Play explores ‘wanderlust of the European heart’

Published on Thu, Apr 17, 2008 by Jack Kintner

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Play explores ‘wanderlust of the European heart’

By Jack Kintner

Birch Bay playwright and director LeRoy Smith has been writing plays and novels for 15 years.

He recently ended his career as a mechanical engineer designing medical tools for a small company in Poulsbo, “leaving the field to these younger guys,” and came to Birch Bay for some peace, quiet and time to write and direct.

Last weekend and this he’s directing The Gift for the Blaine Community Theater. He also acts but said he finds it more rewarding to write and direct.

“I’ve always wanted to write, and for the last fifteen years or so I’ve been seriously writing plays and novels,” said Smith, 62. He added that he’s “suffered the joy” of bringing several plays to life on the stage, but “like a first-born, The Gift holds a special place for me. It was my first play.”

Written in 1998, the play tells the story of Marco Polo’s return to Venice after an absence of 25 years in which he traveled to China and back. “He left when little more than a boy,” Smith said, “and promised to return to a childhood sweetheart.

Did she wait for him? Was he faithful or did he surrender to exotic temptations? Is love really that simple and will it win in the end?”
Smith considers Marco Polo to be one of the pivotal characters of history because of the way his stories ignited what Smith called the “fire of wanderlust in the European heart. The events of his life helped to bring about the age of exploration and European expansion.”

Thirteen actors make up the cast, including local favorite Sandy Brewer as a Sandy Brewer-type fisherman down on the Venice docks, the stentorian Rick Collier as Antonio and the deeply intense Seraida Vazquez as Maria.

The lead role of Marco Polo is being done to a level not seen locally for some time by veteran B.C. actor James von Broembson, whose international credits include radio and TV series work here and abroad as well as numerous live drama performances.

The play is being produced on the Blaine Middle School cafeteria stage. Its six-performance run began last weekend and continues Friday, Saturday and Sunday, April 18, 19 and 20, at 7:30 p.m.
Admission is $10, $8 for seniors and students. For more information, call 392-0582 or visit www.blainecommunitytheater.com