Arts & Culture

Center Salon invites area’s literary and musical stars to share a work in progress

Washington State Poet Laureate Claudia Castro Luna
Washington State Poet Laureate Claudia Castro Luna Courtesy of the Northwest Playwrights Alliance

Although it includes musical performances, Friday’s Center Salon focuses the spotlight on writers — including Olympia literary luminary Jim Lynch.

The fourth annual salon, a nearly sold-out collaboration between The Washington Center for the Performing Arts and the Northwest Playwrights Alliance, features not only readings of finished works but also insights into the creative process.

Lynch — author of the highly acclaimed “The Highest Tide,” set in Olympia — has been a part of each salon. This year’s program also features Washington State Poet Laureate Claudia Castro Luna; composer Gregory Youtz, whose work will be performed by soprano Cyndia Sieden and pianist Judith Cohen; poet Christina Butcher; and writers Peggy Bruton and Olivia Archibald, who’ll both read short stories.

Actress, playwright and Story Oly co-founder Amy Shephard will host again this year. She’ll also sing.

“We introduce new artists each year, except Jim Lynch, whom I think of as the modern John Steinbeck of the Northwest,” salon organizer and playwright Bryan Willis told The Olympian.

“If John Steinbeck lived in Olympia, would we invite him to read new work every year at our salon? Yes, we would,” Willis said.

“Jim is responsible for our ongoing success. Last year, we had to turn people away.”

The event, held in the center’s black box theater, was all but sold out Monday, center spokesperson Jessica Caldwell said. The center will start a wait list if necessary, she said.

At one point, Lynch was considering reading from a new novel in progress, but he told The Olympian that’s no longer his plan.

“I’ve changed my mind five times,” he said. “I now think I will read an unpublished short story I’m retooling that’s a fun, noirish private-eye satire set in corrupt Seattle in 1961.”

That story calls to mind Lynch’s 2012 “Truth Like the Sun,” a novel of political intrigue set both during the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair and in 2001 Seattle, after the coming of Microsoft.

Willis, Olympia’s best-known playwright and the NPA’s playwright in residence, also has been featured in each year’s salon.

A theme of this year’s salon is to provide a glimpse of work in progress, and Willis said he’s thinking about sharing details about a site-specific piece he’s writing for the 100th anniversary of The Olympian Hotel. That play, a musical, is planned for July 2020.

Willis said he’d long hoped to organize a salon in Olympia and was thrilled when center director Jill Barnes asked him to pull the first one together.

“This is a labor of love and a celebration of our local arts,” he said.

The Center Salon

  • What: The Washington Center for the Performing Arts and the Northwest Playwrights Alliance host the fourth annual salon, an evening of literature, theater, music and art, featuring novelist Jim Lynch, singer/actress Amy Shephard and more.
  • When: 7:30 p.m. Friday
  • Where: The Black Box Theater at the Washington Center for the Performing Arts, 512 Washington St. S.E., Olympia
  • Tickets: $17; the show is nearly sold out, so call for options.
  • Information: 360-753-8586,
  • Workshop: In conjunction with the salon, Washington State Poet Laureate Claudia Castro Luna will teach a poetry workshop co-sponsored by and held at South Puget Sound Community College, 2011 Mottman Road SW, Olympia. The free workshop is from 1 to 3 p.m. Friday at the college in building 21, room 130. Call 360-596-5200 for details.