Director tackles thoughtful humorous plays

Directing the drama “A Piece of My Heart,’’ Kate Wilson guided her actors through the American women’s experience in Vietnam, wartime tragedy tinged with black humor.

In her new directoral effort — Bremerton Community Theatre’s comedy “Picasso at the Lapin Agile’’ — the Olympic College drama teacher sends the performers and the audience through the minds of cubist painter Pablo Picasso, physicist Albert Einstein and comic-actor and playwright Steve Martin.

“I love plays that have something to say, and I enjoy it if people laugh along with it,’’ Wilson said.

Set in 1904, “Picasso at the Lapin Agile’’ imagines Picasso and Einstein crossing paths at a Paris bistro, when both men are in their mid-20’s. The play is staged through June 29 at the theater at 599 Lebo Blvd., East Bremerton. For reservations, call (360) 373-5152.

The script is penned by Martin, the former television writer-turned-comic who first gained fame as a frequent “Saturday Night Live’’ guest and in such films as “The Jerk.’’

“Most of us remember him with an arrow through his head, and in those terrible plaid pants, that ‘wild-and-crazy guy,’’’ Wilson said. “But he was also a philosophy major for three years at Long Beach State.’’

With “Picasso at the Lapin Agile,’’ You get all the sides of him: that wild sense of humor, the philosophies, the differences between talent and genius, the conflict between the head and the heart,’’ the director said.

With daily lives dominated by computers, taped messages and drive-through windows, live theater allows people to connect, the director said.

“As our lives become more complex, and given the uncertainties of the world today, sitting in a dark space sharing an intimate experience with other humans can be a gratifying and useful experience,’’ she said.

Born and raised in Bremerton, Wilson began acting as a student at West High School. She studied acting and designed costumes for two years at Bremerton’s Olympic College before earning a bachelor of fine arts degree at Stephens College in Columbia, Mo. It was at Stephens that Wilson directed for the first time.

“I don’t consider myself an actor,’’ she said. “I don’t find it very fun or colorful. I have the utmost respect for actors. My passion is directing.’’

Theater was put on hold for a few years while Wilson worked as a sales representative for The Bon. While living in Idaho, she volunteered teaching drama to schoolkids.

“Through that, I came home,’’ she said.

Wilson returned to Bremerton, where she bought her grandmother’s brick house. She designed the costumes for a couple shows at Olympic College, and then was hired an adjunct instructor in 1994 . Wilson teaches acting, speech and introduction to theater. She’s currently completing her master’s degree in theater production from Central Washington University.

Wilson made her Kitsap directoral debut with the comedy “Inspecting Carol’’ at Bremerton Community Theatre in 1996. Her other credits include “Twelfth Night’’ and “On the Verge’’ at Olympic College, “Foxfire’’ at Bainbridge Performing Arts, and “Five Women Wearing the Same Dress’’ for the Performing Arts Guild of South Kitsap. Particularly gratifying was directing the Vietnam drama “A Piece of My Heart’’ at the Naval Undersea Museum in Keyport as part of Women’s History Month.

“I was working with actors who were willing to visit emotional territory,’’ she said. Vietnam veterans told the director the play captured their experience.

Wilson said she enjoys “the process itself, and then seeing people take the vision and the rehearsal and running with it.’’

When she’s not teaching or directing, Wilson is attending plays and running. Her husband, Greg Hanenburg, is a musician who performs in two local bands.

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