Both try to be hopeful while delivering the bad news; both pad their bad news with cold-comfort sentences: It's a transitional time. We're moving forward. We're hopeful for the future.
You want to believe them—because the hopeful ladies (Patti West and Marya Sea Kaminski) are major forces behind two of the best theaters in town (Theatre Off Jackson and Washington Ensemble Theatre), theaters that inspire feelings of excitement and protectiveness. But the facts are dispiriting.
First piece of bad news: Theater Off Jackson has scrapped plans to build a theater palace in Georgetown.
Back in October, Theater Off Jackson announced it would open a second location in Georgetown, in the fusty caverns of Eagles Aerie #1. This was good news for Georgetown (it was to open on Corson, just a postprandial stroll away from Matt Dillon's new restaurant, The Corson Building) and great news for theater—rental stages are scarce and TOJ has been one of the discerning ones, presenting Sgt. Rigsby, Mike Daisey, The Cody Rivers Show, and other theater worth watching. Anyway, deal's off. TOJ couldn't find the money. From an e-mail they sent last week: "This particular project proved to be too ambitious for an organization of our size." I responded with a gloomy post on Slog and managing director Patti West upbraided me: "Not doom and gloom. We are still moving forward. It just won't be next year. Patti."
Second piece of bad news: Marya Sea Kaminski is leaving Washington Ensemble Theatre.
Kaminski is omnitalented: an adroit performer, director, and writer, not to mention co-artistic director, literary manager, and a bunch of other stuff for WET. She's tired. She's tired of being an administrator and, if I read her correctly, she's having a crisis of confidence about theater in general. She will stay in Seattle, continue to write and act, and begin work on "some really bad amateur YouTube filmmaking."
Kaminski told the company she was leaving during a group breakfast at the Hurricane, between orders of home fries. "Everyone went quiet," she says. "Then someone said 'okay' and changed the subject. We've always been so social, we don't really have a language for people leaving."
But people are leaving WET—company keystone Lathrop Walker recently moved to New York and Jennifer Zeyl, another WET dynamo (and Stranger Genius Award winner), is in ever-greater demand at establishment theaters as a designer. Kaminski's egress dredges up an uncomfortable question that has lurked beneath WET: Can the company survive its own success? Should it persist, like the Wooster Group, as a fluctuating group of core and associate members, for decades? Or is it a suicide machine, meant to launch a few careers and then implode? Nobody knows. Yet.
"I'm melancholy about leaving," Kaminski says. "But it is a transitional time. I'm hopeful for the future."