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A Sequim Word Adventure with a Fuzzy Beret and Theatre

Updated: Nov 9, 2023

After a long struggle to find a place for a word adventure, I finally fell into the perfect outing with the theater and dramatic words on one of my treks to Sequim and the Dungeness National Wildlife Preserve.

October 19th is my mom's birthday and it seemed like a good time to visit the Olympic Peninsula where I go a few times a year to feel close to my parents and sister. My earliest memories of them are in Sequim where we once lived.

I checked out the wildlife preserve as I often do, although this time, I did not have the mammoth amount of energy it takes to hike the 11-mile round trip out to the lighthouse at the end of the spit.

I wandered down the trails and onto the beach, saw a red-tailed hawk swooping to catch prey and a deer slowly crossing the road.

path with trees along the side

I returned to my car after taking photos for the Western Cedar Dieback program. The cedars I found looked healthy to my not-so-expert eye. I uploaded my photos to the iNaturalist app where the program keeps track of both healthy and unhealthy cedars in order to understand and help the struggling cedars in our area. Naturalists quickly identify and comment on my observations—another small adventure with photos and words.

A small chipmunk was very interested in me and seemed to be wondering why I was taking pictures of his trees.

Gluten free BLT with cheese and a salad on an oak table

By the time I finished an hour or so of hiking the refuge, I was hungry and ended up going to the Oak Table, a place I wish I'd known about when we'd vacationed with Mom a few years back. The BLT I ordered in honor of my sister tasted fantastic and the huge windows let in light that made the place much brighter on the inside than it is on the outside.

I asked the server how long the restaurant had been there and the young lady said since the 40s—no, maybe the 80s. I laughed a little because those two decades sounded almost equally a long time ago to her.

It turned out that the correct answer was a bit of both. The house had been built in the 1940s and turned into a restaurant in the 1980s. The original restaurant owners had wanted to create a 1940s atmosphere, and I noticed that they managed to do that, probably unconsciously, with the feel of the 1980s.

I suppose we can't completely escape our own time and the oak in the decor definitely reminded me of that familiar-to-me 1980s decor.

side of Olympic Theatre Arts Center building

Finally, I made it to my word adventure at Olympic Theatre Arts Center. A few months ago, I had driven by Trinity United Methodist church in Sequim and thought the building didn't look at all like I remembered it did in the 1970s. Apparently, the church sold the old building in 1991 and built a new one. After one other owner, the building where I went to church and preschool became the Olympic Theatre Arts Center.

I stopped by and felt brave enough to go inside, following the signs up a back set of stairs to an open office where a lovely woman named Deanne was working with paper. I told her my story—that I'd long ago been baptized there when I was five years old by Pastor Elmer Bingham.

I have blurry memories of having to sit in the front pews in a dress my mother sewed. I'm sure it matched my sister's dress. People often mistook us for twins.

My parents adored Pastor Elmer with his fuzzy beret and cowboy boots. He would often admit he didn't know much about heaven but could tell you more when he got there. Mom and Dad really appreciated that he let the afterlife be a mystery.

I also vividly remember feeling very annoyed at the way Pastor Elmer dripped cold water on my head. The cold liquid rolled down the front of my face and, I was sure, wrecked the hair my mother had worked so hard to arrange while I sat on a stool in the kitchen earlier that morning.

When I asked if I could see that old altar area, Deanne quickly smiled and walked me straight to it.

church sanctuary that has been converted into a theater with tables and chairs

Then she showed me the upstairs area of the former church where the pastor would have lived when the building opened in the 1920s. (I don't think Pastor Elmer lived there but I can't honestly remember.)

Up at the top, the old parsonage was crammed with costumes. A huge living room with an old fireplace had acres of colorful women's clothing and another room had only slightly less colorful men's clothing.

I then asked how the actors got to the stage from these costume rooms at the top of the stairs and she led me back down and into the greenroom in an addition to the old building. Behind that was the large main stage adjacent to the original church sanctuary she had first shown me.

flyer with list of coming play. Text reads 'Live Theater'

I think to complete this adventure with theater and words, I'll have to go to one of their shows. Night of the Living Dead is running now but I'm not much into horror. Deanne gave me the lineup for next year and Lavender Lawlessness looks like the one for me. I could also go for The Secret Garden or The Importance of Being Earnest in 2024. We'll see.

If you are a local playwright, you might even try submitting your work. If they like your script, you can might see and hear your words acted out on their stage in their November New Works Showcase.

I only regret that I felt too shy to take more pictures or to ask Deanne if I could take her photo. You would have loved her soft smile as much as I did.

I'm sure of it.

Something about people enjoying the dramatic arts where Pastor Elmer baptized me feels exactly right. I can picture him in those cowboy boots with his beret perched on his head. He'd look right at home sitting in the audience or maybe even acting on the stage where he once sprinkled cold water on my head.

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