Sunday, December 27, 2020

A Virtual Smorgasbord of Treats from Seattle Men's Chorus

Seattle Men’s Chorus Holiday 2020
(through December 31)
Also! A second little treat to watch to celebrate the advent of vaccinations:
A terrific song by the Seattle Women’s Chorus starring Andi Alhadeff
We know you can’t go without every Holiday Comfort just because you can’t go out. And what about that annual treck to Benaroya to attend a Seattle Men’s Chorus Holiday Extravaganza? I’ll bet you think that’s just an impossible dream for 2020.
Hold On! You absolutely can still get almost all the grins and feels of an in-person event, because Seattle Men’s Chorus managed to somehow rehearse ! and perform !! their Holiday Concert this year and even found the perfect guest star to host!
With the help of Nina West, and an inventive new Muppet-like little guy called Holiday Harold (think Herald, too, from the mind of Chip Sherman), the whole family can gather around a streaming screen and enjoy an hour of all the “normal” entertainment you’re used to. They’ve even included a dance number - Festival Gloria (graced with Nahshon Omari’s original dance accompaniment).

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Kathy Hsieh Reflects – Zoom Edition

Kathy Hsieh (John Ulman)

Kathy Hsieh is all things arts-related, really. She knows virtually anyone/everyone in the theater community (at minimum) and has headed up her own theater company (SIS Productions), written many plays, directed plays, acted in scores of productions on stage, and been an employee of the City of Seattle in the Office of Arts and Culture for 17 years!

She’s also a delightful and thoughtful conversationalist and a deep-thinker on subject matter. She has presented talks about aspects of arts-and-communities-of-color all over the world.

So, I thought it would be fascinating for me, and hopefully also for my readers, to discuss various aspects of the arts during COVID-time. We’re all going to be making huge changes in how, when, and where we experience the arts. None more particularly than theater, dance, and other live in-person events.

For our first conversation, we took on the explosion of theatrical events that are being presented either on Zoom or the free streaming opportunities from theaters like National Theatre Live, Lincoln Center, BroadwayHD, and local events (many on YouTube channels).

The question: Is it theater?

KH: Theater is its own experience and Zoom is its own. Film scripts (for instance) are very different from stage plays and you can’t take film and plop it on stage or vice versa. A lot of writers, when they’re writing, envision the arena it might be best done and the Zoom platform needs to be thought of as a specific place to write to and a way to take advantage of the unique aspects it provides.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Lots To Stream (Free or low cost)

Macbeth (Carol Pratt)

Theater lovers have a bounty of filmed stage productions from various companies around the globe that are providing free entertainment on their websites or on YouTube. Listed below are mostly Shakespearean productions. 

Here are some specifics and their date ranges:
NOW to 5/27/20
Much Ado About Nothing
This bold interpretation of Shakespeare’s comedic masterpiece features Danielle Brooks (Orange is the New Black, Broadway’s The Color Purple) and Grantham Coleman (Buzzer, The Americans) as the sparring lovers Beatrice and Benedick. Filmed in the summer of 2019 at the Delacorte Theatre in New York’s Central Park, this Public Theatre production was directed by Kenny Leon.

NOW - $10/ticket each stream for a one week “rental”
Henry IV Part 1 and Part 2
These two productions feature former Seattle Shakespeare Company actor David Anthony Lewis (Wooden O Henry IV, Measure for Measure, Othello) as King Henry. See the streaming versions of American Shakespeare Center’s staging of this thrilling and poignant coming-of-age story.
American Shakespeare

NOW – 7/1
Macbeth – Parts 1 & 2
Shakespeare’s chilling Scottish tragedy is realized by Emmy-winning magician Teller (of Penn & Teller) and director Aaron Posner as a startling, supernatural show brimming with magic, mayhem, and madness.
Folger Theatre – FolgerLibrary YouTube

Thursday, March 12, 2020

“Jitney” – Theater At The Top Of Its Game

A moment from Jitney (Joan Marcus)

Seattle Repertory Theatre
Suspended for the time being

I know. This is a time of uncertainty and now many theaters are announcing temporary closures. This includes the touring production of Jitney by August Wilson, now presenting at Seattle Repertory Theatre. Since it is a tour and all the personnel have traveled here, it’s unknown if the production can be continued in a few weeks or not. Having said that, it is one of the finest productions you’ll see in a long time.

The evening is a master class in directing by Ruben Santiago-Hudson! Each moment has been considered and planned. Each of the many actors performs at the top of his (similar to many Wilson plays, this one only has one woman in it) game. All the subtle humor is teased out and gifted to the audience.

Wednesday, March 04, 2020

Special One Night Performance of Jason Robert Brown with Roosevelt High!

Jason Robert Brown in concert (Erika Kapin)

Roosevelt High students performing The Trumpet of the Swan (James Bernard)
The Trumpet of the Swan

Roosevelt High School

March 7, 2020

A very exciting event is happening this weekend (3/7, Saturday night, 7:00p.m.) at Roosevelt High School! Their theater department has paired with their orchestra program to present composer/musical writer Jason Robert Brown’s The Trumpet of the Swan. Not only that, but Jason Robert Brown is going to be there! Not only that, but he’s going to perform a special benefit concert after the school’s 70-minute presentation as a benefit!

The benefit is to help pay for subsidized tickets of K-8 students and for buses to bring them to hear the work. Tickets are on sale now at

Tuesday, March 03, 2020

March Brings Fresh Theater – even if it showers

Lisa Estridge in Sister Act (Mark Kitaoka)
At least five world premieres are opening this month. That’s an impressive number! Look for puppetry and programming for the youngest audience member to the oldest. Find a company you’ve never been to before and take a chance on their work! Broaden your artistic horizon. Get outcher calendars!

Last Days of the Tsars, Witness, 3/1/20-3/22/20 (at Stimson-Green Mansion) (world premiere)

A fully immersive experience, Last Days of the Tsars will plunge the audience into Imperial Russia circa 1917. Surrounded by figures such as Tsar Nicholas II, Princess Anastasia, and Grigori Rasputin, audience members will be free to roam throughout Stimson-Green Mansion and follow whichever characters they please. Watch the unraveling of the Romanov household from an intimate vantage point, and explore the dark and mystical final days of the Russian Empire.

The Highest Tide, Harlequin Productions, 3/1-21/20

The beach talks to Miles O’Malley. Obsessed with all things aquatic, 13-year-old, stature-challenged Miles loves combing the tidal beaches near his Puget Sound home in the middle of the night. When one of his discoveries lands him unexpectedly in the news, he is launched into involuntary celebrity, shaking his world in a way that is only topped by the Nisqually earthquake.

Ugly (Black Queer Zoo), Washington Ensemble Theatre, 3/5-16/20

GUSH is WET’s series that presents contemporary theatrical works from artists outside of Seattle, curated by the Ensemble. Written, directed, and performed by the internationally recognized choreographer Raja Feather Kelly, this event is part dance theater and part pop culture collage about black queer subjectivity in the mainstream.

Friday, February 28, 2020

Victorian Murder-Fest Takes Over Cafe Nordo

Creepy moment in The Angel in the House (Bruce Clayton Tom)

The Angel in the House

Café Nordo

Through March 15, 2020

You’re invited to the home of Mr. Edmund and Mrs. Amelia Brown (David S. Hogan and Angela DiMarco) for New Year’s Eve, December 31, 1899. They and their close friends Fletcher and Clara James (Ray Tagavilla and Ayo Tushinde) and Dorian and Bertha Williams (Robin Ian HallSmith and Tatiana Pavela) will lead you through a mysterious ceremony during the celebration.

You’ll meet their trusty servant Daisy (Maddie Brantz) as well. But when Amelia’s “cousin,” Henry Smith (Jordi Montes) arrives and is suddenly found dead, the evening turns dark and forbidding.

The story of the evening was written and directed by Sara Porkalob. She chose this Victorian theme of religious righteousness (with overtones of blasphemy) and includes a feminist retribution of pagan origins.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Artistic Dilemma – When No Stories Have Been Told, Who Tells Some?

The cast of XY, Festival of New Musicals 2019 (Sam Freeman)

We’re awash, these days, in commentaries about cultural appropriation and who gets to tell stories about marginalized populations. The book American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins, sparked controversy as it was revealed that Cummins is not of Latinx heritage, though her book “tells the story of a Mexican mother whose husband is murdered by cartels and who flees to America with her son, “says an article in Daily Beast.

The article continues, “Despite the sky-high sales, the book has been dogged by claims of cultural appropriation for its representation of Latinos and the migrant experience. Author Jeanine Cummins is not Latina... Cummins, who is Irish-American, said she did hundreds of hours of research and interviews for the book but critics have said it simplifies and glosses over the reality of immigration.” (

But what exactly is cultural appropriation? A Huffington Post article states, “Cultural appropriation is defined as ‘the act of taking or using things from a culture that is not your own, especially without showing that you understand or respect this culture.’ While this sounds simple enough, … the lines between something that's obviously offensive (blackface) and something that might be considered as embracing another culture (exotic cuisine) can be blurry.” (

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Solving Nuclear Disaster So “The Children” Don’t Have To?

R. Hamilton Wright, Jeanne Paulsen, Carmen Roman in The Children (Nate Watters)

The Children
Seattle Repertory Theatre
Through March 15, 2020

Lucy Kirkwood’s contemporary play, The Children, includes unusual characters – retired nuclear scientists, and focuses on climate disasters with surprising ideas. Performing now at Seattle Rep, the play is both a kitchen sink drama, literally in the kitchen of a dingy decrepit farmhouse, and an exploration of a world-class dilemma.

It begins slowly and builds slowly. So, one must summon patience. We first see Hazel (Jeanne Paulsen) in this kitchen who is interrupted by Rose (Carmen Roman), an old friend/adversary. Rose has separated herself for years and it takes a fair while for her reasons for returning to fully emerge.

Hazel and her husband, Robin (R. Hamilton Wright), are living outside of an exclusion zone after a huge nuclear disaster. The area of the disaster, this time, is on the coast of some portion of the U.K. Kirkwood developed this play after the Fukushima disaster in Japan. So, their home and farm, inside the area, has become toxically irradiated. Electricity is regulated and scarce, so they can barely use devices like cell phones and computers and therefore are thrown back toward an older, non-technical way of life. But they’re coping.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Not much “Bliss” in new musical

Mario Cantone in Bliss (Mark Kitaoka)

The 5th Avenue Theatre
Through February 23, 2020

The new musical at the 5th Avenue Theatre, Bliss, wants to turn fairy tales on their heads and to create a more modern and more feminist version. The writers, Emma Lively and Tyler Beattie, wrote about four princesses in one family who are all different and quirky, one from another.

Princess Carmella (Katy Geraghty) is a little rounder, a lot more gregarious than her sisters, and apparently a “good singer.” Princess Piper (Gizel Jimenez) is nerdy and scientific. Princess Faye (Kristolyn Lloyd) is the sword wielder and wants to slay dragons. Princess Holly (Claire Neumann) speaks to animals – even worms – and seems to be asexual or possibly non-binary, though no one ever speaks to her identity that way.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

One Woman on the Perils of Beauty – “Solo Fest” at ACT Theatre

Susan Lieu (Brett Love)

Over 140 LBS
Bread Crumbs
Left on Yellow Brick Road
ACT Theatre/ACTLab
Through February 16, 2020

ACT Theatre is producing its very first “Solo Fest” this month, anchored by a show by Susan Lieu that Lieu has done several times, in the area and then took it on the road to several other cities. Three other performances are also included and this weekend, you can potentially see three of the four, if you work quickly. Seats are limited.

Sherif Amin created Left on Yellow Brick Road, for which the description reads, “When a boy from Egypt unexpectedly finds himself in the Land of Oz, he travels to a place past the Emerald City where he stays. Soon he starts to wonder, is it better to stay in Oz or find his way back?”

Jasmine Joshua created Bread Crumbs which is an exploration of how they discovered, over many years, that they were non-binary. I have seen a couple of their iterations of this work and each time it is interesting, emotional, revealing, and thought-provoking. I expect no less from this outing.

Joshua’s journey encompasses the fact that they have twin girls and a husband and also developed a drag persona named Harvey Gent for which they now dress up as half Harvey, half themselves in a visual representation of that exploration.

Lieu’s autobiographical show was generated by the effect of the death of her mother from a botched tummy tuck by a doctor who should have had his license yanked far before he met Lieu’s mother! Lieu was eleven. It was entitled 140 LBS: How Beauty Killed My Mother. The weight refers to both her mother’s and her own weight. Apparently, after her mother died, no one in her family, not her father, not her siblings, not her aunts or grandparents, wanted to speak about it. It was as if her mother poofed off the earth.

Monday, February 10, 2020

Apply Yourself to SPT’s “Admissions” – Smart, Funny, Mind-blowing

Benjamin McCormach in Admissions (John Ulman)
Seattle Public Theater
Through February 23, 2020

Playwright Joshua Harmon is a fearless writer. As demonstrated in his play, Bad Jews, and again, clearly, in his play, Admissions, now at Seattle Public Theater, he seems to take a topical subject and aim his pungent thoughts at just about every aspect of it! And he’s funny and writes smart dialogue that fill his characters with complicated, human feelings.

Director Annie Lareau pulls out all the complications imbedded in this story of an “admissions counselor,” Sherri (aptly and sensitively played by stage veteran Anne Allgood), who has worked tirelessly over that last 15 years to increase diversity at a very white, very old New England prep school. She is finally on the verge of gaining the coveted 20% mark for minorities which she and her husband, Bill (a lovely, acerbic Kevin McKeon), want to celebrate. Bill is also a school administrator.

But then, at the same time, their only child, high school graduating senior Charlie (Benjamin McCormack, who pulls out all the stops), receives the news that he has been “deferred” at his dream school, Yale. He also finds out that best friend, Perry, has been accepted! They dreamed of going together. Suddenly, Charlie is not so happy about his friend’s acceptance and wants to chalk it up to Perry’s being “Black” (Perry’s family is “mixed race”) because Charlie’s high school achievements are better than Perry’s and he “should” have priority acceptance!

Saturday, February 01, 2020

February 2020 Theater Openings

Susan Lieu in her solo show 140 LBS (Brett Love)

February doesn’t know if it wants to be classic or brand-new. So, it looks like both. Look at what’s peeking out to invite you in as we run down theatrical productions opening this month.

Snow White, Seattle Children’s Theatre, 2/6/20-3/15/20
Deep in the forest, a classic tale emerges and is then radically transformed. Two dynamic actors morph into a multitude of characters – including a princess, her evil queen, a magical mirror, a huntsman, and the humorous seven dwarfs. Lively and imaginative, this new adaptation will update this classical story with an entirely fresh perspective and ask: How did they do that? (Recommended for 5 years and older)

The Children, Seattle Repertory Theatre, 2/7/20-3/15/20
Playwright Lucy Kirkwood gained a Tony nomination in 2018 for her Broadway play. In a cottage on England's beautiful rocky coast, two retired nuclear physicists live a peaceful existence; however, the world around them has been crippled by an environmental disaster. The surprise visit of an old friend brings a shocking proposition.

You’ll Love “She Loves Me”!

Randy Scholz and Taryn Darr in She Loves Me (Tracy Martin)
She Loves Me
Village Theatre
Issaquah: through February 23, 2020
Everett: February 28 – March 22, 2020

A perfect music box of a musical with a cast to match. That’s what Village Theatre gives you with their production of She Loves Me!

The Sheldon Harnick lyrics are some of the very best in any musical and match Jerry Brock’s musical compositions like soft kid gloves. The book adaptation by Joe Masteroff of the short story about a Budapest couple who work together and don’t know they’re pen pals is just enough talking to keep everyone on the same page.

I have to opine that this musical is pretty much bullet-proof, so it’s hard to do it badly. Thank-fully, Karen Lund, usually directing both comedies and musicals at Taproot Theatre, inserts and pulls out many, many moments of fun. She and choreographer Scott Brateng also come up with more moments of choreography than many productions and that increases the delightful moments.

Friday, January 31, 2020

And the Award Goes To... the Winners of the 2019 Gypsy Rose Lee Awards

The Last World Octopus Wresting Champion (courtesy ArtsWest)

The winners of the 2019 Gypsy Rose Lee Awards are announced by the Seattle theater reviewers circle, Seattle Theater Writers!

This year, several productions were clear critical favorites, with multiple nominations and multiple wins. Gaining the most recognition among the winners were Indecent at Seattle Repertory Theatre and Village Theatre’s The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time in the Large theater division, and Sound Theatre Company and The Hansberry Project’s Citizen and Sheathed by Macha Theatre Works in the Small division.

Friday, January 24, 2020

And the 2019 “Gypsy Rose Lee Award” Nominees Are!

Fire Season (Truman Buffett)
The Last World Octopus Wrestling Champion (John McClellan)

For the ninth year in a row, theater critics in Seattle have banded together to honor excellent theater in town over the past year. Anyone who is on the “inside” of this small industry knows that there are fewer and fewer places where people can write about theater, unless they establish a blog or other online outlet! However, there are still a few of us left trying to help audiences find great work.

To that end, the annual critics’ award still chugs along, at least for one more year. Spanning dozens of theater companies and productions, from large and prominent to small and humble, the Gypsy Rose Lee Awards honor the excellence found in as much professional theater as we reviewers can attend in a year. Named in honor of the famed theater entrepreneur and Seattle native, Gypsy Rose Lee, and in a nod to the vast numbers of theater practitioners forced to travel the country to earn their living, the Gypsys seek to acknowledge the excellence of the Seattle theater community. (The group’s online presence is at

This year’s changes include the abolishment of “male” and “female” acting categories in favor of all-in-one “actors.” Each year, the reviewers seek to refine the awards to better reflect inclusivity and clarity.

The winners will be announced January 31, 2020. 

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Feminist “The Revolutionists” at Artswest

Sunam Ellis and Dedra Woods in The Revolutionists (John McLellan)

The Revolutionists
Through February 9, 2020

ArtsWest is presenting Lauren Gunderson’s play, The Revolutionists. We’re in 1793 and France is in complete turmoil! The Revolution has turned into a free-for-all of executions (by guillotine, of course) of royalty and those who support them. The Jacobins are in power and the Girondins are against them. “People power” is generally what the populace wants, but how to get there is an open question.

Journalist Jean-Paul Marat has stirred up the populace with his rhetoric. Charlotte Corday (Hannah Mootz) decides he is an integral part of the power structure and if he dies then those fomenting the violence might significantly weaken. She determines to gain entry to his bath by pretense and to knife him there.

Olympe de Gouges (Sunam Ellis) is a playwright and activist who championed Haitians fighting for freedom from the colonialism of France. She wrote plays on the slave trade, divorce, marriage, debtors' prisons, children's rights, and government work schemes for the unemployed. As a playwright, she often was in the vanguard, writing political works on contemporary controversies.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Seattle Shakespeare presents “The Rivals”

Alexandria Henderson and Avery Clark in The Rivals (John Ulman)

The Rivals
Seattle Shakespeare Company
Through February 2, 2020

The Rivals, by Richard Sheridan, is a 1700’s comedy of manners. It basically pokes fun at the society that Sheridan lived among, though apparently, they didn’t take offence (the British spelling) to it, since it became very popular.

A 17-year-old ingenue, Lydia Languish (Alexandria Henderson), is so in love with romance novels, which she reads voraciously, that instead of looking for a wealthy husband, she thinks it far more romantic to choose a pauper to love. Young Jack Absolute (Avery Clark), who should “come into” a fairly significant fortune, falls for her. Knowing her penchant for paupers, he pretends to be a penniless Ensign “Beverley” and gains her heart.

Her guardian, Mrs. Malaprop (Julie Briskman), is enraged about this and has bottled Lydia up in the house while plotting to match Lydia up with someone with money. Suddenly Jack’s father, Sir Anthony (Bradford Farwell) shows up and the two elders decide their youngers should get married.

But now Jack has a problem because Lydia will find out he’s NOT penniless! Oh NO! Now what does he do? Lydia might fall out of love with him!

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Make “Reparations” a requirement!

Reparations (Aaron Jin)
Sound Theatre Company
(at Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute)
Through Feb 2, 2020

Trauma is not individual. Whatever an individual experiences with trauma radiates out from that individual to all the others in the circle – family, friends, all associates. Once trauma changes the individual, trauma also changes others. This is the fundamental subject that Darren Canady tries to illuminate in his searing new play, Reparations, commissioned by Sound Theatre Company.

But wait? (You might ask.) Isn’t the play about Black people wanting or needing “reparations” for slavery? Isn’t this a political play?

The play tries to answer the question of “why” Black folks feel that some important recognition and/or compensation should be offered to Black families. This play doesn’t start with slavery. This play starts back only a couple of generations to the early 1920s when the KKK attacks, burns and lynches Black parents of three children in their home.

Wednesday, January 08, 2020

A Decade of Great Seattle Theater: 2010-2019

Lorenzo Roberts and Jarrod M. Smith in The Royale
at ACT (Chris Bennion)

The change in decade brings to mind reflecting on the decade past and the concept of something that endures. Often, we have experiences that stick to us and influence us and theater often has that effect on people. If you take a little poll, a lot of your friends and family could likely relate to you a cultural experience that felt so full and connecting that it remains a solid memory today. Some people’s early experiences with theater even changed the trajectory of their choice of careers!

I thought I’d look back on the “Best Of” articles from each year and reflect on those memories and what still sticks out today as a significant memory that defies the passing of years. I hope you’ll join me in revisiting significant productions. I’ll quote myself liberally from back then.

Plays –
Bradford Farwell was riveting as mathematician Alan Turing in Breaking the Code” by Strawberry Theatre Workshop. “Gin Hammond’s one-woman play Returning the Bones was masterfully performed with her exceptional abilities.” Note: “Gin Hammond brought back her astonishing family story in 2019, courtesy of Book-It Repertory Theatre. It was an honor to see it and her again.”

“The unforgettable Condola Rashad brought the Congo to Intiman Theatre in Ruined and sang her way into our hearts. Intiman’s A Doctor In Spite of Himself (which starred Daniel Breaker) wasn’t really a Moliere translation as much as an homage to the great writer, but Moliere would likely have rolled in the aisles as this ensemble romped on the gorgeous set, shook their wonderful wigs, and cracked each other up.”

Musicals –
“Eric Ankrim showed us his strength with prince-and-pauper tricks in Village Theatre’s The Gypsy King.”

Local Playwriting –
Scotto Moore’s When I Come to My Senses, I’m Alive at Annex Theatre, was a not-so-distant-future science fiction exploration about being able to record someone’s emotions and then give them to an audience to feel (for a fee)!”

Wednesday, January 01, 2020

Seattle’s Best Theater of 2019

Sunam Ellis and Ayo Tushinde in Sheathed
(Laura Dux Photography)
A moment from Indecent at Seattle Repertory Theatre (Bronwen Houck)
It’s the time of year for idiosyncratic lists of “bests” summing up the last 12 months. It’s time to celebrate the strength and vitality of the theater scene that is the greater Seattle area! As I assembled my list for 2019, what jumps out for me has been the inclusion of live music as a significant production element in some of this year’s top plays.

The Top of the List:
While there was, as always, some terrific work on stage, I am celebrating two works in particular as the kind of theater that I long to see every time. Indecent at Seattle Repertory Theatre was full of everything brilliant about theater. The subject matter packed in layer upon layer by the brilliant Paula Vogel. The execution by director Sheila Daniels and an absolutely sublime cast. The best technical support and a trio of musicians that had to act, sing and move around a stage like no one’s business! It was not without trepidations that I became an audience member, but I left bursting with feelings and ideas that continue to weave through my mind.

In a very different, wonderful way, the new work, Sheathed, by inventive and lovely (local!) playwright Maggie Lee, was a wholly new work of essentially sci-fi fantasy, where strong sword-fighting women (Ayo Tushinde and Sunam Ellis) quested and struggled with deep questions of vengeance versus reconciliation. Adding to the atmosphere of this Macha Theatre Works production, live music by Leanna Keith also enlivened the event in essential ways.