Toy Boat Theater Co. off to a running start

On her maiden voyage, the Toy Boat Theatre Company sailed its way into the heart of the Tacoma community. Created this past summer from the inspiration of recent Puget Sound graduate Jen Davis and visiting assistant theatre professor Marilyn Bennett, the newest theatre company on the Tacoma scene has gathered quite a following.

Originally a three-month summer project, the Toy Boat Theatre Company has now expanded to a six-month endeavor sponsored by the Puget Sound Theatre Department and the Tacoma Space Works project, which gives artists rent-free use of abandoned city buildings for a set period of time. The packed houses at previously preformed plays such as “Dakota’s Belly, Wyoming,” and “The Gertrude Stein Project,” among others, boasting surprisingly high attendance records for the theatre. A small and intimate venue, the current home of the Toy Boat theatre seats about 40 people per show. With estimated numbers of about 800 patrons from the July to December run, Toy Boat Theatre has become a force to be reckoned with.

But what makes Toy Boat different from any other small theatre company? As the motto of the company goes, Toy Boat promotes “Good acting in a humble house.”

“The focus is on the actor and the work being preformed and not spending a lot on trappings such as the costumes and staging,” Marilyn Bennett said.

The newest theatre venue in Tacoma offers the chance to view quality works of theatre, from full productions to staged readings, at a cost affordable for the tight budget of a college student. Each show is available at the low price of $10 unless additional services are offered, such as in the upcoming event of “Eat, Play, Groove.”

“Eat, Play, Groove,” as Bennett has dubbed the event, is a theatrical project spanning six days over the course of October. For $20 you are served zoo-style food such as hot dogs and popcorn before the show.

Next, a cast of Tacoma community members performs the play “The Zoo Story” by American playwright Edward Albee.

Finally, the night concludes with a different live performance from local bands, such as Speeding Kills Bears, Nate Dybevik and More Different Friends, 10 Miles of Bad Road and more.

“The Zoo Story” will open Oct. 13 and continue with shows on Oct. 14- 15 and 20-22. Food service begins at 7 p.m. with the play at 8 and live music starting at 9 p.m.

Toy Boat Theatre also offers the chance to see quality theatre preformed by your Puget Sound peers at an affordable price.

“As a viewer, Toy Boat offers a chance for students to have a way to feel a part of something outside of but linked to the Puget Sound campus,” Bennett said. “The project creates a place for Puget Sound students to get involved in theatre out in the real world and make their way into the Tacoma community.”

The company’s intimate theatre space, unique cast and coordination with Puget Sound faculty and students give Tacoma the ability to experience a new type of production. From cast members and production team, to financial advisors and PR personnel, current Puget Sound students and graduates help to make the dream and mission that is the Toy Boat Theatre a success.

“The space has become our own. We painted it and fixed it up, giving a once abandoned space a wonderful sense of ownership and new exciting life. In this venue we create a different kind of relationship with the theatre,” Bennett said.

In this small but beautiful space the audience and cast can interact in new ways that give new life and breath to the theatrical experience.

“In the production of ‘Dakota’s Belly, Wyoming’ this summer, members of the audience had to literally pull their feet in as the play progressed and the action became more involved and intense,” Bennett said.

The Toy Boat Theatre Company expands the theatrical horizons of not only the Puget Sound campus community but also Tacoma. In addition to the vast array of on-campus theatre productions, students and faculty alike have successfully steered into and overcome the challenges of creating theatre in the real world beyond the confines of campus.

With a goal of over 12 productions at the Toy Boat venue between July and December, the Tacoma community can look forward to continued productions from the theatre group throughout the semester, including a possible winter solstice extravaganza coming this December.