The annual Seattle Times Footlight Awards honor the area’s theatrical achievements.
The local theater scene underwent a kind of sea change in 2015, mirroring local demographic and cultural trends in Seattle and nationally.
The sharing society: Last January, two new theater spaces opened at 12th Avenue Arts, part of a sleek Capitol Hill housing complex. The formerly footloose New Century Theatre Company, Washington Ensemble Theatre and Strawberry Theatre Workshop share in the well-equipped, flexible venues, with off night rentals to other performing arts troupes. Theater gained a foothold in a hyper-gentrifying neighborhood flooded with young tech workers — a potential patrons drama outfits want to woo.
Generational shift: New artistic directors recently took the helm at Seattle Repertory Theatre, ACT Theatre and ArtsWest. The inside-track promotion of staffers, without a thorough national search for other candidates, was controversial. But if some 2015 shows by edgy younger theater artists were any indication, the fare produced by the new kids at the top is not going to be the same-old, same-old.
Other voices: There was a marked, salutary uptick in stage diversity with accomplished Latino, African-American, Asian-American, Muslim and deaf artists performing in and scripting more works at local playhouses. Theater thrives on stories, and this inclusiveness makes for a broader dramatic palette and, hopefully, a richer awareness of the human condition.
Best of 2015
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Drum roll, please! Local theater achievements of 2015, selected by Misha Berson and Seattle Times freelance theater critics:
Top Play Productions: “A View From the Bridge” and “The Piano Lesson” (Seattle Repertory Theatre); “Orpheus Descending” (Intiman Theatre); “Bloomsday” (ACT Theatre); “Little Bee” and “Slaughterhouse-Five” (Book-It Repertory Theatre); “Festen” (New Century Theatre Company); “Bad Jews” (Seattle Public Theater); “Mud” (New City Theater); “The Best of Enemies” (Taproot Theatre) and “Water By the Spoonful” (Theatre 22)
Top Musicals: “Come From Away” (Seattle Rep); “Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris” (ACT-5th Avenue Theatre); “American Idiot” (ArtsWest Playhouse) and “My Fair Lady” (Village Theatre)
Quality Classical: “Othello” and “The Comedy of Errors” (Seattle Shakespeare Company); and “The Three Sisters” (The Seagull Project)
Fab for Families: “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” and “Elephant and Piggy’s ‘We Are in a Play!’ ” (Seattle Children’s Theatre)
Acting Excellence (Drama): Jeanne Paulsen in “Mother Courage and her Children” (Seattle Shakespeare); Anna Kasabyan in “Bad Jews”; John Aylward in “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” (ACT); Marianne Owen in “Bloomsday”; Claudine Mboligikpelani Nako in “Little Bee”; Mary Ewald in “Mud” (New City); Kathy Hsieh in “Chinglish” (ArtsWest); Tyler Trerise in “Bootycandy” (Intiman) and “The Flick” (New Century); Alexandra Tavares in “Three Sisters”; entire casts of “Festen,” “View From the Bridge” and “The Piano Lesson”
Great acting duos: Adam Standley and Susan Corzatte in “4000 Miles” (ArtsWest); Suzanne Bouchard and Stephen Barker Turner in “Dear Elizabeth” (Seattle Rep); Hannah Mootz and Kevin McKeon in “Slowgirl” (Seattle Public Theater); Faith Russell and Jeff Berryman (“The Best of Enemies”)
Cool Cut-Ups: Scott Drummond (“Buyer and Cellar,” Seattle Rep); Jim Gall (“Dog of the South,” Book-It Rep); Brenda Joyner and Elinor Gunn (“Three Dogs and a Bone,” Theater Schmeater); Jay Myers and Samie Spring Dexter (“Comedy of Errors”)
Musical Performance Pizazz: The ensemble casts of “Come From Away”; “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang”; “Jacques Brel” and “My Fair Lady.” Also, Kirsten deLohr Helland and Justin Huertas (Seattle Rep’s “Lizard Boy”)
Solo Acting Magic: Joseph Lavy in “The Glas Nocturne” (Akropolis Performance Lab) and Mik Kuhlman in “House #30” (West of Lenin)
Young Thesp to Watch: Deaf actress Cheyenna Clearbrook (“Sound,” Azeotrope Theatre)
Blazing Brecht: “Mother Courage” (Seattle Shakes)
Brecht with Brunch: “Brechtfest” (Horse in Motion)
AcrobaticBeckett: “Fail Better” (UMO Ensemble)
Best House Warming: Strawberry Theatre Workshop’s “Our Town,” inaugurating the new 12th Avenue Arts theater center
Goosebump Award for Acting in the Buff: Quinn Franzen (“Threesome” at ACT); and Sydney Tucker and Erik Gratton (“Slaughterhouse-Five”)
Hardest Working Gal in Seattle Show Biz: Kirsten deLohr Helland (“Grease,” “The Sound of Music,” “American Idiot” and “Lizard Boy”)
Design Marvels (among many): Montana Tippett’s absinthe-inspired “Bohemia” costumes; Carey Wong’s “Chitty Chitty” flying car; Burton Yuen’s spiffy restaurant kitchen in “My Manana Comes”; L.B. Morse’s cartoon sets for “Lizard Boy” and Patricia Toovey’s glowing abode for “House #30”
Black Lives Really Matter: “We Are Proud to Present a Presentation About the Herero of Namibia..”.; (Pony World); “Emboldened: The Rise and Fall of King Bolden the First” (Freehold); and Intiman’s “Bootycandy”
Other Cultures, Other Visions: “Threesome” (ACT); “Sound” (Azeotrope); Dance Like a Man” (Pratidhwani); “Chinglish” (ArtsWest) and “Indian Ink” (Sound Theatre Company)
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Trippiest Dinner Theater: “Bohemia” (Cafe Nordo)
Circus Spectaculars: “Kurios” (Cirque du Soleil) and “Pippin” (Paramount Theatre)
Lean Away: Seattle Rep’s “The Comparables”
Fangs, But Not Enough Fangs: “Dracula” (Taproot Theatre)
Play, Heal Thyself: Contrived group-therapy dramedy “7 Ways to Get There” (ACT)
New Musical Misses: “Snapshots” (Village Theatre); “Jasper in Deadland” and “Waterfall” (5th Avenue)
R.I.P. : Designer-educator Sarah Nash Gates; actors Catherine E. Coulson and G. To’mas Jones; playwright-director-educator Ralph Rosinbum; writer-chef Ernie Pino; and Stone Soup Theatre
Local Treasures We’ll Hear More From: Retiring artistic directors Kurt Beattie (ACT) and Linda Hartzell (Seattle Children’s Theatre)
Editor’s note: This story was corrected on Jan. 4, 2016. An earlier version contained an incorrect reference to a production inspired by Samuel Beckett works.