Arts and Entertainment

Bainbridge actor hits the stage just for kids

Katie Butler as the Rainbow Fish. - Richard D. Oxley / Bainbridge Island Review
Katie Butler as the Rainbow Fish.
— image credit: Richard D. Oxley / Bainbridge Island Review

Bainbridge Island is known for its theater. Plays and musicals fill seats and there is always a performance around the corner.

Then one island actor asked: What about the kids?

The Bainbridge Island Storymakers Studio answered that question.

Gabe Carbajal found his acting passion later than most. While many actors were moving from audition to audition, he was picking up a teaching degree and working for AmeriCorps.

But after a friend encouraged him to audition for a play on Bainbridge Island, and he got the part, he was hooked.

“She knew I was a singer and she told me about this theater on the island,” Carbajal said. “I gave a really horrible audition and somehow got cast.”

“I fell in love with the process,” he added. “And loved the difference between singing in a band and singing in a show with costumes and acting.”

Acting became his life. Carbajal spent years working with Bainbridge Performing Arts. He even has worked with the Jewel Box Theater in Poulsbo and currently sits on the theater’s board.

Though Carbajal knew that the stage wasn’t where his talents had to end.

With a teaching degree and a passion for educating, perhaps equal to his fervor for acting, he decided to embark on a new venture — the Bainbridge Island Storymakers Studio.

Carbajal noticed that even on an island such as Bainbridge where the arts are prized and theater is prominent, there weren’t any productions strictly for children. There were acting classes, sure, but nothing that was tailored strictly for youth audiences. It’s a different kind of theater that he thought the island needed.

“There’s a very different feeling, and different style of acting, whereas adults are very passive when they watch a show,” Carbajal said. “Children believe that it is real. It’s the same excitement and feeling they get when they read a storybook with their parent.”

“Seeing it on stage is the next step for them,” he added.

His nonprofit theater company specializes in youth theater. Adults, and a few child actors, present plays made just for kids.

Carbajal started the venture by adapting his favorite children’s book, “The Rainbow Fish,” into a stage play.

“For some reason I remembered the moral of that story all these years later,” he said.

“The moral of the story is that sharing makes you feel good from the inside out, and the perils of vanity. Being kind gets you further than being mean.”

It was a challenge at first to turn a 10-page book into a full play for children, but Carbajal found a way to make it work.

The play touting good morals was performed through Kids Discovery Museum at the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art.

It was a hit. Though KiDiMu provided the play for free, the show was “sold out.”

The show made such an impression that word of it spread across the Puget Sound. Soon Carbajal was contacted by the Moon Paper Tent theater in Seattle to get his show on the ferry and to their stage.

Now Carbajal is hard at work on his second project for the Bainbridge Island Storymakers Studio.

Drawing from another favorite children’s book, “Click Clack Moo” will again be performed through KiDiMu. Moon Paper Tent theater has also already scheduled performances.

Carbajal said he first read the book as an adult.

“I couldn’t believe that a book like that was written for kids,” Carbajal said. “It’s about how this group of animals find a typewriter and start making demands of this farmer, about how being on the farm isn’t fair and that they should be comfortable and taken care of if they are going to give milk and eggs all the time.”

The new play also draws teachable morals from the book.

“And the messages of the story of fairness and equal rights just seemed so much more than a children’s book,” he added. “It had this Orwellian ‘Animal Farm’ sense to it.”

Of course, more adult terms like “Orwellian” are absent from his stage version of the tale.

Instead, he is filling it with lessons and simple fun.

More information on the Bainbridge Island Storymakers Studio can be found on their Facebook page.

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