« #WAshooting on the Airwaves | Main | What is Going on in this Pic? »



Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


Hear, hear, Mr. Mullin. As for Ms. Whoriskey, I've been supremely annoyed with her ever since the over the top 'oh my god, Seattle, how very LUCKY you to are to have THE Kate Whorisky deigning to bring her insight and leadership to the Intiman!' piece in Seattle Woman magazine. I was quite taken by her failure to say one solid word about Seattle or it's already thriving theatre scene - or the artists working in it.

Anyway, I'm sure you'll get dissenting voices, but I say thanks for this.

Scot Augustson

Look, I don't want to see the Intiman fail. I don't want less plays in town. I love it when people in the arts get paid.
But what gets me is that the Board and Artistic leadership are touting this as an emergency. And part of "Emergency" implies surprise. Something unexpected.
Washington State is eliminating the Basic Health program. The State Arts Commission is in suspended animation. What should have been a routine highway project, the South Park Bridge, didn't happen, cutting off a vibrant (and poor) neighborhood. These are the times we are in.
Contributions to the arts are down everywhere. Investment intended to provide stability to institutions are down. Why didn't the Board go into overdrive two years ago? Why weren't the books scrutinized on a regular basis? Why did this crisis catch them with their pants down?
And now they need a million dollars.
I have nothing against the big houses. But they aren't where my heart lies. I like theater in much smaller spaces. I like it less polished, more idiosyncratic.
That million dollars could fund dozens of the sort of performance that I really love, that gives me the goose bumps. I wish the Intiman well, but I think that million could be better spent elsewhere.

Paul Mullin

Thank you Richelle and Scot. You are truly two people that make Seattle worth all the trouble.

Paul Mullin

Ah, the semi-anonymous, semi-permanent, and thus semi-accountable shivs are unsheathed on Face Book, desperately stabbing at the above while hoping still to hide in the half-shadows. Some classic arguments have been trotted out, but some new ones have been test-fired too, and I thought I’d run through a few here now, lest it seem like I too was hiding.

1. “Mullin’s just mad because the Intiman doesn’t produce his plays.”

This is a true classic, having been floated from before I even started mouthing off formally here at Just Wrought. It is particular piquant in this case, since I would truly have to be insane to think that the Intiman would ever produce one of my plays given that the only local new work they’ve staged in the last 15 years or so was a one-person show (I don’t do solos) of stitched together radio interviews with a former staffer doing the stitching. But, as the one accused, I suppose I am not in a powerful place to convince you I am NOT insane in this regard. So let’s look at it in another way. Let’s say it’s true. That EVERYthing I write here (for such was recently argued on FB) is born from my disappointment at not being produced at Seattle’s Big Houses. What does that mean about the Big Houses? Or the Regional Theatre across the country? Because believe it or not, this argument-- that disgruntled playwrights are the real problem-- has been raised on the national level too. It seems to me that the natural solution would be to get rid of all the disgruntled playwrights: to nurture only the nice ones and marginalize the rest. (Wait a second! http://www.paulmullin.org/just-wrought/2010/09/seattle-likes-its-playwrights-nice.html) “People are sure to show up to see nice plays written by nice folk. If only we could get Mullin and his ilk to shut up, we’ll raise that 2 million easily. God curse underproduced playwrights and their disproportionate power to affect our bottom line! If only there were some way to put their writing to productive use.”

2. "Mullin's most ridiculous assertion is that some wonderful new institution will grow up when Intiman dies. I heard the same nonsense with the Empty Space went under. Still waiting for another professional mid-sized theatre to appear and take... its place all these years later.…this article is stupid."

“Stupid”.” (Yes, this indeed was the best word an esteemed formerly relevant theatre critic could come up with.) He’s right, the situation with the Empty Space is exactly analogous to the Intiman’s. Except, no, wait: they’re exactly the opposite. The Empty Space was a theatre that did not have a permanent venue of its own. A shuttered Intiman will be a space without a company. That space belongs to the Seattle Center, i.e. “us” and it will not go empty forever. It’s just up to “us” to make sure it stays a theatre venue and not become a mega-church. It will be hard. But Seattle can do hard.

3. “I think Paul undercuts his credibility… when he says this [paraphrased]: "Allow me to offer three institutions more worthy of your money. Number 1: Me."

This new one tickles me, since it runs in a diametrically opposite direction from an argument I usually get. To wit: “If Mullin thinks he can do better he should go out and do it instead of bitching.” Well, I do think I can do better, I have gone out and done it—though not without huge collaboration with my colleagues at NewsWrights United, and I guess the only problem is that I haven’t stopped bitching. So which is it: shut up or speak up? I’m not saying I will follow your directive, but could I please get a consistent one?

Scot Augustson

OK, Paul, I am calling bullshit on one point. You say there are plenty of deserving theater companies in town and then go on to list a lousy three. (The number is lousy, not the companies.)
So let me throw out forty names of deserving companies or orgs. Two caveats: This really is an off the top of my head list. If your favorite group isn't here, chime in. And two: There are companies on this list whose work is not my cup of tea. But they are somebody's. That's the strength and value of the niche.
Here goes: Annex, Theater Schmeater, Children's Theater, Taproot, Rainier Valley Youth Theater, Washington Ensemble, Printer's Devil, ArtsWest, Sgt Rigsby & His Amazing Silhouettes, Village, 5th Ave, The Rep, ACT, Balligren, Macha Monkey, Live Girls, Velocity, Seattle Public, Theater Off Jackson, On The Boards, SIS, Langston Hughes, Pony World, Exit Theater, Jet City Improv, Book It, Northwest Playwrights Alliance, Northwest Puppet Center, Monkey Wrench, Brown Derby, Rain City Projects, New City, New Century, Strawberry Theater Workshop, Open Circle, Youth Theater Northwest, Cody Rivers, Freehold, One World, 14/48, Theater Simple, UMO, Eclectic Theater.
And like I say, I'm forgetting people.

Paul Mullin

Uh... thanks Scot, except apparently you missed this little section of my post: "Buy me a beer and I will name you at least 100 theatre organizations in Western Washington more deserving of your donation than the Intiman."

So now that you've named 40 just exactly how do you think I can hope to score a beer?

You're undercutting the deal I'm trying to strike.


Scot Augustson

I do want that beer. And, yeah, I got that "Oh, I could tell you more." I just thought it needed a public airing. (Given how few want to be seen in public with you.)
Oh, and I forgot:

Omar Willey

I could add to Mr. Augustson's list, but I'll let it be. It's a perfect reminder to people that theater continues to exist outside of the Seattle Center. It's even more important for his brilliant quote"

"There are companies on this list whose work is not my cup of tea. But they are somebody's."

If arts funding only went according to that little maxim, think of how much better off the community would be. But of course it doesn't.

Something to tell your formerly esteemed once-upon-a-time relevant theater critic is that not only have you never argued the "inevitability" of a new, yellow, different professional mid-sized theater popping up in the wake of another theater, but also you have consistently argued something much more important: that it takes the death of professional, mid-sized theaters and even small-sized and large-sized theaters to clear the way for something better.

Of course, none of the Intiman apologists want "better." They simply want another 20 years of the same old. It's an institution. It's too big to fail. Never mind how completely irresponsible they've been in terms of aesthetics, local community and economy. They're the Intiman! No criticism allowed. Fall down and worship. And give up your $500 to their greater cause.

As a Seattle naysayer long before the Mullin era, I am far less polite on the matter than you. But I also happen to share your view that artistic values are more important than institutional permanence. This is heresy at the LORT level, where they believe their existence is the only reason for anyone else's. Someday they will learn of their complete and utter dispensability.

Or not. But dispensable they shall be, nevertheless.

Paul Mullin

As ever, Omar. Thanks.

And Scot, beers it must be.

Brendan Healy

I hoped and expected for more passionate even angry arguments on facebook and here. Kinda hoped Jose was right that this would lead to a shit-storm, but the momentum ain't building. Alas. Would make a great topic.

Paul, instead of commenting on your article, I'm gonna take this space to comment on your comment about people's comments to your article in an attempt to create a point of gravitational singularity that will finally implode the universe and give us all a full weekend off.

You comment: "Ah, the semi-anonymous, semi-permanent, and thus semi-accountable shivs are unsheathed on Face Book, desperately stabbing at the above while hoping still to hide in the half-shadows."

Dude. It's facebook. Everyone is using their real names. What semi-anonymous and half shadows are you talking about? It isn't Slog where people go by "Rabbit Humper" or "Portland Fascist." Just like I'm using my real name here. You make lots of good points. Don't waste your time and rep on silly ones. Silly ones like when you point to critique #3 and reject it because it isn't consistent with all the other criticisms you get. I posted that criticism and I think it’s a fair comment to make. I have not criticized you in the other direction. If I had, you could call me out on it. But you cannot reasonably expect everyone out there to march in uniform criticism of you and reject anything that shows variety or an different opinion. That is my opinion. I am consistent with myself and cannot be expected to abandon my impression because it's different than someone else’s.

So, ya know, stick with the good stuff.

Paul Mullin

Fair enough, Brendan. Well put.

I said what I said about Face Book because one of your fellow critics has told me in the past that I was not "allowed" to attribute from his remarks there because it is not a public forum. Indeed, he is not the only one that has told me this. So I prefer things out in the open here (where I don't let anonymous comments stand.)

As for your comment, per your request, I'll take it at face value and ask again, do I really discredit my arguments by naming one of my projects as worthier of support than Intiman? I can see how my statement might seem outrageous in its own right, especially if you don't care for my work (always a possibility), but I don't see how it's outrageousness, or it's inappropriateness (which I'm guessing is your thrust) negates the arguments and evidence I present otherwise.

If it does, I'd happily remove it and only ask that folks send their money to the other two orgs I mention plus the 40 Scot does. But doesn't that seem crazy too? That I would promote 42 organizations that produce theatre in this town, but not my own?

Help a brother understand.

Omar Willey

Let me see if I can help.

Only in the context that people might take you less seriously because you put your own estimation above that of the mighty former-Tony-award-winning theater is Mr. Healy's comment fair. In actuality, it's not even important. If I read his comment fairly, I think it's based on Mr. Healy's understanding that Seattleites do not like when Mullin blows his own trumpet, and that it makes those same people take everything else you say less seriously. I think Mr. Healy is just telling you what a good editor would tell you: your readers are not all that enlightened and will look for any suggestion that what you say is motivated by personal interest.

In truth, though, I take it as a sign that you believe in your art as contributing to the greater good of the arts scene. Others of course may not feel that way. But those others don't want to listen to you anyway. They will look for any reason, however irrelevant, not to listen to you. No matter how well-reasoned an argument, they would not hear it from you because they are cultural ostriches and won't hear anything that disagrees with their own feel-good voice (cf. Robert Burton, On Being Certain).

I'd only take your comment less seriously if you didn't tell anyone that you were the Executive Producer for the organization and disclose your interest. Then I would demand your head on a platter.

Brendan Healy

Facebook not a public forum? That makes no sense whatsoever. Those folks have a confusing notion of either public or facebook or both. But whatever.

On to the real question you pose which is much more interesting than the etiquette of facebook...

I'm not saying your project doesn't deserve funding or even that you shouldn't mention it in this blog article. I am saying that as an audience member (see, "Reader"), a lot of credibility of the article is lost when you present only 3 companies/projects by name that are more worthy of the money and the first is your own. The title of this piece is Institutional Arrogance. The Newswrights United may objectively prove to be the most worthy art endeavor in all of history and this would still come across as very similar to the arrogance your charging against Ms. Whoriskey in her plea to fund the Intiman. That's just on the aesthetic face of it. That's how it comes across to the reader. If we wanted to dig into the logic of it more deeply, we might apply some of the same questions to Newswrights United that are being applied to the Intiman, e.g. does it prove it can handle its money well? Frankly, too early to tell for Newswrights (fair to say? 1 or 1.5 years of operations? If not fair to say, call me out on it, please) whereas there are lots of small theatres that have proven their ability to stay alive over decades, e.g. Shmeater, Annex, etc., which suggests they can manage their resources well. If we change the criteria from longevity to successfully growing the size of the company we can point to Balagan; if we examine improving their infrastructure plus critical successes as indicators of stability/merit we can point to Seattle Public or WET. I don't know if Newswrights United pays its artists or does stipends or whatnot, but if we apply the criteria of paying local theatre makers actual wages, then examples such as New Century and Strawshop come up. Heck, Greg Carter at Strawshop has made it his raison d’être to get people to support theatre that pays living wages to Seattle artists and not theatres that fly ppl in from NYC.

So the point is, there are lots of great examples you could have put forward that would have made an equally strong (or stronger?) case but wouldn't have appeared self serving. When an author puts forth an argument and within that argument there is a blatantly self-serving element, it does make the reader question the rest of the piece and/or the author's intent. I don't think I would have even had the same reaction if you had left your company off of the list of 3 and then added a cutesy aside afterward saying, heck, even Newswrights United might be more deserving and we certainly wouldn't reject the money. But putting yourself forward as the first example of a better group to support.... I think undercuts any other argument in the piece.

John Sylvain

When James Cameron was making Titanic I did the math and realized that Annex Theater (at that time) could run for 1,000 years for the cost of that one film. Obviously that's not true. If we had taken the money and invested in bonds or a savings account the interest would sustain the organization until the end of time or the end of money, which ever came first.

When I was in Seattle, I was inside Intimon once. We were doing "The Up and Coming" for Bumbershoot. I only wanted to go see a show there one other time, when they did the epic Kentucky Cycle, but I missed it. I probably couldn't afford the time and money (I was spending them making theater and drinking beer with Paul Mullin...bastard).

At first I thought you were being harsh about Intimon going under but after some reflection I really agree with you. When I was in Seattle, the Intimon seemed like a place for the Upper Middle Class Skandinavians of Seattle to spend their money if they didn't like the play at the rep. (I mean Intimon is a Swedish word meaning intimate, isn't it?) It wasn't really an arts organization that had any skin in the game. Empty Space was making theater for the audience they'd created in the 70s in the park, ACT was doing Steven Dietz plays and other cool world premieres, The Bathhouse was turning Shakesphere on his ear (again...poor Will), The Seattle Rep was NATIONALLY IMPORTANT and Pioneer Square was snorting Angry Housewives up their collective nose.

Intimon was the other one at Seattle Center.

Now it's been years and I'm generally ill informed but I dunno. Seems like a dumb thing to spend a million bucks on.

Put it in a savings account and give out grants to smaller arts organization that do interesting things. Put arts back in schools.

Hell, give it to me and I'll give you a theater that lasts at least 100 years.

Jim Jewell

Just a general comment from my perspective.

Nobody ensconced in Seattle theatre, whether that home be fringe or LORT, wants "better." They want their status quo, they want safe, they want comfort. I don't know that I can fault the impulse, but I can say it will be the death of us all (theatre artists) in the long run.

Within my own company, suggestions for new and aggressive approaches in the face of years of failing the exact same way time and again are met with resistance, because too many would rather play it safe or stick to theri narrative. 4-and-1 on the 10 yard line, down by four points, they want to kick the field goal and celebrate a closer defeat.

But the fringe is no less culpable. When I was trying to advance my Local Playwright Initiative last spring, which Paul wrote about, I got more resistance from fringe than LORTs. Essentially, the message I received in talking with fringe houses was, "Yeah, we kinda get off on our outsider, rebel status, which would just be undercut if we partner with a LORT on a project - wouldn't work."

Funny, I'm finishing up the end of the His Dark Materials trilogy with my daughter right now, and the main characters are talking about the need to implore people to keep their minds open. But, alas, Seattle theatre artists as a whole are stuck in their narrow little narratives of what should and shouldn't be. We are, as a whole, resistant to change and evolution.

Intiman would just be the next dinosaur to fall - that's the way extinctions look without hindsight clarity. Because make no mistake, we are in the middle of the process of extinction unless someone shows the balls to grow some effing gills.

Ramon Esquivel

Hello, Paul. Long time reader, first time poster. My gut reaction to the news of Intiman's malignant tumor was panic: "Oh, shit! We have to save them! They won the Tony Award! They helped bring THE LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA into being!" (It's one of my all-time favorite scores.) But I let things stew for a while, and I'm in a different place now.

How I feel about losing the Intiman is similar to how I felt about losing the Seattle Supersonics: "Oh, shit! We have to save them! They won the NBA Championship! They just brought KEVIN DURANT to town!" (Bear with me here.) I was sad to lose the Sonics because of their place in Seattle sports history, and because of my memories of the handful of games that I could afford to watch in person. But mostly I was sad because it meant that Seattle was going to be a lesser city somehow, at least in the eyes of professional-sports-following people. The team had had some glorious moments, but they hadn't been any good for quite a while. Their owners---and not just Clay Bennett---ran the team with impunity and disregard to Seattlites, and then expecting us to save them from their poor business decisions and management.

And so the Supersonics left. And I was sad.

But then I found the Washington Huskies. Their basketball is far more exciting, immediate, thrilling and unpredictable. They can awe with their athleticism, energize an arena with their teamwork, and also anger me with their stupidity, or frustrate me for not meeting their potential. I care more passionately for the Huskies than I ever did about the Sonics. I didn't even go to UW.

The Seattle Storm? What? WOMEN? Whoa, those women can really play! And they win. OFTEN. Championships even. And what was that? The school where I teach has basketball teams too?! Watching those kids play is fun, frustrating and inspiring in its own way.

I hear that Seattle may get another NBA team to play in Key Arena. That would be cool, I admit. But that team will have to work very hard to draw my allegiance away from the "little" guys and gals. Know what I'm saying?

Paul Mullin

I think I do indeed know what you're saying.

Thank you, Ramon, for chiming in!

Don't be a stranger.

Omar Willey

Well spoken, Mr. Jewell, as always. And thank you, Ramon Esquivel, for the sobering reminder.

Seattle theater needs ideas. It needs exchange. It needs mutual support. I have visions of Jerry Manning telling folks at his theater, "Man, I love those guys at Annex/New Century/Schmee/Live Girls/(insert name here)! Those guys bring such passion and diversity to the theater and I wish I could get away with half the things they do. Go see their stuff, not just ours!" Wouldn't it be nice to hear that in the media? Wouldn't it be nice to have Paul Morgan Stetler come out and say to people, "I think it's great to have the opportunity to use the resources of ACT/Rep/SCT/Intiman in such a mutually beneficial way--and they produce such lovely things that we cannot"? Wouldn't be even nicer if it weren't just lip service but an actual feeling?

The problem with our theater scene as it stands is that NO ONE believes these things will ever happen, or are even possible. They hold on to the Intiman because they hold on to the past, no matter how rotten that past is, the way that abused children take solace in the familiarity of abuse as adults. As long as we hold to that dogged belief, doom is inevitable. We've all lived through the demise of Empty Space, The Bathhouse, The Group, Alice B and the League of Fringe Theaters. That list will grow and it will be painful. Not because theaters shouldn't die, because I believe they must, but because no one put aside their egos to stop it from happening.

And funny Mr. Sylvain should mention Pioneer Square Theater. They were everything the Intiman were not and yes, ultimately they crashed. But they gave us thousands of performances of things Seattle had never seen before and pointed a way out of all this for us, if only they could have been bothered to follow through. I'm actually writing on the very subject now, in fact, and will post it when ready.


Does anyone else find Kate's "we're too important to fail" argument to sound a bit - erm - FAMILIAR?

Completely aside from whether the Intiman deserves to be bailed out on the basis of their artistic merit/place in the community, I have to ask - have there been any honest attempts by anyone in the organization to explain to us all what happened? From what I have read, the Board is pretty busy fingering Brian Colburn and clamoring about their own innocence - has anyone actually taken responsibility in a meaningful way? In a way that might assure potential donors that there is an understanding of what went wrong and how it can be prevented in the future?

I'm not interested in nor suggesting a witch hunt, but I am wondering how ANYONE can ask for 2 million dollars without providing substantial information about the chain of decisions that led to such an astronomical deficit.

Have I missed the explanations? I do live in Texas at the moment, so I'm a bit out of the loop.

Paul Mullin

Thanks, Tony. So speaking of intellectual dishonesty: you're probably new to Just Wrought so you may be unaware of the policy against anonymity in the comments here. I'm guessing your last name isn't really "slog" as you seem to suggest with your posting email. I'll give you 24 hours to supply me with something identifying yourself.

Otherwise, I will have to remove your comment, which I'd rather not do because I'd like to respond it and how it wrestles with a straw dog instead of dealing with my original assertion that the Times likes to kick corpses.

Bill Salyers

I'm glad I'm not the only reader who sees this as "Too Big To Fail: The Arts Edition."
I moved to Seattle at the end of Liz Huddle's reign, and for most of the decade I lived there, the Intiman appeared to aspire towards hiring from the New York and LA pools whenever possible. I was one of many capable local actors who were often employed as audition readers but could never get any closer to a decent role on that stage. Like all rules, there were exceptions, but like all exceptions, there were damned few.
Their plea reminds me of the conservative hypocrisy that socialism is BAD - unless you're sharing the losses for a major corporation; the Intiman always wanted to hire nationally, but now they beg to be bailed out locally.

Steven Gomez

On Brendan's note... Facebook is not necessarily public domain, as many users (including many theatre colleagues) establish security settings that limit profile/post viewing to friends. This implicitly means they don't want anything they post being quoted and attributed publicly. I'm more of an open book myself, but many others are not.

IMO Paul's not off-base to respect that boundary and not directly attribute the remarks, even if he chooses nonetheless to make several peers' general, repeated sentiment a topic for discussion.


More Intiman discussion here:


Paul Mullin

Thanks, Halle. Just checked it out. Interesting, and somewhat frustrating, how little Trisha knows about the "on the ground" facts of the situation, and how willing she is to draw conclusions notwithstanding.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)

TypePad Profile

Get updates on my activity. Follow me on my Profile.
My Photo

Twitter Updates

    follow me on Twitter