the show must (not) go on

when i was younger, my parents made a concerted effort to take my sister and i to the theatre. seattle is a fantastic city for regional theatre, and lately we’ve even been getting the test runs before shows hit broadway. i think i’ve seen almost every kid-friendly musical written before 1980, and a few non-kid friendly ones. fine. i’ll admit it. i’m a total theatre geek. my new goal in life is to make friends with at least one person at each of the major regional theatres in the area so i can cadge free tickets to shows. of course, that would mean i’m not being a good arts patron, but i say i’m still showing my support by putting my butt in one of the seats.

a few years ago, a theatre in the fremont neighborhood called empty space closed. this was pretty disappointing to me; one of my favorite shows, wuthering! heights! the! musical! played there. it was, hands down, the funniest stage production i’ve ever seen. yes, even funnier than noises off!, spamalot, or the 39 steps (all of which are hilarious). with the closing of the theatre, any hopes that it might be run again were dashed.

i knew that another one our local theatres, intiman theatre, had been struggling for a while. the BF worked in the box office there for a year (thus getting us free tickets to the shows, yippee!) and he’d periodically comment on how poorly sales were going, or how much it cost to pay the actors (ahem, samantha mathis).

intiman theatre's production of uncle vanya

so it wasn’t too big of a surprise when the local news announced that the remainder of the 2011 season would be cancelled. the last few seasons haven’t had any productions that just screamed out watch me! i have to wonder if part of it is because of the loss of the artistic director, bartlett sher. i don’t blame him for leaving. hell, if i won a tony award or two, i’d take a risk on the great white way myself.

what WAS surprising was the statement sent out by the theatre. despite having met the goal of its initial impact intiman campaign, the season would end immediately and no refunds for future shows would be issued. further, already existing contracts for performers for future shows would also be honored, but the staff that actually RUNS the theatre would be terminated without pay.

okay. a contract is a contract, and you could argue that legally you have to honor it, even if it’s just to the terms that a production is cancelled. but when you’ve got a house that has already paid of $1.7 million in debt and is still struggling, you need a better lawyer.

this cancellation is a big deal here, and it makes me wonder about the future of  theatre in seattle. some of the larger regional theatres (the seattle rep, ACT theatre) seem to be doing fine. especially the rep. all they have to do is stage an august wilson play and they’ll be sold out. but what about, say, the taproot, which suffered a huge loss when an arsonist set fire to the building next door? or the village theatre, way out in the boonies? or even the seattle children’s theatre?

or is the closing of the season just purely due to the economy?

*image via seattlest.com

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