Stability and Growth
Well-established artistically, Seattle Rep joined with the City of Seattle to build the new Bagley Wright Theater and opened it with grand fanfare and a world premiere in 1983.
It was a portent of good things to come. With the steady hand of Artistic Director Daniel Sullivan at the helm, the next ten years, aka "the Sullivan era," saw the rapid expansion of Seattle Rep's new play development program and national recognition.
The Premiere Season
Seattle Rep opened the new Bagley Wright Theater with a vast and complex world premiere play from Michael Weller, The Ballad of Soapy Smith (pictured). Numbering more than 30, the impressive cast included a host of actors that would become well-known to Seattle Rep audiences, including John Aylward, Kurt Beattie, Frank Corrado, Clayton Corzatte, Ted D'Arms, Kate Mulgrew, Rod Pilloud, and Michael Santo.
The remainder of the season was equally grand in scope, featuring productions like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Make and Break, Garland Wright's The Misanthrope, Master Harold...and the boys, and As You Like It.
Opening of the PONCHO Forum
A major highlight in the season was the opening of the PONCHO Forum with the world premiere of Bill Mastrosimone's Shivaree (pictured). Shivaree began as a workshop at Seattle Rep and was chosen to inaugurate the PONCHO Forum as a venue for new work. Originally designed to be a rehearsal space, a generous grant from fund-making organization PONCHO transformed the room into a performance venue.
Pictured: Lori Larsen, John Procaccino, and Steven Flynn in Shivaree (1983). Photo by Chris Bennion.
Highlight: I'm Not Rappaport
Herb Gardner's I'm Not Rappaport opens at Seattle Rep prior to its Broadway run.
Pictured: Harold Gould and Cleavon Little in I'm Not Rappaport.
The Professional Arts Training Program (PATP) is Established
From the beginning, Seattle Rep was committed to fostering the next generation of theater artists and administrators. After several years of informal internships, the Professional Arts Training Program (PATP) was established in 1984. Since its inception, Seattle Rep has trained more than 450 young theater professionals, many of whom have gone on to careers in theaters throughout the country.
Pictured: 1984/85 PATP Intern class.
‘The PATP has prepared theater artists and administrators from around the country for over 35 years.’
Highlight: Lily Tomlin in The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe
In 1984, after thoroughly enjoying their experience at Seattle Rep while presenting performances of their Broadway show Appearing Nitely, Lily Tomlin and Jane Wagner decided to do the first reading of their new play, The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe, in the PONCHO Forum. They returned to Seattle Rep in 1985 to fully stage the production for the first time.
The play later went to Broadway, and returned again to Seattle Rep in 2000. In Tomlin's words, "I have gained such great insight into our work with the Seattle Rep audiences and always felt loved and appreciated when I was there. There's not much else an actor needs to be happy for a lifetime. The Rep lives forever in my heart. Thank you from Jane and me to all of you."
Pictured: Lily Tomlin in the Broadway production of The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe. Photo credit: Annie Leibovitz.
Ben Moore was appointed Managing Director and Doug Hughes as Associate Artistic Director, joining Artistic Director Dan Sullivan in forming a new leadership team. Together they would guide Seattle Rep into a new era of ambitious and creative programming.
Highlight: Bill Irwin on Largely/New York
From Bill Irwin: "Of all the shows and projects I was part of at the Rep, my favorite, I think was Largely/New York; it came to life in a small workshop in the PONCHO, then months later became a big mainstage show... The show went to Broadway; there were many Tony nominations, but its roots were always—and I think the best version of it was always—at Seattle Rep."
Pictured: Bill Irwin and the cast of Largely/New York (1989). Photo by Chris Bennion.
Highlight: The Heidi Chronicles
Seattle Rep launches the national tour of Wendy Wasserstein's Pulitzer Prize-winning play, The Heidi Chronicles (pictured).
Tony Award for Outstanding Regional Theatre
After years of consistent high-quality work—and many plays moving on to Broadway—Seattle Rep began to gain national attention. In 1990, Seattle Rep was awarded the Tony Award for Outstanding Regional Theatre, an award given once in a theater's history.
Introducing August Wilson
"The American Shakespeare" August Wilson made his debut on Seattle Rep stages during this time period. Four times, to be exact: Fences (1985/86 season); Joe Turner's Come and Gone (1986/87 season); Two Trains Running (1990/91 season); and The Piano Lesson (1992/93 season).
Over the years, Seattle Rep became one of the first theaters in the country to produce all ten of Wilson's American Century Cycle plays, each set in a different decade of the 20th century, plus Wilson's one-man autobiographical play, How I Learned What I Learned.
Pictured: Frances Foster, Samuel L. Jackson, and Robert Colston in Fences (1986).
‘Seattle Rep was a home for August Wilson for decades.’
The Fourth Decade