Thea Foss is coming back to Tacoma’s waterfront. No, not the intrepid Norwegian immigrant who arrived here in the 1880s, bought a rowboat and began what became the largest tug boat company on the West Coast. But a play about her — inspired by a Tacoma filmmaker — is happening in August on the Thea Foss Waterway, and you could be in the production. Auditions happen next weekend.
“This play celebrates our diverse backgrounds, the spirit of a strong female entrepreneur, and the enduring beauty and power of Puget Sound,” said co-director Marilyn Bennett in a press release.
While Foss has a fascinating story from poverty-stricken Norway through America’s East Coast to successful entrepreneurship on Puget Sound, the play’s own story is just as interesting. In 2006, local filmmaker Nancy Bourne Haley made “Finding Thea,” an award-winning documentary on the woman who gave her name to the Tacoma waterway. Several years later, it was screened on Norwegian TV and seen by Kristin Lyhmann, who wrote outdoor historical plays for her local theater group in Skipvet, Norway, not far from where Foss grew up. Intrigued by the story, Lyhmann adapted it to a play that was performed by Skipvet’s Nes Lenseteater in 2015, where Haley went to see it.
Alerted by a story in The News Tribune, Bennett and Suzy Willhoft, a Tacoma theater director, decided to bring the play to Tacoma. Foss’ descendants got involved, with Haley as producer, the Scandinavian Center at Pacific Lutheran University as the umbrella nonprofit and University of Puget Sound as a sponsor.
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Two years, one translation and many grants later, “The Other Country” will play inside and outside the Foss Waterway Seaport in August, using artifacts from the museum, including an actual boat for Thea’s final sailing.
The parts of Thea and her husband Andrew are already cast. But Bennett and Willhoft are looking for the rest of the cast: Men and women of varied experience, ethnic-racial backgrounds and ages, plus children who are 8 years or older.
Auditions are May 19-20, with call-backs May 21. Rehearsals run July 5-Aug. 9 on two or three evenings and at least one weekend day each week. Auditions and rehearsals will be held at the Norton Clapp Theatre at University of Puget Sound.
“The Other Country” isn’t just a historical story of a creative, intelligent woman, it’s a contemporary story of four equally creative women who joined forces from Tacoma to Norway to retell it.
“(Lyhmann’s play is) a moving treatment of this story, including beautiful incidental music,” said Bennett. “It seems natural and fitting that our region should produce it.”
The Other Country
Auditions: 6:30-9:30 p.m. May 19 or 10 a.m.-1 p.m. May 20 (call-backs 1-3 p.m. May 21).
Where: Norton Clapp Theatre, Jones Hall, University of Puget Sound, 1500 N. Warner St., Tacoma.
Bring: Simple folk, camp or church song (1 minute). Be prepared for choral singing and cold script reading.
Performance: Aug. 10-13.
Where: Foss Waterway Seaport, 705 Dock St., Tacoma.