Bellevue College’s Stage Fright produced two plays from April 11-13 at the Stop Gap Theater. The plays, “Tigers Hold Grudges” and “The Grass Still Grows,” were written, directed, designed and acted entirely by students.
Stage Fright is Bellevue College’s student drama club, and, once a year, they host a night of student-produced plays. This year’s Stage Fright Production consisted of two plays that dealt with the aftermath of a suicide. However, the similarities end there. The plays differed wildly in tone and execution though each still had strong messages for the audience.
“The Grass Still Grows” was the first play of the night. It followed the story of Archie, played by Schuyler Garfield, who had to find the strength and reasons to move on from a non-descript afterlife. Archie was aided by the kind Percival, portrayed by Kaiman Clement, a mysterious stranger who knew much about Archie’s situation.
It was entertaining to watch Archie grow as he went through the steps required to move on. The actors hit emotional cues very well, and Garfield’s transformation from petulance to maturity felt as much a part of the actor as it did the character. Garfield seems to excel in roles where selfishness and generosity collide. Clement’s portrayal of Percival did an excellent job of providing a bastion of maturity for Archie to lean on as well.
Jared Vogel wrote “The Grass Still Grows” and was present for the viewing. After he watched his play come to life on stage for the first time, he said, “This sets the standard for any other future production it could have.” The performance was certainly one to remember, and it is exciting to think of where it will find improvements.
The second play, “Tigers Hold Grudges,” was about how life goes on for those left behind after a suicide. Willow Rae and Emily Bryant play the twins Caterina and Isabel, respectively. Caterina is a twin who has lost her other half and refuses to address her grief, which manifests itself as hallucinations of Isabel. Isabel offers advice when Caterina feels stressed or alone, but the dead do not make for good counsel.
Willow Rae brings a lot of emotional energy to the role of Catarina. She makes it very easy to empathize with the decisions Catarina makes. Bryant matches Rae’s performance well and brings her own life to Isabel’s spectre. The rest of the cast also rose to the occasion, especially in the tension of the final scene.
Each plays’ writing succeeded in a multitude of ways. Both plays treated the subject of suicide respectfully and did a good job of representing, through different lenses, the emotions that people go through in the wake of death. The pacing in “Grass” felt more consistent, and waiting through the slow start of “Tigers” paid off during the dramatic ending.
“Grass” was also considerably more lighthearted than “Tigers.” Watching “Grass” felt like standing outside on a spring morning. It started in a dark and cold place, but the sun eventually broke through and warmed the room. By contrast, “Tigers” felt like a winter storm at midnight. The night was deep and lonely, and then the power went out in a twist ending. Jennifer Loschen, who wrote “Tigers Hold Grudges” said, “I’ve always found drama easier to write than comedy,” and it will be a joy to watch her develop her skill for writing about the dark shadows of emotion.
Both plays showcased the talents of everyone in BC’s Stage Fright. Competent writing and strong acting set the stage for a great night of theater.