Washington Center announces 2013-14 lineup

Contributing writerJune 20, 2013 

You could call The Washington Center for the Performing Arts’ 2013-14 season the season of household names, or the people’s season.

But it is definitely the season of change, since the theater’s new executive director, Jill Barnes, just began work this week.

But arguably the best tagline for the season, being announced this week, is the season of cooperation.

In the absence of an executive director, Chad Carpenter, director of event services, and box office manager Sarah Sugarbaker chose the season lineup with help from other staffers.

“Everybody had an opportunity to chime in,” said marketing director Anne Larsen. “Chad would send out videos and say, ‘Here are three groups that we are thinking of bringing in, all in this genre. Watch them and see what you think and vote by the end of the day.’”

And the staff did it with help from a theater that was once thought of as the competition: The Broadway Center for the Performing Arts in Tacoma.

“The board of directors thought it would be best to reach out to somebody with a vast knowledge of programming and event management,” Carpenter said. “They reached out to several theaters and several executive directors, and (the Broadway Center’s) David Fischer and his board welcomed us with open arms.”

The center got the benefit of Fischer’s expertise, and both theaters got the financial advantage of block booking, scheduling artists in both theaters so transportation and lodging costs could be shared.

In total, eight acts will appear at both theaters, including Rufus Wainwright, Blues Brothers and Judy Collins. So how is this not a conflict of interest?

“Mr. Fischer ran some numbers comparing our (patron) database and their database, and we found a 2 percent overlap,” Larsen said. “We do not compete with Tacoma. We were flabbergasted by that.”

The cooperation will continue in some form, Carpenter said, although obviously Barnes, former executive director of the Idaho Falls Arts Council, won’t need the on-the-job training that Carpenter and Sugarbaker received.

Here’s a quick look at other themes:

The people’s season: For the first time, the season was chosen with guidance from the theater’s patrons. “Earlier this year, we put a survey out,” Carpenter said. “The survey went to approximately 14,000 people; we had nearly 800 responses. And we really listened to what our community said about what they wanted to see at The Washington Center.”

Among the requests: more music, more family-friendly programming and more big Broadway shows. Many people also requested specific artists.

The season of household names: Among the familiar names coming this year are Garrison Keillor (Nov. 21), Judy Collins (Jan. 29), Second City Improv (Feb. 16) and Arlo Guthrie (April 23). Missing because of scheduling issues is the Seattle Symphony.

The season of the family: “There’s always a push for more family-friendly programming,” Larsen said, “and that was really reflected in the survey.” But while most shows are family friendly, in the sense that children are welcome, it’s hard to pinpoint any that actually target the younger set, in part because performers don’t want to be labeled as “for kids.”

There’s nothing as obviously for kids as last year’s “Stunt Dogs” (which will be at the Broadway Center Feb. 8, based on Carpenter’s recommendation).

Carpenter suggested one more theme, though it encompasses only two shows: “For lack of a better term, battle of the sexes.”

The shows are “Defending the Caveman” (Oct. 25 and 26) and “Menopause the Musical” (Jan. 25).

“It’s girls versus boys,” Larsen said.

The Washington Center for the performing arts 2013-2014 season

Here’s the complete lineup that will be presented by The Washington Center for the Performing Arts. The center also rents space to community groups and other touring productions; those performances are not listed here.

Jon Batiste (Oct. 3): Jazz pianist Batiste is a New Orleans native.

“Defending the Caveman” (Oct. 25 and 26): This one-man show, an Off-Broadway hit, takes a humorous look at the misunderstandings between men and women.

Rufus Wainwright (Oct. 29): American-Canadian singer-songwriter Wainwright is the son of folk singers Loudon Wainwright III and Kate McGarrigle.

Seattle International Comedy Competition (Nov. 7): Sixteen comedians will compete in a round 1 show of the prestigious competition.

Charlie Musselwhite (Nov. 9): Inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2010, Musselwhite is a harmonica master.

Garrison Keillor (Nov. 21): American story-telling favorite Keillor is best known as the creator of NPR’s “A Prairie Home Companion.”

Sing-A-Long Grease (Dec. 1): Sing along with John Travolta and Olivia Newton John as they traverse the rocky roads of high-school romance in this 1978 film.

Turtle Island Quartet with Nellie McKay (Jan. 18): Singer McKay joins the Turtle Island String Quartet for “A Flower is a Lovesome Thing,” featuring original music and songs from Billie Holiday, Billy Strayhorn and the Weimar Cabaret of the 1920s.

“Menopause the Musical” (Jan. 25): This parody musical takes a light look at older womanhood from lingerie shopping to chocolate cravings.

“Blues Brothers” (Jan. 26): This concert show, based on the popular film, pays homage to Chicago’s rich history of blues, gospel and soul music.

Judy Collins (Jan. 29): The American singer-songwriter will be accompanied by Seattle’s Passenger String Quartet as she performs folk classics and original compositions.

Ten Tenors (Feb. 12): This Australian ensemble performs material that ranges from “Bohemian Rhapsody” and a Meat Loaf medley to opera classics and Australian tunes.

Second City Improv (Feb. 16): The improv troupe that launched Mike Myers and Tina Fey pays a visit to Olympia.

Caladh Nua (March 13): The band, from Southern Ireland, plays traditional tunes with contemporary flair.

“Forbidden Broadway” (March 14): The satirical cabaret review sharply spoofs show tunes, characters and plots of contemporary and classic Broadway musicals.

Ann Hampton Calloway (March 23): The singer-songwriter, backed by the Olympia Symphony, will deliver an evening of Barbra Streisand favorites, many of which she wrote.

Harlem Gospel Choir (April 3): The nine-member gospel choir is one of the nation’s most prominent.

Body Vox (April 10): The Portland-based dance troupe presents “Reverie,” a show about beauty that was created in the months after Sept. 11, 2001.

Mystery show (April 17): Contract terms forbid the center from revealing who’ll be playing at this concert until December.

Arlo Guthrie (April 23): Son of singer-songwriter Woody Guthrie, Arlo Guthrie has played with many of — and become one of — the best, the biggest and the most influential contemporary folk singers.

Toms Kubínek (May 1): Kubínek’s act, a combination of comedy, acrobatics and more, is said to be a blend of old-fashioned clowning and Pythonesque humor.

Steep Canyon Rangers (May 3): The well-regarded bluegrass band is best known as Steve Martin’s band, but the famed comedian will not appear at the Olympia show.

“Yesterday and Today” (May 15): This show pays tribute to The Beatles with an interactive concert experience; the audience gets to create the playlist for the night.

Series performances

National Geographic Live: The speakers’ series returns with filmmaker Bryan Smith (Jan. 10), naturalist Casey Anderson (Feb. 7) and photographer Sam Abell (March 7).

21st Century Masters: The annual young classical artists series features pianist Andrew Tyson (Nov. 20), violinist Benjamin Beilman (Jan. 15) and cellist Cicely Parnas (March 26).

Black Box Jazz: Last season’s successful series highlighting local jazz musicians will return. This time, there’ll also be wine tastings. Playing are the Steven Bentley Band (Nov. 8), the Michael Bisio Group (Jan. 24), Daven Tillinghast and Friends (March 21), and Brian Kinsella (May 16).

Opera Cinema Series: This year’s series features operas performed in Europe: “The Magic Flute” (Jan. 19), “Carmen” (Feb. 23) and “Hansel and Gretel” (March 30).

Comedy in the Box: The successful cabaret-style comedy shows (for ages 21 and older) will continue with performances Jan. 23, Feb. 27, March 20, April 24, May 15 and June 19.

Silent Movies: The series with organist Dennis James will also feature live performances by vocalists Connie Corrick and Hugh Hastings. Titles — all starring Rudolph Valentino — are “The Sheik” (Feb. 13), “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” (March 6) and “Blood and Sand” (April 24).

The Washington Center 2013-14 Season

What: Patrons’ feedback helped to guide the selection of the center’s 28th season.

Season tickets: Discounts are available for those who choose tickets to five or more performances. Subscribers who prefer to keep the same seats for each performance receive a discount if they buy eight or more performances.

Individual tickets: Tickets go on sale Aug. 20.

Where: The Washington Center for the Performing Arts, 512 Washington St. SE, Olympia.

More information: 360-753-8586 or washingtoncenter.org.

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