Arts & Culture

Harlequin’s new season is a ‘Transformation’ on stage and off

Author Jim Lynch introduces the stage adaptation of his best-selling novel “The Highest Tide” as part of Harlequin’s 2020 Transformation Season Announcement on March 30.
Author Jim Lynch introduces the stage adaptation of his best-selling novel “The Highest Tide” as part of Harlequin’s 2020 Transformation Season Announcement on March 30. Courtesy of Harlequin Productions

Harlequin Productions’ 2020 season, dubbed “Transformation,” represents a major turning point for the company, which will add two shows that will be presented in the Black Box at The Washington Center for the Performing Arts.

The company, which has been in transition since the 2018 departure of founders Scot and Linda Whitney, isn’t waiting until next year to get the momentum going.

Changes already are in place and on view in the State Theater, where a lobby art gallery will host shows that fit thematically with what’s on stage.

For Ibsen’s “A Doll’s House,” in its opening weekend, the gallery is showing Lynette Charters’ “Missing Women” series, which reworks well-known pieces, replacing women’s bodies with expanses of wood.

“Nora in ‘A Doll’s House’ is present, but she is absent,” according to Charters’ profile on the Harlequin website. “She is denied adult status by her husband, Torvald. To him, she is a decoration.”

Charters’ work has attracted attention and acclaim both locally and nationally. Last year, she won second place in the prestigious biennial Visual Impressions show.

Behind-the-scenes changes have begun at Harlequin, too. The theater has raised actors’ pay by 50 percent and is now officially a union house, meaning that the company has committed to cast members of the Actors’ Equity Association in every show.

“This brings us more in line with other regional theaters in the country and gives us the ability to grow artistically,” artistic director Aaron Lamb told The Olympian. “We don’t really compete on a national stage until we take that step.”

The company also is growing its season from seven shows to nine per year. (There are 10 shows in the 2020 season because the theater is changing its calendar to begin future seasons not with its holiday show, but with the first show of the calendar year.)

Because the State Theater is fully booked, the additional shows — “For Peter Pan on Her 70th Birthday” in early April and “This Flat Earth” in September — will be staged in the Washington Center’s Black Box, where the company got its start in 1991.

“What’s exciting is we have a lot of new plays,” Lamb said. That includes both Black Box productions and “Snow in Midsummer,” which had its North American premiere in 2018 at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

Another season highlight will be February’s “The Highest Tide,” the Book-It Repertory Theatre adaptation of Olympia author Jim Lynch’s bestseller about the coming of age of an extraordinary boy. “It’s a celebration of the Olympia community and a local author,” Lamb said.

Lynch, who announced the production at the theater’s season preview in March, told The Olympian that he’s thrilled to have his work produced in Olympia.

“Aaron Lamb and his team are really setting out to boldly try to make that theater fantastic,” he said. “It’s the sort of ambition that’s hard to pull off in a frugal Olympia that seems allergic to its own downtown. But it’s inspiring to see.”

Harlequin Productions 2020 season

The theater’s 29th season celebrates transformation.

When: Evening shows at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays and matinees at 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays

Where: State Theater, 202 Fourth Ave. E., Olympia, except “For Peter Pan” and “This Flat Earth,” which will be at the Black Box of The Washington Center for the Performing Arts, 512 Washington St. SE, Olympia

Single tickets: $36-$55, $34-$50 for seniors and military, $20-$30 for people under 25 and students

Season tickets: Packages and flex pass plans, on sale now, offer 15 percent and 25 percent discounts.

More information: 360-786-0151,

The shows

  • “Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Christmas Carol” (Nov. 27-Dec. 31), a magical holiday mystery by Seattle playwright John Longenbaugh
  • “Noises Off” (Jan. 17-Feb. 8), Michael Frayn’s farce about an acting troupe rehearsing and performing a farce
  • “The Highest Tide” (Feb. 28-March 21), an adaptation of Olympia author Jim Lynch’s best-seller about a boy and his relationship with the world beneath the waters of the Puget Sound
  • “For Peter Pan on Her 70th Birthday” (April 3-19), Sarah Ruhl’s 2017 dramatic comedy about growing up and growing old
  • “A Bright Room Called Day” (May 1-23), a dramatic parable by Tony Kushner, who won a Pulitzer for “Angels in America”
  • “Into the Woods” (June 19-July 18), Stephen Sondheim’s Tony-winning musical fairy tale
  • “Snow in Midsummer” (Aug. 21-Sept. 12), Frances Ya Chu Cowhig’s contemporary take on a classical Chinese drama about a town cursed by an angry ghost
  • “This Flat Earth” (Sept. 4-20), Lindsey Ferrentino’s lyrical 2018 drama about two 12-year-olds dealing with the life after a school shooting
  • “Fun Home” (Oct. 2-24), the 2015 Tony-winning musical about a woman seeing her life through new eyes after her father’s death
  • “A Christmas Carol” (Nov. 27-Dec. 31), artistic director Aaron Lamb’s adaptation of the Dickens classic

‘The Missing Women’

What: Harlequin Productions’ first art show features the thought-provoking work of Olympia’s Lynette Charters, whose paintings examine the presentation — rather than representation — of women in art.

When: Opening reception from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday; exhibition on view through May 24. The lobby gallery will be open during box-office hours (noon-6 p.m. Mondays-Fridays and from noon till showtime on performance days).

Where: State Theater, 202 Fourth Ave. E., Olympia

Tickets: Free

More information: 360-786-0151,,

Artist’s talk: Charters will talk about her work at 5 p.m. May 19 at the theater. The talk is free.