Breeders Theater’s ‘Tolstory’ opens April 4 at Des Moines Beach Park Auditorium


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Breeders Theater, South King County’s premier professional theater company, returns to Des Moines in April with a new show – Tolstory.

The show runs April, 4, 5, 11, 12 at 7 p.m., and April 6 and 13 at 2 p.m.

This will be BT’s second show at the Des Moines Beach Park Auditorium, located at 22030 Cliff Ave South.

“We are delighted that the city was willing to have us back again,” says BT playwright and founder T.M. Sell. “The Beach Park Auditorium turned out to be a great space in which to do live theater.”

BT’s new show, Tolstory, is a little bit Tolstoy and a little bit Toy Story, says Sell.

“At least the title. The show is set in 19th century Russia, and it does involve toys.”

Tolstory is the tale of of the life of Katarina Karenin, as told by her four nesting dolls.

“It’s really about storytelling and what you make of the life you have,” says Sell. “Every life has its ups and downs.”

The show also marks the full return of BT music director Nancy Warren, who has arranged and composed music for the show.

The show is directed by BT veteran Teresa Widner Hicks, and features the acting talents of Deena Chapman, Adrienne Grieco, Maddy Rasmussen, Laura Smith, and Erika Zabelle. Andrew Smith is stage managing, with costumes by Melissa Sell.

“This is a great group of people to work with,” says T.M. Sell. “I couldn’t be more pleased to have a cast and crew of this caliber.”

Veteran BT actor Erika Zabelle says she is enjoying preparing for the show.

“Expect to laugh!” Zabelle says of Tolstory.

“There are some really fantastic light-hearted moments. And very genuine ones as well.”

“It’s a really fun, feel-good show,” she says. “You might even shed a sweet tear.”

Fellow actor Deena Chapman agrees.

“See the show because you will have a great time,” she says. “We sing, we joke, we flirt with the audience. It’s fun. You may get a little misty at some points, but that’s life right?

“Tolstory is the story of a life,” Chapman says. “The dolls belong to Katarina; they watch and comment as she progresses from infancy to old age. At each stage of her life Katarina faces a turning point or crisis, and the dolls help her at these times by performing stories meant to convey some meaningful advice.

“That sounds a little dull doesn’t it? But the dolls are funny, clever and a little nuts; so instead of giving Katarina pedantic lectures, they comically fracture old legends and fairy tales to get their points across,” she says.

Tolstory has a running time of under two hours, and is suitable for all but small children.

“Every form of entertainment has its virtues,” says Sell, “but live theater is so immediate. It’s like watching somebody’s life, sitting in their living room, without being noticed.”

Tickets for Tolstory are still only $20. BT hasn’t raised ticket prices since its second show, pays its cast and crew, and neither seeks nor accepts public subsidy for its productions.

“Fancy sets, etc., are great, but to my mind that’s not what theater is about,” says Sell. “It’s about actors, audiences and storytelling. And we’re happy to be a part of that.”

Tickets are available through http://www.brownpapertickets.com; via the Des Moines Field House Recreation Office, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m.-6 p.m. 1000 S. 220th St., and via credit card by phone: Monday through Friday, 8 a.m.-6 p.m. 206-870-6527; and at the door.

Here’s a video of a recent rehearsal shot by Michael Brunk:

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And some photos also (click images to see larger versions/slideshow):

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Adrienne Grieco (of West Seattle), left, Laura Smith, Erika Zabelle (of West Auburn) and Deena Chapman (of Federal Way) rehearse a scene in Tolstory. Tolstory is the story of the life of Katarina Karenin, as told by her four nesting dolls. Tolstory, a new comedy with music from Breeders Theater, runs April 4, 5, 11 and 12 at 7 p.m. and April 6 and 13 at 2 p.m. at the Des Moines Beach Park Auditorium. Tickets are $20 available at http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/586703 or by calling 206-870-6527. Photo by Michael Brunk/NWLens.

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