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Up With People brings show to island

"People the world over may thrive on a challenge - but representing people the world over to audiences worldwide is itself a challenge few take up.Up With People claim to do just that as they globetrot their Broadway style musical around various small-town venues.We aim to bring the world to those people who can't afford to see it for themselves, says event coordinator Paula Whitaker. She admits that the contained yet well-travelled community of Bainbridge Island is an exception, but is confident that it will embrace the multicultural message of their performance Saturday. We're on an upswing now, she says, by way of explanation for the resurgent popularity the group. Up With People is an international education organization and performing group comprising a cast of 140 young adults - two of whom hail from Bainbridge - ages 18 to 27. What distinguishes them from most other groups seeking to promote friendship and understanding is that they have no political or religious affiliations. For a $13,000 tuition fee, students selected by interview earn university credits by performing in a variety of countries, staying with a different host family every four days. And the students work hard for such recognition. Their current production, Roads, combines a medley of 21 songs with the usual emphasis on working collaboratively to secure a brighter future. The characters shift between a university campus and a violence-plagued teen center as the students collectively overcome conflicting economic, generational and social interests, and the performers have been encouraged to bring their experiences to the rehearsal process.Performances aside, there are also cultural lessons to be learned. Whitaker recalls one student's experiences in Norway when he went to the sauna naked, having been embarrassed the day before because his hosts had not worn bathing suits - only to find that the family had sought to put him at his ease by themselves wearing bathing suits. Sometimes different cultures over-compensate for each other, she says.But Whitaker stops laughing at the memory of the problems it is her job to solve. While the students are working together, performing in different languages, and living the stuff of amusing anecdotes, she and fellow coordinator David Crockford grapple with such tasks as feeding 150 people on $250 and balancing the benefits of supportive local communities with competition from other non-profit organizations. Currently, they have only placed 92 of the 140 students with island host families, and are anxious to secure accommodation from other Bainbridge residents.Otherwise, Homelessness on Bainbridge might just double over-night, Crockford jokes.Host families receive two complimentary passes to the show.Up With People performs at 7:30 p.m. June 24 in the BHS gymnasium.Tickets are $12 for adults, $8 for students or seniors, available at American Marine Bank, Eagle Harbor Books and Bainbridge Gardens. The event is sponsored by American Marine Bank and Northland Cable Television. For information, call David Crockford at 855-8559."

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