Issaquah innovators earn business honor

January 29, 2013

Innovation in Issaquah is exemplified by a leading apparel manufacturer, a revolutionary process to transform garbage into fertilizer and a theater renowned for fostering Broadway-bound musicals.

Issaquah Chamber of Commerce and city leaders announced the Innovation in Issaquah honorees — apparel manufacturer SanMar, WISErg, a manufacturer of garbage-to-fertilizer harvesters, and the nonprofit Village Theatre — at a Jan. 24 ceremony and luncheon.

Leaders from the chamber and City Hall recognized the entrepreneurs’ accomplishments through the Innovation in Issaquah contest, a showcase for local businesses offering unique services. Honorees demonstrate innovation in product development, services, systems or strategies.

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What is the Festival of New Musicals?

August 7, 2012

The summertime festival at Village Theatre is a laboratory to test original musicals before audiences.

Often, selections from the festival re-emerge later at the Francis J. Gaudette Theatre, or Mainstage, and sometimes on Broadway.

The festival introduced audiences to “Next to Normal” precursor “Feeling Electric” and “Million Dollar Quartet” before the musicals carted off Tony Awards on Broadway. “Next to Normal” also garnered the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, a rarity for musicals.

The recent Mainstage productions “Take Me America” and “It Shoulda Been You” debuted to Issaquah audiences at the festival.

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Whole lotta shakin’ goin’ on as ‘Million Dollar Quartet’ returns

May 8, 2012

Jukebox musical revives classic rock ‘n’ roll

The cast of the national tour of the jukebox musical ‘Million Dollar Quartet’ performs a song in the Tony Award-winning show. By Jeremy Daniel

“Million Dollar Quartet” is a multimillion-dollar phenomenon.

The rock ‘n’ roll musical about the “million dollar quartet” — Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis — collaborating for one night at the storefront Sun Records studio led to successful runs at Village Theatre in Issaquah and Everett, and then in Chicago, New York City and London.

The inaugural national tour of “Million Dollar Quartet” reaches the Paramount Theatre in Seattle on May 15 — a homecoming of sorts for a musical shaped a half-dozen years ago at Village Theatre.

The musical is based on a seminal jam session at the Sun Records studio in December 1956.

In the touring production, Christopher Ryan Grant plays rock ‘n’ roll impresario Sam Phillips, the Memphis mogul and Sun Records founder responsible for the “million dollar quartet.”

“You listen to these songs today and they seem simple, but maybe that’s part of the appeal,” Grant said in a phone interview from a stop in Costa Mesa, Calif. “There’s not a whole lot of messy production behind them that you get these days with synthesizers and canned beats.”

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Village Theatre receives $25,000 grant

March 20, 2012

Village Theatre received a $25,000 grant from the city and Puget Sound Energy to maintain and upgrade Issaquah facilities, officials announced Feb. 23.

Bellevue-based PSE awarded the grant to the city and requested the funds benefit a local nonprofit organization. In the process to craft a 2012 budget, City Council members selected Village Theatre as the grant recipient.

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Village Theatre receives $25,000 grant from city, Puget Sound Energy

February 23, 2012

NEW — 1:50 p.m. Feb. 23, 2012

Village Theatre received a $25,000 grant from the city and Puget Sound Energy to maintain and upgrade Issaquah facilities, officials announced Thursday.

Bellevue-based PSE awarded the grant to the city and requested for the funds to benefit a local nonprofit organization. In the process to craft a 2012 budget, City Council members selected Village Theatre as the grant recipient.

“By supporting the arts in Issaquah, this grant will benefit our local customers, their families and the greater community,” Andy Wappler, vice president of PSE Corporate Affairs, said in a statement. “We are very pleased to help Village Theatre continue its artistic excellence.”

The downtown Issaquah theater attracts more than 150,000 visits to the city each year. The theater’s classes, camps and productions for children and teenagers include more than 2,000 students.

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‘The Odd Couple’ is fresh, funny at Village Theatre

January 24, 2012

Felix Ungar (Chris Ensweiler, front) receives a massage from mismatched roommate Oscar Madison (Charles Leggett) in Village Theatre’s ‘The Odd Couple.’ By John Pai/Village Theatre

Neil Simon is a regular at Village Theatre.

The playwright — gilded in Tony Awards aplenty and a Pulitzer Prize for Drama — often offers rich material to Village Theatre producers. In the past decade, the downtown Issaquah theater presented “Barefoot in the Park” and “Lost in Yonkers” to audiences. The latest Simon offering on stage is “The Odd Couple” — perhaps the most recognizable piece in the playwright’s oeuvre.

“The Odd Couple” — re-imagined on stage and screen more often than Felix Ungar scrapes up crumbs — is a solid choice as the selection for the play in a Village Theatre season defined by musicals.

The play is a charming anachronism, 47 years after “The Odd Couple” debuted on Broadway. The boozing and smoking recall a looser era before political correctness. Still, the dialogue and the mismatched-roommate premise remain universal almost a half-century after Simon introduced audiences to uptight Felix and untidy Oscar Madison.

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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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There’s little ‘Doubt’ Skyline play addresses big ideas

November 22, 2011


Alexander Beuchat, as Father Flynn, rehearses a monologue, from the Skyline High School production of ‘Doubt.’ By Tom Corrigan

Thematically, it’s a big play filled with moral questions and, as the name implies, deliberate moral and thematic ambiguities.

In terms of production, it’s tiny, with only four actors. For this production, the sets are minimal as well, consisting of a lone desk or a bench.

It’s being staged in Skyline High School’s Delphi Theater, its black box or experimental theater. The audience sits very close to the stage. And it’s all of these factors that are turning the school’s production of John Patrick Shanley’s “Doubt: A Parable” into a noteworthy experience for the students involved.

“They are all under the microscope when they are onstage,” said the play’s director, Skyline drama teacher James Henderson.

“There’s a lot more focus on the acting,” said senior Alexander Beuchat, 18, adding the audience will be able see every move each actor makes.

Lucillia Nkinsi, 14, a freshman, agreed. She said unlike bigger productions — such as “Grease,” the school’s next big musical — there is simply no place to hide onstage and it’s very tough to cover up a mistake. When you are onstage during the smaller play, she added, all eyes are on you.

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What is the Festival of New Musicals?

August 9, 2011

The summertime Festival of New Musicals at Village Theatre is a laboratory to test original musicals before audiences.

Often, selections from the festival re-emerge later at the Francis J. Gaudette Theatre, or Mainstage, and sometimes on Broadway.

The festival introduced audiences to “Next to Normal” precursor “Feeling Electric” and “Million Dollar Quartet” before the musicals carted off Tony Awards on Broadway. “Next to Normal” also garnered the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, a rarity for musicals.

The recent Mainstage productions “Anne of Green Gables” and “Iron Curtain” debuted to Issaquah audiences at the festival. So, too, did “Take Me America” and “It Shoulda Been You” — Mainstage offerings in the 2011-12 theater season.

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20 reasons to ♥ Issaquah

July 2, 2011

The spectacular landscape is a reason to love Issaquah. By Connor Lee

Discover 20 reasons to love Issaquah, from the highest Tiger Mountain peak to the Lake Sammamish shoreline, and much more in between. The community includes icons and traits not found anywhere else, all in a postcard-perfect setting. The unique qualities — Issa-qualities? — start at the city’s name and extend into every nook and neighborhood. (The lineup is not arranged in a particular order, because ranking the city’s pre-eminent qualities seems so unfair.)

Salmon Days

The annual salmon-centric celebration is stitched into the city’s fabric. Salmon Days serves as a last hurrah before autumn, a touchstone for old-timers and a magnet for tourists. The street fair consistently ranks among the top destinations in the Evergreen State and, for a time last year, as the best festival on earth — in the $250,000-to-$749,000 budget category, anyway.

Issaquah Alps

The majestic title for the forested peaks surrounding the city, the Issaquah Alps, is a catchall term for Cougar, Squak and Tiger mountains. (Credit the late mountaineer and conservationist Harvey Manning for the sobriquet.) The setting is a playground for outdoors enthusiasts. Trails — some official and others less so — for hikers, bikers and equestrians crisscross the mountains, like haphazard tic-tac-toe patterns.

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