The Playgoer: Seattle Theatre Rumblings

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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Seattle Theatre Rumblings

Leadership shakeups and talk of mergers are what's being whispered about in the Seattle theatre scene.

Backstage at Seattle's major three theaters there have been many discussions about merger, collaboration, or other cost-saving steps. At one point, the Rep and Intiman talked about combining, with [Bartlett] Sher as the artistic director of the merged entity's three stages. Sher was not interested, having outgrown Seattle, and because the Rep has so many seats to fill that it makes it harder for an experimental director like Sher to spread his wings with risky productions. (Intiman, with a small house and a very large stage, is far better for him.) ACT had lengthy, ultimately abortive discussions with Seattle Theater Group (Paramount and the Moore) whereby the latter would take over one of the two ACT stages. Seattle Children's Theater has also been part of some of these talks.

In the end, all that came of the discussions (not surprisingly) was an agreement to combine on some educational programs; the theaters already swap costumes and props and they agreed jointly on a ticket-management system. One reason for the failed talks, aside from pride and the threat to jobs, is that the three main theaters have distinct approaches. The Rep concentrates on production values, ACT on acting, and Intiman on its edgy directors.
Gee, I would think all three would like to think they have good acting!

But seriously, mergers have got to be in the offing amongst some of our suffering nonprofits, no?  Personally the idea appeals to me, but not the inevitable layoffs, of course.  Maybe the logistics of nonprofit make it more complicated than it seems?


adrienneclark said...

I'm from Seattle and run a small fringe theater here. I have to say that this quote is somewhat funny to me.

The three big houses here in Seattle, are not different from each other in the slightest. I am curious to know who wrote this article.

I have to say that a merger is appealing to me as well. Each of these theater's have amazing resources and pooled together I think they would be able to create something really great.

Recently The Intiman has come under a lot of scrutiny due to some less than favorable rumors about their managing directors money management. A merger with the Rep might be exactly what The Intiman needs right now.

We'll have to just wait and see.

Thanks for giving a little focus to Seattle and our theater scene!

And one last thing. Yes, you would hope that each one of these theater's would focus on the acting in their productions, but, alas, this is not always the case.

42 Street said...

This idea of theater groups merging with one another is both appealing as well as a bit concerning. These groups clearly have the ability to stand on their own, as they have done so for a number of years, so the fact that they are now pulling their resources together to create one sort of mega-theater is incredible. There will be a greater pool of experienced actors to pull from, thus creating even more memorable performances.

I wonder, however, if this is of some concern to you as well? I have recently been made aware of a term known as: anti-theatrical bias. If you are not familiar with this term, it suggests that there is a prejudice or some sort of dislike/distrust of the genre of theater and performance. I wonder if this movement has any affect on these theaters desire to merge together. Do you think that the public is slowly losing interest in the genre and these theaters have to merge because they are not sustaining a large enough fan base to stand on their own?

I certainly hope that the merger is merely to tactic to expand the empire, as opposed to a reaction based on the negative reactions of an anit-theater society!