I've been told by local fringe theater people that On the Boards isn't really a local theater at all, that it is in fact just a hipper version of the Paramount, a venue for bus and truck touring shows. Larger theaters seem to share this view: a recent manifesto on the troubles faced by local mid-size theaters, from the former director of the now closed Bathhouse Theater, claims that Seattle now has only one mid-size theater, the Empty Space in Fremont. I disagree, on two grounds: first, I don't care where something was originally produced, I care whether it's good or bad, and if it's good I want to get a chance to see it. Second, On the Boards has nurtured as many local talents as were up to its level and fit into its program: Run/Remain, Pat Graney, 33 Fainting Spells, and Lauren Weedman, to name a few wondrous examples. The latest local act to graduate to a mainstage, main season show, the Young Composers Collective, responded with SCREAM!LionDogs, an ambitious, though in my view flawed, look at what makes violent racism attractive to those practicing it. And the people of Seattle responded with... a half-full house on Saturday night, when I saw the show. For the run, the Collective averaged about 200 empty seats a night in Behnke Center's 350-seat mainstage. Astonishingly, On the Boards publicist Judy Kitzman tells me this is par for the course for local groups. I think a little of the problem might be due to the Collective's name and reputation, which makes people think they're exclusively a new-music group, instead of the interesting new music/new dance/butoh combo platter they become for performances like this one. But still, that turnout was poor. If Seattle doesn't show up to see good Seattle acts on Seattle stages, then Seattle shouldn't be surprised to see whole seasons of Spalding Gray and Karen Finley and whatever other shows are available from that year's BAM Next Wave Festival.

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House of Dames, the local production company responsible for Djinn at Sand Point and Beyond the Invasion of the Bee Girls at Hugo House, held its second annual housewarming party recently, at its basement digs on East Pike Street. The group's rep is sky-high after the ambitious Djinn, which overcame casting problems with its amazing use of an open hangar space at the former Naval air station, and Bee Girls, a very popular, tightly directed spoof on a '70s exploitation flick. At the party, head Dame Nikki Appino and several others announced the House's current projects, neatly split between the high-minded and the low-intentioned. On the high-minded side, a film documentary on women artists in Seattle--is that a subject?--and a multimedia dance project about women factory workers. On the kitschy side: Rain City Rollers, a theater piece about roller derby, scheduled for spring 2000. For the record, I'm thrilled to see further evidence of a roller derby revival in this nation. It soothes some of my pain over Seattle not winning a franchise in the new six-team RollerJam league sponsored by the Nashville Network. Check out www.country.com/tnn/rollerjam/index.html to see what we're missing.