This month we are pleased to highlight Alan Bryce, who volunteers at our Talk Time at the Beacon Hill Library. Alan just celebrated his one year of service volunteering at Literacy Source! We are thrilled to have Alan as part of the team at Beacon Hill. Please take the time to read his spotlight, it is an entertaining perspective on Alan’s time volunteering here and his interesting life experiences. He has contributed much more to students' lives than being a Talk Time volunteer!
Here is what Sarah McCormick, our Talk Time Coordinator, says about working with Alan:
“Alan came to Talk Time with an open and joyful spirit. His interactions with the participants show he truly loves the program. Not only has he taught us so many things about his passions, but he embraces the opportunity to learn more about others' cultures, countries, and languages each week. Alan brings a new and unique perspective to the sessions. He has opened up the world of local theater and arts to our participants. Talk Timers have been able to attend plays, meet cast members and directors, and visit the Seattle Art Museum. His generosity is endless and his enthusiasm is contagious. We are so lucky to have Alan at Beacon Hill!”
Where are you originally from? If you’re not from Seattle what brought you here?
I’m a Scot, born in 1948, but grew up in the London suburbs. So when I speak, I don’t sound like any of my relatives, who are all from the City of Glasgow (if you heard them, you might think they needed trip to Talk Time even though they speak English!). My Dad was a successful man. He was Chief Test Pilot of British Aircraft Corporation, which eventually morphed in Airbus. So I had a comfortable childhood and was raised in a pretty affluent neighborhood: living down the block were John Lennon and Ringo Starr. I came to Seattle in 2002. I’d spent a lifetime working in the Theatre, and after a divorce, I moved to Seattle not just because of the great theatre scene here, but because two of my sons lived here too!
Please share something of your life so far and what you would like to do in the future.
A life in the theatre means that you do whatever you have to do to get by. I’ve worked everywhere from the humblest fringe theatre in a room above a pub to the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. I’ve stoked furnaces in rickety old theatres, swept floors, cast Broadway shows, written, acted and directed plays and was once shot at by Charles Bronson (he missed). For 14 years I was Artistic Director of Centerstage, a beautiful little theatre in Federal Way. I didn’t act there much, but when I introduced to local audiences the tradition English Christmas “panto,” I decided to change that. I always played an ugly old lady… a stock character known as “The Dame.” If you look carefully, you might even see a picture of me in one of the shows. I retired from full-time work there in 2017, and am now concentrating on my work as a playwright. In 2016, my play For All That was a finalist for a Gregory Award (Seattle’s Theatre Awards) as “Most Outstanding New Play.” I am continuing to write and it is my hope that I can develop new markets for my work.
Why did you choose to volunteer at the Beacon Hill Talk Time?
I realized that I would need more than just my writing when I retired from the day-to-day grind. Volunteering for an organization like Literacy Source seemed like the obvious thing to do, since my life as a writer has been all about words. Actually, I was first drawn to Literacy Source because I was interested in tutoring at the County Jail. But I was assigned to Beacon Hill Talk Time instead, and I am VERY pleased that things turned out that way.
Any stories or highlights from volunteering at Talk Time?
I am inspired by the people I meet at Talk Time. I’m inspired by the staff member, Sarah, whose work is so caring, careful and detailed. I’m inspired by my fellow volunteers, who are happy to give up the Saturday mornings week after week to help our students learn English. But above all, I’m inspired by the students themselves, and the many stories that they bring with them. I’m inspired by their commitment to learn, whether it’s to function effectively in the country of their choice, or whether it’s to bring their knowledge of America and of the English language back to the country of their birth. It’s not that I have learned how different people are the world over, it’s that I have learned how similar we all are. A few weeks ago, after our class, I saw three of the young students crossing the street next to the library, gossiping and laughing like the good friends they surely are… just like a trio of young American ladies… except that they were from Japan, Peru and Ukraine.
Because I’ve worked for a decade and a half in the Seattle Theatre, I’ve been able to approach my friends in the business to assist Talk Time students. It had occurred to me what could better help our students learn the language and understand the culture of the city and the country than trips to the theatre. So we’ve been able to get complimentary tickets to Centerstage, ArtsWest, 12th Avenue Arts, a couple of shows at Taproot Theatre, and even a day out at the Seattle Art Museum. Sometimes after the performance, the director, or leading actor will give a brief presentation to the Talk Time students to help them get a better understanding of what they have just seen on stage.
What might people not know about you?
I live in Burien with my wife Renee, and our 12-year old daughter, Catriona. You can learn a little bit more about me at www.alanbryce.net. And talking of my website, I’m working with a former Talk Time student, Emilie Sheng, who is studying video production at the University of Washington. She’s interviewing me about the life of a playwright as a project for class, but I’ll also upload it onto my website. So Talk Time has not just been inspiring for me, it has also been very practical and helpful!
Thank you Alan, we look forward to you continuing to be a part of Literacy Source!