Jen Zeyl, right, at the 2012 Stranger Genius Awards. She is standing next to the comic artist Ellen Forney.
Jen Zeyl, right, at the 2012 Stranger Genius Awards. She is standing next to the comic artist Ellen Forney. Kelly O

Jennifer Zeyl, who broke into the Seattle theater scene as a founding member of Washington Ensemble Theatre, has just been named the new artistic director of Intiman, Seattle's Tony-award winning regional theater. The theater will make the official announcement tomorrow. Zeyl was a scenic designer for WET and a relative unknown in the city when she won a Stranger Genius Award in 2006.

Stranger critic Annie Wagner wrote in 2005:

The secret weapon in the arsenal of upstart company Washington Ensemble Theatre, Jennifer Zeyl is the most exciting scenic designer working in Seattle today. Our town has plenty of designers who can give a play atmosphere (and plenty who can leach it away), but no one rivals Zeyl in pure conceptual power.

In a 2006 profile of Zeyl, Brendan Kiley reported:

"I grew up in a cerebral house," Zeyl says, "but I talk like a swamp Yankee." She has self-described problems with authority, doesn't talk down—or up—to anyone, and her energetic conversation bounces from theater theory to building tips to gossip. She says she had a hard time in high school. She hit a few people. She stole a car... When one of her friends had been locked in her room by borderline-abusive parents, Zeyl—who is terrified of big dogs—snuck into the house with a raw steak, threw it down a hallway to distract the family Doberman, and sprung her friend, who lived with Zeyl's family until graduation. She can also pick locks.

Jennifer Zeyl is a badass.

Since those early days at WET—started with a bunch of graduates from University of Washington's MFA in Theater program, including Marya Sea Kaminski, who is now associate aristic director of Seattle Rep—Zeyl has been working nonstop, not only designing but directing and producing shows. The productions at Intiman she's worked on include Angels in America and Trouble in Mind.

Zeyl, right, making a face for the camera at the 2015 Stranger Genius Awards.
Zeyl, right, making a face for the camera at the 2015 Stranger Genius Awards. Kelly O

In an email Zeyl sent out today to artists she has worked with an Intiman, she writes that she will begin as artistic director on January 1, 2018.

Dearest Intiman Artists past and present!

I hope you are able to spend some time outside today in this insane beauty that is PNW Fall. I'm so happy to live in this city with you.

I write to you again with news to share before it's known more publicly. You are a critical part of my community, so when I've got good news to share you're going to get it first.

We will publicly announce tomorrow that l will be Intiman's new Artistic Director beginning 1/1/18 - the seventh since the theatre was founded in 1972.

My word. This honor is due in so many ways to your work and dedication to Intiman and our mission. It's truly humbling to think of all of your hard work over the past 6 seasons. A phoenix story for the ages.

There's a Q&A on Intiman's site where Zeyl talks about her career, the Seattle shows she has most enjoyed working on and the show's she's most enjoyed seeing, and what she wants to do with Intiman.

Asked what audience can expect from Intiman in 2018, Zeyl says:

We will lean into our mission more intensely than ever. We will hold underrepresented stories to the light, look at issues of identity, race, visibility, gender, coming-of-age, microaggression and an allegory on colonization. All of this while centering new artists, unlikely combinations and lived true stories, reminding our audiences and artists alike that we are what makes America great.

Congratulations, Jen.