Friday, September 21, 2018

We walk into drama

ArtsWest Playhouse and Gallery, Seattle, Washington (West Seattle)
It was International Talk Like a Pirate Day (September 19), so I think it’s understandable that I expected Skeleton Crew to be a play about Ghost Buccaneers. (My favorite Disneyland ride as a kid was Pirates of the Caribbean.) Turns out it was about something else. Things are not always what you expect, and that isn’t a bad thing.

I also didn’t expect that the first thing we’d see as we entered ArtWest Playhouse and Gallery would be a bar. But if only for this blog, we’re always happy to find a bar.

It was the preview night for the show, and we’d gotten free tickets when we were at a street fair this summer -- so we had to head to will call to pick up our tickets before we could check out the bar.

The lobby was well populated with people waiting to enter the theater, and some of them were ordering drinks from the bar. I heard a couple of people ask for bourbon because they saw signs for Motor City a drink using Four Roses Bourbon, which fit with the actual theme of Skeleton Crew. It’s a play about auto workers in Detroit. Sadly, the bourbon wouldn’t be available until opening night. I guess that’s the penalty for going to a preview performance.

We did have drink options, though, and we had a choice about when we could have our drinks. Some people were getting something before the show started and taking their drinks into the theater. We chose to order a couple of ciders to be ready for us at intermission. (when we went to pick them up, we decided to get a large chocolate chip cookie, too. Gotta support the arts).

It’s important, at this point, to mention how a theater bar differs from a regular bar. Most drinks aren’t consumed in the bar area, but rather taken into the theater or the art gallery or even in the lobby. There weren’t any bar stools; there was just enough counter space for ordering. Still, people were chatting with each other in the area near the bar, just as they do in a bar. It makes sense -- the motto of the theater is: “ArtsWest produces artistic events that provoke conversation, incite imagination and use live theater as a powerful agent of change.” They have that in common with a good bar, the provoking of conversation.

I overheard some nice bits of those conversations. One man was talking about his great aunt, a bootlegger who used to cross the Detroit River with her goods. The woman he was talking with mentioned her woman her uncle, who made moonshine and shared it with anybody who was thirteen or older.

But in keeping with this blog’s tradition, we needed to ask our two questions, “What makes for a good bar?” and “Whether you go or not, what makes for a good bar?” So we talked to Mariam, the bartender for the evening. (Obviously, this is not a “real bar” and as far as we know, Mariam isn’t a paid bartender. Much of the work at ArtsWest is done by volunteers, and it’s a non-profit institution.) Mariam likes crafting cocktails, and she was our server for the evening, so we think that counts.

She said a good bar should have “a little bit of everything or one thing done really well.” If they have a little bit of everything, they shouldn’t stock every beer, wine, and liquor, but they should have a couple of things to choose from in each category.

Mariam said she hadn’t gone to church for a long time and didn’t plan to go again soon. “But I can tell you what doesn’t make for a good church…contemporary folk music with guitars. They do it to bring in young people, but it doesn’t bring in young people.”

We enjoyed the play. The story moved along with clever writing, and the actors were very good. My favorite line from the show was, “If ‘IF’ was a fifth, we’d all be drunk.” And if there was a more pleasant way to spend International Talk Like a Pirate Day (other than going on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride again and again), I can’t think of it.