,” Stolee said.
The cast for “The Immigrant” is small: four parts and a storyteller. Jennifer Waldron and John Kenning play Ima and Milton Perry, the Texas couple who take in the refugee.
Selig Redmann shares the lead of Haskell Harelik for five of the shows including the Oct. 29 version at Bainbridge Public Library.
Dylan Wilson takes on the role Oct. 22 and Nov. 5-6. The talented Claire Hosterman plays Leah Harelik, Haskell’s wife who journeys across the sea to join her husband in a foreign land. Stolee added a fifth role, that of the Storyteller played by Jackie O’Brien. The storyteller adds connections that can’t be conveyed with change of scenes in traditional theater.
This year’s production will incorporate slide projection of historical photos. It was from studying his own family photo album of his grandmother, Ima Harelik, that the idea of the play emerged.
Based on the true story of his own grandparents, “The Immigrant” is about relationships between people–the ways we are different and the ways we are alike.
“More than most plays, it’s about us–who we are as Americans,” Stolee said.
“There’s lots of funny stuff, regional mannerisms, misunderstandings,” he said. The humor is woven in among poignant story of emotional depth.
Island Theatre has been presenting dramatic works at the library since 1999. In 2006, it toured its production of “An Enemy of the People” throughout the KRL system and has participated in each of KRL’s One Book, One Community programs since its inception. At the branches lacking large public meeting rooms, the plays were performed among the book stacks. “It’s like the literature coming down off the shelves,” Stolee said.
“One of the most poignant moments of the play is in the conclusion of the first act when the title character shares a revelation with his newly arrived and very disconcerted, pregnant wife: This town is only fifty years old. Where did these people come from?
Manchester:7 p.m., Oct. 22
Port Orchard:7 p.m. Oct. 23
Sylvan Way:3 p.m., Oct. 24
Kingston:6:30 p.m., Oct. 26
Bainbridge Island: 7 p.m., Oct. 29
Little Boston:7 p.m., Oct. 30
Poulsbo:7 p.m., Nov. 5
Downtown Bremerton:2 p.m., Nov. 6
Silverdale:7 p.m., Nov. 6
Admission is free, but donations are accepted.
For more information, visit www.islandtheatre.org.
By CONNIE MEARS