Center’s new season offers a different look

Contributing writerJune 16, 2014 

The Washington Center for the Performing Arts leadership always aims to include something for just about everyone in the center’s season, but for the 2014-2015 season, that was a little more difficult to do.

“We had to make some hard decisions,” said Jill Barnes, who took over as executive director last year after the 2013-2014 season was already in place.

The biggest missing piece in the upcoming season is classical music. The 21st Century Masters Young Concert Artists series, which presents up-and-coming musicians, won’t be stopping in Olympia next season. The series had been part of the center’s season for 18 years.

“We just had a very small audience for it,” Barnes said. “We’re hoping we can fill that niche with our local resources.”

Also missing after a five-year run is the Opera Cinema series, films of operas performed in some of the major European opera houses.

And the National Geographic Live speaker series will bring just one speaker, marine photographer Brian Skerry, to the center. For the past four seasons, three speakers were brought in.

“It was the most financially responsible decision to make,” Barnes said. “We have had a growing audience over the years, but not enough to justify three of them.

“However, this is a much-loved program in our community, and we wanted to keep it.”

What the center will offer next season is the return of the Capitol Steps comedy troupe, the Seattle Comedy Competition and the Seattle Men’s Chorus, two Broadway shows (Tony winner “Memphis” and a Broadway Center-produced regional tour of “Ain’t Misbehavin’ ”) and Popovich’s Comedy Pet Theater, starring 25 dogs and cats.

Many of the shows will come with educational components, too, such as pre- or postshow discussions, school visits or master classes.

“This community wants to engage and interact,” said Anne Larsen, the center’s marketing director. “We’re taking down the fourth wall and giving people the opportunity to interact with the performers.”

The season opens with the return of The von Trapps, the great-grandchildren of Capt. Georg and Maria von Trapp of “The Sound of Music” fame. The von Trapps performed last season with Pink Martini, and the show was outstanding, Barnes said.

“Everyone just fell in love with them,” she said. “They are very endearing.

“I think Pink Martini with The Von Trapps was in my top 10 shows ever, and I have seen hundreds.”

Von Trapp is pretty much the only household name in this season’s lineup, which is in stark contrast to last season. But the center rarely hosts more than one big name each season.

“The stars have to align,” Barnes said. “I think we were very lucky to have Garrison Keillor and Judy Collins and Arlo Guthrie in one season.”

But before the season begins, the center is hosting folk singer Joan Baez, whose July 22 concert is sold out.

And if you’ve never heard of Matt Andersen, Michael Kaeshammer, Seth Lepore or Koresh Dance Co., the center staff hopes you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Last year’s season opener, Jon Batiste, surprised everyone. It was the first show of the jazz pianist’s first West Coast tour, so audience members had little idea what to expect. But audience members packed the lobby afterward buying CDs and getting autographs.

The season has several shows that could be similarly wonderful discoveries, Larsen said.

“We created suggested packages people could put together for their season subscription,” she said, “and one of them was ‘Artists You Don’t Know Yet.’”

The Washington Center for the Performing Arts’ 2014-15 Season

Season tickets: Discounts are available for those who choose tickets to five or more performances. Season tickets go on sale Tuesday.

Individual tickets: Prices vary. Tickets go on sale Aug. 19.

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

More information: 360-753-8586 or


THE 2014-2015 LINEUP


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

The Von Trapps (Oct. 10): The great-grandchildren of Captain and Maria von Trapp, who performed in Olympia earlier this year with Pink Martini, return for a solo show.

Seth Lepore (Oct. 16): Lepore’s “Losing My Religion: Confessions of a New-Age Refugee,” examines the life of a spiritual seeker from Catholicism to Buddhism.

The Capitol Steps (Oct. 25): The comedy troupe that aims to put the mock in democracy returns to Olympia with a show that satirizes politics.

Michael Kaeshammer (Nov. 7): Pianist Kaeshammer is known for his pop-tinged jazz and his showmanship.

Popovich Comedy Pet Theater (Nov. 15): Gregory Popovich’s show combines 25 stray cats and dogs and adds juggling, balancing, clowns and skits.

Seattle Comedy Competition (Nov. 20): Ten comedians will compete in a semifinal round show of the nationally renowned competition.

“White Christmas” Sing-Along (Nov. 30): The annual sing-along, which coincides with the Olympia Downtown Association’s parade and tree-lighting, features the Bing Crosby classic.

“An Irish Christmas” (Dec. 3): The PBS holiday show features music, storytelling and traditional Irish dance.

“Decades” (Jan. 10): This concert features hit songs and untold stories of rock legends from Chuck Berry to Elton John.

The Good Lovelies (Jan. 16): The Canadian folk trio offers three-part harmonies, instrument swapping and witty banter.

National Geographic Live: Brian Skerry (Jan. 30): Photojournalist and marine conservationist Brian Skerry shows off his underwater photography and shares his encounters with marine wildlife.

“Memphis” (Feb. 4): The Broadway musical, inspired by the true stories of a radio DJ and a club singer, won four Tony awards, including Best Musical.

Terrance Simien & The Zydeco Experience (Feb. 13): Grammy award winner Simien, who worked with Randy Newman on the Disney’s “The Princess and the Frog,” blends funk, reggae, world music and blues into this zydeco gumbo.

Matt Andersen (Feb. 21): Blues guitarist and singer-songwriter Andersen is known for his narrative-driven writing and diverse musical styles.

The Improvised Shakespeare Company (March 12): The company creates an improvised Shakespearean-style masterpiece based on audience suggestions.

“The Glass Castle” (March 20): This one-woman adaptation of Jeannette Walls’ award-winning memoir includes discussions both before and after the show.

Recycled Percussion (March 22): A hit on “America’s Got Talent” in 2009, this band plays on ladders, power tools, trash cans and more.

“Ain’t Misbehavin’ ” (March 28 and 29): This classic musical, a tribute to Fats Waller, is produced by the Broadway Center in Tacoma.

Koresh Dance Co. (April 3): Founded by Israeli-born choreographer Ronen Koresh, the critically acclaimed dance company, based in Philadelphia, is known for its diversity and its athletic, dynamic dance.

“One Night of Queen,” performed by Gary Mullen and The Works (April 10): This tribute band has performed throughout the United States and beyond with its re-creation of Queen’s look and sound.

Seattle Men’s Chorus (April 11): The chorus returns with tributes to Harvey Milk and Rutgers University student Tyler Clementi, who committed suicide after his college roommate shared intimate videos of him on the Internet.

“The Wonder Bread Years” (April 17): Blending stand-up comedy and theater, this show salutes the baby boomers.

“Dancing With South Sound’s Stars” (May 16): Local celebrities are paired with professional ballroom dancers for a “Dancing With the Stars”-style competition.



Silent Films: The series accompanied by organist Dennis James continues with “Show People” (Nov. 23), “Way Down East” (Jan. 18) and “Love” (April 14).

Black Box Jazz: The series spotlighting local musicians returns with Betsy Perkins (Nov. 14), Maria Joyner-Wulf (Jan. 23), Tobi Stone (March 27), and Amy Denio (May 22).

Comedy in the Box: The successful cabaret-style comedy shows (for ages 21 and older) will continue with performances Jan. 22, Feb. 26, March 26, April 23, May 21 and June 18.

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