What: “Art” a Mission Creek Players Production
When: 5 p.m. June 9, June 16
Where: Clearwater Saloon & Steakhouse, 838 Valley Mall Parkway, East Wenatchee
Cast: Dave Demuth (Marc), Brent Youlden (Serge), and John G. Valderrama (Yvan)
Paul Burke doesn’t like to think of the play “Art,” as his last. He founded the Mission Creek Players 35 years ago and has spent a lifetime acting, directing and building sets for local productions. But at 62, his ailing health might finally pull him out of stage life — at least for a while.
“I wouldn’t have chosen this as my farewell anyway,” Burke said at a recent rehearsal. Asked which play he wanted to go out on, Burke clutched his chest and answered jokingly, “One where I died.”
He sat in a wooden bar chair premiere at East Wenatchee’s Clearwater Steakhouse & Saloon, sipping ice cubes and shouting a few final tips to the actors before “Art” premieres Sunday.
“Let’s move!” Burke called out as he circled his arm, a signal to Brent Yousden, who portrays “Serge,” to hurry to his place on the barroom stage.
“Art” is an edgy French comedy about three men whose friendship is nearly torn apart when one of them buys a painting — just a white canvas with a few geometric lines — made by a trendy, modernist painter.
“Look at it from this angle. Can you see the lines?” said Yousden as he introduced the $50,000 piece to “Marc,” the bully of the group played by Dave Demuth.
“What’s the name of the …?” Demuth began.
“Louder!” Burke boomed from his chair.
After three decades, Burke knows how to run a show, Demuth said. That’s part of the reason why he asked Burke to direct “Art” six months ago.
“He’s a total giver in theater,” he said. “He never asked to be paid, never cared about acknowledgement, he just wanted to see that Wenatchee had a vibrant, active theater scene. That why I really like working with him. It’s all about the show.”
And Demuth loves this show — emphasis on “love.”
“I love the arguments. I love the dynamic,” Demuth said. “The edge comes from the dialogue. It’s very attacking.”
French playwright Yasmina Reza won a Tony for the play, and then went on to write “God of Carnage,” which debuted as a Hollywood film starring Jodie Foster and Kate Winslet last summer.
A director himself, Demuth wanted to play the role of “Marc” so much he turned to his friend Burke to direct. For 20 years, the two worked side by side behind the scenes and on stage in dozens of productions for both Mission Creek Players and Music Theatre of Wenatchee.
They last worked together in a play Demuth directed seven years ago, “Proof,” in which Burke played a brilliant mathematician. After that, Burke suffered a bout of kidney failure and heart troubles.
“I really missed theater,” Burke said. When Demuth asked him to direct “Art” he said, “I loved the play and felt healthy enough to give it a go.”
A few setbacks have delayed the play’s debut, including several cast changes, scheduling changes and the sudden downturn of Burke’s health again. Nicole Villacres stepped in as assistant director with Pam Hawkins as assistant producer in Burke’s absence.
The show would go on — a mantra Burke had become known for over the years.
“If something went wrong as the play evolved, Paul would find a way,” Demuth said. “If an actor quit, the show must go on. If the set wasn’t built yet, the show would go on. It was a faith thing.”
Demuth said the show is especially important to Mission Creek Players, which hasn’t put on a production in two years. The theater company has been searching for a permanent home since moving out of the Pressroom Theater in 2011.
“We had put in way too much to not do it, and we needed to do something,” Demuth said. “We needed to get out there again and remind the Wenatchee Valley that Mission Creek Players still exists.”
In the past few weeks, the show has also become a tribute to Burke, Demuth said. Whether it’s his last show remains to be seen.
“I have mixed feelings,” Burke said. “I really need to focus on my health right now. And just maybe, I think in the back of my mind, that I might get healthy enough to hit the boards again.”
Rachel Hansen: 664-7139