CHS Pics | A Capitol Hill fall tradition, Weavers’ Guild sale at St. Mark’s

Annette Mentzer and friend spin hand-carded wool (Images: CHS)

Annette Mentzer and friend spin hand-carded wool (Images: CHS)

A longtime part of fall of Capitol Hill, the Seattle Weaver’s Guild has returned to St. Mark’s this weekend for its annual sale that is equal parts opportunity to get your holiday shopping done early and opportunity to learn.

“You can learn a lot from a book but its nothing like being mentored by a wise woman,” weaver Marilyn Romatka told CHS. Creating pieces of woven art since 2007, Romatka worked Thursday on broken twill with tencel on a tabletop loom.

Kris Leet has been weaving since 1971. Her patterns go back even further with the oldest textile bands made in her medieval style dating back to 600-800 BC.

Judith Noble is also a guild longtimer. She says monthly study groups help guild members learn new techniques and improve their work. It also seems like a good way to make a few crafty friends. Continue reading

‘As many authors as we can logically put on the physical map’ — Lit Crawl Seattle ready for a new march around Capitol Hill

Screen Shot 2014-10-18 at 2.29.05 PM Screen Shot 2014-10-18 at 2.23.48 PMIf you have a love for literature or perhaps even just a passing interest in the written word you may be wishing for the power to be in quite a few places at once in Capitol Hill and First Hill Thursday night. The third annual Lit Crawl Seattle requires you to make a few decisions — three, to be exact.

A fitting, albeit more densely packed, fall compliment to APRIL Festival’s early spring celebration of strictly independent literature, and punctuating a Seattle literary calendar already relatively rich with year-round activity, Lit Crawl Seattle will bring some 64 writers and artists out for 21 readings at venues across First Hill and Capitol Hill, along with a over a dozen more folks acting as hosts. The full schedule is here.

“It’s a festive, large event that is meant to provide a giant showcase of as many authors as we can logically put on the physical map in the time span that we have to play with,” co-chair of Lit Crawl Seattle’s board of directors Jane Hodges told CHS.

“We really think of it as sort of a buffet,” she said. “The literary community here is huge. We want to bring out people that have large followings because they’re out being social, as well as people you don’t see so often.” Continue reading

Bright artists wanted for solar-powered Capitol Hill Gateway Kiosk project

Quick -- somebody call Susan Robb (Image: CHS)

Quick — somebody call Susan Robb (Image: CHS)

Seattle City Light is joining with the Office of Arts and Culture to create new artworks across Seattle that will highlight the uses and benefits of renewable solar energy. The premier component will be a Capitol Hill Gateway Kiosk project. The goal is to have the new work in place on the Hill in a yet to be announced location by the sunny summer of 2015.

“The Capitol Hill Gateway Kiosk will serve two main purposes. It will be a gateway/informational kiosk to the newly formed Capitol Hill Arts District which will be publicly announced on November 15, and it will also be a stand-alone artwork that uses or demonstrates solar power,” Calandra Childers of the Office of Arts and Culture told CHS. Continue reading

Capitol Hill’s Hugo House makes mixed-use plans to stay on 11th Ave

(Image: Hugo House)

(Image: Hugo House)

Cramped in its longtime residence inside a 1903-built former mortuary, literary-focused Capitol Hill nonprofit Hugo House announced Monday that it has begun work on a plan to build a new center as part of a mixed-use development at the site of its 11th Ave home.

“What’s great about this new project is that Hugo House can operate as usual during the design phase and we will still be able to stay where we are after construction is completed —but in a new, more functional, efficient and community-friendly space,” Hugo House executive director Tree Swenson said in a statement.

The new development will include 10,000 to 15,000 square feet of ground-level commercial/retail space, as well as up to five stories of multi-family housing right across the street from Cal Anderson Park. Zoning in the area would allow the building to reach 65 feet — good enough for six stories (or more if you’re good with words.) Its location in the Pike/Pine Conservation Overlay District could open the project up to additional height if portions of the original structure were to be preserved. A 2013 hearing determined the former Manning’s Funeral Parlor should not be protected as an official city landmark.

UPDATE: We asked Swenson about her thoughts on being part of the Hill’s continuing wave of mixed-use development and Hugo House’s part in planning what comes next for the parcel. She was unassuming about any hopes of influencing the project beyond the future center’s home. The big decisions, she said, belong to the developers and the landowner.

“It’s only through their good graces that we’ll be lucky enough to stay here,” she said.

“I’m just grateful that we can stay.”

In the announcement, Hugo House and the longtime property owners of the more than 100-year-old building said they are now working with a developer to determine “the exact mix of uses as part of the design and permitting process.” The announcement notes the property owners have “generously supported all facility costs, including rent” for Hugo House throughout its history. Continue reading

Balagan Theatre company bows out one year after leaving Capitol Hill

The Balagan Theatre company has announced it is breaking up one year after it moved out of its Capitol Hill home. Balagan’s incoming executive director said the theater company’s board had apparently been blindsided after discovering a large amount of debt that the company had no chance of repaying.

“This is not a decision that the board took lightly,” said board president Jim Griffin in a statement. “When viewing the big picture of our overall financial health, this was a difficult conclusion, but ultimately a responsible fiscal action to take.”

From 2011-2013 the Balagan troupe had used the Seattle Central College owned Erickson Theater Off Broadway on E Harvard Ave. After moving off the Hill, Balagan relocated its office to Interbay but continued to put on shows around the city.

An SCC spokesperson said the college is currently utilizing the Erickson Theater for classes and occasional special events.

After eight years of performances Balagan built a reputation for producing quirky and inventive shows. The loss to the Seattle theater scene was even noted by the New York Times earlier this week.

In the past year bad accounting practices have created problems at several other Capitol Hill nonprofits. Last year the Friends of the Volunteer Park Conservatory discovered their former treasurer had potentially embezzled thousands of dollars before leaving the state. CHS also uncovered a lawsuit last year that alleged the former director of an after school program at Stevens Elementary school had embezzled at least $236,000 for personal shopping trips and to pay for her kid’s college tuition.

Seattle Fringe: ‘a toehold in the neighborhood for risky, unusual, challenging, non-commercial arts’

The Famous Haydell Sisters Comeback Tour is part of 2014 Seattle Fringe Festival

The Famous Haydell Sisters Comeback Tour is part of 2014 Seattle Fringe Festival

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The marquee at the Northwest Film Forum advertising the Seattle Fringe Festival in 2013. The Film Forum is a Fringe Festival site again this year. (Image: Seattle Fringe Festival)

Ever-increasing pressure from commercial growth and development unfriendly to cash-strapped artistic ventures, venue allocation shifts and the logistics of having committed producers and planners who can keep things running year after year may keep it in a relatively constant flux. Despite these challenges Capitol Hill’s theater scene is showing some signs of renewed vitality in 2014 including the return of the reincarnated Seattle Fringe Festival that kicks off its third consecutive year with performances Wednesday.

The festival is bringing another five-day September wave of unpredictable performances to Capitol Hill venues just a few months before 12th Ave Arts is scheduled to open and provide dedicated homes to three small companies which will join the likes of Annex Theatre and the Eclectic Theater in producing smaller-scale theater in neighborhood’s core year round.

“The more Capitol Hill edges toward the mainstream, the more important it is to keep a toehold in the neighborhood for risky, unusual, challenging, non-commercial arts and entertainment,” Pamala Mijatov, a member of the Fringe Festival’s steering committee and artistic director at Annex told CHS in an email. “Seattle is growing and changing rapidly. As rents escalate, artists are getting squeezed out of the central neighborhoods, and there are fewer small production venues, which means fewer opportunities for artists to take risks on unproven work,” she wrote. “The Seattle Fringe Festival is maintaining a platform for those self-producing artists.” Continue reading

CHS Crow | Fringe edition — Leroy, Kelly, Mara & Benjamin

With the Seattle Fringe festival again playing out on Capitol Hill, the crow talked with some of the artists on the bill in 2014.

Leroy Chin, writer and director — Children of This Universe


What inspired this new work? It sounds like pretty intense material.
On Christmas Day of last year my ex committed suicide. I was completely distraught about it. And one of the ways I deal with things is I create stuff. And I ended up writing a play based on the experience. I think it was different for me this time, it just seemed to be so natural — it flowed well. I was inspired. And think it had to do — there must have been some sort of spiritual element about it that made it so easy to write.

… can you say more about that?
You could say he probably helped me from the other side, if you will.

Is this pretty raw for you to put out in front of an audience so soon? Or is that just part of your process?
I’m used to it by now. I think when I first started writing years ago, ’96 or so, that rawness was intimidating. I now I realize it has to feel that way to be effective. I think that’s where the real sharing of experience is. If it’s not that raw, it’s probably not worth sharing. Continue reading

With 88 performances in 5 days on Capitol Hill, Seattle Fringe Festival 2014 starts Wednesday

10633789_346196662204786_5486770815533513259_oAt $10 a pop, tickets to the productions in the Seattle Fringe Festival provide an excellent level of return on investment as measured by serendipity.

Beginning Wednesday, the festival will roll out 88 performances by 22 producing companies in 5 Capitol Hill venues over 5 days. Organizers call it “a port of call for exceptional artists from the touring circuit.” 2014’s performances have roots in productions from from Portland, OR to Los Angeles, CA to Lafayette, CO and New York, NY.

10540815_651986838232882_1018989245850765633_nYou can view the 2014 schedule and purchase tickets at seattlefringefestival.org.

The Seattle Fringe Festival (SFF) returns to Capitol Hill September 17-21, 2014. SFF will feature an amazing 88 performances by 22 producing companies in 5 venues over 5 days. The Festival is a showcase of exciting new work by local and touring artists in an eclectic and engaging variety of performance styles.

This year, in addition to favorite venues from prior years (Annex Theater, Eclectic Theater, and two venues at NW Film Forum) SFF will be presenting work at the newly-opened Calamus Auditorium at Gay City Arts. Centrally located on Capitol Hill, all performances will be within walking distance of one another — and of the Festival Bar, St John’s. Every show runs an hour or less, and tickets are priced affordably at only $10. All ticket revenue is returned directly to the producing artists.

In 2012, CHS reported on the return of the festival after a nine-year hiatus.

Capitol Hill theater company stages one final performance before move to 12th Ave Arts

Inside the future home of the Main Stage at 12th Ave Arts (Image: CHS)

Inside the future home of the Main Stage at 12th Ave Arts (Image: CHS)

Ali el-Gasseir's WET will be one of three theater groups resident in the new development (Image: CHS)

Ali el-Gasseir’s WET will be one of three theater groups resident in the new development (Image: CHS)

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 $47 million $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

Sci-fi playwright’s quest to create something ‘zanier’ brings plot to earth, play to Pike/Pine

(Images: Dangerpants Photography)

(Images: Dangerpants Photography)

Since moving to Seattle from the Midwest some 15 years ago, theater artist Scotto Moore has honed his skills as a playwright, and has primarily built his reputation writing science fiction for the stage in a city that offers more opportunities than most for producing the genre. However, for his latest play Balconies, which debuted at Capitol Hill’s Annex Theatre last weekend, Moore says he decided to foray in to the realm of realism, and to create something more accessible.

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“I really wanted to take a little break from science fiction and do something that was a little zanier and just more light-hearted, but structurally still kind of interesting,” Moore told CHS. The play’s writer and the director of its debut production says Balconies was inspired by the 1968 film The Party, starring Peter Sellers, which is set in a single situation that becomes more and more chaotic throughout the film, “until by the end, they literally have an elephant dancing in a swimming pool.”

“I describe that movie as basically one long comic crescendo,” Moore said.

Moore’s version of this comic scenario involves two adjacent, almost adjoining, balconies, at a building in Albany, New York, and the “cultural clash” that ensues between a group of video game producers and their friends celebrating the successful launch of “Sparkle Dungeon 5: Assassins of Glitter,” and a group coming together for a political fundraiser for a state senator making a run for the US Senate. Continue reading

After 17 years, Capitol Hill’s Spin the Bottle monthly variety show will continue with new chief spinner

Spin the Bottle founder and long-time curator Bret Fetzer reading at one of the monthly variety shows at Annex Theatre (Image: Ian Johnson)

After 17 years of bringing eclectic lineups to late-night Seattle stages every month without fail — *usually* on first Fridays — Spin the Bottle founder Bret Fetzer is getting ready to turn over the city’s longest running cabaret to a new producer and primary curator. And to someone “younger and hungrier,” he wrote in an email to CHS.

Citing above all a need for more time to spend with his family, along with a few thoughts on the show’s vitality, Fetzer told CHS he will be fully ‘handing over control of the steering wheel’ of Annex Theatre‘s variety show to Catherine Blake Smith in January of next year. Fetzer and Smith have already started working on the show together, he wrote, and Fetzer says he may still be somewhat involved after Smith takes over the lead role. Continue reading

Dream Cargo

Dream Cargo: two nights of Alternative listening in the Cisco Morris Biodiversity Garden presented by New Mystics, Hedreen Gallery and Seattle University

A series of public outdoor audio/visual exhibitions, held on the first Sundays of August & September in the Cisco Morris Biodiversity Garden. Inspired by the garden’s sense of mystery, its strange & dramatic mix of nature and architecture, the New Mystics’ partners with Hedreen Gallery and Seattle University to present a series of outdoor public art exhibitions in this beautiful, unconventional space featuring new electroacoustic and electronic works by Northwest artists.

Music & Visuals by: Poison Ring, Oculist Witness, Nick Bartoletti & dj Dracko

Free of charge, open to the public
refreshments kindly provided by Hedreen Gallery.

Block Party faces its future in a developing Capitol Hill

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(Image: Alex Crick for CHS)

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Capitol Hill Block Party wants to keep the heart of the neighborhood alive as so much of it changes.

In its 18th year, the weekend event which closes down six blocks of Pike/Pine and draws upward of 30,000 music lovers remains an annual subject of excitement from fans and the rarest of summer musical festival beasts: a three-day commercial concert venue carved out of a living, breathing city neighborhood.

With A$AP Rocky, Chromeo and Spoon headlining this year, rock fest tourists and plenty of locals will once again swarm the cordoned-off area in the heart of Pike/Pine starting July 25 for a weekend of sights, sounds and selling your soul for a parking space.

Only in America
Owner Jason Lajeunesse has not needed the Capitol Hill Block Party to make his mark on the neighborhood. CHS dubbed him one of the ‘Princes of Pike/Pine’ — along with business partner and frequent collaborator David Meinert – due to his extensive stakes in many nearby restaurants and venues, including Neumos and Lost Lake.

After spending nine years planning the Block Party’s music as co-producer, Lajeunesse took ownership of the event in 2012.

He believes Capitol Hill Block Party is a product of the neighborhood which gives it its name.

“I think it’s important to promote the neighborhood year round,” he said. “The Block Party sort of grew with the local and regional bands. As the bands got bigger, so did the Block Party.”

With four indoor venues, two outdoor stages and dozens of restaurants and bars in the area, the Block Party has the distinction of being the only event of its kind in America.

“To our knowledge Capitol Hill Block Party is unique as the only ticketed three-day street festival in the country,” Chris Swenson, program manager with the Seattle Office of Film and Music, said. “It’s a little like scooping up half of Sasquatch and plopping it in the middle of a neighborhood for a weekend. The city’s primary concern is safety and, because of the unique layout of the event, each year safety officials and agencies spend many months establishing organizer requirements and emergency plans specific to the site.” Continue reading