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Originally published August 23, 2011 at 6:25 PM | Page modified August 24, 2011 at 11:40 AM

Seattle's Intiman Theatre lays out plans to reopen

The theater company, which ended its 2011 season early and laid off its staff, has hired an artistic director and is moving ahead with plans to raise money and put on productions again.

Seattle Times theater critic

quotes Consulting artistic director Andrew Russell says "We're returning to the core... Read more
quotes I wish him the very best. Intiman has given Seattle some amazing shows over the years;... Read more
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In April, the Tony Award-winning Intiman Theatre curtailed its 2011 season, laid off its staff and suspended operations. Since then, the survival of one of Seattle's leading drama companies has been an open question in local and national theater circles.

Now Intiman is moving forward with a new artistic plan for 2012. It will also open its 440-seat playhouse to other arts groups, and raise money while trying to retire a $500,000 debt and serve 2011 subscribers and ticket holders.

The company has hired Andrew Russell, Intiman's former associate producer, as its consulting artistic director through Oct. 1, said board Chairman Bruce Bradburn.

Russell's immediate task is to craft a plan with the board to present to arts funders, and to the Seattle Center, the theater's landlord and one of its biggest creditors. If sufficient funds are raised and the plan is implemented, Russell will become the full-time artistic head and more staff will be hired.

"We think this is, truly, good news," said Bradburn. "We spoke with many artists in the community, and received four very interesting proposals for the future. We thought Andrew had some very exciting, fresh ideas. Then we voted — should the Intiman pack it in, or move forward? It was unanimous that we move forward."

Russell, a Capitol Hill resident who relocated from New York two years ago to work at Intiman, said the plan is still being developed. But certain features are clear.

"We're returning to the core impulse of what Intiman was at the start — a place created by theater artists, not run by one godlike director," he said. "We're not alone in questioning the structure of a regional theater — every city in the country is. We have a chance to do something new, that champions great local artists."

Russell's goal for 2012 is to establish a loose collective of playwrights, directors, actors, designers and others to devise projects for Intiman to produce, in a short "micro-season" mounted next summer.

At other times, Intiman Playhouse will become more of a hub for a variety of arts groups, as ACT Theatre has. Seattle Shakespeare Company, the Whim W'Him Dance Company and Unexpected Productions already plan to present shows there on a rental basis.

Russell said the plan must be "financially viable and artistically robust. We'd become a leaner and more nimble organization, more pay-as-you-go. That's one of the main things the board learned" from the fiscal crisis that shut down Intiman last spring.

An Indiana native and a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University, Russell, 28, has been an independent producer and director of shows for the Public Theatre, Naked Angels and other New York companies, and was an assistant to leading playwright Tony Kushner. For the Intiman, he co-created and staged "The Thin Place," a piece about religious faith in Seattle.

Like previous artistic head Kate Whoriskey, when she was hired to lead the Intiman, Russell has not yet headed a theater.

Bradburn said Russell knows the institution well, and the revitalized Intiman board is eager to work with him. "Andrew wants us to be true to Intiman's roots, but he also has a very bright, young outlook for where it needs to go."

Misha Berson: mberson@seattletimes.com

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