KATE DRUMMOND AND Mike Lion did not set out to create a theater company. They just wanted to do something they loved.
But they also were willing to put a whole lot of time and effort into making it happen.
This is obvious when I walk into the space the Seattle Gilbert & Sullivan Society has let Dacha Theatre borrow for rehearsal. Lion is directing Mary Zimmerman’s “Metamorphoses,” and Drummond is assistant director for this production, and they don’t relax for a moment. Neither do the actors. Almost all are young, and all are startlingly energetic as they dart about the room in a whirl. Physicality is one of their hallmarks. A sense of playful energy is, too. “Sometimes the play is playful, and sometimes the way we do it is playful,” says Drummond.
This is the first time they’re using a crucial element of this production’s set, a pool of water. For now, it’s a giant, empty wooden bowl they have to practice incorporating into their movements.
The atmosphere is supportive and collegial. “Everybody is very game,” Lion tells me during a rare break.
Jokes abound. When one actor jumps off the structure’s deck, another yells, “Please don’t die! We have a scene together!”
Drummond, who, like many here, has a theater background, had just moved to Seattle when she saw an audition posting for a backyard production of “Romeo and Juliet” that Lion was putting on in 2016.
It was a group audition, no monologues required — the kind Dacha still holds. “What we’re looking for are people who are ready to play and want to connect,” Drummond says. “By doing group auditions, we got a lot of people who don’t necessarily think of themselves as actors.”
They might have been strangers when they began work on that first play, but they were soon friends. “We sat around in the backyard and thought, ‘This may be good. This may be wonderful,’ ” Drummond says.
Now they’re so close that a bunch of them have rented a house together. Members of that original group formed the nucleus of what is now Dacha Theatre’s six-person producing board. (“Dacha” comes from the Russian word that, roughly translated, means a place you retreat to with the people close to you.) Others move in and out of the group.
They produce a few plays a year, of all kinds and in different venues, many outdoors. One of their specialties is “Shakespeare Dice,” where the actors memorize all parts of a play and find out which character they’ll portray just before the show. “It’s really not as hard as it seems,” Drummond says, then pauses and smiles. “It is really hard.”
Dacha’s 20 or so regular members include designers, musicians and dancers. Many of them would like to be full-time theater professionals, but given how scarce those jobs are, they exercise their creative talents here. Others are hobbyists with no professional training, but they’re dedicated enough that I can’t tell.
By the time rehearsal ends at around 10 p.m., most of them still have enough energy to head to a local bar and socialize. It’s clear that they enjoy not only what they’re doing but with whom they’re doing it.
“To be in a room with people who want to do the same thing and have the same passion is very cool,” Drummond says.