"What do you think the chances are that two Seattle Theater Groups would do two gay takes on Medea, opening on the same day?" The question, courtesy of ArtsWest Theatre Company artistic director Karen Kinch, is not an idle thought exercise. In fact, two gay takes on Medea are opening on the same day, June 16 -- one at ArtsWest and one at Re-bar.
Mark Mitchell, who wrote and is directing the Re-bar show All About Medea, says he first heard of the coincident production on Wednesday April 5, when he received overlapping phone calls from San Francisco producer Bob Fisher and Kinch. They had just been told about the audition notices Mitchell had posted for his show, which follows the on- and off-stage intrigues of a gay theater company mounting a production of the Euripidean tragedy. Fisher takes care of licensing for Medea, the Musical, by John Fisher (no relation) -- which, as it happens, also follows the on- and off-stage intrigues of a gay theater company mounting said tragedy, and will go up at ArtsWest's West Seattle theater on June 16. MTM also precedes Mitchell's show by a good four or five years, having its first production in 1995 at UC Berkeley, then running for a year at the Stage Door Theater in San Francisco, touring to the Aspen Comedy Arts Festival, and running for three months in a separate production at the Hudson Mainstage Theater in Hollywood in 1999, where it won four awards from the LA Weekly.
"It seems like an incredible coincidence," says Fisher, who flirted with the idea of litigation before deciding to take his cue from ArtsWest, where they, according to Kinch, "believe [Mitchell] honestly did not know about the other production."
Dueling gay Medeas thus become the latest example of creative ideas coming in twos, including the two Wild Parties in New York this year, the two asteroid movies in 1998, and the two movies based on Les Liasons Dangereuses in '88 to '89.
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What to do with the rain? Architects designing for Seattle have varied in their response to the prevailing drizzly climate, from extravagant and possibly unnecessary accommodations to designs and materials that seem inappropriate once subjected to the elements. We have the prodigiously expensive retractable roof at Safeco Field, but we also have the yellow stone walls at Benaroya Hall, which begin to look particularly urinous when wet. When Steven Holl was short-listed for the new downtown Seattle Public Library, he presented ideas for dealing with rainwater, running it across the building's surfaces and placing mossy gardens in open spaces. He didn't get the job -- the "cheese-grater" guy did -- but his idea has legs.
A similar approach is visible in Albuquerque architect Antoine Predock's design for the Tacoma Art Museum, unveiled last Wednesday. (Predock, you may recall, was the guy whose lengthy, stoned-sounding ramble at Pier 66 during the selection process for the new Seattle City Hall dropped him out of the running.) The building is to be sheathed in stainless steel and glass, echoing rather than competing with the colorless tones of our winters. The main form is an angular spiral, kind of a stripped-down cross between Frank Lloyd Wright's Guggenheim and Daniel Libeskind's addition to the Victoria and Albert Museum in London -- but not as hostile to art as the former and less crazily baroque than the latter. At the spiral's center, visible from all of the galleries, is a "mist-moss garden" -- the boldest attempt yet to reconcile a building with the undramatic but pervasive dampness of much of our year.
When Predock put himself into competition for our library and city hall and Tacoma's museum, local wags wondered what a guy who had previously designed for the sunbaked Southwest, with warm earth tones and massive sunscreens, was doing trying to build here. Even his publicity photo shows him wearing sunglasses in strong sunlight. But I think he's just proved that he knows how to accommodate his work to its environment with grace. Of all the recent art museum buildings built here, from the Henry addition to the new Bellevue Art Museum, his may prove the best.
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Speaking of the "cheese-grater guy," letter writers to the Seattle dailies may not like Rem Koolhaas' work, but he just won the 2000 Pritzker Prize, the highest honor in architecture. The award puts him in the company of Oscar Niemeyer, Renzo Piano, Aldo Rossi, Richard Meier, Philip Johnson, and I. M. Pei, but it might not help stave off the controversy around his Seattle Public Library design -- after all, two of Seattle's most complained about buildings, the Seattle Art Museum and the Experience Music Project, were designed by Pritzker laureates Robert Venturi (1991) and Frank O. Gehry (1989).
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