WICA’s “Apostrophe” explores life, relationships

— Created June 15, 2022 by Melanie Hammons

By Melanie Hammons

Theater aficionados and locals alike have a rare opportunity now through June 25 to see a play penned by regional playwright, Liza Powel O’Brien, a play that’s not yet been staged anywhere up until now.

Presented by Whidbey Island Center for the Arts in Langley, acting Executive Director Deana Duncan
said WICA is the first theater in the country to offer a full production of “Apostrophe.”

“Our audiences will be the first audiences anywhere to see this work; it is literally a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” said Duncan. “This play could very well travel on from here to major stages in New York and beyond.”

Directed by Vito Zingarelli, “Apostrophe,” according to Duncan, “is a beautifully written play that speaks to the places where something may be missing and we don’t know why.” Developed at the 2020 Ojai Playwright Conference, O’Brien’s play was written during the pandemic shutdown, a time that highlighted some truths about theater and the arts in general, Duncan said.

“Theater, the arts, will never again be ‘business as usual.’ We have no time to waste. This pandemic has manifested powerful and profound roadmaps of how we need to move forward,” she said.

Far from the pandemic-induced closure creating “down time” for the organization, Duncan described quite the opposite result.

“Our director, Vito Zingarelli, read new plays and searched for great stories that were now and relevant; our actors stayed open and ready for when it would be possible to return,” she said.

Alluding to the involuntary sidelining the pandemic ushered in, Duncan gave a brief recap of WICA’s activities over the past two years. “We re-opened full theater productions a year ago in June 2021 with Sam Shepard’s classic, ‘Curse of the Starving Class.’”

She acknowledged that it was both exhilarating and sobering to once again stage art during a world-wide pandemic.

“Yet, art is our answer to this time,” Duncan continued. “It is the right time to explore the themes of these past years: isolation, pain, loss, and joy in rediscovering and creating shared space.”

Those themes create a conundrum as they collide with the question posed in “Apostrophe’s” descriptive synopsis that’s posted on WICA’s website. It states, “How do we protect ourselves from the people we love? What gets lost when we try?”

Duncan describes the play’s four-person cast as uniquely positioned to support WICA’s premiere of a national play of this stature.

“The fact that we’re able to support a mix of national and local actors speaks to the strength this local community places in great art,” she said. “We’re very pleased to welcome visiting New York actress, Shoreline-raised Rheanna Altendido.”

As “Apostrophe” navigates the relationships and interactions between teachers, students, parents, teens, and friends, the plot and sub-plot don’t appear to hint at what may be termed “easy resolution.” In fact, director Zingarelli holds a different perspective on the significance posed by the collision of relationships and situations.

“Our goal is never going to be to ‘present answers,’” Zingarelli said. “It’s to present questions, and to provide a forum, conversation, dialogue and introspection.

“Over the past few years, with such a confluence of societal challenges, the prospect of returning to theater made finding a work of relevance for our time that much more germane,” he continued. “[We] search for those voices that can help us process, reflect, and understand the world around us. Playwright Liza Powel O’Brien’s voices I have always found to be compelling and nuanced in just this way. Voices we may not always hear so clearly amidst the din of the day.”

Zingarelli expressed the deep appreciation he feels for the talents of all those involved in this production.

“Finding this story and having the opportunity to collaborate with a playwright-in-residence, along with a talented cadre of theater artists to bring a new play to life has been a rewarding journey,” he said.

As WICA passes its 26th year of sponsoring and encouraging art and artists, it’s noteworthy to reflect on an accomplishment that’s not as well known to the public. According to Duncan, WICA is now positioned as one of the strongest performing arts centers in the state, having worked directly with the governor’s office in writing the re-opening guidelines post-COVID. It’s the sort of stature that bodes well for WICA’s future, thanks to the community that has faithfully supported it all these years.

That’s a sentiment that’s echoed by O’Brien, the playwright of “Apostrophe,” as well.

“Bringing this play to life in such a beautiful community so rich with talent – what a joy! Thank you to WICA, and to the community that supports it!” she said.

“Apostrophe” is now playing at WICA. Remaining performances are June 16-19 and 23-25 at WICA, 565 Camano Avenue, in Langley. Performance times are at 7:30 p.m. each evening except for Sunday matinees, which are at 2 p.m. Tickets and other information are available by calling 360-221-8262 or at the website, wicaonline.org.