Off Broadway | Parks and Rec writer’s SMUDGE debuts on Capitol Hill

(Image: LaRae Lobdell)

(Image: LaRae Lobdell)

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A “pitch black” comedy by Emmy Award-winning writer Rachel Axler has its Seattle premiere this Friday, March 29 at the Washington Ensemble Theatre (whose future home will be at the forthcoming 12th Avenue Arts center). Starring Carol Thompson, Ashton Hyman, and Noah Benezra, it’s the story of a couple who discovers their hoped-for healthy baby girl is actually a smudge.

Yes, an actual smudge. We caught up with director Erin Kraft to learn more.

Rachel Eggers: You just finished up directing UNDO by Holly Arsenault. Going into this production, did you see any similarity between the two projects, both of them being penned by up-and-coming female playwrights?

Erin Kraft: SMUDGE and UNDO have major stylistic differences, but at their heart, they’re both family plays about people trying to reconcile the lives they have with the lives they thought they’d have. In UNDO, that expectation gap was caused by the characters’ choices. In SMUDGE, it’s a little scarier, because the characters are grappling with a life-changing paradigm shift that was out of their control.

I’ve been working on mostly world premieres like UNDO for the past few years, so it’s been a nice change of pace to work on a script that’s already had a few successful productions. The play we started rehearsal with is the same as the play we’ll open this week. That’s a novel experience for me! I do miss having the playwright around; the more smart people in the rehearsal room, the better.

RE: How do you describe the play?
EK: In SMUDGE, a young couple has a baby that isn’t what they were expecting. And as they negotiate their feelings for the baby and each other, they’re also grieving the life they’d planned for their family. Oh, and it’s a comedy.

RE: We Hill types can be pretty bratty. Tell me why we can’t miss this play.
EK: Rachel Axler, the playwright, is more known for her work on PARKS AND RECREATION, THE DAILY SHOW, and NEW GIRL, so audiences can get some idea of her voice from those shows. Her writing is hilarious, and strange, and heartfelt. She treats her off-center characters with compassion and respect.

SMUDGE runs March 29-April 22 at The Little Theatre (608 19th Avenue East). Tickets are $15-$25 and are available at the door or in advance at

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