“One for all, and all for one” sure doesn’t sound like our current political climate. But we’ll all be able to get a refresher in that kind of spirited unity as Metropolitan Performing Arts offers a rollicking, family-friendly version of the legendary tale of the Three Musketeers on upcoming Friday nights, as the warm-up (let’s make that cool-down) attraction before free movies in local parks and for Vancouver’s First Friday sidewalk festivities.
The adventure begins at 7 p.m. tonight, as MPA launches “The Three Musketeers: An Adventure, With Music,” in east Vancouver’s Fisher Basin Park, Southeast Mill Plain Boulevard at 192nd Avenue. It’s a one-hour live performance; then, at dusk, “The Lego Ninjago Movie” shows on a big screen in the park. More performances are set for July 27 (at Columbia Tech Center Park, where the movie is “Wonder Woman”), Aug. 3 (part of First Friday, at Ninth and Main streets in downtown Vancouver) and Aug. 10 (in Marshall Park where the movie is “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle.”)
“The Three Musketeers” follows a bold young striver who struggles to find his place among the swashbuckling swordsmen of Paris in the early 1600s. Metropolitan Performing Arts is a nonprofit, kid-oriented training ground and troupe that helps both bold and bashful young strivers find their places in the friendly world of community theater.
Natural-born, “crazy outgoing” thespians who cannot wait to show off on stage can learn to focus their energies and build their skills at MPA, executive director Barbara Richardson said. And so can the quiet kids who feel a little shakier about developing talent and stepping into the spotlight — but can shine just as brightly after some nurturing, she said.
Theater is a place where kids who feel like they don’t fit in anywhere else can truly find themselves, Richardson said. She hears all about that when her students do community outreach: the naturally nervous ones who build great confidence and friendships via theater arts; the bold ones who already have confidence but work toward discipline and maturity.
If You Go
• What: “The Three Musketeers: An Adventure, With Music.” Adapted by Joe Pine for the Ohio Shakespeare Festival, based on the novel by Alexander Dumas. Original music by Scott McKenna Campbell. Directed by Kristen Heller. Combat choreography by Murri Lazaroff-Babin.
• When and where: 7 p.m. July 13, Fisher Basin Park, Southeast Mill Plain and 192nd Avenue; 7 p.m. July 27, Columbia Tech Center Park, Southeast Tech Center Drive at Sequoia Circle; 7 p.m. Aug. 3 (First Friday), Ninth and and Main streets; 7 p.m. Aug. 10, Marshall Park, 1015 E. McLoughlin Blvd.
• Admission: Free. Bring a blanket or low lawn chair.
• To learn more: www.MetropolitanPerformingArts.org
“I love what it does for these kids,” Richardson said. “Listening to them talk about how theater has shaped their lives is the most rewarding part of my job.”
Richardson is a long-standing local thespian who was deep into theater at Prairie High School; she’s still primarily a performer, she said, and through July 22 you can catch her singing in the ensemble of the musical “Mama Mia,” presented by the Broadway Rose Theater Company.
Richardson started at Metropolitan Performing Arts as a teacher and music director in 2013, then ascended to executive director last year. It’s technically a part-time job that’s actually full time and then some, she said; if the joy of watching kids grow is the best part of the gig, the most challenging is being responsible for literally everything that happens at MPA. She’s proud and grateful for her stable of pro-level teachers — artists who have worked in their chosen field and brought back expertise — as well as the many dedicated volunteers who keep everything humming along, she said.
“We are a community theater and I’ve learned it takes a community to put on a show,” she said.
It also takes a community to take in a show. “There is no free theater in the parks in Vancouver right now,” Richardson said, and she’s eager to provide some. More people than you’d think have literally never experienced theater — never gone to a single play — and outdoors in summertime seems like a great way to provide an introduction, she said.
That introduction should be truly theatrical in the old-fashioned, classic sense, she decided; what better play than an adventure full of swordplay and suspense, romance and intrigue — plus a handful of songs? This “The Three Musketeers: An Adventure, With Music,” is a new treatment by the Ohio Shakespeare Festival of the famous 1844 novel by Alexander Dumas.
Of course, free summer shows are also a great way to spread the word about MPA, a homegrown nonprofit that’s been teaching theater — acting, singing, dancing and theater tech — and staging small and big plays since 2009. The cast and crew will be delighted to welcome visitors and sign up new musketeers-in-training. The cast for this show includes MPA students, teachers and other adult guest-star actors — all led by 15-year-old Audrey Williams, a Skyview High School student, as our swashbuckling young hero, d’Artagnan.
Did we mention swordplay? Richardson said the exciting show features “a ton of stage combat” that’s been carefully and safely choreographed by Murri Lazaroff-Babin. The director of “The Three Musketeers: An Adventure, With Music” is MPA teacher Kristen Heller.
Richardson intends this summer’s run to be the first annual, she said.