By Jean Janes
Television and movies cannot compare to the unmediated experience of a play. The house lights dim and the stage brightens as the show comes to life. Pure storytelling without any insulation or editing. The costumes, makeup, scenery and the talent of the actors all come together to craft a theatrical performance simply for the joy of sharing stories with an attentive audience.
Right here in our own backyard, the Lakewood Playhouse (LPH) has been a source of quality theater since 1938. Seventy-six seasons later, they are still going strong. The LPH has a rich history of producing great shows with literary value for the whole family, a tradition they continue into their current season. Not only have they been creating great entertainment, they also enrich the community by providing educational opportunities.
Murder mysteries, comedies, classics, and children’s theater represent some of the variety of the LPH repertoire. The long history of the LPH began in 1938 with a production of Boy Meets Girl. Throughout the years, they have featured such plays from Arsenic and Old Lace in 1947, 1973, 1990, and 2013 to Macbeth in 2008. Offering something for everyone, the 2013 season featured shows such as Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice to the children’s fantasy by C.S. Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia.
This season, the LPH has just finished running the murder mystery And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie. Opening early November 2014 is Little Women, a charming tale appropriate for the whole family. Then, beginning 11 December, A Year With Frog and Toad will certainly amuse the youngest theater fans. Wendy Huber, the box office manager at LPH, explains that a season for the LPH generally extends from September to about the end of June, so there are certainly more shows to follow. A community theater in the truest sense, the LPH caters to audiences of all ages and tastes.
For little more than the price of a movie ticket this celebrated art form is easily found right in the Lakewood Towne Center. In addition to making theater available, the LPH is also making theater accessible. By offering “pay what you can” nights, Huber describes, “you pay what you have. Basically, if you have a buck, you can throw a buck in. We have people pay full price. Some people pay more, so it’s whatever you can afford and whatever you want to put in.” Patrons can enjoy the magic of live theater no matter their budget. Huber adds, “And you know, we get a lot of college kids that come on those nights…people that want to come as a big group but can’t afford those full ticket prices.” November 6, 13, and 20 will be the “pay what you can” productions of Little Women, with the actors receiving a portion of the proceeds from the third show. Check the LPH website, the LPH Facebook page, or call the box office at 253-588-0042 for details.
Of course, one of the most remarkable things about theater is audience involvement. The mood and tenor of the crowd adds to the electricity of the production. There is little more exhilarating than having an audience laugh at your joke, gasp at a revelation, or cheer for a hero. While being a part of that audience is its own thrill, some would like a more intimate role to play. The LPH takes community involvement one-step further by offering volunteer opportunities. To go from patron to participant, would-be stagehands can contribute their own expertise to the production. Even behind the scenes, painting, building, or helping with box office operations, members of the community can become moving parts of the play. While the production crew may be limited according to what is needed, Huber mentions, “If they want to just come in and volunteer for a show, they can take tickets at the door, run concessions, popcorn, and then they just help us clean up at the end and they see the show.”
The LPH is also educating the next generation of artists. Through the Lakewood Institute of Theatre (LIT), the LPH helps to foster local talent for the LPH stage and beyond. The LIT website explains that they offer classes providing aspiring actors “opportunities to work with Northwest Directors and Actors who will help groom students for LPH’s main stage and surrounding theaters,” enhancing the local artistic flavor of Lakewood and its residents. Visit the LIT website or their Facebook page for more information.
Huber sums up the LPH best when she states, “It’s great. It’s a small theater so there’s never a bad seat…We’re not so big that people feel like they’re lost in the crowd in the seating.” A fun evening out or an educational opportunity, the Lakewood Playhouse continues to be an important part of Lakewood and its artistic legacy.
Contact Lakewood Playhouse for upcoming shows, tickets and more.
5729 Lakewood Towne Center Blvd SW
Lakewood, WA 9849