Tents at Timberline High School

by Molly Gilmore for OLY ARTS

The first musical by Olympia Choral Society director Terry Shaw, opening Thursday, tells the stories of people living not in houses or apartments but in Tents. He describes the musical as “a story of stories” about the lives of eight residents of a homeless camp. Though performances are at Timberline High School, the show has an adult cast, including director Troy Arnold Fisher.

Shaw, who teaches at Timberline, volunteered at homeless camps and shelters during summers from 2009 to 2013. He spent a lot of time talking with people whose life circumstances were markedly different than his own and found that they—and their stories—were familiar. “For me, homeless people were sort of on the outskirts of society,” he said in a recent phone interview. “I didn’t know much about them. These are people who are not far removed from me and from you and from a lot of us by virtue of either circumstance or a few life choices along the way.”

Inspired by the stories he was hearing, he wrote a song about a man he’d met and how he’d come to live without the comforts most people take for granted. “It grew from there,” he said. “I interviewed a lot of people and took copious notes about anything and everything that I was told and then more songs just started coming.”

Encouraged by Brenda Amburgy, who teaches drama at Timberline, Shaw started thinking about creating a show. “I thought, ‘This could be a really cool musical—very different, but very, very interesting,’” he said. His production company, Virtuoso Arts, put on a preview production in July at Panorama City in Lacey, and the small audience was enthusiastic.

“There were a lot of profound moments on stage,” Fisher said. “They all wanted to know, ‘Where does it go next?’ They wanted more people to see it.”

What: Tents

Where: Timberline High School Theatre,
6120 Mullen Rd., Lacey

When: 7 p.m. Thursday – Saturday, March 2-4;
2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, March 4 and 5

How much: $10-$15

Learn more: Timberline HS | ShowTix

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