Little Theater’s long run as 19th Ave performance space likely over as WET exits

(Image: CHS)

(Image: CHS)

Comedy The Hunchback of Seville will likely be the last work staged inside Capitol Hill's Little Theater (Image: WET)

Comedy The Hunchback of Seville will likely be the last work staged inside Capitol Hill’s Little Theater (Image: WET)

It was a good run for Capitol Hill’s unique Little Theater – certainly longer than many would have expected from a tiny performance space on the quiet side of Capitol Hill. But when the Washington Ensemble Theatre moves out of its decade-long home at the end of July, the days of a 19th and Mercer theater are probably over, too.

Andrew Person, an agent with building owner Northwest Commercial Real Estate Investments, tells CHS a restaurant or bar will most likely take over the 1,500 square foot space.

“We’re not necessarily looking for another a theater. It’s basically just going to be a rectangular box,” Person said.

Person said he has met with a few potential tenants since WET announced they would be moving to the 12th Avenue Arts project, currently under construction. The 49-seat Little Theater has played a crucial role in creating an eclectic commercial block, which includes Kingfish Cafe, Fuel Coffee, Akido Emerald City, and Moonjar, a company that makes toys to teach children financial literacy.

Born and raised in the 19th Ave E space, WET recently celebrated its 10th anniversary as a company. Devin Bannon, WET’s co-artistic director, told CHS in an email that the move will be bittersweet.

“Until now, Washington Ensemble Theatre has been synonymous with that space. So, no, it’s not easy to say goodbye,” he said, adding that the company will soon start the arduous process of dismantling its stage and clearing out a decade’s worth of costumes, props, and files.

From the 2006-2007 season set of Never Swim Alone (Image: WET)

From the 2006-2007 season set of Never Swim Alone (Image: WET)

Finer Noble Gases in 2004-2005 (Image: WET)

Finer Noble Gases in 2004-2005 (Image: WET)

2009's 4 The Hunt (Image: WET)

2009′s 4 The Hunt (Image: WET)

Prior to WET’s 2004 launch, the 19th Ave theater space was used by the Northwest Film Forum to screen films as a sister of The Grand Illusion Cinema. The theater was built out of an old woodworking studio which once called the space home. The final performances this year will mark the end of 15 years of artistic activity at the theater.

Later this year, WET will be joining forces with Strawberry Theatre Workshop and New Century Theatre Company to co-occupy 12th Ave Art’s two theater spaces. Last year the three theater companies formed Black Box Operations to manage the space. The board is comprised of two members from each of the three theater companies. The companies will rent the space from Black Box, which will serve as a unique administrative body for the arts groups.

The 12th Ave Arts building will have two performance spaces: one with a 150 person capacity, the other with space for 80. The three companies will book the theaters depending on the show. Bannon said when the company was asked to join 12th Ave Arts, they jumped at the opportunity.

“It felt like the right time to move out of our first home, and take our company to a space to the next step,” he said. “We’re ready to inhabit a new space that is bigger, and show our work to larger audiences.”

10295811_10152035009575855_8998497526937565112_nThe final WET show at the Little Theater will be The Hunchback of Seville, which runs June 6th-30th.

Charise Castro Smith’s The Hunchback of Seville spins a vividly naughty and hilariously bizarre tale set in Seville in the year 1504. Combining the madcap sense of humor of Monty Python and the poetic grandeur of Shakespeare, The Hunchback of Seville is a knee slapping, anti-colonialist romp examining how our future was sculpted long ago.

WET recently hosted The Stranger’s Dominic Holden for his two-show run of Talking Shit, a monologue of sex and politics.

As Capitol Hill Housing’s 12th Ave Arts building nears its official opening this fall, tenants are expected to start moving in by October. CHS reported on the 12th Ave Arts groundbreaking ceremony in February. Meanwhile, city officials and neighborhood groups are looking for ways to preserve and foster space for the arts on an increasingly unaffordable Capitol Hill.

UPDATE: Check out the comments below for an interesting precedent for the space. Rm 608 was resident in the space from the fall of ’92 to summer of ’94. From the Seattle Times archives:

On Aug. 27, the tiny but influential Capitol Hill performance and art gallery will cease operation because its next-door landlord – Wood Specialties, a custom woodworking studio – wants to expand.

But Rm 608 is going raucously, not mournfully, into that good night.

18 thoughts on “Little Theater’s long run as 19th Ave performance space likely over as WET exits

  1. Sad news. I was really hoping an up-and-coming theater company would take up residence and challenge WET’s spot as the place for new work. Nothing helps you get up the ladder as much as someone below you.

    No one else is as committed to new work.

  2. Ryan on Summit – There are plenty of small theatre companies in Seattle who want the space after WET has vacated it. If you have an issue, then you should take it up with the owner – my understanding is that they no longer want performers as tenants.

    • I don’t think he has an *issue*, he just said he was hoping. This article doesn’t seem to indicate that the owners are opposed to having an arts organization in there, an agent for the owner just said, “We’re not necessarily looking for another a theater.”

      Do you have additional information? What other theatre companies have been turned down by the owners? It would be interesting to know if it is true.

  3. Though it’s been known for ages, it still takes my breath away when I read that New Century Theatre Company, Strawberry Theatre Workshop, and Washington Ensemble Theatre will be sharing a space. Three of the best damn theatre companies in Seattle all under one roof. Of all the misguided directions in which this city seems to be moving of late, this is something so right as to seem almost miraculous. And though the Little Theatre space will be missed for the sheer intimacy of the experience, I can’t wait to start attending 12 Avenue Arts.

  4. I’m a little surprised that this post doesn’t mention that, before it was NW Film Forum, the Little Theatre was a visual art and performance space called Rm 608 that helped launch the careers of, among others, David Schmader, Kristen Kosmos, and the Trachtenburg Family Sideshow Players.

    WET has made incredible use of that little gem of a space and given me some of my best theatre memories. Jen Zeyl’s set for Sarah Kane’s Crave, for example, is the stuff of legend. Good luck with the move, you guys. Time for new legends.

  5. Rm 608! Matt Richter’s brainchild and epicenter of the solo performance mini-boom of the early-to-mid ’90s. (Kristen Kosmas, Kia Sian, and I all performed shows there that we wound up taking all over the country.) Producer of the solo performance extravaganza Festival of One. Forever beloved.

  6. Holly is right, it has been an arts space for twenty years not fifteen. Room 608 was Matt “Consolidated Works” Richter’s first space. It was a great Pocket Theater.
    I had a show go up there in….’94? No, ’93. A one act, “Me & Another.” One of my first in the city.
    (I might very well have the dates all wrong)

  7. WOW…. saad to see that the creation of a new arts space has caused the demise of another. Wish that the land lord was open to another arts organization moving in.

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