Brace Your Checkbooks: Intiman Announces New Summer Festival

Today Intiman Theater announced big plans to relaunch its 40th season.

Actually, the theater just launched a pledge-drive in disguise.

The Intiman still has an unclear amount of debt to pay off (the Seattle Times reports it’s around a million). So the board has decided not to spend nor budget anything for future productions without raising those funds in advance. (Good call, dudes.)

But –proven by Intiman’s last, last-ditch fundraising efforts –inspiring big-fat-check-writing ain’t easy when all you have is bad news to report.

In a sense, the theater is in the same position as every broke artist who ever launched a Kickstarter campaign: you tease the potential of the concept by way of a clever video, ask your friends to give – and then pray like hell enough pledges come before the deadline. If not – no money exchanges hands. It’s all or nothing.

So it goes with Intiman this time around. After telling subscribers they wouldn’t be receiving refunds for the cancelled season, the Intiman can’t afford another mulligan.

The buzz of this new plan centers around a four-play festival that coincides with the Next 50 celebrations planned at Seattle Center for the golden anniversary of the World’s Fair.

The summer fete will have a million dollar budget, only 20 percent of which has been raised so far.

It's an exciting, collaborative concept. If Intiman could earn 100,000 dollars for every artist named in the press release, the project would be set.

The festival is being curated by a mixture of local performance veterans, emerging theater talents (several connected to the local avant-garde troupe Washington Ensemble Theater) and a few odd ducks that round out an embrace of both dance and academic theater.

Here’s the list:

  • Donald Byrd (choreographer, director)
  • Valerie Curtis-Newton (director, educator)
  • Sheila Daniels (director)
  • Nick Garrison (actor)
  • Jose Gonzales (actor, musician)
  • Yussef el Guindi (playwright)
  • Marya Sea Kaminski (actor, writer, educator)
  • Etta Lillienthal and Ben Zamora (visual and performance design team)
  • Allison Narver (director)
  • Michael Place (actor, director, producer)
  • Queer Teen Ensemble Theatre (local theater program for LGBTQ youth)
  • Dan Savage (director, writer, activist)
  • Tommy Smith (playwright)
  • Olivier Wevers (choreographer)
  • Richard E.T. White (director, educator)
  • Robertson Witmer and the band "Awesome" (sound designer, band)
  • Jen Zeyl (designer)

Among this list, several established companies are represented, as are many successful productions and a few household names.

Basically, it's safety in numbers.

By borrowing a little bit of many co-conspirators’ credibility, new artistic director Andrew Russell (he directed the regrettable play The Thin Place in 2010) is wisely attempting to inspire confidence in future donors, in spite of the the theater's reputation.

That strategy—or maybe the too-many-cooks-in-kitchen syndrome—explains the bizarre lineup being considered for the festival.

From the press release:

  • a vibrant production of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, adapted to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict directed by Allison Narver; [Ed's note: Seriously? For a celebratory summer festival?]
  • Henrik Ibsen's Hedda Gabler, which bursts open in dance, directed by Andrew Russell and choreographed by Olivier Wevers, starring Marya Sea Kaminski;
  • a new outlandish production conceived by Dan Savage; and,
  • Valerie Curtis-Newton directing a play in two acts split between the studio theater and courtyard.

The classics, I guess, acknowledge the interests of Intiman’s former subscriber base. (Those subscribers previously denied a refund for their season tickets will receive free tickets to the festival,  by the way.)

It also compensates where Intiman was lacking in the past: by employing 12 local actors to perform all roles in all four plays. (Hooray local jobs!)

But I cringe at the desperate "everything for anybody" pleas written between the lines of this lineup:

These aren’t your boring every day plays, we promise! They are…old plays with a new political spin on them! And… they are, uh, a play that is staged inside and outside! Also, we have “The Something-shocking-Dan-Savage-said Monologues.”

And dancing. Don't forget dancing.

Whatever you say, Intiman. I'm sure it will be entertaining.

Next time, maybe use the resources you have a little better.

Start with an inspiring, artist-made video - a la the Kickstarter method.

The Martin Luther-style documents nailed to the front of your website are starting to get depressing. I read whatever is posted there - and can't help picturing the musicians on the Titanic, playing dutifully to the end.