Love and Information Opens Theater’s 100th Season

Seattle, WA -- Cornish College of the Arts' Theater Department begins a year-long celebration of its 100th anniversary this fall with two challenging and important works by Caryl Churchill, including the local premiere of Love and Information.

“Caryl Churchill is without question one of the most important and influential English-language playwrights of the last 50 years,” says Theater Chair Richard E.T. White. “Her work encompasses a vast array of styles and genres, from adaptations of Greek classics (A Mouthful of Birds) to dramatic tone poems about rural existence (Fen), from time-jumping examinations of gender (Cloud 9) to unsparing dissections of the costs of power (Top Girls) and the excesses of capitalism (Serious Money). This year we produce one of her latest (Love and Information) in tandem with one of her earliest (Vinegar Tom), to celebrate the breadth of her craft and the stirring adventurousness of her thematic reach.”

The selection of Churchill for an in-depth exploration fits well with Cornish’s history of producing thought-provoking work in Seattle. The Theater department was created in 1918 by the founders of the Chicago Little Theatre, Maurice Browne and Ellen Van Volkenburg. The couple’s Chicago company had introduced ground-breaking European playwrights writing about the human condition to American audiences, inspiring a movement of the same name. They also used theater as a tool for activism. Their touring production of The Trojan Women by Euripides, with Van Volkenburg as Hecuba, was billed as an anti-war play in the first years of World War I and sparked Nellie Cornish’s interest during a stop in Seattle. Nellie Cornish invited them to organize a professional company, then called Cornish Theatre, to run parallel with their teaching at her school. Later, Browne would design what is now known as the PONCHO theater at Cornish's Kerry Hall to his specifications for “little theater.”

Since then, Cornish has pioneered a number of innovations, starting with a touring company to bring theater to communities outside of Seattle in the 1920s, continuing with the first coast-to-coast radio broadcast by a school in the 1930s (an original play written and performed by Theater students and assisted by a young Chet Huntley), the establishment of an independent Performance Production department in 1983, and progressing to the 21st century when Theater students demonstrated how Microsoft's HoloLens could be used by entertainment in the 2016 BFA Exhibition.

Notable Theater alumni include Academy Award-winning actress Beatrice Straight, actor Brendan Fraser ’90 and actor Riley Shanahan '15 who will play Cliff Steele/Robotman in the new TV series “Doom Patrol” (believed to be the first time two Cornish trained actors play same character in a TV series), cabaret star Lady Rizo, drag performer and winner of the fifth season of “RuPaul's Drag Race” Jinkx Monsoon, playwright/performer Ramiz Monsef (a fourth generation Cornish alumnus), Broadway performer Don Darryl Rivera, television character actor C.S. Lee, performer Sarah Porkalob, Netflix series writer Joshua Conkel (“Sabrina” and “Series of Unfortunate Events”) and many more.

Fall 2018 Season

VINEGAR TOM  by Caryl Churchill
Directed by Kaytlin McIntyre
Raisbeck Performance Hall, October 19-20 and 25-27. All shows at 8 pm

Co-produced with Performance Production Department

“Alice and her mother Joan are accused of witchcraft after Alice spurns her neighbors' advances, setting into motion a witch-hunt allegory for the treatment of marginalized women throughout history and today. Vinegar Tom is also layered through with trenchant humor and surprising musicality, including songs that are designed to be playful contemporary ditties. It is rooted in Brechtian Epic Theatre, but this time through a female lens. It is a fertile ground for
acting, musical and comic performance skills...Caryl Churchill herself, and her play Vinegar Tom, are shining examples of theater-as-activism and the practice of the artist-citizen-innovator.”  – Kaytlin McIntyre, from the director’s notes

Kaytlin McIntyre is the casting director for Seattle Repertory Theatre. Her directing credits inSeattle include world premieres of Zapoi and The Lost Girls at Annex Theatre, and Nadeshiko for Sound Theatre Company.

LOVE AND  INFORMATION by Caryl Churchill
Directed by Michael Place
Cornish Playhouse at the Seattle Center, November 1-3 at 8 pm and November 3-4 at 2 pm

Co-produced with Performance Production Department

Someone sneezes. Someone can't get a signal. Someone shares a secret. Someone won't answer the door. Someone put an elephant on the stairs. Someone's not ready to talk.Someone is her brother's mother. Someone hates irrational numbers. Someone told the police. Someone got a message from the traffic light. Someone's never felt like this before. In this fast-moving kaleidoscope, more than a hundredcharacters try to make sense of what they know.

"Love and Information is a vibrant, open-canvas project that welcomes as much creative choice, if not more, than it prescribes in the text...This generationof students is fluent in this practice and also understands its merits, making them the perfect candidates to address this question.” – Michael Place, from the director’s notes

Michael Place has performed at Intiman, Cincinnati Playhouse, Portland Center Stage, ACT, Seattle Children’s Theatre, Seattle Shakespeare Company, Yale Repertory Theatre, Book-It and in 10 productions as a founding co- artistic director of Washington Ensemble Theatre (WET). He has directed productions at WET, HERE Arts Center, Cornish and the Yale Cabaret, where he was a co-artistic director. Place is the founding curator of One Coast Collaboration, a national bridge-building new play festival.

MEN ON BOATS by Jaclyn Backhaus
Directed by Bobbin Ramsey
Raisbeck Performance Hall, November 15-17 at 8 pm and November 17-18 at 2 pm

Men on Boats is an anachronistic retelling of the 1869 Powell expedition, when a one-armed captain and a crew of insane yet loyal volunteers set out to chart the course of the Colorado River. Jaclyn Backhaus’ celebrated play interrogates the myth of manifest destiny westward-ho colonial adventuring. The playwright notes that “The characters in Men on Boats were historically cisgender white males. The cast should be made up entirely of people who are not.”

Men on Boats in  content and form allows for critical thinking, creativity, and challenge….Similar to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s HamiltonMen on Boats raises the voices of valuable and necessary members in the American society as meaningful in our country’s development. This powerful theatrical questioning would be an excellent point of critical investigation for Cornish students as performers and viewers.”  – Bobbin Ramsay, from the director’s notes

Bobbin Ramsay most recently directed The Nether at Washington Ensemble Theatre, as well as last fall’s production of Peter and the Starcatcher at Cornish. Ramsay is the Lead Producer and a Resident Director with WET where she has also directed the West Coast premiere of Alice Birch’s Revolt. She said. Revolt again and the world premiere of Susan Stanton’s The Things Are Against Us. Additionally, Ramsay is a co-founder of The Horse in Motion, where she directed Wellesley Girls and Brechtfest, among others.

LIFT: A Musical: Music and Lyrics by Craig Adams; Book by Ian Watson
Directed by Richard Gray
Alhadeff Studio at Cornish Playhouse, Seattle Center, November 8-10 at 8 pm and November 10-11 at 2 pm

A contemporary musical set in London with a rich and complex musical score. The journey of the elevator (lift) takes one minute or thereabouts, but the journey of the show takes us through a minute within everyone’s imagination, allowing us to say and see things that might not be possible in real life.  

Director Richard Gray  is one of Seattle’s leading creators and practitioners of musical theater. He has worked in every major local theater as a performer, composer, writer and director. Richard received the 2017 Gregory Award for Outstanding LeadingPerformance in a Musical for the ACT Theatre/5th Avenue co-production of Murder for Two. At Cornish he has directed productions of QuiltersDrood, and Grand Hotel, as well as an iteration of the Senior Cabaret. This summer, for the third year in a row, Gray taught in the Summer at Cornish Musical Theater Program.

THE ANNUAL SENIOR  CABARET
Created by the members of the Senior Musical Theater Ensemble in collaboration with Timothy McCuen  Piggee (co-director), Frances Leah King (vocal director), Katherine Strohmaier (music director) and Nicole Beerman (choreographer/co-director)
Raisbeck Performance Hall, December 12-14 at 8 pm

The final Theater production of the semester is Cornish’s annual cabaret production, which features members of the Fourth Year Musical Theater ensemble in a newly devised revue exploring resonant themes of contemporary life.

Tickets for all events can be found at Brown Paper Tickets, brownpapertickets.com

Raisbeck Performance Hall is located at 2015 Boren Ave, Seattle, WA 98121

Cornish Playhouse at the Seattle Center and the adjoining Alhadeff Studio are located at 201 Mercer St, Seattle, WA 98109