It is a fact: Seattle is the arts capital of the Puget Sound region. By virtue of its population size and cultural resources, the Emerald City is our local mecca for live music and theater, art galleries and film centers, with an abundance of facilities and year-round attractions.
But what if you live outside the city and would like to see concerts, plays, and dance events closer to home? How about if you want to patronize venues with easy parking, family-oriented fare, reasonable ticket prices, and (if you’re lucky) more manageable traffic?
Fortunately, many Puget Sounders are in luck. Our region has a constellation of well-equipped, nonprofit performing arts centers, thanks to a tax-supported building boom of cultural amenities over the past several decades. Most of these facilities book well-known touring acts. But they also provide an important platform for local student, amateur, and professional performing groups worthy of interest and support.
Note that Western Washington arts centers sometimes present the same touring artists within a short time period. If you miss a comic or singer in one local venue, you can often catch them at another, so check the artists’ own websites to see all their upcoming shows in our region.
Here’s a guide to some of the larger and most active cultural hubs in the extended Puget Sound area:
Kirkland Performance Center This attractive, dome-shaped building boasts a curved 397-seat performing space, and there isn’t a bad seat in the house. Located in downtown Kirkland, KPC has offered a full calendar of imported and homegrown performances since its opening in 1998. Like most of the other facilities listed here, it can also be rented for private and community events.
Coming up at KPC in early 2018: Singer-songwriter Marc Cohn and the venerable gospel group, The Blind Boys of Alabama; the children’s company StoryBook Theater in Pinocchio; and a literary evening with Native American author Sherman Alexie.
Village Theatre The woodsy suburb of Issaquah is understandably proud of its resident Village Theatre company. This ambitious three-stage operation presents a fully professional subscription theater dominated by Broadway-style musicals in its handsome Issaquah mainstage facility, the Francis J. Gaudette Theatre, which holds about 500 patrons.
In its smaller First Stage Theatre, a former movie house just up the main street of Issaquah, the Village hosts student productions of its KIDSTAGE program and Village Originals, an annual series of informal performances of new musicals currently in development. (Several the company has nurtured have gone on to Broadway, including the Tony Award-winning Next to Normal.)
The Village extends its reach by managing, and sending its mainstage plays and musicals, up to the Everett Performance Center after their initial Issaquah runs. Arriving soon at both venues are the new musical String, and the Village’s version of the Broadway smash, Hairspray. The Everett venue also presents local groups, including the Everett Chorale.
Performing Arts and Events Center of Federal Way A strikingly modern new structure with a window-walled lobby, a 716-seat auditorium, and adjoining event spaces that can host hundreds more, this multipurpose public facility serves an expanding community in Federal Way’s city center, near Town Square Park.
In January, Rosanne Cash will sing here with her husband, John Leventhal. In February and March look for appearances by the salsa music masters El Tiempo Libre and the Federal Way Symphony’s program of Big Easy compositions, “Flavor of New Orleans.”
Also in Federal Way is the city-owned, 234-seat Knutzen Family Theatre, home to the Centerstage theater company and arts conservatory, and other community events.
Broadway Center for the Performing Arts Downtown Tacoma boasts a cluster of popular performance arts hubs. They include two fully restored historic showplaces, the Pantages and Rialto theaters, plus the newer Theatre on the Square and the refurbished Tacoma Armory. An array of arts groups performs here: the Northwest Sinfonietta, Tacoma Opera, Tacoma City Ballet, Tacoma Concert Band, and the Tacoma Youth Symphony.
And the Broadway Center brings in a full roster of touring shows, with such attractions as troubadours Lyle Lovett and Robert Earl Keen, cabaret star Michael Feinstein, and comedian Paula Poundstone on the schedule for early 2018.
Bainbridge Performing Arts Across the Sound on Bainbridge Island, this well-established community arts organization started out as an all-volunteer project way back in 1956. BPA’s current 245-seat main facility is bustling. It houses a theater school for local youths, the EDGE Improvisation group, and the Bainbridge Symphony, as well as a full season of theatrical productions and appearances by guest musical artists, dance companies, and comedy outfits. BPA also produces an annual Shakespeare production at the island’s sylvan Bloedel Reserve public garden.
Coming up: the new, politically-charged play Building the Wall by Pulitzer Prize winner and former Seattle resident Robert Schenkkan; the Bainbridge Symphony’s rendition of Franck’s Symphony in D Minor; and Broadway’s all-ages, Peter Pan-prequel, Peter and the Starcatcher.
Edmonds Center for the Arts The handsome new facility opened its doors in 2006, treating the public to cultural events in its 700-seat state-of-the-art theater, plus other community offerings in a full-size sports facility and several multi-purpose rooms.
Coming up in early 2018: an international guitar night, classical concerts by the Cascade Symphony, and screenings of Buena Vista Social Club and Breakfast at Tiffany’s. (The films are preceded by an onstage cabaret-style happy hour.)
Mount Baker Theatre A fully restored 1927 venue registered as a National Historic Landmark, this Bellingham showplace is the largest arts facility of its kind north of Seattle. The Moorish-Spanish style building, originally designed to present moving pictures and live vaudeville shows, boasts a 1,517-seat auditorium and a mighty Wurlitzer pipe organ.
Today it offers a diverse selection of music, films, Broadway musicals, and dance concerts, plus lectures, children’s theater, and magic shows featuring imported and local talent. The winter docket includes concerts by Brandi Carlile, the Whatcom Symphony Orchestra, tributes to rock divas Janis Joplin and Tina Turner, the Northwest Ballet’s “Celtic Legend” program, and more.
Misha Berson writes about the arts for The Seattle Times and many other publications, and is the author of four books, including Something’s Coming, Something Good: West Side Story and the American Imagination (Applause/Hal Leonard).
ADDRESSES & CONTACT INFORMATION
Kirkland Performance Center, 350 Kirkland Ave., Kirkland. 425-893-9900; kpcenter.org
Village Theatre, 303 Front St. N., Issaquah. 425-392-2202; villagetheatre.org
Everett Performing Arts Center, 2710 Wetmore Ave., Everett. 425-257-8600; villagetheatre.org
Performing Arts and Events Center of Federal Way, 31510 Pete von Reichbauer Way S., Federal Way. 253-835-7010; fwpaec.org
Centerstage (Knutzen Theatre), 3200 SW Dash Point Rd., Federal Way. 253-661-1444; centerstagetheatre.com
Broadway Center for the Performing Arts, 901 Broadway, Tacoma. 253-591-5894; broadwaycenter.org
Bainbridge Performing Arts, 200 Madison Ave. N., Bainbridge Island. 206-842-8569; bainbridgeperformingarts.org
Edmonds Center for the Arts, 410 4th Ave. N., Edmonds. 425-275-4485; edmondscenterforthearts.org
Mount Baker Theatre, 104 N. Commercial St., Bellingham. 360-734-6080; mountbakertheatre.com