Fringe theater companies are a dime and a dozen in this industry and with the not-for-profit theater structure only being 35 years young, it is great news to read the return of the Seattle Fringe Festival. If you’ve been reading the past couple of issue’s of “The Drama Squirrel”, then you’ll know that I’ve referenced this particular festival as being one of the top reasons of moving to Seattle because I knew first hand the quality and quantity of the Seattle Theater community, based on the existence of Seattle Fringe Festival. When I arrived it was heart breaking when I learned that said fringe festival had died out in 2003. Why didn’t I get the memo? Bottom line is that I wanted to be inspired to move a nation and when I got here I was surprised to see so much conservative programming across the city in big houses and small houses. Something had to change and I felt obligated to offer my knowledge and experience to help various people in the industry grow and become (lack for a better word) better theater artists and administrators. Who am I kidding? I was greeted with a brick wall of the couches and couches of passive aggressive artists and the traditional “Seattle Freeze”.
Over the past decade the programming at Seattle theaters has been dwindling downward in a spiral direction in both big and small houses, and what’s the point in doing another adaptation of a b-style movie, or reviving some classical Shakespeare or Brecht play? Now, before you start writing your hate mail to me, I LOVE, LOVE Shakespeare and Brecht plays and this is not a retraction against those great playwrights of our time. A handful of local fringe theaters do focus on new works such as The Satori Group, Annex Theatre, Washington Ensemble Theater, but why can’t the rest of the community put their ingredients in the ‘new works pot‘ over the fire?
Out with the old and in with the new. The new and improved festival was born out of wedlock and more specifically last year’s “Seattle Theater: What’s Next” meeting in Fremont. Nearly a year later a team of bandits, otherwise known as some of the top fringe theater artists and theater leaders in Seattle, have been formed leading this festival revival:
- Beth Raas-Berquist (Ghostlight Theatricals’ Artistic Director)
- Pamala Mijatov (Annex Theatre’s Artistic Director)
- Meaghan Darling
- Grant Evan Knutson (from various companies)
- Matthew Echert (writer for the SunBreak)
- Annie Fanning
- Alyson McCrink
- Ryan Higgins (Balagan Theater’s Co-Artistic Director)
- Sean Ryan (On the Boards’ Programs & Facilities Director).
The new kids are still planning and organizing. This year’s revival festival will only take place over the coarse of one weekend – September 19th through the 23rd – at six performance venues in Capitol Hill with 21 productions: Annex Theatre, both venues at Northwest Film Forum on 12th Avenue, West Hall of the Oddfellows Building, and Odd Duck Studios. Now think about this people… 21 productions at six venues in three days…now, that’s a weekend jet pack full of theater at its finest. And there is bound to be additional bonuses throughout this festival, because we’re artists, we’re here, so just get used to it. I, for one, was not a part of this community during the “Golden Years” of the original theater festival, however, I still hold a sweet soft spot for fringe festivals, that’s where I gain insight to new works of lgbt plays that I’d like to direct, and it also enhances the general community of theater-goers of creating inspiration and a common place for taking a conversation to the next level.
Next week… The Drama Squirrel is taking a deeper look at what Intiman Theatre is steaming up for their summer stock festival and the revival of Intiman Theatre, so stay tuned and get out there for some theater intake this weekend.