Shout-Out to New, Local Theatre in Seattle

Seattle’s theatres have echoed a common complaint in the last several years – we’re tired of feeling stifled by continuous Shakespeare and Arthur Miller productions. We want to do new work, locally-produced and -created.

Fortunately, Seattle theatre artists have caught up very quickly with the request. Theatres like Annex, Washington Ensemble Theatre, and the Satori Group have always done new works, but now other companies are emerging and producing new shows created by local playwrights, or by an ensemble cast. I want to give a shout-out to some of that effort now.

Studio 4 Seattle created something called the “PLAYEE GROUP,” with the intention of finding short, new scripts from local playwrights and assembling a new works festival by the end of the summer. I have only managed to go to one of their Tuesday night meetings so far, but I was impressed by the warm reception to all the artists, and the openness to genuinely constructive criticism of each script.

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Also something I missed: the 8-Bit Theatre Festival, which featured new short plays inspired by video games. Seattle is full of nerds, so definitely a winner. “With themes ranging from an appreciation of a certain plumber with impeccable jumping skills to a young girl finding a forbidden text-based game on her father’s TRS-80 to a glimpse into what it’s like working in the modern industry, these eight bits resurrect the kill screen … Featuring new work from Sara Dipity, Scott Shoemaker, Tracy Vicory-Rosenquest, Jim Moran, Craig Trolli, Alexandra Solomon, and more.” (from the Facebook Invite)

Pork Filled Productions, which has always focused on new work for Asian American theatre artists, has struck gold with Maggie Lee’s steampunk play, “The Clockwork Professor.” I look forward to seeing this – I’ve heard nothing but great reviews of it. From the FB Invite: “Professor Pemberton is a humble inventor, a quiet man of science. As political unrest sweeps over the great city of New Providence, buried secrets from his past threaten to destroy everything that he holds dear, and perhaps even the Crown itself! From romance to royal airships to roving inter-dimensional portals, come join the Clockwork Professor on this action-packed adventure of fantastical science fiction with a steampunk twist!”

I had the great good fortune to participate in Live Girls! Theatre’s Cupcake Reading series this past spring. The series is part of the “Bakery Series” devised by the company to fully develop new work by female theatre artists. The company has done a lot, with Quickies and the Bakery Series, to create and promote new work.

Previously mentioned, Annex Theatre also has a huge focus on new works. Their upcoming production, “The Half Brothers Brand Old-Timey Variety Show” is only the latest installment of that 27-year-long mission.

The Seattle Fringe Festival rebooted last year, and is back this year with even more new Seattle-based productions.

A new company called the Irrational Robot Bureau (IRB) is not producing a 100% brand new work, but a show called “The Gas Heart” which is inspired by a Dada-ist work from 1921. “Watch six very different robots put on THE GAS HEART in order to prove their continued usefulness to the species that has cast them aside in favor of shinier toys and speedier tools. EYE, MOUTH, NOSE, EAR, NECK, and EYEBROW aim to convince us that they still have worth. It’s no 8-bit endeavor, especially for a group of glitched-out machines who have accumulated more than their fair share of damage and system errors. But is not a flawed design at the heart of being human?”

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Physical ensemble theatre with a clown twist is also a big deal in Seattle. The UMO Ensemble, based on Vashon Island, has created new clown-inspired work since 1987; a friend of mine, Maristela Diaz, has formed “Clown Jam”; and a company I work with as an artistic associate, Ear to the Ground, creates clown-based ensemble work through an ensemble-generated performance, inspires clowning through the Dojo, and hosts a cabaret-style clown show called “Not All Clowns Are Bozos.”

Also, I’m directing a brand-new full-length show called “Rosemary,” starting next week, which will be the first show for brand-new company RiOT Productions. I know the playwright, Seth Tankus, and I know he is from the Seattle area. The show takes place, in part, in Bremerton. It’s truly a local show.

The 5th Avenue Theatre and A Contemporary Theatre both have great new works’ development programs.

So GOOD JOB, SEATTLE. We’re doing what the rest of the country is still just talking about. swag

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