A scene from the production of Aaron Smart's previous show at Lane Community College, ”Electra's Oresteia.” Photo provided
SPRINGFIELD – For Aaron Michael Smart, 23, of Springfield, writing is a compulsion.
That compulsion has propelled him into the premiere of his first full-length play, on Nov. 14 at Lane Community College (LCC).
For Smart, playwriting started in high school. A 2014 graduate of Thurston High School, Smart wrote drafts of his first 10-minute plays in high school – one of which was produced at LCC.
He and his friend wrote a play, ”The Too Noble Kinsmen” – a retelling of a Shakespeare play by using lines from other Shakespeare plays, which included a three-day performance run in Smart's backyard to an audience of 150, he said.
He attended LCC for a couple of years and then transferred to Central Washington University, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in theatre arts last year.
Smart began as an actor; he's acted and produced at LCC, CWU, Oregon Contemporary Theatre, and works as a technician at the Richard E. Wildish Community Theater. He still pops up on local stages from time to time.
”I love to act, but it doesn't have the same urgency for me that writing does,” Smart said. ”Writing feels more like a compulsion. I just jumped into this script, too. I didn't want to wait around for anyone to tell me I was OK to make something, so I just did.”
Smart's newest show, ”The Family Treasure,” follows three siblings as they explore the Oregon forest and their complex family history, in hopes of digging up treasure or something more important, Smart said. He said that while the play is nonreflective of his own family history, ”there are still threads” to his personal life. ”That was the spark,” he said.
The play is set in Oregon, ”and asks questions about pioneers, and discusses the positive and negative ways that you can hold onto history, and what you do with it,” Smart said. ”It's a story that will resonate with people who are feeling stuck, having trouble moving on, trying to find their truth.”
Characters in this play are comfortable accepting negativity in order to move toward positive energy. ”I don't think those people get enough respect,” Smart said. ”It's hard for people to be able to be positive but also realists. We praise optimism, but we don't discuss the differences between being kind and being nice. I think there are people in this play who are kind people but they're not nice. And that feels important to talk about.”
This is Smart's first full-length play being produced without a co-writer, which ”takes more vulnerability,” he said.
”I feel like I'm asking for more trust from the production team to lead them in the right direction,” he said. ”The satisfying thing is if I have an idea, I get to run with it. If I want to change something, I essentially get to ask for forgiveness instead of permission. I can form the text to tell the story in a way I feel it needs to be told, and then people gather around that, which is really rad to see.”
Smart said a major perk of getting to produce ”The Family Treasure” at LCC is having lead theater faculty and head of theater, Brian Haimbach as his director.
They've been friends since Smart was at LCC, having even officiated Haimbach's wedding in 2017. Smart said he thinks of Haimbach as his mentor.
”He's supportive, but he doesn't let being supportive get in the way of the work. He's not a yes man,” Smart said. ”He pushes you to be able to defend your choices. Brian is not the type to just pat everyone on the back, and that gives me room to grow. There's not a part of me that goes to sleep at night wondering what Brian didn't say to me.”
”The Family Treasure” premieres at LCC's Blue Door Theater on Thursday, Nov. 14. The show runs Thursday through Sunday, through Nov. 24. Start times are 7:30 p.m. Thursday to Saturday and 2:30 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets are donation-based on a ”pay what you can, if you can” scale. With graphic language, this production is not suitable for young children.