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BCT's current production, "Songs for a New Word," explores life's tipping points through a series of vignettes and songs



FOR THE TIMES: ADAM WICKHAM - Jessia Jaeger rehearses for the Beaverton Civic Theaters performance of Songs for a New World, which continues at the Beaverton City Library during May.“Should we sing while we're waiting?” said a Beaverton Civic Theatre actor from backstage, awaiting the cue to begin dress rehearsal.

Laughter, followed by more chatter ensued before — “A singer in a smoky room. The smell of wine and cheap perfume,” someone sang, causing the familiar Journey melody to bounce off the walls.

“No. Not that. Anything but that.”

“Mmmm, whatcha say. Mmmm, that you only meant well?” sang another, citing the once-popular Jason Derulo song. Apparently, these two song choices were enough, because shortly after, the actors ran into the auditorium from backstage, giving their director a group hug before taking their places on the Beaverton City Library Auditorium stage.

For many of the eight actors in Beaverton Civic Theatre's latest production, “Songs for a New World,” this small stage is home. It's where their rehearsal schedule is adjusted around their work hours, and where they come to feel just a little bit more themselves for a couple hours every day.

“I think for some people, it's not a 'Want to do it.' It's a 'Need to do it.' There's something about (acting), that once you start doing it, you're like, 'This is where I'm supposed to be,'” said BCT actor and stay-at-home mom Erin Zelazny. “You aren'tADAM WICKHAM: FOR THE TIMES - Essie Canty Bertain (right) Adam Caniparoli (center) and Erin Zelazny (left) rehearse for the Beaverton Civic Theater's performance of 'Songs for a New World' looking at a clock when you're doing it, and when you look at a clock, all of a sudden time has passed and you are still ready to go and you're full of energy. And that passage of energy between people on stage and the audience is kind of addicting.”

“Songs for a New World” opened last weekend and will run through May 16. The cast and director admit that it isn't the easiest show to follow, but that its message and universal themes are worth the effort. Told via song and a series of vignettes throughout different periods of time and place, the actors all have multiple roles to play, each story centering around that “one moment” that can change it all.

“It's all about that tipping point,” said Zelazny, 28. “You're either going forward or you're coming back and learning about who you are and what you want in life.”

Regardless of whether they relate to their characters directly, this commonality gave the actors an entry point to begin exploring their roles and the message they wanted to leave with audiences.

“It's not like anything most people have ever seen before. It is some of the most complex and intricate music written for the broadway stage. It is extremely emotional and engaging and reminiscent, and I think that people owe it to themselves to give something like this a try,” said director Josh Pounders, 36. “It's different, but it accomplishes so much that a book musical — with a storyline and a script — can't accomplish.”

But for the actors in “Songs for a New World,” producing this specific show is just a small part of why they're here. For them, it's not necessarily the show itself that's so important, it's simply being involved in the creative process in the first place.

“When I set foot in the theater, one foot in the door felt like it was rooted in the ground. The next foot that I put in, I was permanently just trapped in this beautiful art and creative world,” said Jake Beaver, 25, who discovered theater in high school. “I left it for three years and I felt like a part of me was gone. And then once I picked up my first show, that's all I've done. I've cut so many hours at work just so I can focus on doing this.”TIMES PHOTO: ADAM WICKHAM - This is Jake Beaver's second show with Beaverton Civic Theatre. He began performing in high school, and hasn't been able to stay away since.

Not only is BCT where these actors come for creative release and to do what they love, it's a community in and of itself, embodying “community theater” in the truest sense of the term.

“Community theater really teaches you how to love the art and really love the craft. Because we're all doing this for free. We're all devoting lots of time to produce a really great show, to get together and do our best five nights a week,” said Beaver. “You just learn how to be submerged by the love of your peers who share the same craft you do, and to create with them is a beautiful thing. I haven't been able to find that anywhere else.”

Allowing themselves to be vulnerable has also allowed the actors to become close to each other quickly. Many of them have worked together on productions before, so they came into these latest rehearsals with would-be barriers already broken down.

“I'm not close to home. I don't have any family here, and I feel like these people are my family. They're not just your fellow actors at this point, (not) when we've been together so much. They're the people you go to. They're your friends,” said 26-year-old Essie Bertain, who attended numerous BCT productions before first auditioning herself last fall. “I knew they were my people. I just needed to get in.”

Yet beyond this show and the community the cast has built among itself, what ultimately brings the actors here is the love of stage performance itself. It's an intense love, too, since all of the time devoted to pulling this show together is volunteered — none of the actors get paid for their efforts.

“I do theater because there's something really wonderful about experiencing a wide assortment of emotions that you don't have in your average day,” said actor Adam Caniparoli. “I think it's really fun being other people. It's like the adult version of playing dress up — like a fully-committed, adult version of that.”

And as the actors rehearsed a couple days prior to opening night last week, they were fully in the show. These teachers, moms, cashiers, project managers and baristas put all of their work lives aside to become their characters in full — indeed, they used their own histories and truths to sink deeper into the trials and triumphs of the characters they play.

“That's the beauty about community theater, is it could be anyone,” said Zelazny. “It's about taking that commonality you have with the character and connecting it, and then being willing to delve into the feelings that normally we're told that we have to keep quiet and inside of ourselves, and be willing to share that with other people.”

TIMES PHOTO: ADAM WICKHAM - Nicholas Jaeger rehearses for the Beaverton Civic Theater's performance of 'Songs for a New World.'

See the show

Who

Beaverton Civic Theatre

What

"Songs for a New World"

When

The show opened May 1, and will run May 8-9 and May 15-16 at 7:30 p.m.; May 10 at 2 p.m.

Where

Beaverton City Library Auditorium, 12375 S.W. Fifth St.

Cost

$15 for adults; $12 for seniors (55+), students and groups (10+); $5 for youth (10 and under)

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