Arts and Entertainment

South Whidbey playwright brings Flora in from the fringe

Jim Carroll and Ethan Berkley play the roles of Jay and Brad in “Outsider,” in which Jay, a biology professor, makes first contact with an indigenous woman, Flora. - Photo courtesy of WICA
Jim Carroll and Ethan Berkley play the roles of Jay and Brad in “Outsider,” in which Jay, a biology professor, makes first contact with an indigenous woman, Flora.
— image credit: Photo courtesy of WICA

The Whidbey Island Fringe Festival presents what organizers describe as “an evocative new play,” written and directed by local playwright and actor Gail Fleming.

“Outsider,” opens Friday, July 27 and runs through Sunday, Aug. 5, with an art show July 27.

“Outsider” is a unique blend of drama, music, dance and the poetry of William Blake. Whidbey Island Center for the Arts audiences are invited into the magical world of Flora, who has lived alone in the woods for 25 years tending her garden, gathering herbs and drawing.

With an indigenous sense of belonging in nature, she has developed an original language to communicate with everything that surrounds her. Flora lives a rich and peaceful life with her companion golden eagle, until Jay Thompson, a professor of biology interested in inter-species communication, “discovers” her conversing with birds in her meadow.

The meeting has profound effects upon them both, as they each experience and confront the consequences of fear, loss, objectification, trust and the intimacy of language.

“Outsider” cast includes Judith Adams, Ethan Berkley, Jim Carroll, Lars Larson, Shellie Moore and Marta Mulholland.

Fleming described her inspiration for “Outsider” by saying, “Flora asked me to tell her story. Considering the environmental effects of our ‘modern’ attitude towards nature, I readily agreed. She would like for us to remember that there is reason for hope.”

“As I see it, it is our dualistic stance towards the environment — the arrogant objectification of all that is non human; the assumption that we are separate and somehow superior — that has led us to the brink of ecological disaster,” Fleming said.

The play is rich with poetry by Blake, who has inspired Fleming for years. One of her favorite lines by Blake is: “If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things through narrow chinks of his cavern.” It is Fleming’s goal to “cleanse the doors of perception” with her play, she said.

Through Fleming’s lyrical creation, “Outsider” invites audience members to explore the essence of their own relationship with nature.

“A theme I am exploring in this play is wildness — outside and inside — and the relationship between the two,” Fleming said. Another main theme is listening and how that simple act could change the outcome for the planet, Fleming added.

“Outsider” is meant to be an “experiential” play, in which the audience can experience the story through every sense. With songs, dancing and Flora’s unique click language, audience members will truly touch on her world.

The play is set in 1970 at the University of California Santa Cruz around the time that Fleming lived there.

“In a loose way, it’s semi-autobiographical because I grew up kind of wild and related much more naturally to animals than I did to people, and I talked to everything, which is what Flora does,” Fleming said with a laugh.

WICA regulars will remember that Fleming wrote and directed the musical “Gaielle Remembering” at WICA in 2003. She most recently appeared on the WICA stage in “Kentucky Cycle,” “A Murder is Announced” and “The Laramie Project.”

“The Whidbey Island Fringe Festival allows adventurous artists and audiences to explore a variety of works: music, movement, everyday life and cultural performance; stage adaptations of texts and other materials; and the avant-garde and performance art,” said Stacie Burgua, executive director of WICA.

Burgua said the festival presents audiences with high-quality work that entertains, challenges and stimulates; provides a venue and supports Whidbey Island artists who create the work; provides a Summer Training Program for diverse audiences and aspiring local artists to encourage the growth and continued health of the local performing arts community; and creates experiences that solidify Whidbey Island as a performing arts destination.

As part of WICA 2012 Summer Classes, Stage Craft and Performance, training positions are available for “Outsider” in build, costumes, paint, props and stage management.

Tickets are available through the WICA box office at 221-8268 or 800-638-7631.

WICA is located at 565 Camano Ave., Langley.


About ‘Outsider’

What: “Outsider,” a play by Gail Fleming

Where: Whidbey Island Center for the Arts, 565 Camano Ave., Langley.

When: Friday, July 27, through Sunday, Aug. 5. Friday and Saturday shows at  7:30 p.m.; Sunday 4 p.m.

Specials: Friday, July 27, at 6:30 p.m. is the Art Opening featuring the art work of “Flora” curated by Susan Swinger.

Sunday, June 29, “Director talk back,” follows the 4 p.m. matinee.

Tickets: $12. Information: call WICA, 360-221-8268 or 800-638-7631, or visit


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