Theater for a New Century
By embracing innovation and ingenuity, the theater survived economic downfalls, leadership transitions, and the ever-evolving landscape of art and entertainment. Through it all, and with two venues in active rotation, Seattle Rep continued to produce a great variety of theater—from gritty new works to grand classics, and everything in-between.
After eight years at the helm, Artistic Director Sharon Ott left Seattle Rep in 2005. Her farewell season was filled with audience favorites like Take Me Out, Noises Off, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, The Chosen, and Anna in the Tropics (pictured; photo by Chris Bennion).
Celebrated freelance director David Esbjornson was named the theater's sixth Artistic Director. Although his time at Seattle Rep was brief (2005-2008), his impact was significant. Under his leadership, artistic staff members Jerry Manning and Braden Abraham held their directing debuts on Seattle Rep's stages.
August Wilson Tribute
August Wilson died in 2005, and his adopted city of Seattle mourned the loss of one of the great American playwrights of the 20th century. A public tribute was held on February 13, 2006 at Seattle Rep, and excerpts from all of his American Century Cycle plays were performed by an all-star roster, including Rocky Carroll, Chic Street Man, Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Cynthia Jones, Keith Randolph Smith, and Charlayne Woodard, among others.
A public monument was built near the theater, and the Seattle Center pathway alongside the Leo K. Theater was renamed August Wilson Way.
Phylicia Rashad's Directorial Debut
In 2007, actor and singer Phylicia Rashad made her stage directorial debut at Seattle Rep with August Wilson's Gem of the Ocean.
After David Esbjornson's departure at the top of the 2008/09 season and the tumultuous effects of The Great Recession, long-time casting director Jerry Manning was named Producing Artistic Director. His philosophies? Put the Seattle back in Seattle Rep; lay the groundwork for the next generation; and recommit to new play development.
Launch of the Yes Project
Aiding in the effort to encourage new work was the Yes Project, a Seattle Rep initiative to inspire young artists and audiences. Launched in 2009, funding for the program allowed the theater to find and develop plays for Seattle Rep's stages that featured young protagonists.
Pictured: Trick Danneker, Erin Stewart, and Justin Huertas in Speech & Debate (2010). Photo by Chris Bennion.
The New Play Program Flourishes
Under Jerry Manning's leadership, Seattle Rep workshopped, premiered, or participated in several projects that traveled far beyond Seattle Rep's stages—plays like Equivocation (2009), An Iliad (2010), How to Write a New Book for the Bible (2012), and Cheryl L. West's commissioned piece Pullman Porter Blues (2012).
Pictured: E. Faye Butler in Pullman Porter Blues (2012). Photo by Kevin Rosinbum
Behind the scenes, a number of new play workshops took place with artists such as actor/playwright Alan Alda, Pulitzer-nominated Adam Rapp, and playwright Anne Washburn.
Pictured: Director Dan Sullivan and playwright Alan Alda in a workshop for his play Radiance (2010). Photo by Chris Bennion.
Highlight: Wishful Drinking
Iconic actor and best-selling author Carrie Fisher performed her smash-hit solo show Wishful Drinking on the Bagley Wright stage in 2009, created and performed by Carrie Fisher and directed by Tony Taccone.
Wishful Drinking was produced in association with Berkeley Repertory Theatre. Photo copyright Kevin Berne.
Seattle Rep Joins the National August Wilson Monologue Competition
Founded in 2007 by Kenny Leon and the True Colors Theatre Company, the August Wilson Monologue Competition (AWMC) is a national program that celebrates Wilson’s works and inspires high school students to find and express themselves through theater. Over time it has expanded to 13 cities across the country. As one of Wilson’s artistic homes, Seattle Rep was proud to begin hosting a regional competition in 2010.
Pictured: Aubrey Taylor, winner of the 2011 Seattle Rep AWMC finals. Photo by Chris Bennion.
Highlight: An Iliad World Premiere
Actor Denis O'Hare and director Lisa Peterson had the idea for the play where one person would take on telling the story of the entire Trojan War. Local actor Hans Altwies starred in this solo show in its world premiere at Seattle Rep.
Pictured: Hans Altwies in An Iliad (2010). Photo by Chris Bennion.
Inaugural Writers Group
During the 2011/12 season, Seattle Rep inaugurated a Writers Group as a means to foster the talent of Northwest playwrights at all stages of their careers, from emerging new voices to established professionals.
The Current Decade