"Pygmalion" April - May 1983
By George Bernard Shaw
Directed by Gloria Ingram and Val Pearson
From The Daily World Sunday, April 24, 1983
'Pygmalion' to wind up first season of new Driftwood theater
After a busy eight months, the Driftwood Players will open this Friday night the final production of the first season in their impressive theater at Third and I streets in Aberdeen.
The play is "Pygmalion," famed playwright George Bernard Shaw's London-1900s version of the Greek legend about a sculptor who created a beautiful statue and then fell in love with his creation.
It's an appropriate production for the Driftwood Players, who two years ago looked at a 50-year-old church too big for its congregation, and fell in love with what they envisioned as one of the finest community theaters in the Northwest.
They've done quite a lot of "sculpting" since in order to create the model theater that they visualized.
First came the Herculean effort to raise more than $200,000 with which to purchase the building, build risers and install seats in the auditorium, enlarge the stage and install $48,000 worth of electrical lighting and sound systems.
Those projects, plus a lot of paint, brought them to the opening of the 1982-83 season with a high-spirited production of the comedy "Auntie Mame."
TWO THREE-ACT plays and two short children's plays later, the season's fourth production finds the Driftwooders in vastly improved backstage facilities, but with dreams still to satisfy.
"It's almost uncanny, how well the floor plan of the church worked into a theater," was a frequent comment last summer when the church congregation moved out and the theater crews moved in. There's been no change of opinion since.
"Even the little reading rooms behind the stage are just right for individual dressing rooms where actors can make their between-scene changes quickly," Ernie Ingram, director of the new-theater project, pointed out.
"Look at this gorgeous makeup room," enthused Hank Bilderback, a long-time performer, member and officer. He was standing in the long, mirror-lined room where a dozen persons were applying makeup in the glare of closely-spaced light bulbs edging the mirrors.
Even tiny Heather Blauvelt, sitting on her father Art's lap while Gary Morean applied his rehearsal makeup for the role of Col. Pickering, seemed to appreciate the bright lights and the space available. The makeup room in the old Hoquiam theater would never have accommodated her stroller.
Builders like George Franich especially enjoyed the carpenter shop that shares the huge theater basement with a newly walled-off costume loft. In the old theater, many set pieces had to be built on stage, and moved out of the way of actors during rehearsals.
Now the table saws and other tools can be set up where needed and can be left there, and carpenters can work while rehearsals are going on upstairs.
THE THEATER organization has been accumulating costumes for 22 years -- many given to it when Harbor residents cleaned out attics or unpacked long-forgotten storage trunks, many others constructed especially for certain roles. In the old theater, stacks of boxes were packed with hats , dresses, coats, and wigs, and clothes racks were so jammed that it was hard to find the needed costumes.
Now the costumes hang in relatively neat rows in the new quarters, and in small nearby rooms wide shelves hold an assortment of wigs, hats ranging from 18th century plumed headpieces to chic cloches, and accessories like above-elbow gloves, lace shawls and silk purses.
Walling off the costume loft cost $1,215; the makeup room and new green room, once a raised dais above the basement floor and now a cozy retreat with a sofa and coffee-maker, were converted for $7,537. A new restroom for handicapped persons cost $2,758, according to a detailed report that Ingram produced a few days ago for supporters of the theater.
No structural changes were necessary except the addition of two partitions; the rooms were utilized as they were.
The spacious lobby, with its finely-crafted 1920s woodwork, provides a second rehearsal area when productions "overlap," as happened when the recent "The Plays the Thing" was being performed while two children's plays were in rehearsal.
There's just one draw back -- the size of the utility bills. But despite expenses of keeping the huge building heated for almost constant use, the Driftwood Theater has managed to finance improvements and still make payments on its small remaining debt.
The Driftwood Players provide the area's only purely nonprofit, volunteer community theater, and they have hundreds of loyal supporters both within the organization and among the theater-going public.
Because of those friends, Ingram could say at the end of the new theater's first season, "Together I think we have created one of the finest community theater structures in the United States and one which we will all have the opportunity of enjoying for years to come."
From The Daily World Wednesday, May 4, 1983
Comparisons are inevitable between "Pygmalion," George Bernard Shaw's classic play now being produced by the Driftwood Players, and "My Fair Lady," the musical that was derived from it and produced here several years ago by the Grays Harbor Civic Choir.
A full-house opening night audience applauded the Driftwood production heartily last Friday, but seemed a little bemused by the somewhat ambiguous ending, not the same "they lived happily ever after" conclusion as the musical.
It was obvious as the play proceeded that the inclusion of musical numbers and the consequent change in tone of "My Fair Lady" had meant that many of Shaw's best lines were cut and his biting comments on "high society" were toned down.
They aren't toned down in the performances of Lisa Thompson as Eliza Doolittle, the Cockney flower girl; John Wolfe, as Professor Higgins, who transformed her into a "princess," and Hank Bilderback, as Eliza's philosophically opportunistic father.
The father's role especially is richer and less a caricature, masterfully played by Bilderback, in the Driftwood "Pygmalion."
"Eliza" also comes off better, as Thompson brings her from a sniveling street peddler to a cultured young woman with independent ideas that seem more contemporary than Victorian.
Wolfe's "Higgins" is more the crusty, cynical professor with virtually no romance in his soul -- more convincing but less appealing than the hero of "My Fair Lady."
Art Blauvelt creates an earnest, stuffy but compassionate Col. Pickering, the true gentleman, and Val Pearson, as always, make a standout of her small but important part as Higgins' far-from-subservient housekeeper.
Phyllis Shrauger does the professor's upper-class, commonsense mother to perfection, and Carol Stubb with equal skill plays a weepy, impoverished Mrs. Eynesford Hill, mother to a sharp-tongued daughter well portrayed by Margaret Savas, and an ineffectual but likeable son played by Kevin Carney.
Effective in bit parts were Bill Garrison, Bryan Harper, Larry Beard, Roechelle Landstrom and Darlene Blevins.
Gloria Ingram and Val Pearson were co-directors, producing a rapier-sharp commentary on the social mores of Victorian English upper-class life as well as a piece of good entertainment.
The audience enjoyed the between-act shows as members of the cast changed the versatile scenes from Covent Garden to Prof. Higgins' speech laboratory to his mother's drawing room and back again. The sets were designed by Ernie Ingram, and the ingenious furniture was constructed by John Eko. The authentic looking costumes were assembled by Jeanne Wolfe.
The Play will show at 8:15 this Friday and Saturday night, and May 13, 14, 19, 20 and 21. Tickets are at City Drug in Aberdeen, Harbor Drug in Hoquiam, and Monte Drug in Montesano.
Home Driftwood Players Inc.