Seattle Rep’s ambitious plan: Here’s what audiences can look forward to when stage lights come back on

“This is the right time to do it,” said Abraham. The pandemic shutdown provides “an opportunity for renewal where we can really step back and dream about who we want to be as a theater and what’s the work that we want to make together when we can finally open our doors again. These commissions are that investment in the future and also a way to meet artists where they’re at right now. They can write. We can’t produce, but they can start creating.”

While some of the money for these commissions was already in the budget for the 2020-2021 season, Abraham says the theater is also raising money and shifting resources from productions that were not staged in 2020 to fund the commissions.

“Resources are really tight right now and we’ve had to make some really hard decisions, but the question is how can we afford not to invest in the artists and their work,” he said. “They chart the course for the worlds we make onstage. So the way we look at it, these investments are critical for how we’re going to build back.”

The three commission projects:

  • Through the 20×30 project, the Rep will commission 20 new works by playwrights by the year 2030, centered around the theme “Reimagining Life in the Anthropocene.” (“Anthropocene” is a term describing our current age as one in which humans are the biggest influence on climate and the environment.)
  • New Directions commissions new works by theater directors — another first for the theater.
  • Though Seattle Rep’s Public Works program — in which the theater partners with community organizations to get people from various walks of life involved in creating a play — has existed for several years now, it’s relied on existing plays. This time, it’s commissioning a new one from Seattle-based playwright Cheryl L. West.

Since November, the Rep has already commissioned 10 new works through these three projects.

We talked to some of the playwrights and directors the Rep has commissioned for an early glimpse at what Seattle audiences can look forward to after stage lights come back on.

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