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Lease Signed, Playhouse Officially Joins Cornish Campus

Lease Signed, Playhouse Officially Joins Cornish Campus

: Cornish President Nancy Uscher watches as Seattle Center Director Robert Nellams signs the Playhouse lease. Photo by Mark Bocek.

Lease Signed, Playhouse Officially Joins Cornish Campus

: The Cornish Playhouse at Seattle Center, seen from the southeast. Photo by Mark Bocek.

Lease Signed, Playhouse Officially Joins Cornish Campus

: Lobby show from "Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme" at the Playhouse. Photo by Michelle Smith-Lewis.

Lease Signed, Playhouse Officially Joins Cornish Campus

: "The Mystery of Edwin Drood" on the Main Stage. Photo by Chris Bennion.

Lease Signed, Playhouse Officially Joins Cornish Campus

: "Neverwhere" on the Main Stage. Photo by Chris Bennion.

Lease Signed, Playhouse Officially Joins Cornish Campus

: "Batboy" load in for Main Stage. Photo by Chris Bennion.

Lease Signed, Playhouse Officially Joins Cornish Campus

: "Batboy, the Musical" on the Main Stage. Photo by Chris Bennion.

Lease Signed, Playhouse Officially Joins Cornish Campus

: "The Jealous Husband" in the Studio Theater. Photo by Michelle Smith-Lewis.

Lease Signed, Playhouse Officially Joins Cornish Campus

: "Your Eyes Have Facets" site-specific dance piece on the Seattle Center grounds. Photo by Chris Bennion.

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With a freshly signed lease for the historic Playhouse, Cornish and Seattle Center formalize a vital new partnership to forward the arts.

President Nancy J. Uscher and Seattle Center Director Robert Nellams have signed a lease placing the Playhouse at Seattle Center in the care of Cornish College of the Arts. With their signatures, a partnership between the Center and the College that began in 2012 was formalized. From now on, the historic structure will be known officially as the Cornish Playhouse at Seattle Center, and it will host many of Cornish’s educational programs in both the performing and visual arts. Although it is now part of Cornish’s extended campus, the Playhouse will continue to be a facility that is used by a wide variety of arts and cultural organizations from around the region, including the Intiman Theatre Festival and Seattle Shakespeare Company.

Dr. Uscher sees the agreement as an important step for both the College and Seattle Center. “We are honored to be given the responsibility to ensure that this important facility remains a vital part of the region’s cultural landscape while becoming an integral part of the Cornish educational experience,” she said. “The partnership between Cornish College of the Arts and Seattle Center is far greater than simply leasing and managing the facility. Our students, alumni and faculty work at many of the other Seattle Center organizations and we look forward to strengthening those relationships, too. Cornish is committed to working with other artists and organizations to ensure that the Playhouse continues to be a vibrant home for a wide variety of arts and cultural programming.”

“We are thrilled to officially welcome Cornish College of the Arts as a resident tenant of Seattle Center,” said Robert Nellams, “and we are delighted with the vitality, creativity and expertise that this venerable institution brings to the campus. We look forward to working with Cornish in the years ahead as it activates the Playhouse and extends its artistic reach throughout the grounds.” 

Cornish College of the Arts has managed the Playhouse for the past 18 months under an interim lease agreement, following a public RFP process. A subcommittee of the Seattle Center Advisory Commission recommended Cornish for this management role in September, 2012. Under this temporary arrangement, Cornish has carried on a busy schedule, with Main Stage productions of Bat Boy the Musical, Neverwhere, Le Bourgois Gentilhomme, The Mystery of Edwin Drood and The Nutcracker.

Cornish is responsible for maintenance of the interior of the building and has raised more than $200,000 to date, all of which has been invested in safety and production systems.

In addition to regular productions on the Playhouse Main Stage were The Vaudevillians, which opened there this past season on its way to its extended run off-Broadway, and its sequel, of sorts, a holiday special, The Vaudevillians: Unwrapped. Both shows were created and performed by Cornish alumni Jerick Hoffer (AKA Jinkx Monsoon) and Richard Andriessen. In the Playhouse’s black-box second stage, audiences have been treated to Pericles, The Jealous Husband and Our Town. Every part of the Playhouse has been energized by the new relationship. The spacious lobby space of the theater served PlāHaüs, an interdisciplinary exhibition, and Core Collection, the culminating runway show for the Cornish Freshman Garment/Prosthetics project.

Cornish artistic activity has even broken the boundaries of the building itself. In November, Cornish Dance Theater performed Your Eyes Have Facets, a site-specific dance that included the Skate Park, the top of Fisher Pavilion and the International Fountain.  On April 18, a Cornish Theater Department production of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream will begin performances on Center grounds outside the Playhouse.

Cornish will also launch the Cornish Playhouse Arts Incubator program, aimed at facilitating risk-taking among the allied arts. Groups from around Seattle will be invited to apply for this curated program beginning in late 2014.

In addition to Intiman Theatre Festival and Seattle Shakespeare Company, the Cornish Playhouse has also been the site of events and performances by Actors Equity, Balagan Theatre, Cascade Bicycle Club, the Golden Apple Awards, Macha Monkey, One Reel, Seattle Repertory Theatre, Seattle Women’s Chorus, Whim W’him Dance and 14/48.

The Seattle Center Century 21 Master Plan, completed in 2008, designates the Playhouse as part of the Theatre District Zone, which emphasizes the vitality of the performing arts organizations along Mercer Street. The district is intended to create a unique place that embodies the power and excitement of the performing arts, both an urban environment and the edge of the Seattle Center campus.


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