Laff Hole, Hugo House, RIP Northwest Actors Studio
Goodbye to All CHAC
The People's Republic of Komedy (a four-man comedy kibbutz that produces a weekly show called Laff Hole) is leaving the Capitol Hill Arts Center. PROK member Kevin Hyder says negotiations to renew their contract have been difficult. (Last week, Annex Theatre, another CHAC tenant, announced it was looking for a new home for the same reason.) PROK is moving Laff Hole, which is becoming more popular, to Chop Suey. Pizza brought PROK and CHAC together. In 2005, the nascent comedy collective had a short, spur-of-the-moment run in CHAC's Lower Level. A few months later, CHAC director Matthew Kwatinetz called Pagliacci to order some pizza, and PROK's Emmett Montgomery answered the phone. That conversation led to other conversations that led to Kwatinetz inviting Laff Hole to be a regular event at CHAC. Hyder said PROK was happy about everything: the growing audiences, the good press, the money. "Our deal was that we got an advance on the door that they'd mail to KEXP for our ads and we'd get cash to divvy up between the performers—gas money or amounts they'd all wind up spending at the bar anyway." Then CHAC wanted to raise the ticket price from $5 to $7. PROK said no and the negotiations began: juggling advances, cuts at the door, and new fees (for the sound man, the air-conditioning, the house projector). "We were frustrated," Hyder said. The list of performers frustrated with CHAC keeps growing (Annex, PROK, Printer's Devil, Pure Cirkus), which is a shame. CHAC's main stage is beautiful. The Lower Level is a nice performance bar, dark and small, like a clubhouse. Capitol Hill venues keep closing (NWAS) or being taken off the rental rotation (Hugo House, the Chamber Theatre). CHAC should be the place to put on a show. But people keep leaving, pissed off.
In Praise of Folly
Hugo House has announced its first-ever resident theater companies. Among the losers: Annex Theatre (has a fabled history), Macha Monkey (plays about cowgirls, pirates, and melancholy), and Strawberry Theatre Workshop (big casts of excellent actors like Amy Thone and Gabriel Baron doing exciting theater). The winners: SiS (best known for its Sex in Seattle serial soap operas) and Next Stage (brand-new, but the recent directing credits of its leader, Mark Jared Zufelt, are at Book-It, which specializes in naps). Hugo House's choice seems insane but there was, allegedly, a rationale. Hugo House director Lyall Bush said, in regard to StrawShop, "There was no issue of artistic merit. The real deal breaker was sustainability." (StrawShop is in debt.)
After 29 years, Northwest Actors Studio, at the corner of 11th Avenue and East Pike Street—run by Ann Graham, a neighborhood fixture with a short white dog and long white cigarettes—is closing. Property manager Anne Michaelson (a well-regarded local developer) said, "In the spirit of our neighborhood culture, I'd like to get another theater in the second floor."