Fairhaven Summer Repertory Theatre kicks off its 2024 season June 25 with three plays that run alternately through July 21 at Fairhaven’s FireHouse Arts and Events Center.

Presented by BellinghamTheatreWorks, this year’s award-winning plays are “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Christopher Sergel, adapted from the acclaimed Harper Lee novel and directed by Mark Kuntz; “The Thanksgiving Play” by Larissa FastHorse, directed by Kayla Adams; and “The Mountaintop” by Katori Hall, directed by Troy Scarborough.

This season’s theme is: “Just Us: A Time for Humility and Humanity.”

Performances take place six nights a week, at 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays and 5 p.m. on Sundays.

The company includes many actors and techies from our community — students, educators, parents, and children — as well as seasoned regional and national artists who travel here to take part.

Founder Mark Kuntz, now in his 10th year as BellinghamTheatreWorks’ artistic director, says it’s his hope “that our audience has an intimate experience with some of this country’s most important dramatic literature — one piece an important part of our literary history, the other two reflecting a contemporary view of our country’s history. All three plays embrace and awaken our humanity, in the spirit of humility.”

The Thanksgiving Play

Director Kayla Adams, a former Western Washington University student, returns to Fairhaven Summer Repertory Theatre for the fourth time. She directed “Wit” for the company in 2019

“Bellingham is full of thoughtful people who deserve intelligent, provocative theater,” she says. “I appreciate that FRST seasons feature challenging contemporary plays with a strong point of view.”

Adams, currently an M.F.A. directing candidate and teaching assistant at the University of Iowa, is directing “The Thanksgiving Play,” a comic satire written by Larissa FastHorse, premiered in 2023 at the Hayes Theatre in New York City, marking the first production of a Native American woman’s play on Broadway.

“It’s a comedy, first and foremost,” says Adams. And timely: It’s about four people who attempting to create a politically correct play about the first Thanksgiving to be performed in schools as part of Native American Heritage Month — which, ironically, is in November.

Dallas Milholland, Dany Shaw and Joseph Uhl in rehearsal for “The Thanksgiving Play.” Photo courtesy BellinghamTheatreWorks

To Kill A Mockingbird

Patrick Dizney studied many years ago under Mark Kuntz as a non-traditional student at Western Washington University. After receiving his master’s in fine arts, he acted professionally in New York City for six years, and then returned to Bellingham to teach in Western’s theater department. He then taught at Central Washington University for several years and now lives in Eugene but travels frequently.

Dizney has been given the challenge this summer of playing Atticus Finch in “To Kill a Mockingbird.” It’s a role he’s coveted for some time.

“Atticus is extremely iconic and a touch complicated,” Dizney says. Gregory Peck’s portrayal in the 1962 film version has defined the role. “Atticus facilitates the story, but it really belongs to Scout and Jem.”

Chloe Shaw, David Ketter, and Silas Marston rehearse for “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Photo courtesy BellinghamTheatreWorks

Both archetype and protagonist, Atticus is a man struggling with concepts and ideals that exist beyond his influence.

“In many ways he is a walking dichotomy — defending the vulnerable, assisting the needy and sometimes neglecting his own familial duties and placing trust in the wrong places,” says Dizney. “As Atticus says in the play, he has his blind spots along with the rest of us. He’s not a hero, but he’s the one I would want by my side when the going gets tough.”

Aidan Espinosa, from Arlington, plays Boo Radley in the play.

Espinoza worked with Kuntz in the 2022 production of “Big, Scary Animals,” which was also directed by Kayla Adams.

Although a small role, Espinoza says he looks forward to playing the part because of Boo’s complexity.

“I’ve never played such a small role that still carries a very heavy weight for the overall production,” Espinoza says. “I interpret Boo as a very deep character with a troubled past [who] desires love and friendship above all.”

He adds that, to him, the play says “the single most important thing is to recognize people’s differences and not be too quick to judge others by them.”

Dizney agrees.

“I used to believe that the strength of democracy lies in its diversity of opinions,” he says, “but it’s more than that.”

“It is our ability to appreciate, or at least respect different points of view. I fear we have lost — or never developed — the ability to respect deeper differences. Perhaps this little play will create space for some of us to ponder that.”

David Ketter, Chloe Shaw, and Lily Sasnett during recent rehearsals for “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Photo courtesy BellinghamTheatreWorks

The Mountaintop

The Reverend Nick Sweeney, who lives in San Diego, plays another challenging role this season, that of Martin Luther King Jr. in “The Mountaintop.” He also plays Reverend Sykes in “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

Sweeney’s interpretation of King “is pretty clear, due to the historical context of this character.”

He describes the plot as Martin, basically in a bad way — depressed, exhausted, and anxious, but still driven to work on a sermon — when he is ‘visited’ by what appears to be a maid.

“The rest of the play unfolds the evening and early morning hours before the day he is assassinated,” Sweeney continues, “and has to do with him coming to terms with his devotion to the civil rights movement and his looming death.”

Troy Scarborough is directing this summer’s production of “The Mountaintop.” Photo courtesy BellinghamTheatreWorks

Invest in the Arts, Benefit the Community

All of the actors praise the importance of community theater and echo the theme of this summer’s plays.

“Supporting and participating in the arts is an investment in community,” says Dizney.
“Community is what allows us to transcend differences, take responsibility, and hold each other responsible.”

“Hopefully,” Sweeney says, “everyone will think about what it means to stand up and speak their conscience in the name of justice and love. What are they willing to die for, if ever history calls upon them to play their small or large role?

“Sometimes we need to laugh and release tension before we can face a hard truth,” says Adams.
Kuntz adds: “Watching real people [characters] we all know and love work through important moments in their lives is why we’re so attracted to storytelling. In the case of Fairhaven Summer Repertory Theatre, we bring those stories to your lap within reaching distance, inviting the audience’s energy to be a big factor in the evening’s experience.”

It’s just one of the reasons Kuntz loves working in the round in the intimate FireHouse space. “It becomes a time for the community to gather together to share an experience that is both fleeting and memorable.”

Tickets for each performance are $25; tickets for all three plays can be had as a package for $65. For more details and to see the full schedule, please visit www.BellinghamTheatreWorks.org.

Fairhaven Summer Repertory Theatre
FireHouse Arts and Events Center
1314 Harris Avenue in Fairhaven

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