How It All Began
Buoyed by the cultural success of the 1962 World's Fair, a handful of community leaders—with Bagley Wright at the helm—envisioned for Seattle a professional theater company to rival the best in New York. Seattle Rep was founded in 1963 to realize that vision.
The Seattle World's Fair
The Seattle World’s Fair included construction of the Seattle Playhouse, Seattle Rep’s first home (known today as the Cornish Playhouse).
Founding of Seattle Rep
While in town to perform at the World's Fair, renowned theater artist Hal Holbrook became the original impetus for Seattle to join in on the regional theater movement and start a repertory theater company in the Seattle Playhouse.
Holbrook suggested that seasoned actor and director Stuart Vaughan should be the theater's first Artistic Director. Vaughan's motto at the time? "The only reason to be in the American Theater is to change it."
With Vaughan at the artistic helm and alongside a group of arts and culture supporters and local philanthropists, including Bagley Wright, the beginnings of Seattle Rep's foundation had formed.
First Production: King Lear
Seattle Rep's first production, William Shakespeare's King Lear, was staged. The Firebugs by Max Frisch also played in rotating repertory.
Actors Come Together
Actors from across the nation and world came to Seattle Rep to be the first to perform with the company. Artists included Thomas Hill, Anne Gerety, Vernon Weddle, Stephen Joyce, Archie Smith, Kay Doubleday, Conrad Bain, Ruth Sobotka, William Myers, Pauline Flanagan, George Vogel, Marjorie Nelson, John Gilbert, and Nina Polan.
Pictured: The Firebugs (1963/64)
‘A call for volunteers prompted 250+ women to create the theater's first official volunteer network.’
The Inaugural Season Sees Success
Seattle Rep's first season opened with over 9,000 subscribers, at that time the largest audience for any Seattle cultural institution. According to Bagley Wright, "Seattle proved itself as a theater town. What satisfied me the most was that you could see really first-rate theater being produced by a resident company in Seattle."
Pictured: Samuel Beckett's Krapp's Last Tape (1967/68)
Starting a Career
A 19-year-old Richard Gere gets his professional start as part of the Seattle Rep acting company during the 1969/70 season.
Pictured: Richard Gere in Anton Chekhov's The Three Sisters (1969/70).
Peter Donnelly is Appointed as Managing Director
Peter Donnelly first came to Seattle Rep in 1964 and was involved with both the theater's administration and the production of more than sixty plays. He was appointed Managing Director in 1970 and stayed in that position until 1985.
Highlight: Richard II
Seattle Rep gained attention when renowned actor Richard Chamberlain starred in William Shakespeare's Richard II in 1971 (pictured).
The Second Decade