The Return of Indoor Theater Around the Sound

Atticus Finch in the courtroom Richard Thomas (“Atticus Finch”) and The Company of To Kill a Mockingbird

To state the obvious, it has been a couple of rocky years for theaters in the Seattle region.

The pandemic meant cancelled productions and scratched subscription campaigns. And it caused confusion over how (and when) to offer plays and musicals live onstage—yet minimize the spread of the virus among the actors and the audience members.

Some companies created theatrical Zoom attractions, with limited success. But the essence of theater, for the actors and the audiences, is the intimacy and immediacy of gathering together in person to watch what playwright Oscar Wilde described as an event “in which a human being can share with another the sense of what it is to be a human being.”

Though ensuring the health of all concerned is still a challenge, the dissemination of vaccines, a decline in the severity of cases and more knowledge of how to mitigate the spread of the disease inspired some theaters in the area to host spring and summer shows indoors. And now more companies are moving forward by scheduling a broad array of live shows for autumn and beyond. (Note that each theater has developed its own COVID protocol. When you buy a ticket, just ask.)

Since nonprofit theaters rely heavily on box office receipts for their continuing existence, going on with the show is not just a rallying cry—it is a matter of survival. And it is also a boon to the many local residents who have enjoyed live theater, to those not yet exposed to it, and to patrons who will be playing a critical role in helping the theatrical culture of the Northwest continue and thrive.

So consider a few productions on the calendar soon. And note that many theaters have discount ticket programs for seniors and students, as well as last-minute admissions and pay-what-you-can options.

Some shows that pique my interest this fall include:

Choir Boy. ACT Theatre’s season opener is a rendition of an award-winning work by Tarell Alvin McCraney, a lauded stage and screenwriter who scripted the Oscar-winning film Moonlight, among other achievements.

This potent Broadway work depicts the emotionally and sexually charged atmosphere of a Black all-male boarding school, where an embattled gay student finds his niche and self-confidence as the leader of the school’s prized gospel choir. The show is bolstered by rousing music and exciting displays of stepping, a percussive Black movement form derived from African dance.

Choir Boy at ACT Theatre, September 9–October 23. Information: www.

What the Constitution Means to Me.  This stunningly timely solo theater piece was written and originally performed by Heidi Schreck, a luminous talent who grew up in Wenatchee and started her career in Seattle with the fringe troupe, Printer’s Devil Theater.

Schreck’s candidly personal, brainy and moving work (a 2019 Pulitzer Prize finalist seen on Broadway and filmed for Netflix) raises probing questions about the U.S. Constitution in relation to the rights of women, including the right to abortion, which is now in jeopardy after a recent Supreme Court decision allowing individual states to ban the termination of a pregnancy.

Though it offers a bracing commentary on what the Constitution is in theory and practice, the play, which will be performed at Seattle Rep by a different actor, also reveals how its promises and shortcomings directly affected the lives of Schreck and several female generations in her family.

What the Constitution Means to Me at Seattle Rep, Sept. 30–Oct. 23. Information:

OthelloShakespeare’s tragedy, which is on the docket for Seattle Shakespeare Company this fall, takes us into the world of a great Moorish warrior whose interracial marriage is threatened by jealousy and bigotry, as he leads a Venetian army in Cyprus.

This gripping play, one of Shakespeare’s finest, has a long and complex history, including centuries of mainly white actors in England and America performing the title role in blackface. That practice has been successfully challenged in recent decades, with Black thespians now taking the lead, and fresh perspectives on the drama informed by our own era.

A new development in Seattle is having a prominent Black theater artist direct the still-controversial play. A classical actor who has excelled in many Seattle Shakespeare Company productions, Reginald André Jackson will stage the work, and it will be fascinating to see how he interprets it. Othello at the Center House Theatre at Seattle Center, October 25–November 20. Information:

To Kill a Mockingbird.  Coming our way in the fall is a recent Broadway dramatization of Harper Lee’s renown novel, created by noted playwright and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing, Being the Ricardos).

Lee’s compelling tale of a miscarriage of justice in the Deep South is told from the vantage point of the two young children of a widowed attorney, who incurs the ire of his small-town neighbors by defending a Black man falsely accused of raping a young white woman.

Though its themes are mature, the book has had a profound affect on the millions of young people who have read it, and it continues to resonant for adults. This national touring production stars famed actor Richard Thomas, who many of us will remember as John Boy, from TV’s The Waltons.) And it features in the supporting cast Mary Badham, who starred as a child in the 1962 film version of “Mockingbird” opposite Gregory Peck.

To Kill a Mockingbird at the Paramount Theatre, Oct. 11-16. Information:

Little Shop of Horrors.  If you are craving a dose of musical comedy, The Village Theatre, which stages productions in Issaquah and Everett, has a lineup that includes this perennial crowd pleaser.

Based on an Off-Broadway musical—and a cult-favorite B movie—about a plant with a voracious fondness for human flesh, the show mixes zany humor and romance, with dashes of mock-horror. No big moral messages here. It’s just good, silly fun.

“Little Shop of Horrors” plays in Issaquah, Sept. 14-Oct. 23 and Everett, Oct. 28-Nov. 20. Information:

Misha Berson writes about the arts for and many other media outlets, teaches for the UW Osher program, and is the author of four books, including Something’s Coming, Something Good: West Side Story and the American Imagination (Applause/Hal Leonard).


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