King County leaders honor civil rights hero Thursday

January 12, 2011

NEW — 8 p.m. Jan. 12, 2011

King County leaders pause Thursday to celebrate the legacy of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.

The county celebration at The 5th Avenue Theatre in downtown Seattle features musicians, poets and a keynote address from Dr. Camara Phyllis Jones, a research director at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The festivities start at noon Thursday. The event is free and open to the public. The 5th Avenue Theatre is located at 1308 Fifth Ave.

(The federal holiday to honor King is Monday.)

The county Civil Rights Commission has also recognized three eighth-grade students in a yearly essay contest to recognize King. The contest encourages students to think about King’s legacy of peace and justice.

The county celebration includes a presentation of the top essays.

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Brian Yorkey answers questions Monday about ‘Next to Normal’

January 8, 2011

NEW — 2 p.m. Jan. 8, 2011

Brian Yorkey takes to the stage Monday to discuss the Pulitzer Prize-winning musical “Next to Normal” — weeks before the national tour reaches Seattle.

Yorkey, a former Village Theatre associate artistic director and Issaquah High School alumnus, is scheduled to participate in Spotlight Night at The 5th Avenue Theatre.

David Armstrong, 5th Avenue Theatre executive producer and artistic director, hosts the Q&A session.

Yorkey appears at the Seattle theater to discuss the rock musical “Next to Normal” — a dysfunctional-family-drama about a bipolar-disorder-afflicted housewife.

The piece earned Yorkey and composer Tom Kitt the Pulitzer Prize for Drama — a rarity reserved for only a handful of musicals — early last year.

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Issaquah tragedies, triumphs define a tumultuous year

December 28, 2010

Traffic lines up on state Route 900 at Northwest Talus Drive in February. State Department of Transportation crews completed the long-running project in 2010. By Greg Farrar

The economy lurched from the recession, population growth all but stalled and Issaquah — after cutbacks and setbacks in 2009 — defied the odds to reach major milestones throughout 2010.

Momentum returned in 2010 after a year spent in a holding pattern. Set against the backdrop of a fragile recovery, leaders cut the ribbon on businesses and roads, laid the foundation for preservation and construction, and marked tragedies and successes. Read more

Local actor channels the bully in ‘A Christmas Story’

December 7, 2010

Scut Farkus (Ashton Herrild, center) and Grover Dill (Keenan Barr, right) confront Ralphie (Clarke Hallum, left) and Randy (Matthew Lewis, lying center) in ‘A Christmas Story, The Musical!’ By Chris Bennion

All 9-year-old Ralphie Parker wants for Christmas is “an official Red Ryder carbine-action 200-shot range model air rifle with a compass in the stock, and this thing which tells time.”

While he impatiently waits for Santa Claus to bring him the BB gun for the holidays, the star of the new 5th Avenue Theatre musical production of “A Christmas Story, The Musical!” has to deal with a foil his own age: bully Scut Farkus, played by Newcastle 13-year-old Ashton Herrild.

In addition to bullying Parker at school, Farkus bullies him in his daydream fantasies that pop up in The 5th Avenue Theatre’s musical, playing a shark, a pirate and even a creature that looks like the evil monkey from “The Wizard of Oz.”

“I’m pretty much the main antagonist,” Ashton said.

The hit 1983 movie, based on real and fictional stories by Jean Shepherd, follows the Parker family through a Christmas season in the 1940s. But Ashton advised patrons to see the musical first and the movie later, so “they won’t say, ‘That’s not the same as the movie,’” when they watch the show, he said.

Ashton has acted since age 4, when he took acting classes at Mercer Island’s Youth Theatre Northwest.

His mother, Beth Herrild, remembered how her son used to wake her and her husband David up in the morning, dressed to the nines in a costume of his own making.

“I was always that kid who was loud in class and wasn’t really embarrassed,” about it, Ashton said.

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Brian Yorkey returns to direct ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’

July 27, 2010

Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning Issaquah High School alumnus Brian Yorkey returns to Village Theatre in May to direct the blockbuster “Jesus Christ Superstar.”

The rock musical about the last days of Jesus Christ runs in Issaquah from May 11 to July 3, and then opens for a monthlong run in Everett.

Before he headed to Broadway, Yorkey served as associate artistic director for Village Theatre. He started at the theater as a pioneering force in the popular youth education program, KIDSTAGE.

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Village Theatre musical actor wins a Tony

June 15, 2010

Levi Kreis

“Million Dollar Quartet” actor Levi Kreis — who originated the high-energy, piano-thumping portrayal of rock ‘n’ roller Jerry Lee Lewis at Issaquah’s Village Theatre — has won a Tony Award for playing the role on Broadway.

Kreis picked up the statuette for Best Featured Actor in a Musical for his role in the Broadway account of a famous jam session. The based-on-a-true-story musical recounts Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash and Lewis collaborating at the Sun Records studio in Memphis in 1956.

“Million Dollar Quartet” debuted at the downtown Issaquah theater in September 2007. The production remains the most successful original musical in Village Theatre history. “Million Dollar Quartet” opened on Broadway in April, and also continues a successful run in Chicago.

“I don’t think an outstanding performance can exist authentically without a team that is working as a whole and as a unit, in harmony, and I owe this to the best, most talented, supportive cast and crew that I’ve ever had the privilege of working with,” Kreis said from the Radio City Music Hall stage after he accepted the award during the June 13 ceremony.

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Village Theatre musical wins Tony Award for acting

June 13, 2010

UPDATED — 1:35 p.m. June 14, 2010

“Million Dollar Quartet” actor Levi Kreis — who originated the high-energy, piano-thumping portrayal of rock ‘n’ roller Jerry Lee Lewis at Issaquah’s Village Theatre — has won a Tony Award for playing the role on Broadway.

Kreis picked up the statuette for Best Featured Actor in a Musical for his role in the Broadway account of a famous jam session. The based-on-a-true-story musical recounts Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash and Lewis collaborating at the Sun Records studio in Memphis in 1956.

“Million Dollar Quartet” debuted at the downtown Issaquah theater in September 2007. The production remains the most successful original musical in Village Theatre history. “Million Dollar Quartet” opened on Broadway in April, and also continues a successful run in Chicago.

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Electric run continues for Issaquah’s Brian Yorkey

June 8, 2010

Not long before the Pulitzer Prize board announced the awards in early April, the team behind the musical “Next to Normal” — including Issaquah native Brian Yorkey, the writer and lyricist — heard the show might be under consideration for the drama prize.

Columbia University President Lee Bollinger (left) stands alongside Pulitzer Prize for Drama honorees Tom Kitt (center) and Issaquah native Brian Yorkey. By Eileen Barroso

Like he had before the musical picked up three Tony Awards last spring, Yorkey attempted to shut out the chatter.

Until he received a call from “Next to Normal” producer David Stone on April 12, the day the Pulitzer board announced the honorees.

“Is this Pulitzer Prize winner Brian Yorkey?” he asked.

The creative team dashed through a dozen media interviews, and then joined the cast to celebrate during “one more amazing night in a series of amazing nights,” Yorkey said.

The prize marked the latest milestone for a rock musical about a suburban family strained by bipolar disorder. “Next to Normal” originated at Village Theatre in downtown Issaquah eight years ago as “Feeling Electric.”

“It’s an unusual show,” Yorkey said. “It feels dark in some ways, it feels small in some ways. It doesn’t feel like a blockbuster, award-winning musical.”

The production became the eighth musical to be honored since the prizes added a drama category 92 years ago, and the first musical since “Rent” in 1996. Sober plays — such as “Doubt” and “August: Osage County” — dominated the category during the past decade.

“One of the things I’ve learned about ‘Next to Normal’ is that it has a group of fans in the theater world who are very dedicated, but it also touches people who may not like musicals,” Yorkey said.

The prize jury had submitted three finalists — “The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity,” by Kristoffer Diaz, “Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo,” by Rajiv Joseph and “In the Next Room, or the vibrator play,” by Sarah Ruhl — but the Pulitzer board eschewed the selections and picked the musical instead. (The jury included three theater critics, a playwright and a member of academia.)

The board praised “Next to Normal” as “a powerful rock musical” and a groundbreaking piece. The prize goes to the playwright, although the Pulitzer judges factor the performance into the decision.

Only the public service honoree receives the iconic Pulitzer medal. Everyone else takes home a $10,000 prize, a crystal paperweight and a certificate in a light blue folder — Columbia blue, because Columbia University administers the prizes. Read more

Liberty drama rakes in award nominations

May 25, 2010

Liberty High School’s Patriot Players are dancing in the streets — well maybe the aisles.

by Jane Estes Liberty High School’s spring musical ‘Into the Woods’ received 10 nominations for the 5th Avenue High School Musical Awards, to be held June 7.

The school’s drama department was nominated for 10 5th Avenue High School Musical Awards May 19 for their musical production of “Into the Woods.” They were also given two honorable mentions for the production.

“It’s a very gratifying recognition of our hard work and a confirmation of our belief that we had a particularly strong production this year,” Director Katherine Klekas wrote in an e-mail. “The music director, choreographer and I all love the show, but it is very challenging and demanding. This year, we recognized that we had the students and the creative team to do it justice.”

The Tony Awards-style ceremony is sponsored by Wells Fargo and helps provide the same recognition given to high school athletes to student actors, according to the 5th Avenue Theatre’s website. The award ceremony honors the talent and dedication students, parents and faculty devote to their school’s yearly musical productions.

Students and the school’s directing faculty will attend the awards and compete for awards in the categories of best overall production, stage crew and ensemble and outstanding direction, choreography, set design, lighting and costumes. Read more

Issaquah playwright Brian Yorkey wins Pulitzer Prize

April 13, 2010

Brian Yorkey

The musical “Next to Normal” — a daring look into bipolar disorder penned by Issaquah native Brian Yorkey and nurtured at Village Theatre — has won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Read more

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