Saturday, December 24, 2011

a year at the theatre.

In 2011 I saw something like 36 plays, monologues, readings, musicals, and one opera dress rehearsal. Theatres ranged from tiny 20-seaters in black-box rooms converted from garages to McCaw Hall, which holds thousands. I watched 7th-and-8th graders fling themselves across the stage with the energy of youth, and actors I have loved for twenty years show themselves to be at the top of their game. Some performances were bad. Some were unmemorable. Some will stay with me for the rest of my life. What they all had in common was the sense that people create theatre because they love it, and we go to the theatre because we need it. As long as that love and that need is there, theatre will go on.

Things I will remember about 2011:

Renata Friedman creating dozens of different characters in The K of D with just a change in voice, posture, movement. She was amazing.

Michael Patten, who I saw in three plays and one Pinter Fortnightly reading, and who I loved best during that moment in O Lovely Glowworm when he tells the goat, "You are loved…" It was definitely one of my favorite plays this year, one I saw twice during its run.

Gretchen Krich, who I also saw in three plays and one Pinter Fortnightly. She can be seductive, or crotchety, or maternal, or tender, or heartbroken. I accosted her in the street to tell her how much I'd loved O Lovely Glowworm, while Jerry Manning looked on in some amusement. I wish I had told him how much I was enjoying the Seattle Rep under his artistic direction, but didn't get the chance.

Mike Daisey, who showed us his deep love and anger for both theater (in How Theatre Failed America) and Apple (in The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs). His eyes narrow and widen like a surprised Totoro, and his hands flap around like the little birds in a Disney movie, and I could listen to him for hours. Actually, I did, this year, some four hours altogether in the span of one week.

Suzanne Bouchard and Anne Allgood facing off in Mary Stuart. Another one of this year's favorites, with a perfect cast and an audience who stayed on the very edges of their seats. It was dazzling.

I loved all the Pinter Fortnightly readings this year, but two especially: Moonlight, with the gorgeous Kathleen Chalfont, and Betrayal, with the ridiculously beautiful Billie Wildrick. Both were plays I'd seen before, both revealing things I hadn't noticed before, while still reminding me I could see them again, and learn even more.

It was beyond thrilling to see Liz McCarthy (at Pinter Fortnightly) and Jeff Cummings (in In the Next Room) again after more than a decade. I'd loved their work when I was a teenager, and I've missed them.

I love that the actors I've loved since my first season at ACT in 1992 and later, Intiman in the mid-90's are still going strong, maybe stronger than ever, R. Hamilton Wright, Suzanne Bouchard, Michael Winters, Frank Corrado, and many more. One of these numbers is lost to us, Mark Chamberlin, who died suddenly in the spring and who is sorely missed.

The wonderful, time-traveling, gender-bending cast of Cloud 9. I don't think the play *quite* worked, but the actors were incredible.

Also incredible was Robin Hood at the Seattle Children's Theatre. Basil Harris, Hana Lass, and Hans Altwies are all actors I've seen elsewhere this year, and they seemed to be having so much fun as they swung across a jungle-gym set disguised as Sherwood Forest. The wild appreciation of the young audience made it clear: children are ready to fall in love with live theatre if it is offered to them.

Special notice must be given to Darragh Kennan, gamely wobbling a little on his high heels as he walks across the stage in drag for one of his three roles in Sylvia (I believe the play is written that way).

I went up to Michael Winters after the reading of Moonlight and told him, hyperventilating slightly, that I had loved his work for nearly twenty years, and hope to see more of him soon. He was funny and kind and I tried very hard not to fling myself at his feet.

What a year it was! A year of that "riot in the heart" that is live theatre (to borrow from Tom Stoppard). I can't wait for the year to come.