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Allen Fitzpatrick and Icicle Creek Theatre Festival: from Leavenworth to Seattle

Icicle Creek Theatre Festival highlights new works, helping selected playwrights polish their scripts during a nine day “retreat” cultimating in performances in Leavenworth and Seattle.

Founder and artistic director Allen Fitzpatrick is a familiar face on the Seattle stage as well as on Broadway. His acting credits locally include Richard III at Intiman, Private Lives at Seattle Rep, and the title role of Sweeney Todd at the 5th Avenue Theatre, for which he received a Footlight Award.

For his Festival, he attracts top talent in the Northwest to direct and perform at the staged readings of the plays selected for ICTF.

Q: So what inspired you to begin a festival based in Leavenworth? And how's the commute?

A: The commute's awful! I have one foot in Seattle and one in New York, and there’s a lot of shuttling back and forth. A lot of things are happening in NY, obviously, but the Pacific Northwest is just so incredibly beautiful, and I really like the vibrancy of the theater scene in Seattle.

I devised the idea for the Festival in the summer of 2006 when I was visiting Leavenworth and noticed that there was no professional theater in the area. I knew some individuals there who strongly advocate for advancement of the arts in that part of the state. That fall I prepared a proposal to them which encompassed my vision as to what the theater festival could bring to their community and to American theater as a whole. They were fully behind my vision, and have seen it through now into its third year.

Q: How does the "retreat" part of the festival work for the artists involved?

A: The very private grounds of the IC Music Center are adjacent to the famed Sleeping Lady Mountain Resort, a superb facility with many amenities of which our artists are invited to take advantage. We are surrounded by beautiful wilderness there, completely private; the entire company is saturated in the work and in communion with each other, 24 hours a day for nine days, sharing meals and cabins.

Q: Where do the majority of artists participating come from?

A: Playwrights can come from all over this country, or Canada, or Europe. Our 2007 playwrights came from Austin, Texas and Brooklyn, NY. Last summer it was Seattle and Salt Lake City. This year it’s Manhattan and Santa Fe.

The rest of the company comes from Seattle, though we hired one actress from Ellensburg and another from Leavenworth during our first summer.

Q: Who attends the shows in Leavenworth?

A: That audience is made up of local Leavenworth area residents, with a few visitors from Seattle who come specifically for the Festival.

Q: Tell me a little about why you selected Him by Daisy Foote and The Jewel In The Manuscript by Rosemary Zibart.

A: We read 233 plays this year, and narrowed it down to five. Then Kurt Beattie, Anita Montgomery and I discussed those five, all of which were extremely worthy of development and the investment of our limited resources. I’d wanted to do Daisy Foote’s play since 2008, and felt that this would be the year for Him; and Kurt was quite excited about the potential he saw in Rosemary’s play.

We did not choose the plays based on any theme, or on whether the plays complemented each other for a ‘balanced’ evening—they were just two good plays. We did however need to make sure that we could cast the two plays with the same group of actors, which can present a challenge. With these two plays, that double-casting just fell into place with little difficulty.

Q: What should an audience expect to see when they come to ICTF: a fully finished work or a work still in progress?

A: Well, the plays will certainly be characterized as works in progress, but I do try to choose plays that are extremely well along in their development. It is always my hope that the nine days at ICTF will allow a playwright to take her play to a stage where it becomes actually very close to being ready for production. The process at ICTF is different for each playwright, so we don’t know what kind of work they will want to do there, or what will be accomplished over the nine days; some plays have taken much larger developmental steps than others. Nevertheless, audiences will see very interesting and stage-worthy work being done, even though the actors will be holding scripts.

Q: What is the appeal of seeing a work in progress at an event like this?

A: When there are no sets and costumes, audiences connect directly and without encumbrance with the actors. They use their imagination to fill in what’s not there. I’ve often found watching staged readings and workshop presentations to be more exciting than many things I’ve seen fully staged.

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