Sunday, September 27, 2020

The Driftwood Bridge streaming free online

Thomas Hitoshi Pruiksma and David Mielke

Courtesy Photo

Not even a worldwide pandemic can stop theater people from doing their thing, as demonstrated by such events as Harlequin Productions’ ongoing radio web series of theatrical shows and Pug Bujeaud’s Zoom performance of her drama The Culling. And now comes The Driftwood Bridge - An Offering of Story and Song by David Mielke and his husband Thomas Hitoshi Pruiksma.

This cabaret-style musical can now be seen free of charge online.

The show started as something the couple wrote and performed for their wedding guests in 2018 at Open Space for Arts and Community on Vashon Island. It quickly evolved into a full professional theatrical production that was staged in November of 2019 in the Kay White Hall at the Vashon Center for the Arts. At the time it was called Gaybaret.

It was scheduled for a five week-run in Seattle at the 12th Avenue Arts Studio Theater but had to be rescheduled because of the pandemic.

“Due to heartfelt requests from previous audience members who want to share the show with their friends, we've decided to make The Driftwood Bridge available to theatre audiences free on-demand online by streaming the production we filmed in November,” Mielke says. “Since it touches on themes that have become even more relevant in these challenging times, we wanted to make it available in people’s homes.”

Mielke explains: “The Driftwood Bridge is a two-person theatrical and musical memoir about taking experiences that wash up on the existential beaches of our lives and using them to build a bridge to carry us forward. The show explores life after loss, intergenerational forgiveness, and the ways mentors and friends help us feel ready to say yes to love—gay, straight, or otherwise.”

With Pruiksma on piano, each performer alternately tells their own story and sings songs—about letting go of old shame, learning to trust, and acknowledging the mystery of life. As with many rituals honoring what is known but unseen, the show bows to the joyful play of what seems to be serendipity.

“There’s a thread running through the show about openness to wonder, to the poetry of lived life,” Pruiksma says. “Our experiences may appear to be chaotic and random, but often there is some more mysterious pattern we can see or help to create that leads to unexpected gifts.”

The show continues until December 31, on, where Mielke and Pruiksma are also showcasing another Covid-coping endeavor, a video series they've produced called Broadway in the Yurt, recently featured in the "Modern Love" column of the New York Times.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Tacoma Little Theatre’s ‘Page to Screen’ Presents the Final Assignment

Tacoma Little Theatre's Page to Screen program presents an exciting virtual drama: James A. Gilletti’s, The Final Assignment, directed by pug Bujeaud, stage managed by Nena Curley and featuring some of the Pacific Northwest’s finer actors. It is a one-night-only staged reading, and it is free and online.

This is Gilletti's first off-the-shelf production with TLT. When he isn't busy writing, Gilletti can be found baking, infusing booze, or selling real estate. “But not simultaneously, thank goodness,” he quips. He lives with his wife, two dogs, and tortoise in Lakewood.

The Final Assignment follows a young college graduate on the last day of his internship with a radio station. On a fateful day, Nov. 22, 1963, when a fellow reporter no-shows at the last minute, the intern gets tapped for a mobile news unit post at the corner of Elm and Houston Street just as President Kennedy's motorcade passes the Texas Schoolbook Depository. What follows is a sequence of events that will push this young man's capabilities to their limits, force him to confront his greatest fear, and change his life irreversibly. 

Gilletti describes The Final Assignment as an historical drama that tells the story of Sam Patterson, a young man who dreams of working in radio and finally gets his big break just as . . . well, you read the previous paragraph.

The Final Assignment features the talents of: Joel Thomas, Mason Quinn, W. Scott Pinkston, Randy Clark, Steve Tarry, Ronnie Allen, Gretchen Boyt, Frank Roberts, Paul Richter, Jess Allan,

Tacoma Little Theatre’s Page to Screen welcomes local playwrights an opportunity to have their scripts performed in a virtual staged reading.  Pieces range in length from scenes, one acts, or full length plays and musicals. To submit your script for consideration, please visit

The Final Assignment is free, Oct. 3, 2020 at 7 p.m. with donations gladly accepted.  To watch the performance you may join by visiting, or by following the link to YouTube (  For questions or more information, call (253) 272-2281.



Monday, September 7, 2020

Harlequin Announces Free Radio Series


Along with other live events across the nation, Harlequin Productions’ 2020 Season was halted in March 2020. To complete this year’s season, the theater announces a six-week online radio series, to run September 20 – October 31, 2020. Productions will run for one week each, premiering Sundays at 7:30 pm PST, with a run proceeding Tuesday – Saturday of that week at 7:30 pm PST. Local and regionally known directors will helm each work. All performances are free to the public; space is limited for each performance. To reserve a free ticket or for more information, visit or

 Sept 20 – Sept 26: The Highest Tide directed by Aaron Lamb

A sensory experience emanates from the pages of local author Jim Lynch’s bestselling novel, which instantly transports us beneath the waters of a marine world teeming with infinite life and exquisite possibility.

 Sept 27 – Oct 3: For Peter Pan on Her 70th Birthday directed by Kathryn Dorgan

The refusal to grow up confronts the inevitability of growing old in Pulitzer Prize-nominated playwright Sarah Ruhl’s lyric comedy.

 Oct 4 – Oct 10: A Bright Room Called Day directed by Aaron Lamb

From the Pulitzer-winning playwright behind Angels in America comes a dramatic parable for our time. This early Tony Kushner work follows a group of artists and political activists struggling to preserve themselves in 1930s Berlin as the Weimar Republic surrenders to the seduction of fascism. 

 Oct 11 – Oct 17: This Flat Earth directed by Lauren Love

Stuck at home in a state of shocked limbo after a horrific school tragedy, Julie and Zander, two twelve-year-olds, try to make sense of what they witnessed, their awkward crushes, and an infinitely more complicated future — but the grown-ups are no help at all. An urgent response to our times by playwright Lindsey Ferrentino.

 Oct 18 – Oct 24: Snow in Midsummer directed by Desdemona Chiang

In a contemporary re-imagining of one of China’s most famous classical dramas, a young widow curses those who executed her for a crime she did not commit. Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig’s new interpretation of the Guan Hanqing original was first produced as part of the “Chinese Translations Project” at the Royal Shakespeare Company. A second production was received in 2018 at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

 Oct 25 – Oct 31: Halloween Surprise directed by Corey McDaniel

For our last offering in the series, join us for a gripping radio drama in the best Harlequin tradition of chills and thrills, just in time for All Hallow's Eve. 

WHAT: Harlequin Productions presents a free six-week online radio series, completing the 2020 season.

 WHEN: September 20 – October 31, 2020, at 7:30 pm (Mondays are dark)


 TICKETS: Space is limited for each performance; audiences should reserve their free tickets online at

 All casts to be announced

Saturday, July 11, 2020

How I faked my way into becoming a theater nerd

It all started when I was in high school—Hattiesburg High School, Hattiesburg, Mississippi, 1960. Everyone was encouraged to join some kind of school club or activity, 4-H, Junior Kiwanis, Young Republicans, debate team or something. I chose Sock and Buskin, the drama club. We never did any drama. I can’t remember if we ever even talked about it. The reason I picked that club was the faculty advisor was a former Miss Mississippi. Every boy in my class and possibly quite a few of the girls had a gigantic crush on her.
The only thing the club ever did was to cover a convertible with toilet paper flowers and ride in the homecoming parade.
Fast forward ten years. I’m applying for a job teaching art at a school in Clarkton, Missouri, population 1,207 in 2017. Lord knows what it was back then. I got the job. When I met with the principal for the first time, he said, “I see here on your application that you were in the drama club.”
“Yes sir, I was.”
“Well, how would you like to direct the school play? We’ll pay you an extra $200.” (equal to $1,321 today according to what I could find on Google)
Oh yeah, I was all in for that. Never mind that I had never directed a play or even been in a play. Except . . . oh, wait, I played one of the dwarfs in Snow White in the first grade. I almost forgot about that. I not only had no theater experience at the time, I hadn’t even seen more than four or five plays in my life. Naturally, I said, “Yes sir, I’d love to do that.”
The play was some stupid teenage comedy about a bunch of boys dressing up as girls and crashing a girls-only spend-the-night party. Whoever chooses the plays—most likely a committee of parents and teachers—had already ordered scripts.
I held auditions in the gymnasium and cast everybody who showed up. Everyone who didn’t get cast as a named character was put in the ensemble. I told them to hang around on stage and pretend they were talking to other cast members.
The cast was as skeptical as I was, and from the first day of rehearsal they started improvising. Most of the improvised lines were better than what was in the scripts, so I’d say, “Yeah. Let’s keep that.” Other than letting the students rewrite the play, I can’t remember what I did by way of rehearsal. But the play was a hit. The audience laughed hysterically. Afterwards, one of the parents who helped picked the play told me it was the best play ever done at Clarkton High School and said, “I hope you can direct our play every year.”
Well, I didn’t do that because they didn’t hire me back, not as a director and not as an art teacher. That’s a whole different story.
Let’s fast forward another decade. By then, I had seen a little more than four or five plays. Maybe as many as ten total, mostly Off-Broadway and Off-Off-Broadway when I was in New York. And then we moved back home to Mississippi where my nine-year-old son got cast as one of the Lost Boys in a local production of Peter Pan, and he fell in love with theater. From then on, he was a theater kid all the way through high school and college, and I went to see as many of his plays as I could.
In about 2003, I got a part-time temporary job as an assistant features editor at The News Tribune. The job lasted nine months. And at the end of that time my editor asked if I would be willing to write theater reviews. She had no idea how little I knew about theater but trusted I could do it. I managed to fake it while I learned. Since that beginning, I have written something more than a thousand theater reviews, and I feel like I’m beginning to get the hang of it. It’s been a great learning experience, and I’ve made many wonderful friends in the theater community. I so look forward to when live theater can start back.

Monday, June 8, 2020

American Way: A virtual theatrical experience at Tacoma Musical Playhouse

Not to be defeated by the coronavirus pandemic, Tacoma Musical Playhouse is doing a virtual performance of American Way by Jeremy Gable, one night only, Friday, June 12 at 7:30 p.m.
Faced with disappointing comic book sales, benefit packages and retirement, four superheroes take a break in their secret cafe to reminisce about the good old days. But when an unexpected tragedy hits the town, they are forced to deal with being powerless for the first time in their lives.

“Gable’s distinctive voice offers great promise… His lacerating piece evokes a tragicomic
Kubrick-esque brilliance.” – BACKSTAGE WEST

“Wickedly funny stuff.” – L.A. TIMES

“A superhero parody with a lot more brewing beneath the surface.” – L.A. WEEKLY

The Cast

CARL OLSON (Crescent Wonder)
Carl is a retired teacher from South Kitsap High School in Port Orchard. His last full-time assignment included teaching Stagecraft, Beginning Acting, and serving as the Win Granlund Performing Arts Center's technical director and directing thirteen productions during his tenure. Carl has been active in area community theater since 1985, both as an actor and director…many wonderful shows and memories. Carl is excited to be once again working with his former student, Erik Furuheim.

Rafe is a teacher and musician from Tacoma, Washington. When he is not directing choirs or playing rock and roll, he can be found on stage mugging for a laugh (and a few tears) in local musicals. Rafe is a father to two teens, Ava and Dean, and his wife Dawn is a midwife. He is thrilled to be a part of this unique production surrounded by talented artists.

ARIEL VAN DYKE (Mandible Maiden_
Ariel is a native Washingtonian, having taken classes at Pacific Lutheran University and been a Tacoma School of the Arts graduate. She is inspired not only by music but visual and digital art in her spare time. She can be seen at the Tacoma Musical Playhouse every so often, and dedicated each performance to her husband, son, and daughter.

BENJAMIN USHER (Pungent Huboldt)
Benjamin grew up in Kitsap county. He headed east to graduate from Central Washington University with a BFA in Musical Theatre, apart from pursuing a career in performing, he also enjoys building sets and solving problems in creating magic off-stage.

Producer, Director & Sound Design ERIK FURUHEIM ()
Erik resides in Newport, Oregon, with his beautiful and talented 10-year daughter. In the past two years, he has been in numerous productions all over the US, portraying “The Big Bopper” in Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story. In his daily life, he is a Network Security Engineer for Checkpoint Software and loves the job and flexibility it gives him to perform anywhere in the world and spend quality time with his kiddo. Erik was last seen on TMP’s stage in TheFull Monty, and Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story (Big Bopper). He hopes you enjoy the presentation and hopes that everyone is safe and sane.

Donation – Pay What You Can ($5.00 minimum) - All proceeds go to Tacoma Musical Playhouse
Order the link Online:  | Season + Tickets (Tab) | Virtual Events

The strange wonder of the juxtaposition of disparate objects or the Surreal legacy of modern day collage

Sharon Styer and Gail Ramsey Wharton

By Alec Clayton

I recently wrote about collage artists Sharon Styer and Gail Ramsey Wharton for Oly Arts (see CreativeMinds: The Collage Art of Sharon Styer and Gail Ramsey Wharton). Since writing that article, I have had additional thoughts about their work that I’d like to share.

Collage from Food for Thought series by Gail Ramsey Wharton


“What she really wanted was to just stop worrying” collage by Sharon Styer

Poet Isidore-Lucien Ducasse, writing under the nom de plume Comte de LautrĂ©amont, penned the line "as beautiful as the chance encounter of a sewing machine and an umbrella on an operating table," and AndrĂ© Breton adopted that line as a guiding principle of Surrealism. The beauty of chance, and the strange wonder of juxtapositions of disparate objects. That is in essence a description of both Dada and Surrealism and of collage as medium and as a method of design. It has been paramount in the works of artists from Picasso and Braque to Duchamp, to Jasper Johns to David Salle. Collage, in fact, has been the design method of just about every art since Picasso and Braque first glued imitation wood grains into their paintings—whether or not the actual gluing of paper or other materials is involved.
Collage as a method of design is not hierarchical. There is no main character centerstage with smaller supporting cast off to the sides such as in the typical Renaissance triangular composition. Rather, all characters, images, shapes tend to be of equal value. Rules of perspective are often ignored. There are realistic images because the images tend to be taken from photographs ripped from the pages or newspapers and magazines, but the relationships of the various images are often unrealistic. Parts of bodies don’t match. Background images may be larger than foreground images. Collages are narrative by nature, but the narratives are more implicit than explicit. If there are stories, they are stories with no logical beginning, middle and end.
A collage from Gail Ramsey Wharton’s “Food for Thought” series pictures an androgynous figure in an interior setting seated on an antique chair. There’s something strange and comical about the figure, and about the entire scene. For starters, the figure’s head is way too large for the body. And for quite some time I thought of the figure as a woman, but eventually noticed that her (or his) chest is bare and does not look like a woman’s breast, and he’s wearing long stockings and men’s pointy-toed saddle oxford shoes. And there are things in that room that do not belong (as out of place as the sewing machine and umbrella on a dissecting table). He or she is eating an apple, there’s a snake coiled around the chair leg, and there’s a peeping Tom at the window who looks like popular images of Jesus. And then it dawns on me: it’s Adam (or Eve) in the Garden of Eden, but the garden is a Victorian era bedroom, and if that’s God watching over him or her, he’s a very creepy god. Quite often art is both upsetting and funny.
A friend of mine owns another Ramsey Wharton collage. It pictures a woman riding an ironing board as if it is a surfboard. I’ve often enjoyed looking at it, but it only recently dawned on me that the artist’s turn of mind in noticing that an ironing board is shaped like a surfboard and coming up with the quirky idea of putting a surfing woman on it is akin to the kind of thinking Picasso must have done when he combined a bicycle seat and handlebar to make a sculpture of a bull.
Collage artist Sharon Styer’s “What she really wanted was to just stop worrying” is a languid, pastoral scene with a pair of lovers reclining on a bridge. The scene is a surrealistic mix of photographs and images cut from paintings. The landscape is a photograph—all but the blue tree in the foreground, which is painted in a single, flat color, as are the clothes and the bodies of the man and woman. Pop Art images with a hint of Asian art. The man is clothed in a blue suit, and the woman is naked. Her flesh is purple. Even though her head and shoulders rest on his body, they seem unattached and uninterested in one another. The bridge they rest upon is an arch of something like a Japanese paper lantern. The bridge and the man and woman are gigantic in relation to the landscape. By comparison to the size of the bodies, the creek is a mere trickle only a few inches wide. No bridge should be needed to cross it.
Much of the beauty of “What she really wanted was to just stop worrying” is in the movement of lines, the bend of the tree that mimics the shape of the bridge and the sensual lines of the people’s bodies, particularly the position of their arms. Every edge, every line, directs the viewers’ eyes in lyrical movement across the surface. And there are butterflies. There is clearly a story behind this picture. We want to know what they are doing and why, how they got there and what is going to happen next.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Becky Knold’s Veiled Distance and other works

A coronavirus sampler
By Alec Clayton
Veiled Distance
Art galleries and theaters being closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, I am forced by boredom to review works in my own collection.
Becky Knold’s painting “Veiled Distance” has been hanging on my living room wall for years. Recently, I moved it to the bathroom where, to my surprise, I look at it much more often and more thoroughly. I stare at it and find myself being drawn into its veiled depths. (The title does not refer to social distancing and the wearing of masks; it was painted and given that title long before the present horror.)
I have never asked the artist about the media, but I assume from the appearance that it is acrylic on paper, a heavy paper with a simulated canvas surface.
“Veiled Distance” is a contemplative and mysterious painting. There are three flat black opaque shapes floating on the surface, with a background of loosely brushed, transparent, washes of watery paint in white, orange and pink. I italicize the word background to indicate it is not really background but rather the lively, atmospheric surface upon which and over and under which the black shapes are painted. We’re seeing here mysterious organic shapes in space—outer space or perhaps under water or wrapped in layers of transparent muslin, the veil of the title. The spatial ambiguities are fascinating. At top there is a circular shape that is only partially overlapped by the muslin veil, which opens up to a deep hole in space through which a fiery sunset sky can be seen. Below that is a heavy black shape that looks like something prehistoric. It brings to mind the slung bone in the opening scene of 2001: A Space Odessey. (Here’s a reminder: The third black shape is also bone-like. It stands upright on the shores of an orange lake. This interpretation of abstract forms evoking water, sky and bone are perhaps but one of many possible interpretations. I wish you could see it in person, because a reproduction on a computer screen can’t possibly do it justice.
"Riches Over Rags" mixed media on cardboard
"Cave Dweller" mixed media on cardboard

This is an early Becky Knold painting, typical of many works she did in the early 2000s when she first began painting fulltime after retiring from teaching. More recently she has started experimenting with little collage paintings on cardboard and other found materials. She has been posting photos of these on Facebook but has not yet shown them in a gallery. I hope she will be able to post pandem.
The paintings on cardboard are not atmospheric as the earlier works are, but have a kind of solidity, or more specifically the appearance of solidity one might associate with heavier materials. Many of these latest works appear heraldic like medieval armaments, shields or coats of arms. And they are not constricted by the traditional rectangular format of most paintings. Typically, there is a standing vertical rectangular shape topped by a horizontal shape. The colors are bolder than in her earlier paintings, and the paint tends to be heavier and more opaque. There are strong contrasts between expressive marks and flat shapes reminiscent of Adolph Gotlieb and Robert Motherwell.
I have written an in-depth profile of Knold that was recently published by Oly Arts. See it at