Submitted by Rob Rice Homes
Rob Rice Homes was recently recognized as the 2014 Best of South Sound Contractor for New Construction, a distinction made by voters throughout our communities and region.
This is the second year in a row the local new home builder has received the award and he was honored again at a public ceremony for the Best of South Sound winners co-hosted by the Thurston County Chamber of Commerce and The Olympian newspaper. This year’s event was bigger than ever, attracting nearly 400, a record attendance.
For the past decade, the Olympian has presented Thurston County businesses with the coveted Best of South Sound award. This year, their readers voted online from January 10 to February 15, 2015 for their favorite business in more than 80 categories. Rob Rice Homes won top honors out of 48 total nominations in the category.
“This is a wonderful place and we are committed to building the best quality homes for our communities,” says Rob Rice, who attended the event with his wife and staff members. “We have a great team of people—experienced building superintendents, top quality sub-contractors and partners, knowledgeable Realtors and of course our staff—all committed to our standards of excellence. To be recognized in this way by the voters across our County is gratifying.”
Rob Rice has distinguished himself as a local developer of 20 outstanding, highly-desired communities and more than 3000 quality-built homes since he started in 1985. Whether the first house or the 3,000th home, he puts the same care and attention to detail into each roof he raises over a Thurston County family. Throughout the area, Rob Rice Homes is known for its consistent superior construction, expansive landscaping and green space
and long-lasting home values.
Local homeowners responded enthusiastically to the news of the award. “I love my Rob Rice home,” said Cynthia Navarro Jordan, who recently bought a Rob Rice home in Rainer Park where home values have increased over time. “Built over 20 years ago – it is new to me and just perfect!”
Rob’s office has been in downtown Olympia, just across the street from Ralph’s Thriftway for many years. A fixture on local non-profit boards and frequent donor to many non-profit organizations, Rob and his wife Helena are a big part of the community that has again honored their work.
Rob Rice is Thurston County’s largest local home builder and was voted the Best of South Sound for 2013 and 2014. He has built more than 3000 homes over the last 30 years. He and his wife Helena live in Olympia with their two sons; Alex Michael and Carson. Rob is a graduate of Washington State University with degrees in construction management and architecture.
Submitted by Springer Plumbing
This week is Fix a Leak Week! Seven years ago the WaterSense division of the EPA launched Fix a Leak week to help remind Americans to find and take care of leaks in their plumbing and irrigation systems. From March 16 through 22 WaterSense and various organizations around the country sponsor activities that educate people about the importance of saving water.
How much water is being lost?
A projected 10,000 gallons of water each year is lost due to leaks in an average American home. These leaks can be from dripping faucets, running toilets, trickling irrigation systems and more. All of this wasted water adds up to over 1 trillion gallons of treated, potable water that is lost each year. The good news is that there are some quick and easy steps you can take to find and fix leaks in your home.
Do you have a leak?
How can you help?
Save Water, Save Money
If any of these leaks are in your hot water lines, a great deal of energy is spent heating this water. By repairing the drips, water AND energy will be saved which also saves money. A leak of one drip per second can cost $1 per month. Do yourself and the planet a favor and spend a few minutes this Fix a Leak Week finding and repairing those leaks.
Submitted by Adopt-A-Pet
Meet loveable Bear. We do not have much information on him but he might be a Lab/Chow cross. Bear is a large, sweet tempered and gentle soul.
He really loves a good scratching and will quickly flip over for a belly rub. Because of his size, we would recommend older children.
We have lots of great dogs and always need volunteers to help them. Contact Adopt-A-Pet dog shelter on Jensen Road in Shelton at www.adoptapet-wa.org or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or (360) 432-3091.
By Gail Wood
And this is also a story about the love of that boy’s mother, about her commitment to help her son realize that dream.
Without question, Brendan Sedgwick is a talent on ice, capable of skating past a defender and slapping the puck to an open teammate. Later this month, Sedgwick will fly with the Tacoma Rockets U-18 team to Detroit to play in a six-day national tournament.
Then in early April, Sedgewick, as a member of a two-state, all-star hockey team, will fly to Pittsburgh to play in an all-star national tournament.
“Yeah, it’s very cool,” said Brendan, a junior at North Thurston High School. “It’s a once in a life-time opportunity.”
But for Brendan to experience that opportunity in Detroit, for him to realize his talent in skates, for him to make that all-star team that includes players from Washington and Alaska, he first needed a taxi driver. He needed a mom to drive him five days a week to Tacoma during the season for the past eight years. Diane Sedgwick, with her unselfish commitment, is the one who drives 300 miles a week, chauffeuring her two sons to practice and games in Tacoma five days a week.
“My mom is one of the biggest supporters in my life with my hockey,” Brendan said on his cell phone as his mom drove him to practice. “I just appreciate it a lot.”
Brendan, encouraged by his dad’s own hockey experience growing up in Canada, first started skating when he was 7. About a year and a half after his first lesson in ice skates, a hockey coach spotted Brendan skating and asked him if he’d be interested in playing hockey. Both mom and son nodded their heads yes.
“I just love hockey,” Brendan said.
To understand the depth of that “love,” you first have to know about Brendan’s commitment, about his hectic schedule. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, he’s practicing with his hockey team from 6:30 to 9:00 p.m. in Tacoma. During the spring, he goes directly from track practice – he throws the shot and runs the mile for his high school track team – to a 2 and one-half hour hockey practice twice a week. While his mom is driving him there, he eats a hot dinner that his mom made him and then he does some homework.
On Wednesdays, mom and son drive to Sumner for an off-the-ice workout with his hockey team, lifting weights and running. Then on the weekends, Brendan does what he loves most. He gets to play left wing for his hockey team, playing a game on Saturday and Sunday.
“It’s a scoring position,” Brendan said about playing wing. “But wings are in there mostly to set up plays and get the offense going.”
In addition to their bumper-to-bumper traffic commute from Lacey to Tacoma during the week, there’s the across-the-state drives to the games. The league includes teams in Wenatchee, Spokane, the Tri-Cities and Lynwood. Parents are the team’s designated drivers.
The dream Brendan and his teammates are chasing is of course to one day play semi-pro and then professional hockey. The ultimate dream is to one day play in the NHL. If that day should ever arrive, Diane has her own dream.
“Once he signs with the NHL, my request is a nice mommy car,” said Diane light-heartedly.
Brendan’s younger brother, Liam, plays hockey on the U-14 team. And like Brendan, Liam needs a mommy taxi. Last year while driving one of her sons to a game, Diane was in an accident that totaled her car. She’s been driving her husband’s car, the one with room for the hockey gear.
But Diane hasn’t limited herself to being the designated chauffeur. She’s also taken some hockey lessons with other moms.
“For the past couple of summers, I’ve gone out there on the ice,” Diane said. “They teach you how to skate and how to hold your stick and shoot your puck and how to get up. That’s the extent of my hockey experience.”
That and her in-the-stands cheering.
Brendan has two friends who have shared a similar commuter experience in their chase for hockey glory. James Martin, who attends Timberline High School, and Trevor Westlake, who goes to River Ridge High School, are also on the Tacoma Rockets. All three of them will be playing two games a day along with Branden in Detroit from March 24-30.
Martin is also on the all-star team with Brendan headed for Pittsburgh.
It’s the first time since 1991 that the Tacoma team has qualified for nationals. With a lot of scouts in the stands watching, it will be a moment for them all to shine.
“The scouts are going to be watching, scouting and taking pictures,” Diane said. “They’ll want to talk to some of the players. Yes, this is a huge opportunity to be scouted.”
It’s a moment mom and son have been working and driving to for a long time.
Submitted by The Olympia Seattle Children’s Hospital Bargain Boutique
About this time of year, many of us get the “urge to purge” our homes of unwanted or unused items. Spring cleaning is a ritual for many families or it could be something you want to try for the first time. When sorting out the too small clothes, unused toys, and completed paperbacks from the winter, think of donating them to the Olympia branch of the Seattle Children’s Hospital Bargain Boutique.
The Bargain Boutique’s mission is to raise funds for uncompensated care for families under treatment at Children’s Hospital, ensuring that all children get the medical care they need. Having a sick child is challenging enough without worrying about covering all the costs. Uncompensated care funds exist to ensure families don’t have to make care decisions based on cost and instead can choose the best care plan for their child knowing it will be paid for.
The Bargain Boutique in downtown Olympia is currently seeking donations to fill their shelves for the spring. Donations are accepted Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The Bargain Boutique is seeking a few particular categories of items. If you have the following items at home or in storage, consider donating to this worthy cause.
Donations of good quality merchandise are always needed and welcomed. Your contributions help ensure that all children of the Pacific Northwest receive the medical care they need, regardless of their family’s’ ability to pay.
Items we accept include:
For more information, to make a donation or donation pick-up, please call 360-236-8245 or 206-448-1233 or try our new donation email BargainBoutiques@seattlechildrens.org
By Laurie O’Brien
Fast forward to 2015, and Deputy Rod Ditrich, is looking forward to easing his friend and partner, Rex, into a well-earned retirement.
“He isn’t showing any signs of not being able to work,” says Ditrich. “But what I don’t want to do is what we normally do with police dogs, and that’s work them until they’re crippled and on their last legs.” Just last year, TCSO had to put down a dog just two months after retiring him. Ditrich thinks they can do better by their partners.
The average lifespan of a German Shepherd is between eleven and twelve years, and Ditrich would love to have nine-year-old Rex take it easy while he’s still healthy. “He’s served the citizens of Thurston County and protected me for seven years, and I want to be able to give him the retirement he deserves.”
To that end, he’s breaking in a new partner. Jaxx has been living with Ditrich and his family for about two months now. The 16-month old German Shepherd spends a lot of time playing, bonding with Ditrich and learning basic obedience. He has also been doing ride-alongs with Ditrich and Rex, but he does not get out of the car during calls. He begins official training this month with the goal of completing the necessary 400 hours before attempting police dog certification in May.
Should Jaxx pass, Ditrich will have two partners for a while.
Not many rookie K9s have the benefit of working with a seasoned dog. In fact, Ditrich believes he’s the first law enforcement officer in the state to try breaking in a new dog while still working with an active K9. He feels confident that intermixing the dogs will be beneficial. The plan is to use Jaxx on the easier calls at first, not to use him as an apprehension tool.
Ditrich thinks a newly certified dog is much like a 16-year old driver. “He may have his license to drive, but he’s not any good yet. He has no experience. It’s the same with a police dog. When he gets certified he’s legal to commit law enforcement. He’s legal to go out and track these guys. He’s legal to go out and find evidence, to search for dope, whatever it is he’s trained to do, but he’s not any good yet. He’s an infant in his job.”
Should they be called to apprehend a criminal who will stop at nothing to avoid prison, Rex will be the dog sent out. “We hope that the calls that they get while they’re maturing and learning how to do the job on the street – not training but actual deployments on the street – we just hope that we don’t get that guy while the dog is young and immature,” explains Ditrich.
When young dogs are put into those high stress situations – ones in which they can be kicked, punched, stabbed or even shot at – it can break them. According to Ditrich, when that happens one of two things can result: the dog will become afraid and unwilling to go after suspects, or he’ll become too aggressive and bite at everyone and everything. Part of the job of a K9 deputy is to have a good on/off switch with the ability to be calm and obedient with the public while still being aggressive in the field. A dog with a broken switch cannot be an effective K9 officer.
“We kind of roll the dice with a new dog traditionally,” says Ditrich. “I’ve got the best of both worlds here. I’ll have the ability to have a dog (Rex) that’s very street wise, knows his job well, and there’s no issue sending him against a guy who’ll do anything to keep from going back to prison.”
He believes not putting the younger dog under that huge amount of pressure right away will help him mature into his job. As Jaxx gains experience, Ditrich will start adding the tougher calls to his resume. The goal is to have the transition complete and retire Rex by the end of 2015.
As for Rex, right now he’s taking it all in stride. It’s kind of like having a younger somewhat annoying sibling around. The two dogs are together 24/7. They have been on camping trips with Ditrich and his wife and another family pet. They share a large outdoor kennel at home, and both sleep at the foot of Ditrich’s bed at night.
“Right now Rex is still the dominant one,” says Ditrich. He admits that at one point Jaxx tried to take Rex on, playfully nipping him on the butt, but that didn’t work out very well for the younger dog, and he hasn’t tried anything like it since.
But soon the day will come when Rex will have to relinquish his role as partner and take on the role of stay-at-home pet. That’s unchartered territory. “It’ll be tough for Rex. He won’t like that at all,” concedes Ditrich. “There will probably be some acting out.” However, he knows that Rex knows how to relax. When the family travels, Rex is perfectly content to lie under their RV or by the fireplace. He doesn’t think it will take long for his friend to figure out that now he gets to kick back and enjoy life.
Ditrich will always have a place for him by his feet or at the side of his bed. Rex has earned it.
Submitted by FirstLight HomeCare
FirstLight HomeCare, provider of quality, affordable, non-medical in-home care for adults, is now open in Olympia. FirstLight Home Care of South Sound is owned by local residents Sarah and Greg Lane.
FirstLight HomeCare of South Sound offers complete companion and personal care services for seniors, new mothers, those recovering from surgery and others in need of assistance. Services include companionship, meal preparation, light housekeeping, shopping, driving to doctors’ appointments, personal care and any other services that help the people we serve stay comfortable in their own homes.
In addition to Olympia, FirstLight HomeCare will serve residents throughout Thurston County including Lacey, Tumwater, Yelm, DuPont, Tenino, Rainer and Rochester.
Lifelong Olympia residents, the Lanes wanted to start a business together that would serve the community their families have called home for generations. Working in public service and non-profits, they knew their business would have a service theme.
“We looked around the community to see what services were needed,” Sarah Lane said. “We found that not only is a large portion of the U.S. population turning 65 every day, but our area also has a higher than average number of seniors.”
The final decision was more personal than simple demographics.
“We remembered when our grandparents were at a point when they could no longer remain home alone,” Lane said. “We didn’t know home care was an option, we wish we had. We liked the idea of giving seniors more housing options, including stay in their own homes, by providing the assistance they need to maintain independence, dignity and respect, while also providing the support families need for peace-of-mind.”
For more information on FirstLight HomeCare of South Sound, please call 360-489-1621 or visit southsound.firstlighthomecare.com. The office is located at 921 Lakeridge Way SW, Suite 203, Olympia.
About FirstLight HomeCare
FirstLight HomeCare creates a new standard in non-medical, in-home care for seniors, new mothers, adults with disabilities and those recovering from illness, injury or surgery. FirstLight HomeCare’s leadership team offers more than 90 years of collective senior care experience and innovation to establish an emerging market leader in a fast-growing industry. FirstLight HomeCare has awarded more than 120 franchises across the country, which benefit from the industry’s leading, best-in-class franchise support. Follow company news on Twitter and Google Plus.
Submitted by The Evergreen State College
The board of trustees of The Evergreen State College announced today its selection of George Bridges, Ph.D., as the college’s next president. Bridges, who was selected from a large pool of accomplished candidates, has been the president of Walla Walla-based Whitman College, one of the nation’s top liberal arts colleges, for the past decade. Prior to leading Whitman College, Bridges served as dean and vice provost of undergraduate education at the University of Washington. He holds degrees from the University of Pennsylvania (Ph.D., Sociology, and M.A., Criminology) and from the University of Washington (B.A., Sociology).
“George Bridges is an exceptional leader with deep experience at public and private institutions, large and small,” said Keith Kessler, chair of The Evergreen State College board of trustees. “It was clear from our interviews and campus forums, and from speaking with his professional colleagues, that George will be a strong and effective advocate for Evergreen and its bold approach to interdisciplinary teaching and learning. We’re extremely pleased to have him as our next president.”
“I am absolutely delighted by the decision,” Bridges said upon learning of the board’s action. “The opportunity to serve as Evergreen’s next president is an extraordinary honor. Given the college’s strong national reputation as a leading public liberal arts institution and its dedicated and talented board members, faculty, staff and students, I view this appointment as a unique and rare privilege. I look forward to learning about the college’s aspirations and expectations from all members of the Evergreen community and to meeting the many Evergreen alumni in every corner of the country.”
Evergreen’s presidential search process was informed by a search committee that included faculty, staff, students and trustees. The committee also included alumni and representatives from beyond the college including Gerry Alexander, former chief justice of the Washington State Supreme Court; Lynda Weinman, Evergreen alumna and executive chair of the board and co-founder of the online learning company Lynda.com; and Craig Chance, Evergreen alumnus, past chair of The Evergreen State College Foundation and senior vice president of Columbia Bank. The college also held open candidate forums to which the public was invited.
Bridges’ official start date is October 1, but he will be on campus for several events this summer and fall, including fall convocation. The annual salary for the position is $300,000.
Dr. Thomas L. “Les” Purce announced in May 2014 that he would retire this summer. He has served as Evergreen’s president since July of 2000 after serving as Washington State University’s vice president of extended university affairs and dean of academic programs. Between 1989 and 1995, Dr. Purce served in several roles at Evergreen, including vice president for college advancement, interim president and executive vice president. His retirement date is expected to be August 31, 2015.
Founded in 1967 and opened in 1971, Evergreen is a nationally acclaimed public liberal arts institution recognized for its innovative interdisciplinary approach to teaching and learning. The college has been noted as one of the nation’s best colleges by the Princeton Review, the Fiske Guide to Colleges, US News and World Report and Washington Monthly. Evergreen has also been recognized as one of the nation’s top “green” colleges and one of the best schools for military veterans. In addition to its undergraduate offerings at its main Olympia campus, an upper division program in Tacoma and a reservation-based program serving Native American communities, Evergreen offers three graduate programs: a Master in Teaching, Master of Environmental Studies and Master of Public Administration. The college has approximately 4,200 students.
This is my finished piece from the first week of the Make Art That Sells course I am currently enrolled in. The theme was toy trains and winter holidays, and the market we were exploring was the paper market, which would be things like cards and the like.
I LOVED working on this, especially the train, which surprised me…so I am trying to remember to keep an open mind about subjects that on the surface don’t sound all that appealing. It was also an opportunity to experiment painting a shiny gold effect and overall I am quite pleased with the outcome.
Olympia’s silliest group of improv maniacs is back with a new show! Join the fun as Harlequin Productions’ acclaimed improv comedy troupe Something Wicked takes the stage in Something Wicked has a Slumber Party. Sometimes slumber parties have gossip stories, sometimes they have scary stories, but on Wednesday March 18th, Something Wicked’s slumber party will be chalk full of wild and hilarious improvised stories!
Come dressed in your PJ’s and receive a voucher for ½ off a concessions item of your choice!
Featuring special guest standup comedian Morgan Picton!
WHO: Harlequin Productions presents Something Wicked
WHAT: Something Wicked has a Slumber Party
WHEN: Wednesday March 18,2015 from 8:00-9:30 PM (end time is approximate)Google Plus One Facebook Like
Submitted by Timberland Regional Library
The Lacey Timberland Library “Teen Short Story Contest” was part of the annual program, “Lacey Loves to Read (LL2R),” designed to generate discussion and celebration of a notable author. This year’s author was Kashmira Sheth, award-winning writer of books for young adults and children.
Here are the 2015 winners:
Grade 6 – 8
First place – “Spirit Woods” by Karen Lin (Chinook Middle School)
Second place – “Over the Fence” by Robbie Hewett (Komachin Middle School)
Third place – “Things You’d Never Realize” by Leonie Thome (Nisqually Middle School)
First place – “The Seventh Year” by Chelsea Bruen (Timberline High School)
Second place – “The Revolutionaries” by Emily Curtis (North Thurston High School)
Third place – “The Lonely Poinsettia” by Lina Hoffman (North Christian High School Lacey)
Prizes for the writers included:
· First place – Signed Kashmira Sheth book, LL2R book bag, Galaxy Tab 4 tablet with $25 gift card to Staples, 16GB USB drive with eBook and story publication in St. Martin’s University Literary Magazine SMUniverse, to be published in April.
· Second place – Signed Kashmira Sheth book, LL2R book bag, $50 gift card to Amazon.com, and 16GB USB drive with eBook
· Third place – Signed Kashmira Sheth book, LL2R book bag, $25 gift card to Amazon.com, and 16GB USB drive with eBook
· Invitation to reception to meet Kashmira Sheth at the Lacey Timberland Library
Submitted by The Thurston County Fair
Put a spring in your step and money in your wallet this season by reserving a booth for the annual Secondhand Safari at the Thurston County Fairgrounds.
Saturday, May 2 will be a springtime extravaganza of buyers, sellers, swappers and traders, with over 1,500 visitors and 100 vendors in years past. Along with garage sale booths, the Secondhand Safari will also have educational booths, a free book and magazine exchange, entertainment, food, and more. This year, admission to Secondhand Safari is just $1 all day long, so get ready for bargain hunters galore!
Not sure if you have enough gently used treasures for a booth? Secondhand Safari is a great opportunity to clean out the clutter and make a tidy sum for your family group, school club, church, charity or scouting club.
Outdoor spaces and covered spaces for the May 2 event are available to anyone with gently used treasures to swap or sell. Call the Thurston County Fair Office at (360) 786-5453 to reserve your booth:
The Secondhand Safari will be on Saturday, May 2 from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Set up for sellers will be on Friday, May 1 from noon to 10 p.m. The doors will be locked after set up Friday evening and security will be on site until the event opens Saturday.
Representatives from Goodwill Industries will be on hand throughout the day on May 2 to accept donations (at their discretion), giving sellers the chance to donate any of their unsold items at the end of the day.
For more information on the May 2 Secondhand Safari, or to reserve your booth, contact the Thurston County Fair Office at (360) 786-5453 or visit www.ThurstonCountyFair.org.
By Gale Hemmann
We all do it. We get stuck in the same routine, visiting the same grocery stores for our food, where we buy the usual items for our well-worn recipes. I don’t know about you, but occasionally I find myself longing for a palate change, for some fresh culinary ideas and inspiration.
One way to get out of your usual routine and discover some great local businesses is to visit some of Thurston County’s many ethnic and international food markets. Our area is home to many different cultural groups, and we are fortunate to have a diverse array of small markets around the area to reflect our community’s many cultures.
From a few shelves in a corner store to markets with full-service cafes, this list explores some of the diverse gems that might have that recipe ingredient or new item you’ve been looking for. These markets are also a great place to stop with kids who will enjoy picking out a new (very affordable) treat or two and learning a little about a new culture.
Filling your cart at these markets is also a way to “shop local.” Locally owned and often family-run, these businesses also carry many local and house-made items alongside imports. For example, you’ll find Tacoma-made Korean tofu at Capitol Market and house-made tortillas at Ramirez Mexican Store.
You’ll also find very fair prices, fresh produce and deli items, and unique treats you won’t come across anywhere else. These markets can also make great places to look for gifts, kitchen ware, and more.
For this article, I toured the area’s specialty ethnic grocery stores. As someone who enjoys international cuisine, some of these spots were long-time favorites, and others were new finds. These are my picks for international grocery stores around Thurston County that are great places to stop by (hours are included where available).
Airirang: This store has been a fixture in Lacey as long as I can remember. As a kid, picking out a frozen fruit pop here on a hot day was a treat. Then and now, Airirang remains a bright, friendly store specializing in Korean food. You’ll find fresh produce, house-made deli items, cooking staples, candies, and housewares among its aisles. (Open Monday – Saturday 9:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m., Sunday 9:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.)
Mexican and Latin American Markets
Julia’s Bakery and Cafe: For the best selection of Mexican pastries in the area, I highly recommend stopping by Julia’s Bakery and Café on Martin Way. This eatery also carries a good selection of Mexican grocery and non-food items. The owners are friendly and helpful, and did I mention the delectable pastries? They even offer a sugar-free cookie option. You’ll definitely come home with some popular treats for everyone. (A tip: Get there early on weekends before favorite items sell out.)
Indian and Middle Eastern Markets
I hope this list gives you some new ideas for places to shop and expand your culinary repertoire. I definitely wrapped up this tour with several bags of goodies. Bring an open mind (and palate) and a few dollars to spend – you’ll definitely be loading up your cart with some fresh new finds in no time.
By Lynn West
By day, Sara Rucker Thiessen enriches lives as the Education and Travel Director at the Olympia Senior Center. After hours, she is equally passionate about entertaining her audiences. Her name may sound familiar since she has been appearing in Heartsparkle Players improvisation performances at Traditions Café in Olympia for the past 16 years. However, by next year at this time, we will have the opportunity to watch her in “Brown’s Canyon” (working title) on the big screen.
Sara is eagerly anticipating the next few weeks in the Brown’s Canyon area of Park City, Utah where under the direction of John Helde, she will be a cast member in a very avant-garde production.
Although Sara has long had a passion for acting, she followed a rather unconventional and circuitous route to film stardom. “I grew up in Michigan and went to the University of Michigan,” she said, “but my work at the Food Co-Op and teaching English as a Second Language at the Refuge Center led to a job in sustainable food production in Amarillo, Texas.”
Amarillo also offered her first introduction to live performance and began her 33-year love affair with theater. “In a small storefront on the famous Route 66, I found a theater company which was part of my life for the two years I lived in Texas. I realized I really wanted to act,” she explained.
It was in moving to Olympia to be closer to her sister and doing some acting locally that confirmed that she knew she needed more formal training. “I had the itch to really learn the craft of acting,” Sara told me. “So I thought I might apply to Cornish, but then I looked at the cost of tuition, so I thought again.”
Sara learned about the non-profit Freehold Theatre in Seattle that offered intensive Ensemble Training. She loved writing monologues and creating characters. “It was in this program that I learned to be a performer, and I knew ensemble fit my style well,” she said.
Her meandering career then brought Sara to the Community Theater in Seattle, where she performed in one act Harold Pinter plays and dramatized versions of Raymond Carver short stories. Four years ago, along with Jenn Ruzumna and Lisa Every, she left Community Theater to form BASH Theater.
“It was through performances with Jenn and Lisa that the director, John Helde saw me perform. He asked me to be part of a short movie he was directing last year, ‘Phoebe’s Father,’ which will be distributed soon,” Sara explained. “This led to the work on ‘Brown’s Canyon,’ the most fascinating acting experience I have had.”
John Helde told me he and his wife moved from Washington D.C. to Seattle twenty years ago, and he started his film company, Try This Films. He called the preliminary work on ‘Brown’s Canyon,’ “an experimental and intensive process.”
The day I first talked to Sara she was driving to Seattle. “This session is the culmination of the work we have been doing since August,” she told me. In August, Helde had chosen his five actors: Sara Rucker Thiessen, Jenn Ruzumna, Lisa Every, Eric Jordan and Carter Rodriguez, which was certainly crucial. “I need folks I knew could work collaboratively,” he said.
The cast met twice a week from August until the week before Christmas. I asked John if he had a premise in mind for the film before the actors began creating characters. “All we knew, was that these five people would somehow end up trapped in a snow storm for three or four days in a large home in Brown’s Canyon in Utah,” he answered. From there, the character’s early history, extended family, personality and ultimately their rationale for being at the location was developed.
When I asked Sara what influenced her character, she said, “My work at the Senior Center was definitely part of it, but all my own experiences fit in also. My character has strict boundaries. She came from an alcoholic dysfunctional family and is looking for a transformative experience, so she can say yes to life,” Sara said. The character is a single Baby Boomer and a former teacher who is now a photographer, and a mother figure to the two younger women in the film.
After character development was complete, John Helde spent December and January writing the screenplay. He said, “I wouldn’t usually be able to finish a script in such a short time, but the intensive preparation made it possible.” Sara assured me that even though the script is centered on real life characters with real crises, it definitely has humor too.
“I often wonder how I have been so lucky in life to have the opportunities I have,” Sara mused. Maybe talent has something to do with it I told her. While we are waiting to see Sara Rucker Thiessen in her starring role, we can watch the film’s progress by liking it on Facebook or just pop in to the Senior Center and say hello.