Sommer Harris shares her experiences with Whidbey and the world of Bhutan

Author: Carolyn Tamler

“Theater is an incredible experience for building confidence in young people.” Sommer Harris, a 2012 graduate of South Whidbey High School and a participant in the Whidbey Children’s Theater (WCT) from when she was six years of age, believes that WCT, has been a major influence in her life.

Sommer Harris in her Kira

Last year she returned from a four-month experience in Bhutan. She credits WCT with giving her the courage, confidence and curiosity to take on this challenge.  

After graduating high school, Sommer started college at Quest University in British Columbia, Canada. The University offered a cultural exchange program in several countries, and Sommer was drawn to Bhutan. “I have always had an interest in Buddhism, which is the state religion of Bhutan. Buddhism stresses compassion, and since Bhutan is a small country (750,000 at last count) I’d have a better chance of seeing compassion in a community.”

Sommer Harris at a Tsichu (festival) in Bhutan

She traveled to Bhutan with four others from her school, and met a dozen other American students from Wheaten College while there. During her stay, she made friends with some Buddhist monks and worked at a newspaper, the “Kuensel” which is the oldest and most respected newspaper in the country. She adds, “I was able to do this because most people in Bhutan speak English.” She also took 96 hours of the local language, Dzongkha (pronounced Zonka), because “It was a great way to make friends with the natives.” She also read a lot, did many local hikes, learned how to cook traditional dishes and went to the local festivals, called Tsichu (pronounced Sitshu).

Sommer believes that growing up on Whidbey and being part of the Children’s Theater have strongly shaped the direction of her life. She has a desire to continue to build community wherever she is and to make art within these communities: “I realize how lucky I am to have grown up in a community with so many resources for creativity.” She believes that traveling and living in a totally different culture gave her a new perspective: “The trip to Bhutan made me realize how much I want to stay connected to all of my teachers and mentors on Whidbey Island, whatever I do in my adult life.”

Theater is an incredible experience for building confidence in young people.

Dinah Hassrick, Athena Michaelides, Sommer Harris and Jenny Zisette play the title roles in “The Taffetas,” May 2012

Sommer’s last show at WCT, just before her high school graduation, was The Taffetas, which was performed with three other girls who, like Sommer, still feel strongly connected to the Children’s Theater and Whidbey Island: Dinah Hassrick, Jenny Zisette and Athena Michaelides. The show marked 14 years with the theater for each of them (From the South Whidbey Record of May 16, 2012: All Grown up and Taking a Final Bow with ‘The Taffetas )

Sommer plans to get a Bachelor’s Degree in Liberal Arts and Sciences, and she is very appreciative of her time with WCT: “Even if I don’t know what I want to do in the future, I have a strong connection with the kind of person I want to be that I learned at WCT.”