Portland vs. Seattle – Who kicks whose butt when it comes to theatre?

When it comes to soccer, clearly Portland kicks Seattle’s ass. Come turn out Sunday to ensure The Sounders go home in defeat.

But what about when it comes to theatre?

On the ground, Seattle feels like a much bigger city than Portland. And with the number of tech companies and potential field of arts philanthropists up north, there is a lot more money. So does that translate to higher level theatre?

Strangely not. Portland seems to have both more theatre companies overall and (on the whole) better theatre than the Emerald City.

So take that, SEA.

What if you had to settle it with one matchup in the ring? Like Boehner and Obama going 10 rounds with winner take all. And if it was Seattle Rep vs. Portland Center Stage? I think PCS would probably take it (assuming the Timbers Army turned out to cheer).

Though both flagship outfits are at times case studies for all the things wrong with regional theatre (as memorably documented by Mike Daisey in How Theater Failed America), PCS seems more local and less franchised than its bigger cousin. And PCS has by far the better digs. Seattle Rep is marooned in the Kennedy era arts ghetto of the Seattle Center, while the Armory is smack dab in the middle of one of Portland’s hippest hoods.


(There’s always a but.)

There is one theatre area where Seattle not only beats but OBLITERATES Portland.

What is that, you ask?

Online debate about theatre.

If you read The Stranger, you know that theatre reviews in Seattle regularly generate scores of comments. Whereas in Portland some online reviews are barely even read (according to media peeps) – let alone commented on.

What accounts for this difference? Is the Seattle theatre audience somehow more engaged or vocal? Even while what they have to squawk over is less interesting?