Bryan Willis’ new play gets rolling Saturday night in Olympia. And that’s not just a saying. The play will be rolling through the downtown streets.
“Bicycle Noir: A Love Story,” happening for one evening only downtown, is a play on wheels. Cast, crew and most of the audience will travel from scene to scene on bikes.
“It’s a fun ride,” said director Adriana Chavez.
It will be a journey of about 1 1/2 miles, beginning at the Farmers Market, heading to Port Plaza and along Percival Landing, and winding up at West Bay Park. The play itself takes about an hour — plus travel time.
There will be plenty of surprises along the way, said Willis, Olympia’s best-known playwright and the Northwest Playwrights Alliance’s playwright-in-residence.
Some of those will be surprises he planned, but he expects some of them might come from the way life will work its way into art.
“In Olympia, we have a lot of characters,” he said, laughing. “It will be interesting finding out at the end who’s an actor and who’s just someone passing by.”
The opportunity to surprise both the audience and the community is a big part of what appealed to him about the bicycle play.
“I like to take the traditional lines of theater and stomp up and down on them, if not cross them,” he said. “That’s why I do theater. This type of play is a new challenge for me, and if you’re in theater and you’re not challenging yourself, then I’m really not sure why you’re in it.”
The roving theatrical experience is new to Olympia, but it’s a thing in — no surprise here — Portland. But the idea makes sense in Olympia, Willis said, and the city is a key part of the show.
“The play is steeped in all things Olympia,” he said. “I would describe it as a love letter to my hometown.”
It also has a cinematic style — and not just because of its many locations.
“If people love film, particularly film noir, I think they’ll enjoy this play,” he said. “I would call the style nouveau film noir with a heavy, heavy dose of Olympia.”
The production is co-sponsored by the playwright alliance and the Academy of International Education, a program that gets students from Japan involved in theater as a way to help them in learn English. Typically, the students perform an evening of short plays in Tacoma, but this year, they’re part of “Bicycle Noir.”
The production features mostly American actors, though, including familiar names such as Harlequin Productions regular Heidi Rider; Kyle Henick, who starred in Willis’s “Border Songs”; and theatrical mainstays Heather and Michael Christopher.
“We have some people who are very established, and we have a couple of people who are new to the Olympia theater scene,” Willis said.
Of course, the Olympia theater scene doesn’t typically happen along the waterfront, and that presented some logistical challenges for Willis and Chavez, who returns to the area from New York City each summer to work with Willis and the academy.
Plenty of permits were required, and the costs associated with those are part of the reason the show will happen for one night only.
And this show has “tour guides,” who deal with any potential distractions. “They’ll be biking along with the audience,” Chavez said.
Most of the sets are simply Olympia itself, with the tower at Port Plaza sure to be a highlight, but there will be props, costumes and a karaoke machine.
While there are just two performances planned in Olympia, the show will go on the road, in the conventional sense.
A production is planned for next summer in Bellingham.
“I’ll have to do some rewriting, of course, because Bellingham is not Olympia,” Willis said.
BICYCLE NOIR: A LOVE STORY ON WHEELS
What: Both cast and audience will travel from scene to scene on wheels in Bryan Willis’ “Bicycle Noir.” A limited number of non-cyclists can be accommodated at the later performance.
When: 5 and 7 p.m. Saturday.
Where: Beginning at the Olympia Farmers Market, 700 Capitol Way N., Olympia, and ending at West Bay Park, 700 West Bay Drive NW.
Also: If you plan to ride, bring a bike and a helmet. The production has a few bikes to lend. Please indicate when you RSVP if you are interested in borrowing one or in seeing the production without riding.
Tickets: Free. RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Information: email@example.com or facebook.com/events/1647310888880730.