The Intiman — what’s wrong with American Theatre part 3

I’ve been thinking for months about the Intiman’s crisis — from their major fundraising campaign to their downfall. Reactions ranged from a desperation to save the theatre — mainly because it was one of the few venues tentatively able to pay actors a “living wage” (if you think minimum is living) — to schadenfreude. Questions arose about the Intiman’s relevance, and it seemed like the only good answer to the question was that they were big, therefore relevant.

The New York Times published an article on Thursday that was damning, to say the least. But it was correct. To close a theatre is, as Michael Kaiser has pointed out, a truly bad idea. Once you’re out of the public eye, it is an uphill battle to get back there again. Yes, the ACT has successfully done so, but they’ve done it by broadening the range of their performances, and they are able to broaden their range because they have 4 performance spaces in their building. The Intiman, to my knowledge, has one stage. This limits them in some interesting ways.

I have this idea, and I’m not sure where I picked it up, that the Intiman was an innovative theatre. I haven’t seen a lot of evidence of that, other than Black Nativity (which I hope finds another venue for this coming Christmas season), and the American cycle, of which I saw one play and I wasn’t very impressed with it. In fact, that one play was the start of my intense focus on local fringe Seattle theatre, which has, in the last year, narrowed even further to almost exclusively new local work. Rather than give up because the large theatres in town weren’t producing very good shows, I went back to small theatre. I’ve seen a lot of small theatre in the last year, as well as mid-range theatre, and I can tell you that there’s a huge amount of talent and creativity there that needs nurturing. It needs that $1 million the Intiman was trying to raise more than anything else.

I am disgusted with the Intiman. I don’t think they’ll reopen, and my feelings are very mixed about that. I don’t think they can or should reopen with the current board of directors, who have shown a lack of responsibility and a rather large amount of self-indulgence. I don’t think they should reopen unless they can find a local artistic director, who will be present and, even if the A.D. is focused on his/her own directing career, at least the focus will be primarily here in Seattle, rather than onto larger, distant stages. I hope the Intiman chooses to become a lab for new works, for works by and for the Pacific Northwest first, but that might be too much to hope for. I hope that the Intiman chooses to hire primarily actors here in the Northwest before importing actors from New York, Chicago, and LA, but that also might be too much to hope for. And yes, I might even hope that the Intiman becomes a place that actually promotes diversity, rather than making token gestures in that direction like most other Seattle theatres, large and small. But that’s actually a separate issue to do with how many actors are available and when and the quality of scripts available, etc etc etc. But a large theatre like the Intiman might have more leverage in that direction. Hell, a large theatre like the Intiman, despite it’s tarnished reputation, would have the leverage in any direction it wanted, if it can actually reopen.

Which is a pretty big “if.” I don’t know about the rest of you, but I am physically sore from the past several months. I feel abused, and I didn’t even donate to the cause. I never subscribed and I haven’t bought tickets to a show there in 2 or 3 years. But I’m sore. And exhausted. And I’m starting to think that maybe Seattle should file for divorce.

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