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Showing posts from 2010

Sherlock rises from the ashes for merry Christmas

Working the audience at a recent Saturday performance, Taproot Theatre’s artistic director Scott Nolte sounded positively giddy. “We have less than 100 tickets left to sell!” he declared. “For the entire run!”

John Longenbaugh, the local writer of Sherlock Holmes And The Case of the Christmas Carol now playing at Taproot, even found himself begging for a ticket for a midweek performance. “Tickets are going fast!” he said.

For any theater, such news definitely creates as much holiday merriment as a well-spiked eggnog. A popular Christmas show brings much needed dollars at the end of the year and, with luck, introduces the theater to new crowds that will spill over to next year. The Cinderella story of this Greenwood success began with an arson fire that burned down the building next door to Taproot and shut down the show “when we had barely started rehearsal,” recalled Terry Edward Moore, the Sherlock then and now. For Moore, the current hit has its…

Two be Hamlet at Seattle Shakes

Seattle Shakespeare Company gives November audiences two chances to explore the complexity of everyone’s favorite Dane. The company's current production of Hamlet (Oct. 27 through Dec. 5) features New Century Theatre Company co-founder Darragh Kennan in the title role. For those who like their Dane a little lighter, Connor Toms tackles the role of a young Hamlet encountering Martin Luther, Copernicus, and Dr. Faustus in the comedy Wittenberg (Nov. 15 to Dec. 5).

Kennan and Toms interrupted rehearsals to answer questions about portraying the iconic character at the Center House Theater.

What is the most appealing part of playing Hamlet?
Kennan: The idea of playing Hamlet is fabulous: the best part ever written, being given a chance to "put your stamp" on the part, a validation (almost) of a career in the theater. All these thoughts or ideas swim around in your head and then you actually have to do it. And all you can do is to try to keep up with it.

Toms: …

Getting into the blood splatter zone

It’s Monday night before the Tuesday preview and James Padilla finally has a moment to talk about his leading role in Evil Dead: The Musical. “It’s my dream role. I’m a big fan of the movies so I definitely wanted to be Ash,” said Padilla. The tall, dark-haired actor has the burly good looks necessary to fill the role indelibly created by Bruce Campbell. For Padilla, who has appeared around town in roles as diverse as Mr. Rochester in Seattle Musical Theatre’s Jane Eyre and a high school student in this summer’s Yellow Wood, this was his most anticipated role of recent years.
“I’ve known that they were going to do this for months and months before the rehearsals began. Chris [Zinovitch, the director] e-mailed some of us that this was coming. And then there were the auditions, the call-backs, and then more waiting for rehearsals to start. The anticipation was killing me.”

Padilla spent the time learning such songs as “Blew That Bitch Away.” He said: “T…

Wong sets the scale for Borrowers

Set designer Carey Wong has turned Seattle Children Theatre's stage into the amazing world of the Borrowers. Fans of the beloved series by Mary Norton know that Borrowers are very small people who live under the floorboards and furnish their homes with items "borrowed" from the "human beans" in the house.
This production adapts the first two books in the series, The Borrowers and The Borrowers Afield, taking the tiny Clock family from their cozy home under the floorboards and into larger world.

The Borrowers opens Friday, Oct. 1, (with a public preview Thursday) and runs through Oct. 31 at SCT.
Wong recently discussed how he and SCT's technical crew created the Borrowers' world.

SCT is very good at creating illusions of smallness: like last year's If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. How did you create the Borrower's world and make it feel real?
We decided early on that Borrowers are about 6" tall under the floor boards, so everything in th…

From little lamb to The Full Monty

Seattle actor Dane Stokinger returns to Village Theatre's mainstage in the company's production of The Full Monty. He plays Jerry Lukowski, the unemployed blue-collar worker who convinces his fellows in the unemployment line that they can solve their economic woes by baring it all in striptease routine.

The Full Monty opens Sept. 15 at the Village's Issaquah theater, and moves to Everett in October. Stokinger took time before rehearsal last week to answer a few questions about The Full Monty (including those infamous pull-away pants) as well as his first title role: the lamb in a grade school production of Mary Had A Little Lamb.

OK, the last few times I saw you perform, you were buried under layers of pirate plumage in Peter Pan at Seattle Children's Theatre or biblical robes as one of Joseph's brothers at the 5th Avenue.. How does it feel to be...ah...a little more exposed in this production?
It is definitely a change from the usual production. When I went …

Steven Dietz: resisting a brand-name image

A few years ago, someone told Steven Dietz that he lacked a “brand” and that would hinder his success.
“I was advised that my plays were all over the map, that I had confused my brand,” said the playwright whose award shelf holds two Kennedy Center Fund for New American Plays Awards, the PEN USA West Award in Drama, the 2007 Edgar Award for Drama (the Mystery Writers of America highest award), and the 1995 Yomuiri Shimbun Award (the Japanese "Tony"), among other honors.

His original works tackle everything from 21st century conspiracy theories, such as Yankee Tavern at ACT, to comedic forays into modern life, like Becky’s New Car. Dietz's stage adaptations of other people’s work also run gamut of ideas and themes, ranging from complex historical novels like Endo’s Silence (for which he received the Shimbun Award) to the sparse but delightful wordplay of P.D. Eastman’s Go, Dog, Go, a work that he co-authored with Allison Gregory for Seattle Children's T…

Feminist farce tickles Narver's funny bone

When Allison Narver first read the play The Female of the Species, she startled fellow plane passengers. “I was laughing so loudly that I started to draw attention to myself,” recalled Narver. She had been sent the play by ACT’s artistic director Kurt Beattie with an invitation to direct its Seattle premiere. Narver’s previous credits at ACT include Eurydice and The Clean House.

Australian playwright Joanna Murray-Smith takes a real-life incident, when feminist icon Germaine Greer was held hostage in her home by an obsessed college co-ed, and turns it into a fictional farce about the entire women's movement.

“It’s a sharp satire on the generational issues and it allows feminism to be funny,” observed Narver. “Murray-Smith takes all these different points of views and locks them in a room together.” In the play, feminist author Margot Mason (veteran Seattle stage actor Suzy Hunt) and her disillusioned, gun-wielding disciple Molly (Renata Fried…

Jane Jones makes The Cider House Rules

Book-It wraps their 20th season this month with The Cider House Rules, the first full-length novel ever adapted by the company. Founding co-artistic director Jane Jones returns to the director’s chair for Part One: Here in St. Clouds. She, actor Tom Hulce (who co-directed the world premiere), and playwright Peter Parnell first crafted a Wagnerian version of John Irving’s novel.

“The first version [1995] was five-and-half hours long. Then we whittled it down to four hours, that was the version that we did for the opening of the Leo K Theatre [1997],” recalled Jones. This weekend, this latest incarnation will be approximately three hours, in part due to advice from novelist himself.

“Irving told us to be ruthless with cuts,” Jones said. The novelist had been persuaded by his son to see the performances at the Seattle Repertory Theatre. “Irving saw Part II before he saw Part I. I sat a friend next him and told her to come out during intermission …

Adpating Austen for the stage

Jen Taylor’s adaptation of Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility opens tonight (June 3). This is Taylor’s second adaptation for Book-It Repertory Theatre: she previously adapted Persuasion for the company. Her other credits at Book-It include performances in The House of Mirth (Lily Bart), Giant (Leslie Lynton), Pride and Prejudice in 2004 (Elizabeth Bennet), and In A Shallow Grave (Widow Rance). She’s performed locally with New Century Theatre Company, ACT, Seattle Shakespeare Company, Intiman Theatre, Seattle Children’s Theatre, and The Empty Space Theatre. Taylor works extensively as a voice-over artist on radio, television, and in video games.

This is Book-It's fourth presentation of Jane Austen's work: for those not familar with her novels, what makes Austen a good fit for Book-It?
Not only did Jane Austen create delightfully complicated characters and charming, compelling stories but her language is what I really treasure. Book-It allows this sparkling langu…

A glimmer of KT Niehoff

One glimpse at the photos, and you can probably tell that KT Niehoff’s latest creation is not for children.
KT Niehoff, Kelly Sullivan, Bianca Cabrera, Ricki Mason The full title is Glimmer of Hope or Skin or Light, but the choreographer and the dancers just call it Glimmer. “Thematically, it is a very dark show,” said Niehoff, the artistic director of Lingo Dance. “Right now, I’m obsessed with vampires. So this is glitz and glamour, an inner circle I call Coven and an outer circle of showgirls.” And all dictated by the space available in ACT’s Bullitt Theatre.
“At the moment, I can’t imagine this in another space. It’s such an unique room, the architecture is so placed in time, and you feel like you are falling back in time. There is a feeling of permission in that room,” she said.
As for the vampire obsession and how it colored Glimmer, she noted that shows like True Blood on HBO have created “an American cultural obsession with vampires and I’m just as susceptible to …

Contralto Rudinoff plays Hildy strong and sassy

Sarah Rudinoff returns to the 5th Avenue Theatre this month in a musical with “Town” in the title. “And then I tell people that Billie [Wildrick] is in it too, and they say ‘wait, didn’t we see you in this?’ I told Billie that we need to do Our Town the Musical next,” said Rudinoff.

To set the record straight, Rudinoff and Wildrick co-starred in the 5th’s fabulous remount of Wonderful Town in 2006. Four years later, the two very funny ladies are back for Bernstein’s On The Town at the same theater.

Rudinoff plays Hildy, a rather lonely female cabdriver. Luckily, she gives a lift to an appealing sailor on the town for the day. For Rudinoff, it’s a chance to play another one of the “strong and sassy” ladies created by writers Betty Comden and Adolph Green.

With the action of On The Town taking place in New York during World War II, Comden and Green’s wisecracking Hildy becomes a composite of the women who stepped into “the men’s jobs” during the war.

“The minute I start…

Chester Gregory stops in Seattle for Dreamgirls (and a little lobster mac)

Backstage at  Dreamgirls, the women make lightning fast changes into fabulous costumes with increasingly bouffant wigs.

But they are not the only ones who need to quick change in record time. Chester Gregory can testify that he has almost as much interaction with the dressers for his role of James “Thunder” Early, the R&B star who gives the “Dreamettes” their first big break and who undergoes his own rise and fall in the wildly changing music scene and costume styles of the 1960s and early 1970s.

“There’s twelve costume changes plus wigs,” he said over the phone. “For one scene, I’m very high energy, then I run off stage, change the costume and the wig, and come back on as though I’ve been sitting around in this new outfit for hours. And I have to do this complete change of mood in ten seconds! It’s fun and challenging at the same time.”

When the show rolls into a new town, Gregory shows up early at the theater to rehearse this “backstage choreography” so that it can al…

Creating play without words: Robopop rehearsals

Heidi Ganser and Ben Zamora are Seattle-based theater artists. She designs costumes, he designs lighting, and they are engaged. But before Ganser can start planning their summer wedding, the pair are plunging into a completely different type of production, one where the current rehearsals are creating the story. “It started as conversation: if we could do anything in the world, what should we do? A robot musical!” said Ganser.

“We thought about turning Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots into a live show,” said Zamora.
“But after contacting the Flaming Lips, we found that somebody else already had the rights,” Ganser added. In fact, Aaron Sorkin (West Wing) has been reportedly writing a Broadway-bound musical based on the group's 2002 album.

Not wanting to let a good idea get away, Ganser and Zamora decided to create their own robot musical performance piece and they knew exactly where to stage it: Washington Ensemble Theatre. As longtime members of the ensemble, they c…

Eric Ankrim: bad prince, good gypsy, and dueling with himself

In Village Theatre's newest musical, the plot revolves around a very bad prince and a very sweet gypsy who just happen to look exactly alike. Rather than casting two actors as "twins" in the The Gypsy King, the real laughs revolve around one actor portraying both characters.Seattle actor Eric Ankrim has been handling this double trouble role since the musical was first workshopped in Issaquah. It was not a part that he expected to play.

"In 2006, I broke my contract at the Village Theatre," said Ankrim. "I was  in Girl of My Dreams when my buddy Ben Shelton called and said some ad executives had seen our YouTube videos and wanted to talk to us." In short, Hollywood rang, offering some lucrative commercial contracts, and Ankrim left the Northwest to pursue the opportunities offered in Los Angeles. Village Theatre, he emphasized, was very nice about the whole thing, but that, he figured, was the end of that relationship.

With Shelton, A…

Weagant stages roller derby comedy

Balagan Theatre. After performing as an acclaimed Trudy the bag lady in The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe, she's back as the director of the roller derby comedy/drama The Jammer opening March 11 at the Capitol Hill theater.

How did you come to direct
The Jammer at Balagan?
Balagan has become my second home since returning to Seattle a year and a half ago. I joined the company after performing in Arabian Nights and I created and co-host their monthly late night cabaret, Schmorgasborg.
Seattle actress Terri Weagant works on both sides of the footlights at

Last year I directed a short piece in Balagan's Death/Sex. It really whet my appetite for this aspect of production. As a company we planned this insane ten play season and I was invited to direct one. I wanted to find a fun, fast-paced, stylized piece that would allow a group of actors and myself to just come together in a room and play. While reading plays recently produced in the Edinburgh F…

Playing Dickens' appealing Pip

Lee Osorio made his Seattle debut this year playing Pip in Book-It’s current production of Great Expectations. Pip’s pursuit of becoming a gentleman and winning the heart of the aloof Estella forms the core of Charles Dicken’s perennially dramatized novel and his adventures range from gothic encounters with the shut-in Miss Haversham to the high life in London of a young man with “expectations.” Osorio discussed the enduring appeal of Pip in a recent interview. Great Expectations continues at Center House Theatre through March 13.

Pip has played by so many actors -- John Mills to Ethan Hawke -- did you watch any of these performances to prepare or do you steer clear of others' interpretations?
As an actor, I love seeing as many interpretations as possible. I am a strong believer that all great artists steal. The Ethan Hawke version was one of my favorite movies in high school, and in preparation for this I watched parts of the latest BBC miniseries. Ultimately, I hav…

Chad Jennings returns to Seattle in South Pacific

Chad Jennings was set to walk away from acting when his “day job” boss encouraged him to go to one more audition at the 5th Avenue Theatre. That led to a role in Sunday in the Park with George and, much to Jennings’ surprise, an even better paying gig in the national tour of South Pacific. A graduate of Western Washington University, the Yakima native had found regular roles in Seattle’s busy theater scene, working at Wooden O, Village Theatre, and Seattle Children’s Theatre, among others. But, like many actors, the older he got, the gaps between jobs and the low pay began to be less appealing. Without a big breakout role, Jennings started looking for other work.

“Basically, I’d given up,” said the 36-year-old Jennings, “and decided to get a ‘real job’ that ended up being right across the street from the 5th Avenue. I was doing tech support, which was a great fit for my skill set. I’m decent around a computer and I enjoyed talking to people.”
Jennings was set for a new…

Director Sheila Daniels on Electra's legacy of violence and heart of reconciliation

One of the ancient Greece’s most dysfunctional families dominated the plays of the time and still resonate and shock today.
. Which means the first question asked of director Sheila Daniels is: does Electra’s mommy Clytemnestra deserve to die?

“To me, Electra is not a question of whether anyone deserves to be killed. When we think of ancient Greece, it is very clear that in their law, she does deserve to die for her crimes. In the rules of the gods, it is an eye for an eye,” said Daniels. “But one of the things that is interesting to me is the very clear statement at the end of play: but will there be killing after killing forever? In other words, does violence beget violence? Interestingly, it’s stated by one of the villains.”

Electra’s struggles with this cycle of violence fascinate Daniels, as does the mother and daughter debates between two strong characters.

“Clytemestra can justify the murder, perhaps, but she can never justify that she is sleeping with the man…