Love Letter to Seattle
I confess. I love you. Okay? I do, I love you. My love is bald-faced and blatant. Unabashed, unashamed. You might think it’s reckless of me to admit this, but when it comes to this city, its theatre scene and theatre artists, I’m a fan, a fanatic, a fiend. Ah, to hell with caution, give me the wind—I love you!
I love you because each of our big, regional theatres have leadership who value and foster local talent, including writers.
The latest and greatest example of this is at the 5th Avenue Musical Theatre, which has just launched a fully funded new works program thanks to the generosity and good taste of the Alhadeff Family. The program is directed by the brilliant Ian Isendrath, with the enthusiasm, guidance, and support of Artistic Director David Armstrong, Managing Director Bernie Griffin, and Producing Director Bill Berry. The 5th Avenue artistic leadership also hosts a monthly salon for local composers and musical theatre writers, making a home for those emerging and established creators of musical theatre to come together, talk process, connect with each other.
Under the leadership of Artistic Director Kurt Beattie and Managing Director Carlos Scanduzzi, ACT Theatre’s radical new format of producing and presenting theatre is serving to democratize the whole scene, maintaining space and resources for its own larger, equity productions, while at the same time fostering smaller and mid-sized companies by providing gorgeous spaces in their building and marketing. Theatregoers aren’t limited to a “subscription” of pre-chosen plays, but instead can purchase an ACT Pass (kind of like the Netflix of theatre), and go to anything and everything under their roof for a monthly fee. All the theatre you want! And not just theatre, but also dance, burlesque, music, and film as well. It’s no longer big theatre versus small theatre, but instead there is cross pollination that’s happening by having so much beneath one roof.
ACT co-produces Icicle Creek Theatre Festival, commissions new work, and Literary Manager Anita Montgomery has teamed up with local dramaturg and director Chris Sumption to create a new play reading series called “Under Construction.” Kurt Beattie has also established a loose association of local artists through the Affiliate Artist Working Group, of which I am proud to be part, who are adapting The Ramayana for the 2012-2013 mainstage season. ACT also offers classes for playwriting for adults, a brand new program that’s the brainchild of Education Director Kristina Sutherland (also Artistic Director of Macha Monkey), which is itself already creating a community for people who want to meet other playwrights, advance their craft, and support emerging voices.
And of course, I cannot omit the wonderful leadership at Seattle Repertory Theatre—Jerry Manning, Artistic Director, and Braden Abraham, Associate Artistic Director. They have initiated a monthly writer’s group of selected local playwrights, whom are funded to develop new work and have workshop readings. They too are partnering with smaller theatres and organizations to support new work. Seattle Rep hosts and helps with casting for the Northwest Playwrights Alliance readings once a month. Every Friday they have readings of new work and the entire staff can attend. Last year they partnered with New Century Theatre Company to workshop and develop my new play The Redress Party.
I love you because of the weather.
Will others love you as much—audiences? They will catch on eventually.
I love you because of the smaller theatre companies with opportunities for new works and emerging writers, like the aforementioned and Live Girls! Theatre, Washington Ensemble Theatre, to name a few. And I cannot forget you, 14/48—a festival that happens twice a year and brings together so much local talent, actors, directors, designers, and writers in an energetic way, creating fourteen new plays in forty-eight hours.
I love you for Rain City Projects, a unique playwright support organization which publishes an anthology of local plays once a year, and promotes the anthology through readings at Elliot Bay Book Company. The anthology is edited by a different established playwright each year with Seattle ties. I had the opportunity to have my play Crumbs Are Also Bread (commissioned by Washington Ensemble Theatre) included in recent edition edited by Steven Dietz.
I love you for the amazing writers here whose excellence is inspiring, and who are collegial, community oriented, and believe in the success of all, not just themselves.
I love you for the amazing writers here whose excellence is inspiring, and who are collegial, community oriented, and believe in the success of all, not just themselves. There’s a sense of “let’s all be great together and with each other’s support, grow and continue to revolutionize the craft.” Scot Augustson, Mallory Avidon, Emily Conbere, Vince Delaney, Yussef El Guindi, Elizabeth Heffron,Wayne Rawley, and Sonya Schneider are just a few of those I respect and admire! I’ve also had the pleasure of collaborating with composer Albert Evans and also David Austen, two more incredibly talented theatre makers and wonderful collaborators.
Also, Seattle, I love that I can be a playwright here, and a grown up. As a theatre artist, this is one city where I can practice my craft and also have a high quality of life that includes owning a house, being married, having two kids and a dog. Many of the theatre artists I know are in similar situations—married with children, looking for a place to call home for their families as well as their art. I don’t make my entire living from playwriting, of course not, who makes their living as a writer period, any kind of writer, but here I have the opportunity to earn a little through playwriting, and also have a life that enables and inspires the rest of my life as a coffee drinker, a new mom, a teaching artist, a video game writer, a wife, and more. I also love you for the weather—gray and rainy enough of the time so I can feel good staying in my attic and writing while partaking of my drug of choice: caffeine! Oh, they make good coffee here!
If there’s a self-esteem problem in Seattle theatre, it’s not from the artists nor the artistic leadership. Maybe it’s the general public? Often, I find that most of the people seeing theatre are the same ones who are making it. How do we broaden our audiences, create buzz? How can we help get people into the theatre? They just haven’t caught on fully to how wonderful you are yet. Don’t worry, though—soon enough they’ll realize what a catch you really are, and then they too will be truly, deeply, irreversibly in love with you.