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Flying Free: Centerstage Theatre examines responsibility and independence in the comedy 'Butterflies Are Free'

"Brynne Garman understands the sometimes tenuous balance between letting go and holding on.Off stage, the 39-year-old Federal Way resident struggles to achieve that balance in raising her 16-year-old son, Ben, who started high school this year.In Centerstage Theatre's production of Butterflies Are Free, Garman plays Mrs. Baker, the ultraprotective mother of a young, blind bachelor who has just moved into his first apartment. The play is set in the 1960s and Don Baker, played by TJ Morton, is soon romantically involved with bellbottom-wearing aspiring actress Jill Tanner, played by Jessica Chisum, who lives next to his flat. Robert Bogue plays Ralph Austin, Tanner's liberal friend, who grates on the nerves of Mrs. Baker.Garman's character worries she's losing her son.This woman is a product of the East Coast mentality, Garman says. There is a proper way for doing everything and that's the only way. The psychedelic, free love stuff is not OK for her son and that's the world he's trying to break into.Ironically, Garman was raised during the 1960s by a mother who was the polar opposite of the character she plays in Butterflies Are Free. Garman's parents were hippies who recycled everything, let their children determine their own paths and drove a Volkswagen bus covered with peace signs and flowers.As Mrs. Baker, Garman wears pearls, gloves and a coat with a fur collar and possesses a conservative attitude to match her conservative dress.I can't imagine anyone more different than my mom, she says.Garman became intrigued by acting because of her mom, a high school drama teacher. The older woman took her to rehearsals beginning when Garman was 5. Garman, who teaches English at White River High School in Buckley, has appeared in Under Milkwood for Centerstage, The Crucible at Pierce College, Last Lists of My Mad Mother at Northwest Actors Studio, Macbeth with the Washington Shakespeare Festival and other plays.The biggest compliment I ever received was when a friend said she forgets it's me up there, she says. I become the character.Ben Garman agrees his mother's transformation into a character can be an eerie experience.I'm thinking my mom's possessed or something, he says. Garman, who says she's 50 percent like Mrs. Baker and 50 percent like her mom, believes her own mother will get a kick out of seeing her daughter play such a conservative character from the 1960s.Whether conservative or liberal, audience members should be able to relate to the play's age-old themes of responsibility, independence and identity. Garman's character struggles to find an identity beyond that of mother.Those easily understandable themes appealed to Butterflies Are Free director Gail Wamba, a 1985 Decatur High School graduate. She is having difficulty letting go, Wamba says of Mrs. Baker. That's the flip side of responsibility is letting people be free. And being unafraid to let people make their way. It's a struggle everyone goes through, whether a parent or you've got pets or you're a teacher, she says. At some point you let them take over and succeed or fail on their own and it's hard to let go.As the mother of a 16-year-old, Garman agrees. Garman and her husband struggle to give Ben Garman, a sophomore at Federal Way High School, more responsibility and independence. Ben Garman wants to join the military before attending college; though Garman went straight from high school to college, she's decided to respect her son's wishes. He wants his driver's license but his parents say not until he improves his grades.I use the same discipline style I would use in my classroom, Garman says. Give respect. That's young adulthood. We'll give you more and more privileges if you earn them.Children gain much from the increased freedom their parents give them but it's not without its challenges for the kids either. They're giving you more responsibility and more control over your life, Ben Garman says. On the flip side, you have the problem tat you have more responsibility, more room for error. It's a safeguard you lose. "

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