Seattle’s scene for locally grown plays has always been stronger than your average mid-sized city's, but anything good is worth fighting to make better. That’s why I mouthed off over two and a half years ago with an essay titled “Theatre takes Place: Why Locally Grown Plays Matter”. I listed some bullet points explaining why the development of new plays is so crucial to the health of any great theatre scene:
“Local actors evolve a better understanding of how their contribution … can be generative as well as interpretive.
“Local audiences evolve a better understanding of how plays get made and how they can participate in the process….
“Local funders evolve a better understanding of their roles as patrons of the arts…
“Local funders, artists, and administrators …[can see] the development of plays as actual investments, with the potential to pump profits back to Seattle in several ways.”
I even complained that the then recently introduced TPS Gregory Awards had a category for “outstanding director” but none for playwright, a blunder since rectified.
Mouthing off is fun, but theatre is a collaborative art form. Unless others join the fray it isn't much more than meaningless monologue. Happily, the last few years have shown just how much a modest city can grow as a theatre town when a group of motivated professionals put their collective mind to it. For instance, last year A Contemporary Theatre finally took another chance on a local playwright by producing Yussef El Guindi’s Pilgrims Musa and Sheri in the New World. The gamble paid off big-time: El Guindi won The Harold and Mimi Steinberg/ATCA New Play Award (plus the $25,000 that comes with it), and American Theatre Magazine just published the script in its current September 2012 issue.
Keri Healey’s new play Torso, produced by Printer’s Devil Theater, mesmerized everyone I know who saw it. I suspect it is no coincidence that Keri has been short-listed for a Stranger Genius Award this year. Torso recently doubled down on local impact with its currently running second production on Orcas Island.
These are just two stand-out success stories from many. And this fall promises another bountiful harvest of locally grown new theatre. Again, just to name and explain a few (with a promise to blog separately on some as they come closer):
14/48 outdoors for the first time ever
A few weeks ago I raved about the glorious gamble the 14/48 steering committee was then making by staging their first “Kamikaze” festival, but this weekend they are amping up their Summer of Risk by staging the instant theatre festival outdoors for the first time in their 15 year history. Tickets are free (also a new twist) so it’s hard to see how you could afford to miss it. (More info here.)
Beloved local actor Betty Campbell doesn’t get around as easily as she used to, so five local playwrights, myself included, wrote four short plays tailored to her unique and extraordinary talents. This special Theater Schmeater offering is the sort of one-of-a-kind live experience that only happens in Seattle. (Click here for more information and here for reservations.)
NCTC’s Foreclosure by Vince Delaney
One of Seattle’s hottest acting ensembles workshops one of Seattle’s hottest playwrights, as he tackles an issue facing Americans nationwide There aren’t many performances scheduled for this pre-world premiere, so you better reserve early.
Sandbox Radio Live!
The podcast from Episode 5: “An Unexpected Twist” recently dropped. (A blog on that to come.)
A “Best Of” show kicked ass at Bumbershoot! (Check out this review.)
And Episode 6: "Something Wicked This Way" is coming very soon: October 1 at West of Lenin.
Why is Sandbox Radio Live! so important to Seattle’s locally grown theatre movement? Because it happens every quarter and every quarter it gets better. Because nearly every play, poem or commercial is written by top local playwrights and performed by top local actors. Because it is fresh local “produce” at its best and most consistent.
Custom Made Plays
In my opinion this may just be the most exciting new wrinkle in Seattle’s locally grown scene, and not just because I have the good fortune of being the inaugural playwright. Brainchild of local actress Rebecca Olson, the Custom Made Play Project is dedicated to matching Pacific Northwest playwrights with local actors to develop and produce new plays of regional significance. In my case, after interviewing my collaborating actors, Ms. Olson and Hana Lass, I tailor-made the soon-to-world- premiere Ballard House Duet to their unique talents and qualities. Because of that, I am painting with colors I have never used before, and I’m loving it. The resulting script simply would not exist were it not for these unique one-on-one collaborations. That fact excites me.
Here’s another fact: Seattle is the best city in the country—maybe even the world— for locally grown theatre. And we are only getting better and better at growing it. As you can see from the small sampling above, it’s going to be an awesome autumn harvest. It makes you wonder what next winter, spring and summer will bring.