I first saw Chelsey Rives in Intiman's world-premiere production of Craig Lucas's Prayer for My Enemy, where, in the supporting role of a young divorcée, Rives lit up Lucas's ambitious work-in-progress with an undeniable intelligence and compelling sense of spontaneity. This initial promise was realized and then some in this year's A Streetcar Named Desire, which brought Rives back to the Intiman stage in the role of Stella (DuBois) Kowalski. Great actors have been digging into Stella's kaleidoscopic submissiveness for over half a century, but Rives brought something new to the role—an undeniable intelligence and compelling sense of spontaneity, of course, underscored with a bone-deep lustiness that was all her own. Rives built a Stella who'd never heard of Stella, never heard of Tennessee Williams, and gave no hint of reanimating an icon. It was a thrilling thing to behold, and I can't wait to see her work some more. (Up next: a starring role in this fall's local-star-studded production of boom at Seattle Rep.) DAVID SCHMADER
Marya Sea Kaminski
She made the Genius shortlist in 2006. She made the Genius shortlist in 2007. And she's done it again. Why don't we just give her a Genius Award already? Maybe because, as great as she is, we know she will go even higher. Electric and mercurial, Marya Sea Kaminski galvinizes audiences whether she's playing an innocent little girl with disturbing fantasies (Mr. Marmalade), or an idealistic and doomed college student (My Name Is Rachel Corrie), or Hedda-fucking-Gabler (blahblahblahBANG). She's also one of the smartest directors in the city (Finer Noble Gases, Museum Play) and a heart-wrenching writer. Her October: A Eulogy, a recounting of her little brother's suicide that she read at the gazebo in the Seattle Arboretum last October, made everyone within earshot a little more humane. Goddamnit, why don't we give her a Genius Award already? BRENDAN KILEY
In the summer of 2007, ACT Theatre launched the Central Heating Lab, a theater-within-the-theater that tries to bring livelier, fresher work into its august building. The Heating Lab produces stuff you don't normally expect to see in big regional theaters: modern dance, standup comedy, drag and burlesque, music (such as the garage-pop-theater band "Awesome"). The Heating Lab has even helped produce new plays outside of ACT (The K of D at Balagan).
The Heating Lab is a shot of adrenaline, injecting new, local vitality into the heart of a regional theater that, just a few years ago, was on the verge of death. It's a model every regional theater across the country should adopt. And the man behind this invigorating experiment? Carlo Scandiuzzi, a genial and energetic Swiss-Italian who has worked in Seattle as an actor, film producer, entrepreneur, and philanthropist. After Scandiuzzi's success with the Heating Lab, ACT had the good sense to hire him as its new executive director. We expect him to help rewrite the job description of the American regional theater—which must evolve or die. BRENDAN KILEY