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

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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

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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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Musical with roots at Village Theatre and written by Issaquah native will tour to Seattle

March 7, 2010

NEW — 6 a.m. March 7, 2010

The first national tour of “Next to Normal” — the Tony Award-winning musical penned by Issaquah native Brian Yorkey and originated at Village Theatre — will come to Seattle next February.

5th Avenue Theatre and Village Theatre will collaborate to bring “Next to Normal” to the Emerald City from Feb. 22 to March 13, 2011. Village Theatre and Seattle Theatre Group subscribers will be able to buy tickets to the show at a discount.

Tickets for the 2010-11 season at the 5th will be available Monday by phone at 206-625-1900, online or at the box office, 1308 Fifth Ave., Seattle.

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Holidays arrive early in ‘Meet Me in St. Louis’

November 3, 2009

Ryah Nixon, as Esther Smith (left), and Jason Kappus, as John Truitt, converse as (back, from left) Katie Griffith, as Agnes Smith, and Analiese Emerson Guettinger as Tootie Smith, look on, in the Village Theatre production of  ‘Meet Me In St. Louis.’ By John Pal/Village Theatre

Ryah Nixon, as Esther Smith (left), and Jason Kappus, as John Truitt, converse as (back, from left) Katie Griffith, as Agnes Smith, and Analiese Emerson Guettinger as Tootie Smith, look on, in the Village Theatre production of ‘Meet Me In St. Louis.’ By John Pal/Village Theatre

It’s time to deck the halls and stoke the hearth — the holidays are coming to Village Theatre.

Village Theatre’s cast and crew are taking audiences back to a time when horse and buggies were the mode of travel, home telephones were still novel, the World’s Fair was on the tips of all tongues and first love was anything but easy.

Welcome to St. Louis in 1904 as Village Theatre presents “Meet Me in St. Louis,” Nov. 11 through Jan. 3.

“The holidays are time for family. It’s a time when people think about their families, going home or having people over. The holidays are a time to reconnect with family,” said Steve Tomkins, artistic director for Village Theatre. “Really, what this show is about is the interaction of the family.

“It is delightful and energizing.” Read more

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Book club enjoying good reads since ’63

May 5, 2009

Madelyn Larsen (top) reads her review of ‘Schultz and Peanuts: A Biography’ as another Belle Arts Book Club member looks at the final ‘Peanuts’ strip that ran in The Seattle Times. By David Hayes

Madelyn Larsen (top) reads her review of ‘Schultz and Peanuts: A Biography’ as another Belle Arts Book Club member looks at the final ‘Peanuts’ strip that ran in The Seattle Times. By David Hayes

In 1963, some members from the Church Women’s Organization were looking to form a club to get better acquainted.

Discarded were dinner clubs and bowling teams. They instead went with Mary Wells’ idea of a book club. Thus, the Belle Arts Book Club was born.

“It never crossed my mind that it could survive this long,” said Wells, 85, a resident of Bellevue since 1962. “I think it’s the fact that we all enjoy good literature and most of us belong to the same church.”

The group has kept its membership at a constant 24, as most homes can’t accommodate larger numbers, she said. About one-third of the membership, open to Eastside residents, hail from Issaquah. At 49, Connie Stromberg is one of the youngest members. She said what’s kept her in the club after 10 years are lively discussions about a variety of topics.

“At one point, we had a discussion on capital punishment,” recalled Stromberg, a past president. “We had a member whose brother was a governor of a state. Her conversations with him with his years of experience dealing with death penalty cases added so much to our discussion that it enriched the whole evening.” Read more

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DECA club markets ‘grand’ concert to save music programs

March 23, 2009

Students in Issaquah High School’s DECA club are getting a real-world education in marketing by volunteering their services to a nonprofit organization aimed at saving music programs in schools. Read more

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Writer debuts original play in return to stage

January 12, 2009

Actors give a reading of ‘The Gypsy King’ at the Village Originals Annual Festival of New Musicals in August 2008. By Sam FreemanActors give a reading of ‘The Gypsy King’ at the Village Originals Annual Festival of New Musicals in August 2008. By Sam Freeman

In the 1980s, there seemingly wasn’t a regional theater Randy Rogel hadn’t worked at, including the Seattle Repertoire Theatre, The Empty Space, 5th Avenue and the Seattle Children’s Theatre.

But as the theater veteran currently pays the bills writing songs for the likes of Steven Spielberg-animated projects, he realized there was one theater he longed to be a part of — Issaquah’s Village Theatre. There are even old acquaintances he shared the stage with in the ’80s who now roam the halls of Village Theatre, including Executive Producer Rob Hunt and Artistic Director Steve Thomkins.

The Emmy and Peabody award-winning writer believes he’s got the perfect project — “The Gypsy King” — to bring to Village Theatre’s Originals program, where unfinished works are brought to further work out the kinks.

“‘Gypsy King’ is less like ‘Rent’ and ‘Miss Saigon’ than it’s more like the old school productions of ‘Guys and Dolls’ and ‘The Music Man,’” Rogel explained. Read more

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