Arts and Entertainment

WAR OF THE WELLES: BHS alumnus brings theater legend to life

Erik Van Beuzekom plays Orson Welles in the solo-performance of “Rosebud: The Lives of Orson Welles.” The Paradise Theater School will be bringing the show to the auditorium at the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art starting this weekend.  - Photo courtesy of The Paradise Theater School
Erik Van Beuzekom plays Orson Welles in the solo-performance of “Rosebud: The Lives of Orson Welles.” The Paradise Theater School will be bringing the show to the auditorium at the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art starting this weekend.
— image credit: Photo courtesy of The Paradise Theater School

At the end of the trailer for the 1941 film, “Citizen Kane,” a montage of characters describe the film’s namesake newspaper man before director and star of the film, Orson Welles, cuts in with is his theatrical radio voice by saying, “Ladies and gentleman, I don’t know what you’ll think about Mr. Kane. I can’t imagine. You see I play the part myself. Well, Kane is a hero and a scoundrel, a no-account and a swell guy, a great lover, a great American citizen and a dirty dog. It depends on who’s talking about him.”

Best known for his work with “Citizen Kane” and his radio adaptation of “War of the Worlds,” Orson Welles has left a legacy in the acting world.

But still, much like the story of Citizen Kane’s protagonist, his story carries with it many faces.

This Friday, The Paradise Theater School will be bringing Welles to the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art in its performance, “Rosebud: The Lives of Orson Welles.”

“We will be exploring several facets of Orson’s life as if he’s sitting in your living room talking about his life, telling you what it’s like,” said Erik Van Beuzekom.

Van Beuzekom will be acting as Orson in this solo, traveling performance. He encompasses Welles’ whole life from his days at the Todd School for Boys and his emergence as a theater prodigy to his steep decline into obesity and alcoholism.

Van Beuzekom and his wife, co-founders of The Paradise Theater School, have shown “Rosebud” 25 times, thus far, in Seattle,

Port Townsend and private residences.

As a solo performance, the show offers a unique opportunity to be acted almost anywhere, but it also has its challenges. Like a big workout, Van Beuzekom performs 40 pages of script and acts each scene himself.

Aside from that, it’s Orson Welles.

“You’re playing a very well-known entity, and you have to live up to that billing,” Van Beuzekom said.

The play, written by British playwright Mark Jenkins, made its debut performance in 2004 at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival where it won “Fringe First,” and it toured the United Kingdom until 2007.

By bringing the play to the U.S. and Washington, Van Beuzekom hopes to continue the legacy of Orson Welles for people here and bring to life the triumphs and the setbacks that Welles encountered in 1940s American theater.

“Someone said Orson Welles was the Beowolf of theater,” Van Beuzekom said. “This show gives you the opportunity to see what a grand creator he was.”

Bringing the story of Welles to Bainbridge is not a far jump for the play’s star. Van Beuzekom grew up on the island and spent many of his formative years on stage at Bainbridge High and Bainbridge Performing Arts.

Since being voted the class of 1985’s homecoming king, however, Van Beuzekom and his wife Pattie, who is the director of the show, have converted a former Methodist church into what is now The Paradise Theater School in Chimacum.

The story of Welles, Van Beuzekom explained, is a fitting production for the couple as it not only will help them fundraise for their school but it also matches well with the school’s mission “to train artistic leaders to create and tell stories that address the problems and possibilities of our time.”

“It’s educational, and it’s also informative about being an independent performer in the arts in the United States,” Van Beuzekom said.

The play will be performed at the new Bainbridge Island Museum of Art auditorium at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, Feb. 15, 16, 22 and 23, and also at 2 p.m. Sundays, Feb. 17 and 24. Each performance will be followed by a question-and-answer session.

On the Sunday, Feb. 17 performance, Robert Horton, an Orson Welles expert and film critic for the Everett Herald, will be speaking at a wine-and-cheese social after the show.

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