THE PRIDE by Alexi Kaye Campbell at Theatre22

THE PRIDE by Alexi Kaye Campbell at Theatre 22

Thru Nov 19, 2016

2-stars

Rendering plausible British accents – so often a challenge for American actors – here turns into a minefield of problems with a near constant barrage of detonations. Potential melodrama of story not helped by excessive directorial pauses, teeth gnashing, tearful breast beating. Setting between two eras is not clear enough. Not authentic.

 

Seattle Rep in potential death spiral | 2015-16 will be a make or break year

More interesting news from the Jet City on Seattle Rep’s plight.

Despite debt of around $800K, Seattle Rep is plunging full steam ahead into a big expensive season that, if all goes according to plan, will land the company another $800K deeper in debt. Huh? The thinking seems to be, something will happen in the future to turn the ship around. But what would that be?

The company’s situation seems to be even worse than the debt number indicates, for it has been spending on average 8% of its endowment annually since 2008 to help keep the lights on.

The main problem here that shows little sign of changing – one that all the outreach, marketing, and audience building in the world won’t fix – is that Seattle Rep is not exciting. It’s a rusting institution trapped inside a Kennedy era arts ghetto that needs serious work. Like a lot of regional theatres, the Rep simply carts in the latest slate of prefab offerings every other theatre in America is doing. But there’s precious little new or original. There’s very little local about doing the nine zillionth regional production of DISGRACED. Meanwhile glittering new Seattle is soaring sky – er – cloudwards on all sides around the theatre. If something doesn’t change, the Rep’s relevance and era may be done.

Paradoxically, the big hit Seattle Rep has had in recent years, last year’s imported OSF production of Robert Schenkkan’s double header on LBJ (ALL THE WAY and THE GREAT SOCIETY), was with new work – not the trucked in ham. This clearly ilustrates that Seattle audience members want to experience original and exciting new plays and will line up down the block for them. They’re not afraid of new plays – that’s what they want. Seattleites don’t want to be the last people in the country to see plays that have already been on everywhere else in America. They want to be on the other end of the curve. They want to be the FIRST to see new work made in Seattle that is headed to the rest of the country – for Broadway and beyond. Seattle makes – the world takes. That’s the way it should be.

But while OSF has created a new play machine that is turning out exciting works by top tier writers, left to their own devices the Rep limps along with world premieres by decidedly less skilled playwrights. The audience isn’t dumb. Your average Seattle theatregoer is only going to throw herself on pleasureless grenades like THE COMPARABLES or BO-NITA so many times before she comes to her senses and opts out. Or gets on a plane for New York, London, or Ashland. Life is way too short for bad theatre.

Seattle Rep has the physical plant of a Lincoln Center, a National Theatre or a Steppenwolf. But unfortunately the stuff on the inside doesn’t come close in quality to what the world’s biggest theatres can do. What’s the solution? Take a page from OSF and start creating brand new world class work. Start a new company ensemble a la Steppenwolf, hire some real writers, and start creating new plays that will make Seattleites wait on line in the hopes of maybe getting a standing room ticket (as they did for ALL THE WAY and THE GREAT SOCIETY).

This shouldn’t be that hard to do. Pony up, call Sarah Treem, John Pollono, Craig Wright, Simon Stephens, Johnna Adams, Kenneth Lonergan, and Leslye Headland and say: “People. We need you to help us out here and be part of revitalizing a theatre power in America’s greatest city of the moment. Will you give us a play?”

What playwright – of any stature – wouldn’t want to be a part of that? Of course you have to pay them.

Go big or go home indeed.

It could happen here | Seattle Rep shows America’s largest regional theatres are vulnerable

The theatre is dead. Long live the theatre.

If there’s anything constant in the besieged world of the performing arts, it’s that the theatre is always dying and yet always being reborn – usually at the same time. On any given day, data points can be found to support either trajectory. It can be quite perplexing to figure out what is really going on.

On the one hand, Broadway (and Oregon’s homegrown version of Broadway – OSF) is booming. On the other, white bread, flagship regional theatres are teetering. In between, innovative projects and companies that create authentic experiences for the audience and take on real issues are generally doing well. In the current landscape, small is beautiful, and big – unless you really know what you’re doing – can be deadly.

Big works if you’re the National Theatre, Lincoln Center, Oregon Shakespeare Festival. But if you’re big and don’t know how to create work appropriate to the largest of stages – big can be a sentence of doom. The imperative becomes: FILL THE SEATS.

At all levels, theatre artists who know how to create good work are attracting audiences. Meanwhile entrenched bureaucracies more about employing former theatre artists in admin jobs where they yammer on about “developing audiences” and “outreach” (when what the audience wants instead are unforgettable live experiences) are kept alive only by tax subsidies and largesse from 1% donor types. Tickets are often sold for next to nothing at these theatres.

As a close to home example of the syndrome, Portlanders already know about the leviathan, mostly uninteresting Portland Center Stage, which only still exists today because the city (which never met an arts tax it didn’t like) has funneled millions of dollars toward the fortress-like boondoggle in the Pearl over the years. Hey, it’s not like Portland needs the money for schools or roads. Given the sheer quantity of public greenbacks that have been been set aflame down at PCS, maybe the theatre’s tag line should be updated to “telling stories at unexpected cost”. PCS spends a huge amount of money, but by and large Portland gets unexceptional franchised art of the same flavor you could get anywhere. In a Portland of internationally known brands, products and technologies, PCS has failed to put the city on the map in any meaningful way when it comes to theatre.

By contrast, one need only look across the street to the reputation and success of PICA’s annual TBA festival to see what can be done on the world performance stage with vision and leadership. Or a little farther south down I-5 to the lil’ hamlet of Hamlet, where under AD Bill Rauch OSF has become a major launch pad for new plays – and Broadway.

Continue reading “It could happen here | Seattle Rep shows America’s largest regional theatres are vulnerable”

Seattle braces for end of year holiday onslaught by Taylor Mac and Jinkx Monsoon

It’s summer and it’s hot. And unless we’ve pitched our raft over the climate change Niagara falls for good, one day it will not be summer and hot. One day it will be winter and raining.

If and when that happens – Seattleites have two big holiday shows featuring flamboyant performers to look forward to in December.

Looking way, way ahead (which you need to do when sold out shows are coming), you’ve got Taylor Mac at On the Boards for three nights only and Jinkx Monsoon and Major Scales back at Seattle Rep for three weeks.

Taylor Mac should sell right out. Boom. Here’s what an international star like Mac does on an August night like tonight.

You don’t want to miss either of these.

Nov 25 – Dec 13 2015 Seattle Rep – UNWRAPPED by Jinkx Monsoon and Major Scales
Dec 10-12 2015 On the Boards – SONGS OF THE AMERICAN RIGHT by Taylor Mac

Seattle’s Forward Flux shows what the future of theatre looks like

The future audience you want is in this photo. #WhatTheFloat from Seattle's Forward Flux.
#FutureTrip. The audience you want is in this photo. #WhatTheFloat from Seattle’s Forward Flux on Capitol Hill last night.

Another day, another new [FILL IN BLANK].

In the larger economy, new products, services and companies appear (and disappear) daily. Change or die they say. And many companies do die – while others go from 0 to billions in market cap in 18 months. If you have something people want, the sky’s the limit. Because the audience is hungry for the real thing.

The theatre world is a little different in that while it is easy to start something new, the die off part of the cycle does not happen as fast as it should.

In theatre as in business, it is very hard to START a new company that is irrelevant or dated. At that moment of creation, most theatres burn with a unique fire and vision that only founders with skin in the game can have. Assuming you find success and the years start going by, the trick becomes how to tiptoe past those tiger traps of institutionalization, professionalization and generic status quo drudgery. Theatres (like companies) have to continually disrupt themselves – or someone else will do it for them. Look at what Andrew Russell at Intiman is doing for an example of how to make the old and entrenched new again.

When a theatre loses its edge or relevance to the audience, it can take a lot longer to die off than a company whose products are no longer being purchased. In the real world, if your sales go off a cliff, so do you. Because many arts groups depend on donations and foundation grants as opposed to ticket sales for revenue, once established an organization can surf a death spiral for years – whether or not anyone is coming to see the shows. With the price signal from the market (“we want less of this”) largely removed, groups keep on doing what they do zombie style. When the art is gone, organizational focus turns to bureaucratic empire building goals like “outreach” and “education” and “developing an audience” – all beloved funding sweet spots for gigantic foundations. Ticket prices drop to near zero under the rationalization of providing better “access”. Cities and foundations plow good money after bad in an attempt to prop up yesterday’s organizations. But the thrill – the thing the audience wanted once upon a time, the reason we go to live performance in the first place – is gone.

Every single audience member has in their pocket the single most effective marketing tool you could ever dream of.  And you're telling them not to use it?
#SocialTheatre. DUMP SITE at Seattle Immersive Theatre. Every single audience member has in their pocket the single most effective marketing tool known to humankind. And you’re telling them not to use it? “Whatever you do, don’t tell anyone about our show.”

It’s always inspiring and interesting to see what a newly minted and brightly burning theatre group looks like. Usually they are formed by young people, and so the digital aspects are going to be very sharp. But often new behaviors and styles enter the scene with the newcomers. If successful, these innovations spread to the mainstream. New theatre ventures are petri dishes of what younger audiences want to create and experience. And everyone else in the established bureaucracies would do well to pay attention.

So here with your afternoon IPA or morning coffee (or vice versa) is an example of the new: Forward Flux (@Forward_Flux), a Seattle outfit that also operates in New York.

Check out the digital channels. Looks pretty exciting, right? Notice the gigantic, exclusive focus on the excitement of the experience. These is no plea for money (yes, much lower down you can donate if you want to). The focus is on showing you all the amazing things they have. Want some? I bet you do. If the web site is this beautiful you have to wonder how great the actual experience on offer is, right? First things first – create a product people want. Get your audience involved and active. Once you do that, they will support you – both by attending shows and donating.

Goregously simple. A gallery of experiences we must have. #DigitalExcellence at Forward Flux.
Goregously simple. A gallery of experiences we must have. #DigitalExcellence at Forward Flux.

The future of theatre is not in the theater. It’s outside in non traditional spaces. It’s in the street, in the park, in the gas station, in the coffee shop. It is not inside $40 million dollar LEED certified malls. It’s almost anywhere other than the old-fashioned theatres of yesterday, where blue hairs take group naps against a backdrop of Shakespeare.

Location is not the only thing that will change in the theatre of the future. What theatre is like will be different. The fundamental experience will evolve. Theatre – like the media – will be more “social” in the future. It will be a more active experience than the old-fashioned warehousing of half asleep citizens in fixed seats. It will involve moving around. The audience will have input. They will take photos. They will dance. They will shout stuff. They will eat food and sing Neil Diamond (if requested).

The audience will be co conspirators, authors, stars. The lines between audience and performer will become more blurred. Theatres will both put on shows and do other social activities their audience wants. Because remember, the real art form is not putting on a show – it’s building an audience. Anyone can put on a perfectly good show that no one wants to see – Peak Shakespeare anyone? The real art form, the skill that any theatre that wants to do more than struggle by on grant checks must learn, is attracting an audience. How do you make exciting, interesting people come to your events? How do you make them want to spend $50 on a ticket? You do it by creating unforgettable live experience that talks to them.

So check out Forward Flux. Check out what they did last night on Capitol Hill in Seattle with #WhatTheFloat. An event like this is exciting enough to draw media coverage – unlike the 9 millionth amateur production of Shakespeare.

And if you missed #WhatTheFloat last night? Next up from Forward Flux is a double header of GREEN WHALES and STILL LIFE in September. Be there.

The future is coming and the audience of tomorrow is hungrier than they have ever been for authentic live performance. The companies that can deliver will sky rocket over the rainbow on purple, organically raised unicorns trailing streamers of silk. Wearing glitter-encrusted super hero costumes.

But old-fashioned theatuh will be the stuff of museums and grants and TBT posts…

#WhatTheFloat last night on Capitol Hill in Seattle.  Wanna guess when the last time any of these guys bought a ticket to Shakespeare was?
#WhatTheFloat last night on Capitol Hill in Seattle. Wanna guess when the last time any of these guys bought a ticket to Shakespeare was?

One more time | #DumpSite at Seattle Immersive Theatre extends thru July 26

We’ve lost track now how many times Seattle Immersive Theatre has extended their hit, sold out show DUMP SITE by Julia Nardin. It’s something like five or six.

What we do know is that the show has been running since late April. And that it’s damn good. And that it’s now running thru July 26. Really – that’s it. It can’t extend any further after that.

Interestingly – some Portlanders have been turning up at the undisclosed SoDo warehouse where it’s on. And another Oregonian came from as far away as Eugene to see it. We have it on good authority that all of those intrepid travelers were pretty thrilled with what they found.

If innovative, authentic live performance is what you live for, this show will be one of your 2015 highlights.

Tickets are $35. And it’s worth every damn cent.

INSTALL HERE

Inside Reed Pickering's brain. The final scene of #DumpSite.
Inside Reed Pickering’s brain. The final scene of #DumpSite.

Intiman kicks off 2015 season next week

2013-08-24-seattle-2031
We’ve been beating this drum for a while now: Seattle’s Intiman is back.

Here’s a good overview of the story on American Theatre.

From the ashes of a very old-fashioned style big theatre implosion in 2011 (something right of Mike Daisey’s HOW THEATER FAILED AMERICA), the Intiman has reinvented itself as a vital regional and national force. The 2015 season starts next week at 12 Ave Arts, a dazzling new theatre complex on Capitol Hill.

For a lot of old school goliath regional theatres struggling for relevance (and financial survival), the Intiman story shows that all you need is vision. Put a young 30-something whipper snapper with chops and ambition at the helm, and almost any theatre can be turned around.

Save all the millions of dollars spent on outside consultants and bureaucracy and “audience development” and simply hire someone who knows how to attract an audience to lead your theatre.

Simple right?

Intiman is doing real stuff. Check it out.

SOLD OUT | #DumpSite at Seattle Immersive Theatre extends (for THIRD time) through July 5

Hmmm.  Wonder what's inside that tent?  #DumpSite
Hmmm. Wonder what’s inside that tent? #DumpSite

Ladies and gentlemen, we officially have a serious hit on our hands.

#DumpSite, one of the most exciting theatrical experiences I’ve had in the last few years (and I see a lot of theatre), has extended its open run in Seattle. Again. For the third time.

And this time they’ve added on not one week, as they did in each of the two previous extensions, but two. So there are now eight additional dates available running through July 5.

This show from Seattle Immersive Theatre has been going since the end of April. Word has spread, and now demand from the audience is building.

I don’t know about you, but when something is good, I’m willing to travel for it. And I usually have to go a lot farther than 160 miles. So what you have right now is the chance to see something that could change your whole idea of how theatre can be delivered relatively close by. Did we mention it’s also a stunning gothic Northwest thriller? Paging David Lynch…

It is very cool to see a self-producing outfit like SIT originate a project like this and have it go on to be wildly successful in an open run format. What it tells you is that the audience is hungry for the real thing. If you can create the good stuff, they’ll be there. If you can’t, even $20 or $12 or $5 tickets on Goldstar won’t attract them. Because it’s not about price – it’s about quality. Create an experience you can’t get anywhere else – and the audience will beat down your door.

In a landscape where the very largest regional theatres often struggle to sell tickets for $20, audience members of all ages are gladly shelling out $35 for the chance to see this immersive theatre experience by Julia Nardin (writer), Gin Hammond (director) and Paul Thomas (producer).

Actually strike that. As an audience member in this original production, you don’t “see” the show. That’s what you do in traditional theatre, where the audience all sit in chairs. In #DumpSite it’s more like you’re in the midst of the action. You “experience” the show.

There are only 20 tickets a night, guaranteeing that you’ll have an unforgettable intimate experience. But unfortunately that means that as word spreads, there aren’t many tickets available. Which is why the thing keeps selling out five minutes after each extension.

This is entrepreneurial theatre at its very best: artists with skin in the game making real artistic and business decisions – because it’s their time and money on the line. That’s part of why the experience is so good and authentic.

So get ye to Seattle.

And check it out.

You can see more photos of the show here.

#DumpSite at Seattle Immersive Theatre sells out… and extends… and sells out AGAIN… and extends AGAIN

Ready for your immersive experience? #DumpSite.
Ready for your immersive experience? #DumpSite delivers.

As you may know, we have a highly sophisticated TEWS (Theatre Early Warning System) that we bought on one of those military surplus sites. Better it fell into our hands than the PDX Police Department’s arsenal.

With the benefit of this ingenious technology, which gives ample and early warning of good things on the horizon (even when they are still months or years in the future), we are able to put the word out well in advance when we see something coming up you should know about. The whole point is to make sure you don’t miss something.

We like to think we have a pretty good track record of making early calls about upcoming blockbuster shows.

Let’s review.

We called this one six months out. (Third Rail’s NOISES OFF in December 2013)

And this one eight months out. (The double shot of ALL THE WAY and THE GREAT SOCIETY by Robert Schenkkan at Seattle Rep in December 2014)

And this one. (The original installment of Lauren Weedman’s THE PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF PORTLAND in April 2013)

And this one. (Soho Rep’s production of OCTOROON by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins in March 2014)

All those shows went on to be sell out sensations – several setting all time box office records.

Ok, ok. On the last one, point taken. It doesn’t take a fancy machine and a roomful of quant jockey geniuses to predict that a show at Soho Rep is going to sell out.

True.

But still.

We don’t steer you wrong. Do we?

We have a history of being able to call them in advance. In fact, until I find some evidence to the contrary I will hereby strengthen the claim and say: We have never yet been wrong on one of these.

Now we’re not saying that our global media presence itself makes these shows successful. We’re saying we know what the audience likes. And so when we see something coming that is going to shower shock and awe of the dramatic kind over the landscape (i.e., become a hit) – we sound the alarm.

Well, lo and behold. We have been right YET AGAIN.

Continue reading “#DumpSite at Seattle Immersive Theatre sells out… and extends… and sells out AGAIN… and extends AGAIN”

Two weekends of new work | Writers Group showcase at Seattle Rep June 12-21

It’s kind of the Seattle equivalent of JAW.

Two weekends of new play readings.

Two weekends in June at Seattle Rep.

Info

rep

Fourth Annual Writers Group Showcase

@seattlerep

June 12-14 and June 19-21, 2015

Friday, June 12, 7:30 p.m. – Margarita Stands
by Lisa Halpern, directed by Victor Pappas
Margarita is a successful inventor and kitchen table activist, but something lurks under the surface of her excellent life that threatens her from living fully. Try as she might, she just can’t face her fears and open the door to her desired future.

Saturday, June 13, 4:00 p.m. – City of Presidents
by Brendan Healy, directed by Braden Abraham
For the employees and owners of the Monuments Motel in Rapid City, South Dakota, the off-season has lasted years. Friendships, marriages and bank accounts feel the strain in this dark comedy featuring the motel employees, their guests, and of course the four presidents on Mt. Rushmore.

Saturday, June 13, 7:30 p.m. – Bicycle Noir – a love story on wheels
by Bryan Willis, directed by David Nail
Claims Adjuster Lou Perkins and her Guy Wednesday have a murder to solve and claims to adjust. All clues lead to homme fatale, the Fabulous Harold Ash…who just happens to be the love of Lou’s life. Bryan Willis’ new play is full of film noir flavor with a local twist.

Sunday, June 14, 4:00 p.m. – Roz and Ray*
by Karen Hartman, directed by Rosa Joshi
San Diego, 1980s. Ray is a single dad of two hemophiliac boys. Their doctor, Roz, is saving his sons—until she’s not. Karen Hartman pens a love story about the healers and the healed.

Friday, June 19, 7:30 p.m. – Made of These
by Courtney Meaker, directed by Emily Penick
Even Mo and Nadya can’t escape the seven year itch. With Mo’s birthday approaching, Nadya concocts a magical dreamscape of a party to celebrate, but when dreams and reality collide it just might signal the end of their longtime partnership.

Saturday, June 20, 4:00 p.m. – Wolf in the Winter Palace
by Arlitia Jones, directed by Braden Abraham War and winter are at the door, and the world’s greatest museum stands empty. It’s up to one extraordinary hero to protect its treasures and save humanity.

Saturday, June 20, 7:30 p.m. – Mosquito
by Josh Beerman, directed by Sheila Daniels
Summer in the city and the living isn’t easy. Can Penelope and Owen survive another sleepless night confronted with secrets, half-truths and a restless daughter? Writer Josh Beerman’s dialogue explores the questions we ask ourselves when we have no place to turn.

Sunday, June 21, 4:00 p.m. – The Manor
by Holly Arsenault, directed by Erin Kraft
At Pleasant Springs Manor Nursing Home, Gil Fleischman, the only male resident, stays busy keeping the beds of his female co-residents warm. But questions of consent become tricky with the arrival of new aid, and trickier still when Gil begins to lose his memory.