WICA stages light up for Summer Nights Series
— Created July 28, 2021 by Kathy Reed
By Kathy Reed
It may be hard to believe, but SOME good things have emerged from the pandemic. Take, for instance, the Whidbey Telcom Summer Nights Series at Whidbey Island Center for the Arts in Langley, which kicks off Saturday and continues every weekend through August with a variety of entertainment.
“We started Summer Nights in June 2020 in response to the [COVID] shutdowns,” explained WICA Artistic Director Deana Duncan. “At that point the only option for performance was outside. With amazing support from our sponsor, Whidbey Telcom, we researched and bought a new, beautiful tent and opened on June 27, 2020 with our first outdoor concert. We were only open for a glorious four weeks before COVID shut us down completely in July 20.
“But even in that short time frame, we learned we had a winner,” Duncan continued. “WICA is 25 years old but had shied away from summer programming due to thinking people did not want to come inside during the beautiful summer months. We were wrong. Audiences have flocked to this series, both outside on the patio and on the main stage.”
According to WICA Executive Director, Verna Everitt, the nonprofit performing arts center learned a lot during the pandemic about what it could do, how it could be done safely and whether the community would welcome this kind of programming.
“At one point during 2020 we were only allowed to operate as a movie theater, so, we turned into a movie theater,” Everitt said. “Summer Nights came about when only outdoor programming was allowed so we shifted, pivoted and adjusted to create outdoor programming. We brought the stage outside and brought summer programming to WICA for the first time in 25 years. Going forward, Summer Nights will be a main staple in our programming, as it has been a great success for visitors and locals alike.”
Duncan said the Summer Nights series was originally envisioned to be outdoor only, but modifications made to meet health requirements during the pandemic will allow WICA to use both indoor and outdoor stages.
“With WICA’s new cabaret seating and the new HVAC giving us some of the cleanest and safest indoor air on the island, audiences are excited to come into the air-conditioned larger space,” she said, adding simplified Summer Nights staging benefits the performers. “The summer nights performances are often shorter than regular in-house performances and a bit less ‘production.’ [It’s] really about showcasing the artist.”
Speaking of artists, WICA has assembled a diverse group of performers for the series. Nancy Nolan, who will get the series started Saturday at 7 p.m., will perform jazz standards, accompanied by Steve Christofferson on piano and Keegan Harshman on bass. Barbara Dunn takes the stage Aug. 6 with strings, vocals, original music and covers. Other entertainment will include a concert by the Whidbey Island Orchestra, an evening of comedy improv and even one part of the Whidbey Island Music Festival.
“We are so proud and happy to partner with Tekla Cunningham and the Whidbey Island Music Festival,” Duncan said. “Tekla and I have talked for years about bringing these events here and I think it’s the fact that we finally created strong outdoor performance space that did it.”
Duncan said it was important to include local artists in the broad mix of performers participating in the Summer Nights series.
“We feel a deep sense of obligation to create space for our local artists as well as bringing world-class artists to our beautiful island,” she said. “I started with the locals, reaching out to those who have been here before and those we really wanted to see here. It gets down to artist fee and what we can do, but if they are willing to show up and do this, we will create the space!”
There will even be a bit of Shakespeare to enjoy during the Whidbey Telcom Summer Nights Series.
“This play is so much fun, The Complete Works of Shakespeare-Abridged is a huge comedy hit from the UK,” described Duncan. “The show features three ‘overachievers’ attempting to perform all 37 of Shakespeare’s plays in 97 minutes. Fast-paced, witty, and physical, it’s an evening of laughter for Shakespeare lovers and haters alike. Our production is directed by David Churchill and starring David, Zora Lungren, and Ethan Berkley. It’s a farce – basically grab a drink and expect to laugh non-stop!”
Find the full Summer Nights Series schedule as well as ticket information online at wicaonline.org. Duncan encourages everyone to check out south Whidbey’s newest summertime fun.
“Regardless if you live here or are visiting, there is no better way to plug into the local performing art scene,” she said. “In August we have music from the Great American Songbook, classical and covers, a great funny play, and improv. Our outdoor happy hour runs every Friday and Saturday and the bar is open during all shows.”
Whidbey Telcom Summer Nights Series
at Whidbey Island Center for the Arts, Langley
Tickets & Information: wicaonline.org
July 31, 7 p.m. – Nancy Nolan in Concert
Aug. 6, 7 p.m. – Barbara Dunn in Concert
Aug. 13-22, 7 p.m. & 2 p.m. – “The Complete Works of Wm. Shakespeare Abridged”
Aug. 27, 7 p.m. – Whidbey Island Orchestra: Fiddles to Fiesta: Music of the Americas
Aug. 28, 7 p.m. – Improv with Billy and Kent
Aug. 29, 2 p.m. – Whidbey Island Music Festival: Bach Arias and Chamber Music