November 22, 2011

Shoalwater Shenanigans--community theater at its best

Every American frontier community had its share of colorful characters--some noble and pious to a fault; many hard working and inured to the hardships of the rustic life; and a few, downright rapscallions.

Oysterville, Washington, (present population about 1,400) was no exception to the rule, as community theater aficionados of Southwest Washington learned November 19 when the Peninsula Association of Performing Artists here offered two performances of Shoalwater Shenanigans in the edifice of the Oysterville Church.

Shoalwater Shenanigans was adapted from native son, the late Willard Richardson Espy's (1910-1999) book of poetry about his beloved Oysterville. That work is titled, Skulduggery on Shoalwater Bay.

Characters drawn from Espy's work during last weekend's matinee and evening performances before a capacity crowd included several generations of Espy's; a venerable Baptist preacher; a midwife; Chinook Indians, one of whom became the wife of Oysterville's founder; and a variety of seafarers and sturdy oyster bed farmers.

Copies of Espy's book, as well as simple refreshments, were sold during intermission between Parts I and II of the performance.

D. Grant Haynes
Long Beach, Washington

A vocal quintet consisting of, from left, Sandy Nielson, Arwen Norman, Christl Mack, Clay Nichols and Bud Runyan provided musical interludes between character sketches now and again.  Accompanying the quintet were, at far left, Colin Staub on the mandolin and Bob Walters on the banjo and guitar. (Photo by D. Grant Haynes)


At far left, Celsa Johnson, script writer, follows Wayne Downing's depiction of Liney Seaman as Liney recalls the time he wallowed in a bed of peppermint plants before going to a community dance so as to smell good for the ladies. Upon arrival at the dance, Liney learned that some wild animal had also stopped by the peppermint. (Photo by D. Grant Haynes)