Arts and Entertainment

Bringing local stories to the stage

Local writers Sara Scribner and Michael Lisagor will debut their works on the stage at BPA this month. - Courtesy Photo/BPA
Local writers Sara Scribner and Michael Lisagor will debut their works on the stage at BPA this month.
— image credit: Courtesy Photo/BPA

Bainbridge Islanders Michael Lisagor and Sara Scribner each have a story to tell.

His speaks of the trials and quandaries of living and adjusting to life with a chronic disease. Hers is a tale of the lingering “isms” that persist in the deepest veins of American culture.

Each is a poignant look at a pervasive national issue through local eyes.

But without a stage, one person’s voice can only travel so far.

Even for Lisagor, who talks from a podium for a living as a public speaker at corporate retreats and has also written a book called “Romancing the Buddha.”

He’s spoken to and shared his story with likely thousands of people, yet he still yearned to bring his experience to the stage — the experience of embracing Buddhism in everyday life to confront and come to terms with his wife being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

“How can I use (my experiences) to try and encourage others?” Lisagor asks himself. “That’s the bottom line.”

Seeing the inspirational potential of the theater, he brought his book to the folks at Bainbridge Performing Arts with the idea of turning it into a one-man play.

Even though Lisagor hadn’t much actual acting experience, BPA artistic director Steven Fogell liked the idea, liked the cause and agreed to adapt the script for the stage and school Lisagor in the craft of the one-man show, to produce “Romancing the Buddha,” a one-day only performance March 22.

Tickets are available at Island Fitness and the Eagle Harbor Book Store, and proceeds will benefit the second annual island MS Walk.

“One of the strengths of Bainbridge Island is the incredible community support there is for just about anyone with a creative idea,” Lisagor said. “And BPA is the epitome of that.”

ROMANCING LOCAL TALENT

“We respect each one of these shows just like we do the main stage shows,” Fogell said.

Scribner, a retired librarian turned local actress and playwright, came to BPA with the script from her latest endeavor hoping to see her vision translated on the stage.

Her first play, a historical one act called “Bye Bye Baby Bunting” won top honors at the first-ever Fields End/BPA playwrighting workshop in 2005. “Woodpile,” her first full-length, won a New Play Festival at the Freehold Theatre, a training/performance space in Seattle dedicated to debuting new works. In reward they put together a staged reading of act one.

“When you do a reading, it’s great, but the audience uses more of their imagination,” Scribner said, noting her appreciation but still lingering desire to see the play in full.

The lighting, sound effects, costumes and sets of a full production add an immense amount of character to a script. But they also rack up dollars on the bottom line a show’s budget.

With BPA taking a chance on debuting a brand new work from a local playwright whom many may not have even heard of — which the theater does sensibly from year to year — Scribner needed to have some sort of funding mechanism to help pay the costs of the production.

“Theater doesn’t make money, you try to break even,” Fogell said. “It’s hard enough promoting theater that people know ... the nice thing about Bainbridge is the Bainbridge Island Arts and Humanities Council.”

The Bainbridge Island Arts and Humanities Council annually awards grants to creative endeavors in the community through the City of Bainbridge Island Arts and Humanities funds. This year the non-profit was focused on individuals and especially folks who had never applied before. Scribner applied and she was selected.

“It’s gonna run about $4,000 ... and that’s a stripped down version,” Scribner said of her expected production costs for “Woodpile.” “Theater is so expensive. I would’ve loved just to have had one of those blank check opportunities, but I guess you don’t get those in life too much.”

The BIAHC grant totaled a little under $1,500 — enough when coupled with private investment to get the ball rolling. Now “Woodpile” premieres at 7 p.m. March 26, showing throughout the weekend, also directed by Fogell.

DIRECTING, TRAINING AND ACTIVATING

Fogell’s piece, as artistic director, is pivotal in this particular puzzle of putting locally written work on stage at BPA.

Of course, it’s the tradition of community theater to showcase those within the community. But he and BPA are an illustration of the deeper level of what community theater’s about as Fogell directs, trains and has helped activate both of these upcoming productions. Other local theaters celebrate and support local playwrights as well. The Changing Scene Theatre Northwest in Bremerton will host a regional premiere next month and the Bremerton Community Theatre will host a local premiere in May.

“Every play has to be produced somewhere in order to go anywhere,” Fogell said.

He’s a published playwright himself, with eight children’s works.

He’s either written or directed or adapted — or a combination thereof — almost all of the recent theater school productions you might have seen at the Playhouse. He was also in the director’s chair for last year’s main stage smash “Jekyll and Hyde.”

And now he directs two of BPA’s local premieres.

"ROMANCING THE BUDDHA" — a one-man show based on the book of the same title by Bainbridge author Michael Lisagor about coming to terms with his wife’s chronic illness through embracing Buddhism, will be on the boards one night only at 7:30 p.m. March 22 at BPA, 200 Madison Ave. N. on Bainbridge. Proceeds will go to the MS walk.

Tickets are $15 available at Eagle Harbor Books and Island Fitness.

Info: www.romancingthebuddha.com, www.bainbridgeperformingarts.org or call (206) 842-4560.

"WOODPILE" — an original play debut by Bainbridge playwright Sara Anne Scribner about how a family in the deep south reacts when they find out that there is African American descent in their bloodline, will be on the boards starting at 7:30 p.m. March 27, showing at the same time each night through March 29. Each showing will be followed by a Q&A session with the playwright, director and actors.

Tickets are $15.

Info: www.bainbridgeperforming arts.org or call (206) 842-4560.

For more info on the Bainbridge Island Arts and Humanities Council, visit them online at www.artshum.org.

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