Recent gossip has zeroed in on a throwdown at Seattle Shakespeare Company and its current production of Love's Labour's Lost. A power struggle between director Aaron Levin and artistic director Stephanie Shine (who is also in Love's cast) came to a head when Levin asked, through his attorney, that his name be removed from the posters and programs.

Chatty cast members, who wanted to remain anonymous for obvious reasons, said Shine, who acts in or directs an awful lot of her company's productions, was surly about some of Levin's directing choices. Levin, for his part, seemed tentative, deferring too often to his boss-cum-actress and other SSC staff.

Levin, who has directed for 32 years in New York, Seattle, and Moscow, said Shine had cast herself in a lead role before she hired him, and that it was the first and last time he would direct his boss. "It's impossible for someone to be both artistic director and actor in the rehearsal hall without usurping the director's authority," he said.

The rehearsal period was tense and Levin said he threatened to quit at one point because of an unrelated matter. The show opened, and then things got ugly.

Levin wanted to give some post-opening notes and call a brush-up rehearsal. The stage manager told him he couldn't. Levin then received a letter from Shine and managing director John Bradshaw, which banished him from backstage and stated that if he wanted to see the show, he would have to buy a ticket. Levin felt like the show had been changed since opening, so he asked that his name be removed from the programs and posters. When that didn't happen, Levin and some friends began standing outside the theater, handing out flyers saying he didn't want his name associated with the production.

There is also a rumor that Levin accused an SSC staff member of trying to push him down a flight of stairs. He declined to comment on the incident.

Tensions on the ground are running high, and SSC folks seem to think Levin has "gone cuckoo." In Levin's defense, an artistic director shouldn't muscle herself into her own shows. Under such awkward circumstances, the power politics Levin describes are entirely believable. The situation is too tangled for easy finger pointing, but since she didn't respond to my attempts to contact her, I'm going to capriciously nominate Stephanie Shine as the villain. Regardless, Levin hasn't come out of this smelling like a rose.

"He's a sweet guy but I'm afraid he's fucking up his reputation," said one cast member. "It's a sad way to end a show that most of us had fun working on."

brendan@thestranger.com

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