• Artists embrace the new, different and unexpected
By Christina Whiting
Homer community members are stepping out of their comfort zones and into the spotlight on the Mariner Theatre stage in an evening of artistic exploration with Homer Council on the Arts. And, while many have performed on stage before, others will perform in public for the first time. All of the performers, however, will be stretching beyond the familiar during this year’s production of “Stepping Out.”
“We encouraged artists to step out of their role in the community, their comfort zone and their usual performance and try something new, different and unexpected,” said Gail Edgerly, HCOA director.
Part of HCOA’s mission is to provide new opportunities for artists to begin creating or expanding their talents. Stepping Out does just this.
Jessica Williams is creative director of Stepping Out.
“Instead of a talent show, we wanted to create a cohesive piece with scene work between acts, creating a flow that will hold the audience’s attention,” she said. “Each week during rehearsals, something new has come out of our collaborations. That is what makes this event so special; everyone’s willingness to work together to create a truly unique experience.”
Even Williams is reaching beyond the familiar.
“I’ve directed one-acts before,” she said. “This is my first time directing a show this size and working with a full team on both a performance and technical level.”
The show has special meaning for Williams, because she will be moving to Seattle in the spring. In addition to directing, she will sing, participate in several scenes and join in the finale.
Maura Jones is the show’s choreographer. She moved to Homer partly for the beauty and adventure, but has stayed because of the robust arts community. Jones is stepping beyond her creative comfort zone both as a performer and choreographer.
“I’ll be doing a tap dance,” she said. “It’s something I haven’t done since high school.”
Active with Jazzline, Pier One Theater and HCOA, Jones is used to performing someone else’s material, be it dance moves or spoken lines.
“In Stepping Out, I started with a piece of music, a dancer and an idea, and created something I hope will capture and entertain the audience,” Jones said.
Sierra Smith has sung and acted on stage before, but this will be her first time performing dance.
“Each winter, I make a creative goal for myself,” she explained. “This year, it was to experience dance.”
Smith will tell the story of childhood trauma through her dance.
“This piece is uncomfortable, courageous and empowering all at once,” she said.
Smith is no stranger to stepping out of her comfort zone; in fact, she embraces it.
“I thrive off fear,” she said. “The more discomfort I feel, the more growth I know I will experience. This leads me to wonderfully awkward moments, meaningful friendships and lasting memories.”
Dorle Harness and Christa Collier produced the first incarnation of Stepping Out in the early 1990s. Harness recalls numerous memorable performances that have graced the stage throughout the years.
“I’d get goose bumps when Victoria-Wilson Winne’s powerful voice filled the theater,” she said. “And I remember the audience going wild when Brad Hood did a hilarious rendition of “Rhinestone Cowboy;” dressed all in white, even with a rhinestone hat.”
Some of the original performers include Anne Riedel, Christa Collier, the Jazzline Dancers, Mary Jane Shows, Sunrise Sjoberg, Rita Wettach, Sally Wills and Victoria Wilson-Winne.
“This show brought out community members who were experienced performers,” Harness said. “But it also provided a venue for some who did not have many chances to perform or who could benefit from the support of more accomplished performers.”
What was formerly created as a talent show has undergone many changes in both name and format. Previous show names addressed a theme, like “An Evening of Broadway,” “Colors in Sound and Motion,” “Celebrate the Century” and “World Cafe.” Prior to Stepping Out, the show was called “Out of the Woodwork,” and had a more ensemble approach, matching experienced performers with the less-experienced.
Songwriter and guitarist Kirk Olsen has participated in past year’s shows. He was drawn to the theme of stretching his creative boundaries and will perform a piece involving body movement that he would not have attempted before. He will also play a guitar style that he’s never played before.
“The performing arts are not about safety and predictability,” Olsen said.
Step out and enjoy performances by Gus Beck, Nancy Chastain, Owen Duffy, Hannah Heimbuch, Maura Jones, Sabina Karwowski, Steve Krause, Kirk Olsen, Margaret Quarton, Kate Rich, Peter Sheppard, Amber Sapp, Sunrise Sjoberg, Sierra Smith, Amelia Tyrer, Ben Tyrer, Jessica Williams, Lorraine Williams, Trina Uvaas and the Homer Ukulele Society.
The show will be held Jan. 18, st 7:30 p.m. at the Mariner Theatre at Homer High School. Tickets are available at HCOA, The Homer Bookstore or online at HomerArt.org. Tickets are $5 for youth and seniors, $10 HCOA member, and $15 for general admission.
In addition, January is “Mentoring Month,” and Big Brothers/Big Sisters, in collaboration with HCOA, will host a fundraiser in the high school commons prior to the show — between 5 and 7 p.m. Enjoy food, family friendly entertainment, a silent auction and a raffle. Then, join a Bowl for Kids Sake team, start your own or donate to existing teams. All funds support the local BBBS program. The fundraiser is $10 general admission, $20 for a family of four, and kids under the age of five are free.
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