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Cornish’s Harley Rewinds Grunge in These Streets

Cornish’s Harley Rewinds Grunge in These Streets

: Photo by Charles Peterson.

Cornish faculty member and alum Gretta Harley lived another life in Seattle’s Grunge scene; it’s gone, but it’s flashing back in a brash new rock musical, These Streets.

The Seattle grunge movement put Seattle on the map for much of the world, but the women who helped make it happen have been too often forgotten. ‘Til now. These Streets is about to break out big, opening at ACT Feb 22. The newly developed work tells the story of the women who rocked our worlds, playing in bands such as Capping Day, 7 Year Bitch, Danger Gens, Faster Tiger, The Gits and Hammerbox. The new work was developed in large part by Cornish community members, and the production is chock full of more.

“With all the stories and works that have come out about the women who played in bands during the grunge period,” says co-creator Gretta Harley, “this is the only one that’s home-grown.”

Gretta Harley [MU ‘02], now a Cornish faculty member, was deep into the Grunge scene, as vocalist and guitar player for Danger Gens and Maxi Badd. Recently, Sarah Rudinoff, her long-time music collaborator, was hanging out with Gretta and some of her friends from those years, when their rich stories gave her idea for a play; a performance piece that would celebrate both the amazing feats of the girls of twenty years ago and at the same time celebrate the women they have become. Harley and Rudinoff enlisted playwright Elizabeth Kenny to help with the script and Richard E.T. White, head of Cornish’s theater department, to direct the work-in-progress. The resulting story follows five characters in their 20s and then in their 40s. It features a live band — of course — which, like the cast, is “multi-generational and multi-gendered.” White was forced to drop out, but has remained a staunch supporter and collaborator; his AD, Amy Poisson, stepped up to direct the play as it moved through development to a finished piece.

“There storyline is built from interviews with the musicians,” says Harley. “We took their words and used them to build an amalgam of characters . It will feel like a play and rock show, exciting, with no chance to breathe. … We stumbled on this topic that has legs without trying, and although a ton of work, These Streets has taken shape in unexpected and magical ways, and has been met with excitement everywhere we go.”

“These Streets is a gritty, funny, and powerful fictional story,” ACT says, “where the characters’ past and present lives collide with their past and present music, played and sung by the performers and a live band.”

Now the development period is through and it’s time to see it onstage. The production has a cast that draws heavily from the Cornish ranks: John Q Smith [TH ’95], Gina Malvestuto [TH ’01], Eden Schwartz [TH ’11], Sammie Detzer [TH ’10], Evan Crocket [TH ’12] and Terri Weagant, faculty and alum [TH ’04]. Cornish’s performance production department also figures heavily, with sets by Montana Tippett [PP ’11] and with the production reins held by stage manager Anna Gustafson [PP ’12]. Also involved are former performance production student Brianna Larson and music student Ben Sobel [MU’10].

Then there are the heros of the piece, the women who played in the bands. Many have been around all through the process, and the rest are very interested. “Almost every woman involved in these bands is coming to opening night,” says Gretta Harley, “flying from all over the country. We’re very excited about it. A number of them will be sleeping on my living room floor.”

As a child, Harley studied classical piano and taught herself guitar. She graduated with a piano performance degree and traveled Europe, studying music and movement. She hit Seattle and the grunge scene in her 20s. In her mid 30s, she decided she wanted to teach music. Entering Cornish, after one semester, she realized she wasn’t done performing. She married her love for theatre and music while in school through shows she developed. She received her bachelor of music in 2002.

These Streets, created by Gretta Harley and Sarah Rudinoff in collaboration with Elizabeth Kenny.
Preview February 21, plays February 22-March 10, 8:00pm at ACT. MORE INFORMATION.

PICTURE: Gretta Harley in rehearsals for These Streets; photo by legendary Grunge photographer, Charles Peterson.
Note on the photographer: Mr. Peterson, who was the “eye” of the Grunge scene, offered his work on These Streets without compensation. Billboard says of him: “Not every vibrant music scene has that one stalwart photographer whose style, timing, and eye were there from the beginning to both document and shape the visual presence of the bands. Seattle was lucky. Seattle had Charles Peterson.”


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