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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Crews raze 97-year-old First Stage

July 13, 2010

The curtain has fallen for a downtown Issaquah landmark.

Crews brought down the outdated, frontier-era First Stage Theatre last week, as Village Theatre readies to build a modern facility on the same site.

Foushée & Associates, a Bellevue contractor, started to disassemble the building in late June, and completed the task July 8. Before the teardown, workers salvaged material from the old theater to be used in the planned building.

A claw digs into the last part of the theater building.

Plans for the soon-to-be-constructed theater call for better seating, more space onstage and backstage, and a similar façade to the former structure.

Theater executives launched a capital campaign to fund the First Stage reconstruction, after they realized the extent of decay to the 1913 theater and shelved renovation plans.

Crews detoured pedestrians through wooden scaffolding built adjacent to the street for the duration of the project. The sidewalk closure runs through March 2011.

The first Village Theatre show — “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” — opened there in 1979. Until the Francis J. Gaudette Theatre — referred to as the Mainstage — opened, First Stage Theatre housed the Issaquah theater. KIDSTAGE and the Village Originals programs occupied the space after Village Theatre built the Mainstage in the early 1990s.

KIDSTAGE gets ‘All Shook Up’ for summer production

July 13, 2010

Village Theatre Erin Herrick (as Natalie, left), Kody Bringman (as Dennis), CJ Eldred (as Chad), and Adrian Slade (as Sandra) are cast members in the Village Theatre Kidstage production of ‘All Shook Up.’ By Jean Johnson

There’s a whole lot of shakin’ going on at Village Theatre’s Mainstage as the KIDSTAGE cast gets ready to debut “All Shook Up” July 17.

Inspired by the songs of Elvis Presley, “All Shook Up” is a family-friendly comedy, cast members said. Think part “Rebel Without a Cause,” part Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night,” part “Footloose” and a whole lot of The King.

“I saw it at a high school last summer and from then on, I knew I wanted to do the show,” Director Kelsey Thorgalsen, 20, said. “I love the energy of it. It’s just fun and funny to watch how the love element takes over the people in the town and changes them.”

The KIDSTAGE youth theater program — which began in 1985 as Village Theatre’s youth program for children and young adults, ages 3-20 — produces two full theatrical productions each summer.

“All Shook Up” is the program’s annual Summer Independent production, managed from inception to final curtain call by youths and young adults from 13-20.

The program allows children and young adults to discover all aspects of theater work, including choreography, technical set design and acting, connecting with professionals and pushing themselves, Production Manager Michael McManus said.

McManus, a 2010 graduate from Issaquah High School, said without KIDSTAGE he wouldn’t have had the opportunities to meet the people he did, nor develop the body of work that helped him gain admittance to George Washington University.

In all, more than 30 youths make up this year’s Summer Independent cast. Read more

Curtain falls for 97-year-old First Stage Theatre

July 8, 2010

Demolition crews take down the last piece of the frontier-era First Stage Theatre on Thursday afternoon. By Kirsten Johnson

NEW — 4:15 p.m. July 8, 2010

Crews brought down the outdated, frontier-era First Stage Theatre on Thursday afternoon, as Village Theatre readies to build a modern facility on the same downtown Issaquah site.

Foushée & Associates, a Bellevue builder, started to disassemble the building in late June, and completed the task Thursday. Before the teardown, workers salvaged material from the old theater to be used in the planned building.

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First Stage reconstruction starts soon

June 29, 2010

The effort to replace the original Village Theatre — the frontier-era relic known as First Stage Theatre — inched ahead last week.

Crews closed the sidewalk in front of the historic building, and detoured pedestrians through wooden scaffolding built adjacent to the street. The sidewalk closure runs through March 2011.

Plans call for the existing structure to be razed in coming weeks, and for a modern theater to replace the almost century-old building at 120 Front St. N.

A rendering shows how the completed First Stage will appear. Contributed

Traffic passes the temporary sidewalk June 28 in front of the Village Theatre First Stage building at 120 Front Street N., as extensive renovations begin. By Greg Farrar

Crews from contractor Foushée & Associates, a Bellevue builder, started to disassemble the building last week. Construction should start on the new theater in July, theater spokeswoman Michelle Sanders said.

The builder intends to incorporate wood and other components, such as the iconic sign, from the historic theater into the planned building. Executives intend for the First Stage building to be LEED certified.

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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

See KIDSTAGE original ‘The Last Shot’ on Monday only

April 10, 2010

NEW — 6 a.m. April 10, 2010

Village Theatre’s KIDSTAGE Company Originals has written and produced its seventh musical in Issaquah.

This new work, “The Last Shot,” will have only one reading at 7:30 p.m. Monday at the Francis J. Gaudette Theatre, 303 Front St. N.

Set in present-day Western Washington, “The Last Shot” explores how the healing power of art can help people overcome fears and find strength and peace, while telling the story of a high school senior/aspiring filmmaker who takes a cast of fellow students to shoot a movie over Memorial Day weekend.

Kidstage Company Originals cast members take part in a rehearsal reading of ‘The Last Shot.’ — Photo by Jean Johnson/Village Theatre

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Tony Award winner adjusts to new normal

January 19, 2010

Tony Award winner Brian Yorkey (left) directs Suzy Hunt as she portrays Grandma Kurnitz, a main character in ‘Lost in Yonkers’ at Village Theatre. Village Theatre photo

Brian Yorkey returns to direct ‘Lost in Yonkers’

Everybody knew the odds — the cast, the producers, the director, the composer and, especially, the writer and lyricist.

Bookies and bloggers predicted a sweep. The feel-good “Billy Eliot” seemed poised for glory, not “Next to Normal” — a musical built around electro-shock therapy, raw emotions and even rawer nerves.

Everybody knew the odds at the Tony Awards last June — but nobody envisioned the upset to come, especially not the writer and lyricist, Issaquah native Brian Yorkey.

Nobody expected the odds to be so miscalculated, yet Yorkey and composer Tom Kitt toppled “Billy Eliot” to win the Tony for Best Original Score. The other nominees included songwriting titans Sir Elton John and Dolly Parton.

Yorkey, a Village Theatre alumnus stunned about the unexpected win, accepted the award from the presenter, comedian Will Ferrell, and mentioned the Issaquah playhouse during the national broadcast.

“We kind of went into it sort of expecting that ‘Billy Eliot’ would sweep, and that’s a great show, they deserve it, and just to be here is amazing,” Yorkey recalled in early January. “Then, to add on the win was kind of unbelievable. It was a little bit out of body. It didn’t sink in for a few days, I don’t think — if it has at all.”

Next came the dizzying sequence of congratulations, interviews and countless thank-yous from the humble Yorkey, who recalled, “all the clichés apply.” “Next to Normal” won another pair of Tony statuettes, for best orchestrations and best actress in a musical. Read more

‘Lost in Yonkers’ readying for Village Theatre debut

January 19, 2010

Collin Morris, Nick Robinson and Jennifer Lee Taylor (from left) appear as Jay, Arty and Bella in the Village Theatre production of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Neil Simon play ‘Lost in Yonkers.’By Jay Koh /Village Theatre

The skeletons hidden in the closet rattle loose in “Lost in Yonkers,” as the Neil Simon dramedy plumbs deep into the emotional trauma buried by the Kurnitz clan, a family led by a ruthless grandmother.

Enter Jay and Arty, teenage boys, the youngest family members and the latest to be thrust into the emotional maelstrom at Grandma Kurnitz’s apartment. “Lost in Yonkers” unfolds above a candy store where the stern grandmother is the proprietor, but the setting is saccharine only in the literal sense.

Village Theatre alumnus Brian Yorkey will direct the ensemble cast when the theater revives the period piece Jan. 20. The tale recounts the tense times after serious Jay and wisecracking Arty move in with Grandma Kurnitz. The boys arrive at the apartment after their mother dies and their father takes work out of town to pay back a bad debt.

Jay and Arty also share the apartment with dim-witted Aunt Bella. The scarred Kurnitz brood also includes Uncle Louie, a small-time thug.

“Lost in Yonkers” shares DNA with “Brighton Beach Memoirs,” “Biloxi Blues” and “Broadway Bound” — other semi-autobiographical works in the Simon canon.

“He really, I think, dug deep for this one,” Yorkey said. “It’s one of his best, and the chance to work with a cast of some of Seattle’s best actors on a play this meaty, you can’t pass that up.” Read more

Village Theatre picks up pieces after cold-related damage

December 11, 2009

NEW — 11:21 a.m. Dec. 11, 2009

A near-disaster brought on by old pipes and below-freezing temperatures brought the house down at Village Theatre First Stage Theatre building earlier in the week.

Crews started clean-up efforts Thursday to remove insulation frozen by leaking water, which then fell from the ceiling.

The damage claimed KIDSTAGE costumes, a soundboard and other equipment. Michelle Sanders, the theater spokeswoman, said theater managers did not yet have cost estimates for the damage.

The facilities manager discovered the damage earlier in the week after temperatures in the teens caused pipes to burst and prompted alerts from local emergency management agencies.

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