First Friday Wine Walks offer a new taste of downtown

January 17, 2012

The artEAST Art Center and UP Front Gallery, which always participates in ArtWalk in the summer, will be one of six locations on Front Street to take part Feb. 3 in the inaugural First Friday Wine Walk. File

Adding to its list of events to draw more visitors to downtown, the DownTown Issaquah Association announces First Friday Wine Walk from 5-8 p.m. Feb. 3.

Wine Walk, following other popular events such as ArtWalk and a zombie invasion, will feature boutique wine tasting at six locations up and down Front Street.

“It should be fun,” said Karen Donovan, the association’s executive director. “I’m excited.”

Wineries will include Lodmell Winery in Walla Walla; Woodinville’s Smasne Cellars; and, Castillo de Feliciana. Several Wine Walk locations will feature live entertainment to include acoustic guitarist “Uncle Phil” Hansen; guitarist and composer Angelo Pizarro; vocal group Bodacious Ladyhood; and, pianist Meg Mann.

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Teen actors examine faith in Village Theatre’s ‘Godspell’

January 3, 2012

Regan Morris (front row, third from the left), featured in ‘Turn Back O Man,’ sings during rehearsal with the ensemble in the Kidstage production of ‘Godspell.’ By Jean Johnson/Village Theatre

Months after professional actors re-imagined “Jesus Christ Superstar” on the Village Theatre Mainstage, teenage performers plan to raise the curtain soon on “Godspell” — a similar musical from the same era.

Both shows opened in 1971 and offered a contemporary — critics said blasphemous — perspective on the Gospels. In the years since, “Jesus Christ Superstar” and “Godspell” became rooted in pop culture.

“Jesus Christ Superstar” depicts the last days in Christ’s life. “Godspell” is structured as a series of parables.

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Milestones from the year 2011 reflect changes

December 27, 2011

Renewal defined the year, as the community paused after a population boom and economic bust — and positioned Issaquah for the decades ahead.

Milestones from the last 12 months offer contrasts.

Leaders opened showcases for “green” design and concluded a milestone effort to preserve Tiger Mountain forestland. Tragedy left indelible impressions, too, as a gunman menaced downtown pedestrians on a September morning and turned a school campus into a crime scene.

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Tickets for Village Theatre’s ‘Godspell’ go on sale

December 27, 2011

Village Theatre’s teenage performers plan to stage the musical “Godspell” at First Stage Theatre soon — and theatergoers can purchase tickets now.

“Godspell” — a stage adaptation of the Gospel of Matthew — runs Jan. 7-22 at the theater, 120 Front St. N. Tickets cost $14 to $16. Call 392-2202 or go to www.villagetheatre.org.

Stephen Schwartz and John-Michael Tebelak created” Godspell” in 1971. (Schwartz later wrote “Wicked” — a mega-musical about the Wicked Witch of the West.)

In “Godspell” — cast members range in age from 13 to 18 — performers examine parables of a community in a time of uncertainty. The characters test the values of brotherhood and friendship.

Village Theatre festival audiences to uncover ‘Cloaked’

August 9, 2011

The Village Theatre Festival of New Musicals holds a reading of ‘Cloaked’ in August 2010. By Sam Freeman/Village Theatre

Original musical is a psychological thriller about online interaction

The rough-and-tumble environs of the Internet prompt too many comparisons to count.

In the electronic wilderness, the setting is similar to the Wild West, uncontrolled and uncontrollable, or a forest, dim and foreboding.

The original musical “Cloaked” re-imagines “Little Red Riding Hood” in such a boundless electronic wilderness. The result is a psychological thriller, a genre not often explored in a theater scene dominated by feel-good musicals.

“We wanted to write something that we felt we would like to see on a Broadway stage, but that wasn’t a story that you already knew the ending to — and that also made you think, that made you really ponder the world and the way that you see things and question our preconceived notions of things,” composer and co-lyricist Danny Larsen said. “We also wanted to put characters on stage who were not the usual leading roles that you would normally see.”

The bold piece is part of the Festival of New Musicals at Village Theatre. Organizers plan to open “Cloaked” to the public at First Stage Theatre — a departure from the festival format in the past.

Issaquah audiences last experienced “Cloaked” as a reading at the 2010 festival. The strong reaction the show received prompted organizers to invite the creators to stage the show for a developmental production.

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‘Chicago’ offers smart social satire — and lessons for director

July 12, 2011

“Chicago” the stage musical is not so far off from Chicago the Midwestern metropolis.

Chicago is a synonym for corruption and scandal. “Chicago” revels in corruption and scandal.

Rianna Hidalgo, as Roxie Hart, and Taylor Niemeyer, as Velma Kelly, star in Village Theatre KIDSTAGE’s ‘Chicago.’ By Jean Johnson/Village Theatre

So, Chicago functions as a seamless setting as murderesses Roxie Hart and Velma Kelly pursue a disposable sort of fame afforded to celebrity criminals. Prohibition serves as the backdrop for the smart satire about celebrity and media manipulation.

The razzle-dazzle musical is the latest offering from KIDSTAGE, the long-running youth education program at Village Theatre. “Chicago” is managed from opening number to curtain call by student-actors in the program.

Director Jacob Moe-Lange, a Skyline High School graduate and University of California, Berkeley, student, debuts as director on the production.

“‘Chicago’ is not a subtle show. It is a very in-your-face show about a lot of things,” he said. “What I want the audience to walk away with is, I want them to have seen the show and recognize that what happens onstage is not isolated from what happens in their own lives.”

The musical named for the Windy City peddles camp and vamp in equal measures. Theatergoers can catch “Chicago” starting July 15.

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ArtWalk returns for 10th season

May 3, 2011

Pedestrians pause to admire art displayed at the former UP Front Gallery during ArtWalk last year. The gallery has since relocated down the street. File

The DownTown Issaquah Association’s 10th annual ArtWalk season kicks off May 6. The popular event, the first Friday of every month through September, invites visitors to meet local business owners, enjoy free music, watch artists in action, and shop and dine in downtown Issaquah after normal business hours.

ArtWalk draws hundreds of visitors to traditional art destinations such as artEAST’s Art Center and the newly expanded Museo Art and Design School on Front Street. In addition, nontraditional locations open their doors to the event throughout downtown Issaquah and Gilman Village.

Typically, the event ran from 5-9 p.m. in the past. But by popular request, that has changed.

“The event now runs from 5-8 p.m. with a soft close at 8,” said Annique Bennett, cultural events coordinator for the DownTown Issaquah Association. “Those with signs out front of their businesses can now pull them in and go home at 8, or they can choose to stay open as long as they want to.”

For May, artEAST opens a new exhibit, “150 Feet of Art,” at Up Front Art. More than 100 pieces of art on one-square-foot canvases will be displayed and available for purchase during the monthlong auction.

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Rebuilt First Stage Theatre readies for debut

April 5, 2011

Village Theatre plans additional offerings at downtown venue

Robb Hunt (above) shows off the finished interior of the rebuilt First Stage Theatre on March 29, as actors rehearse on the boards. By Greg Farrar

The curtain rises soon on the rebuilt First Stage Theatre in downtown Issaquah.

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Teen performers offer middle school musical, ‘13’

April 5, 2011

Some milestones trigger stomach-churning dread.

Turning 40 comes to mind, but turning, say, 18 or 21 does not.

The Village Theatre KIDSTAGE production of ‘13’ includes the work of adults Casey Craig, choreographer (far left) and Suzie Bixler, director, along with Matt Sleeth, 15, as Evan Goldman, and Katie Griffith, 13, as Patrice DeCrette. By Greg Farrar

The latest musical from the KIDSTAGE program at Village Theatre stares down another fraught numeral: 13, the year acne and angst transform cherubic children into temperamental teenagers.

The musical “13” offers a little more edge and sass than “High School Musical” and other shows geared for teenage performers. The show premieres at the rebuilt First Stage Theatre on April 7.

“Kids love the show” and the material, director and KIDSTAGE Programs Manager Suzie Bixler said.

Divorce upends life for Evan, a 12-year-old Manhattanite.

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Village Theatre First Stage sign restoration / January 2011

January 19, 2011

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