By Rayna Stackhouse with reporting by Justin Carder
Greg Carter and Strawberry Theatre Workshop aren’t about to get rich. But the company is putting on one last show on Capitol Hill the old-fashioned theatre way.
“Our industry doesn’t work very well in a capitalist model,” says Carter. “The rich get rich, while the poor get poorer.”
While the city’s behemoth performance and arts organizations like Seattle Opera have a full staff to raise money, sell tickets and can support and pay their performers, small theater companies around Capitol Hill typically barely scrape by. The money they make is mostly from tickets and booze, Carter says.
The 12th Ave Arts building, slated to open in early November, should help change that equation for Strawshop and its two companion theater companies, Washington Ensemble Theatre and New Century Theater Company, teaming up to form a new kind of arts organization resident in the new Capitol Hill Housing development.
Capitol Hill Housing and Black Box representatives were on hand this week for a “hard hat” tour of the new building. The $38 million, 29,000 square-foot 12th Ave Arts project is creating 88 affordable apartment units, office space, retail space and a theater facility above parking that will also be utilized by Seattle Police’s East Precinct.
The project is the result of a two-decade push from community groups and organizations to create something greater with the East Precinct parking lot that used to call the land home.
Capitol Hill Housing’s Michael Seiwerath said it was community pressure that finally moved the project through the mire at City Hall.
“These citizen volunteers went down there and said there’s a better use for this,” he said about the old, barbed wire-ringed police parking lot.
In a most unusual twist on the typical “mixed-use” development around the Hill, 12th Ave Arts will also have two fully tricked out, state of the art performance spaces totaling nearly 6,000 square feet: one with room for 149 seats, the other Studio Stage with an 80-person capacity. Hardcore theater geeks will nerd out at the catwalks above and sound suppression enveloping both venues. Continue reading