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Studio 18 arrives with a gangster musical

Studio 18's  Bonnie & Clyde
Studio 18 is Seattle’s newest theater group. For their inaugural production this month, they are presenting Bonnie & Clyde, the Frank Wildhorn musical about the Depression’s most notorious pair of gangster lovebirds. Produced by Alia Collins-Friedrichs, with direction and choreography by Matthew Lang and music direction by Travis Frank, the musical ends its run this weekend at 12th Avenue Arts.

The company is interested in bringing lesser performed musicals to the local stage. Their mission is to create theatre that conscientiously questions the human condition, while making musical theatre accessible for a broader audience.

Founders Alia Collins-Friedrichs, producing artistic director, and Matt Lang, managing artistic director, provided a bit more background on their plans during an online interview. They collaborated on the “Studio 18” answers and then gave their individual takes on this first production.

Tell us a little about why you decided to start a company in Seattle, please.

Studio 18: Both of us grew up in Seattle Theatre through programs at Village Theatre KIDSTAGE, 5th Avenue Theatre, Taproot Theatre, and Twelfth Night Productions to name a few. It’s a vibrant and nurturing community and we decided this year to take a more active part within it. We see a place in the Seattle theatre scene for a company that explores the human experience through musical theatre with a basis in reality, asking questions that are relevant to the issues facing us today.

Now that you've had a weekend of performances at 12th Avenue Arts, what do you think of the space?

Studio 18: 12th Ave Arts has been amazing to collaborate with. Greg Carter, the administrative director has been in collaboration with us every step of the way in how best to utilize the space. Their tech team has been helpful throughout the process, and supportive of working with us as a new company. Of course, the space has beautiful facilities. However, it’s definitely a place that you need your own support team in place to be successful; a do-it-yourself kind of space.

How important are places like 12th Avenue Arts for companies like yours?

Studio 18: With the development of Capitol Hill in recent years, we have seen performance spaces get demolished in favor of mixed use space that does not include a venue for performance. It is wonderful that 12th Ave Arts was built with performance in mind. For new companies without a space where they are resident, spaces like 12th Ave Arts are the lifeblood for their productions.

Bonnie & Clyde seems like a great choice for this year, with the recent media debates about gun violence and fame seeking. What drew you to this musical?

Alia: I’ve loved this musical since I first listened to it four years ago, and I saw the opportunity to bring it to Seattle. What I noticed when I began to seriously consider producing it is how politically relevant it is. The story of Bonnie and Clyde is ultimately so tragic, not because they were young and in love, but because they had so much potential. They were just like any other kids growing up poor, with dreams but no way to achieve them.

Matt: This story is so poignant today especially, whether we are talking about systemic incarceration and how that acts to drive a criminal culture, abuse of power by the law, the debates on gun control, or the role of religion in the lives of Americans; it’s all relevant to us almost a century later. Often we only get to see or experience the history that the winners write, the status quo. Through Bonnie and Clyde, we wish to explore all of these topics, see where the line blurs between “good” and “evil”, and find the true humanity in the characters that make up this story that has found itself to be a fixture of American folklore.

What do you plan to do next?

Studio 18: In the future, we are interested in producing Dogfight, Violet, Urinetown, Kiss of the Spider Woman, and Songs For A New World.

A shorter version of this article previously appeared at a different site. It is reproduced with permission here.