Strawberry Theatre Workshop

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Strawberry Theatre Workshop (aka Strawshop) is an award-winning Seattle theatre company founded in 2003 by Greg Carter, associated with a movement in that city to improve wages for professional theatre artists. Its name "is derived from the Strawberry Fields of popular music, and the Beatles, who used their recording studio as a daily laboratory of expression."[1]

History[edit]

Strawshop performed seven plays at the Richard Hugo House from 2004–2006, before moving to the Lee Center for the Arts at Seattle University, and eventually to the Erickson Theatre Off Broadway on Capitol Hill, where they have performed a summer season since 2008. In January 2015, Strawshop will begin performing in a new arts space developed by Capitol Hill Housing called 12th Avenue Arts.[2] Strawshop is designing and managing the new venue in a partnership with New Century Theatre Company and Washington Ensemble Theatre.

In its inaugural season, Strawshop presented an original play for puppets and actors derived from the writing, drawing, and music of American folk artist Woody Guthrie called This Land. The show was created by Carter at In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre in Minneapolis in 1993. This Land is one of two puppet plays produced by Strawshop during its time at Hugo House, the other being a premiere adaptation of Thornton Wilder’s novel, The Bridge of San Luis Rey. Both puppet plays were supported by grants from the Puppeteers of America, and Bridge gained additional funding from the Jim Henson Foundation.

In an effort to be genre-breaking, Strawshop has produced two narrative theatre plays, two plays for puppets, three musicals, one original play, and a West Coast premiere (Gutenberg! The Musical!), in addition to work from a more traditional canon of Ibsen, Miller, Fo, Brecht, and Mamet. Between 2008-2010, the company featured a series of plays about real people called Biograph that has included Life of Galileo, The Elephant Man, and Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill (a portrayal of Billie Holiday). The series concluded in 2010 with productions of The Laramie Project and Breaking the Code, though historical/biographical work (such as Inherit the Wind and The Normal Heart) have continued to be featured.

Strawshop has no formal relationship with Cornish College of the Arts, though two of the founding Board Members (Carter and Rhonda J Soikowski) were employed there, and dozens of Cornish faculty, staff, and alumni have appeared on the Strawshop stage or worked in design/production positions.

Mission[edit]

Strawberry Theatre Workshop is committed to the idea that the theatre is the people's place of aspiration, and that any voice from the stage is translated exponentially into conversations at coffee shops, bus stops, classrooms, and play fields. Strawshop is dedicated to the idea of ensemble, in the broadest sense of the word. Our ensemble does not only mean a resident company of workers, but a collective that includes our work, our audience, and our neighborhood. This is an activist stance. To be a good neighbor is to be a relevant neighbor, a responsible neighbor, and a vocal neighbor. (emphasis original)[3]

Critical reception[edit]

In 2007, Strawshop received The Stranger newspaper’s Genius Award for an Organization[4]—a prize awarded in other years to On the Boards, Pacific Northwest Ballet, and the Frye Art Museum. Actors associated with Strawshop have won Genius Awards as Individual Artists in Theatre including Gabriel Baron (2005), and Amy Thone (2007). Composer/designer John Osebold—who designed The Laramie Project at Strawshop—was the Stranger Theatre Genius in 2012. The award is given to only one person or individual in each category every year.

In 2006, actor Todd Jefferson Moore was the Gregory A Falls Award for Career Achievement, shortly after appearing in Strawshop’s Fellow Passengers (a three-actor narrative performance of DickensA Christmas Carol), which he cited as a favorite role.[5]

The Seattle Times critic Misha Berson has named Strawshop winners of several Footlight Awards, including best performance by Amy Thone (2008),[6] Felicia Loud (2009),[7] and Bradford Farwell (2010).[8] Footlights for best play were given for Accidental Death of an Anarchist (2005),[9] Leni (2008), The Elephant Man (2009), and Breaking the Code (2010).

The company was nominated in five of six categories in the inaugural Gregory Awards hosted by Theatre Puget Sound in 2009. Don Darryl Rivera was the winner as Person to Watch, having created music for Strawshop’s The Elephant Man and Gutenberg! The Musical!. In 2012, Strawshop became the only theatre in Seattle nominated for a Gregory Award for Outstanding Production four years in a row: The Elephant Man (2009), The Laramie Project (2010), Breaking the Code (2011), and Accidental Death of an Anarchist (2012). This recognition was made more remarkable by the fact that Strawshop only produced nine plays during the four years considered. In 2011, Strawshop artists Robertson Witmer (sound), Andrew Smith (lighting), and Sheila Daniels (directing) were TPS Gregory Award winners.

Productions[edit]

Richard Hugo House
Lee Center for the Arts
  • Life of Galileo directed by Rosa Joshi (Oct/07)
  • The Douglas Paasch Puppet Playhouse (Sep/13)
Erickson Theatre Off Broadway
Town Hall Seattle
  • Control: A Living Newspaper directed by Greg Carter (May/14)
12th Avenue Arts

References[edit]

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 47°36′53″N 122°19′19″W / 47.61472°N 122.32194°W / 47.61472; -122.32194