Buyer Beware: It’s Scalper Season

How to guarantee you are getting the best prices when you buy tickets for a family outing this holiday season

It’s the most wonderful time of the year: twinkly lights are on the trees, your favorite peppermint and eggnog beverages are on sale at all the coffee shops, family and friends are coming to visit and there is a multitude of festive events to choose from to put you all in the spirit. It’s always exciting to plan a trip to downtown Seattle with the family—an afternoon of shopping, a ride on the Westlake carousel, a fancy dinner at one of the stellar area restaurants, and tickets to a spectacular show like Irving Berlin’s Holiday Inn at The 5th Avenue Theatre.

This is also an exciting time for ticket re-sellers to prey on families trying to plan special occasions just like this. These brokers (also called scalpers) buy tickets to entertainment events all around the city and then sell them to unsuspecting consumers at more than 100% markup. This practice is legal in the state of Washington, but can be very hard on the wallet!

Here are some tips to make sure you are getting the best deal on tickets to shows like Holiday Inn this winter!

        1. Start with the right website: When you’re looking for tickets to a show, always start with the organization’s website. If you Google “Holiday Inn tickets Seattle,” The 5th Avenue Theatre (as of this posting) is actually the THIRD result you’ll get. That’s because scalpers have large budgets for Google ads, guaranteeing that they will get top billing in search results. Non-profits like The 5th frequently cannot compete with that kind of money. So start by looking for the official website of the company producing the show you want to see. We guarantee you that a company’s official website will tell you how to buy tickets!

          Official Website
          Make sure to look past the first blocks with the box reading “Ad” before the url.
        2. Be price conscious: Tickets can definitely be pricey, particularly if you want to sit in aisle seats close to the stage! But performing arts organizations want to be accessible to the whole community, and while we think our productions are pretty spectacular, we know we’re not selling tickets to Adele or Beyoncé. The 5th Avenue Theatre has tickets starting as low as $29, with top dollar tickets around $175. Scalpers have been known to re-sell those $29 tickets for $200-$300 a piece! So use your best judgment: if the prices seem absurdly high, there’s a good chance you’re right.

          Broker Prices
          A screenshot from a broker page shows top level tickets for Holiday Inn as high as nearly $650. Our top price is less than $200.
        3. Select your seats: If the site doesn’t quote you exact seat locations when you purchase, there is a good chance you are buying from a broker site, and that’s because the broker doesn’t have the ticket yet. In most cases, you choose the area of the theater you want to sit in, and they turn around and buy tickets from the theater directly based on your general preference. The 5th Avenue Theatre (and most other large performing arts organizations) will allow you to chose exactly where you plan to sit when you come to the show.

          Broker Prices
          All of these colored dots indicate an available seat. Just click on one to learn the price.
        4. Look closely at your tickets: When you buy a ticket from The 5th, you can choose to receive your tickets via email. Scalpers alter these tickets, removing key information so the unsuspecting consumer won’t know they’ve been tricked. The 5th puts the price paid for the ticket on the ticket itself—info a scalper doesn’t want you to know! We also put the name of the purchaser on the ticket as another means to verify its authenticity.
          Top half of Ticket
          You should find the cost of the ticket on the top portion of your e-ticket.

           

          Bottom of Ticket
          You should find the name of the purchaser toward the bottom of your e-ticket.

           

        5. Ask for help: Sometimes guests don’t know until they arrive at the theater that they’ve bought tickets from a re-seller until they arrive at the theater. Imagine going to Will Call and picking up tickets you spent $200 apiece on, only to find a $29 price printed on the ticket once it’s in your hand. Or maybe you have an e-ticket, and you walk into the theater only to find someone is in your seats—some brokers will sell the same pair seats two or three times to turn an extra profit! At most theaters, including The 5th, the Box Office and Guest Services staff will do their utmost to help fix the problem. While we cannot refund money that you paid to a re-seller, we can supply you with any necessary info to cancel charges on your credit card and do our utmost to get you in affordable seats so that you and your family can still have a wonderful time at the show.

          Box-Office_DavidArmstrong_800x800
          Our Executive Producer and Artistic Director David Armstrong doesn’t always work in the box office. But you can always expect the highest levels of customer service. That’s our promise to you.

Theaters like The 5th are doing everything we can to prevent brokers from buying and re-selling tickets. Brokers have no investment in your satisfaction with your experience at the theater, but we care very deeply. Families have been making holiday memories at The 5th Avenue Theatre for generations, and we take that responsibility very seriously. We want to do everything in our power to make sure that the magic of a fantastic story performed brilliantly is the biggest part of what you and your loved ones take away from a night at The 5th.

To get tickets for your family to see Irving Berlin’s Holiday Inn, click here.

A Letter from David Armstrong

Dear Friends and Colleagues:

It is with very mixed emotions that I announce that I have decided to step down from my position as the Executive Producer and Artistic Director of The 5th Avenue Theatre at the end of the 2017/2018 season.  After nearly 18 amazing years leading this organization, I have decided it is time to let go of the day-to-day burdens and responsibilities of running a large theater company so that I can focus more effectively on my creative work as a director and a writer. I will be transitioning to the new position of Artistic Director Emeritus and for at least the next three seasons I will continue to be employed by The 5th as a consultant, advisor, and frequent director.

The time that I have devoted to this theater company has truly been the highlight of my nearly 40 years of working in the American theater, and no other job has been nearly as meaningful or rewarding.  I could not be more proud of what I have accomplished during my time at The 5th, first as Producing Artistic Director, working in partnership with Marilyn Sheldonn; and then in my current role in collaboration with Bernie Griffin and Bill Berry.

My only regret in taking in this job was that it quickly became apparent that I would have to put my writing career on hold.  The work of running a major theater company and directing at least one production each season has been a thrilling, but all-consuming endeavor that made it impossible for me to find the time and focus necessary to devote to any significant writing projects. In my new position, I will have the opportunity to pursue other directing opportunities and resume my work as a playwright, and perhaps even write a history of the musical theater.

From the first day that I walked into this glorious historic building, I had a vision that The 5th could become a truly significant theater company. Today I am stunned that we have achieved even more than I thought possible.

I am very happy to say that during my tenure The 5th Avenue Theatre has become one of America’s leading musical theater companies acclaimed for both our new and vibrant productions of classic musicals, as well as our extensive development and production of new work.  Since 2001, The 5th has produced 18 new musicals, nine of which that moved from our stage to Broadway, including two that received the Tony Award for Best Musical.  It gives me great personal satisfaction to know that at least 7 of those shows have entered the standard repertoire of the musical theater and now receive hundreds of amateur and professional productions around the world each year.

Early on I recognized that Seattle possessed something that almost no other city in America can claim—a deep and large pool of gifted and talented theater artists and craftspeople.  One of my greatest pleasures has been to discover, champion, develop and employ this local world-class community of actors, singers, dancers, musicians, directors, choreographers, designers, and backstage workers of all kinds, and to partner them with the finest theater practitioners from New York, and place them at the center of our brand and our mission. This virtual “rep company” is an irreplaceable asset to this theater.  They have become my cherished friends and trusted colleagues, and it has been a joy and a privilege to work with every one of them.

I have been equally honored to collaborate with so many wonderful administrative and production staff members over the years.  Your dedication, commitment and belief in the power of musical theater has been an inspiration to me and we could never have achieved so much without your enormous contributions.

I was trusted with the opportunity to work professionally as a director at a very young age and I am especially proud of the opportunities and nurturing that we have provided to talented young people, both on and off the stage.  Many of them created significant work for The 5th, and have gone on to noteworthy positions with theaters and productions both in Seattle and New York.

School field trips to theatrical productions, along with music, dance and drama classes changed my life as a child so it was important to me that The 5th become a leader in arts education initiatives for both young people and adults.  Over the past 17 years, we created a host of celebrated programs including our High School Musical Theatre Awards, Fridays At The 5th, the Rising Star Project, Spotlight Nights, Show Talks, and our greatly expanded Adventure Musical Theater Touring shows. It has been particularly gratifying over the years to watch talented young people participate in one or more of these programs, go off to college, and then come home and begin outstanding professional careers on our stage.

It has been very rewarding to collaborate with our region’s many world-class arts organizations, most notably the Seattle Men’s Chorus and ACT Theatre.  I am very proud to have spearheaded our citywide Seattle Celebrates Bernstein festival back in 2010, as well as the upcoming Seattle Celebrates Shakespeare festival.  We have also had the opportunity to partner and co-produce with many of America’s leading theater companies, and I have been very pleased to share so many of our productions, artists, and staff with other theaters and audiences across the country.

My greatest passion, however, has been for our large and loyal 5th Avenue Theatre audience. We are blessed with one of the smartest, most passionate, musical theater savvy audiences in the world.  This includes, of course, our season ticket subscribers (still one of the largest theater subscriptions in America,) our patrons, sponsors, donors, and Board of Directors.  It is because of their outstanding commitment and enthusiasm that we have been able to so consistently produce work of such high quality and level of achievement. Theater only exists in that space between the edge of the stage and the front row where the consciousness and energy of the audience and the actors meet.  There would be no 5th Avenue Theatre without our audience, and it has been a great pleasure to get know and interact personally with so many individual members over the years.

I have no doubt that my most cherished memories of my time at The 5th will be the same as those of many of our staff, artists and audience — the thrilling productions and unforgettable moments of musical theatre magic that still give me goosebumps.  These include my first production as Producing Artistic Director, Anything Goes starring Dee Hoty and the irrepressible Bronson Pinchot, our perfectly cast A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC that opened just days after 9/11, our blockbuster production of HAIR that introduced a whole generation of future 5th Avenue stars, and the spellbinding first preview of our world premiere of HAIRSPRAY.  Other favorites of mine include our outstanding revivals of Gypsy, 1776, My Fair Lady, Sweeney Todd, The Rocky Horror Show, Wonderful Town, The Most Happy Fella, West Side Story, Cabaret, On The Town, Candide, Oklahoma, Sunday In The Park With George, The Pirates of Penzance, How To Succeed, Paint Your Wagon, The Secret Garden, and Ragtime.  And, of course, some of the terrific musicals that we introduced to Seattle: White Christmas, ELF, and the world premieres of Memphis, First Date, Disney’s Aladdin, and A Christmas Story.

In my new position, I will have the opportunity to continue working at my artistic home and to, hopefully, create other memorable productions.  Meanwhile, The 5th will be in good hands.  As I step down, Bill Berry and Bernie Griffin will expand their roles as Producing Artistic Director and Managing Director, respectively, and I have no doubt that they will lead the organization to new heights and achievements.

To Bill, Bernie, our Board Of Directors and all of you,  I would like to pass on this vision:

That one day soon The 5th Avenue Theatre will join the short list of things that everyone knows about this city.    Seattle – that’s where they have all that rain, and that incredible natural beauty, and Amazon and Starbucks and Microsoft — and that theater company that produces all of those great musicals.

Thank you to everyone who over the past 17 years helped me to bring The 5th at least part way toward that goal.  It has been a great pleasure.

 

David Armstrong

Executive Producer and Artistic Director
The 5th Avenue Theatre

 

 

 

The Golden Door

By Albert Evans, Artistic Associate

In 1949, Irving Berlin added a new song to his soon-to-open Broadway musical, Miss Liberty, a fictional account of the sculpting of the Statue of Liberty.

Instead of writing his own lyric, Berlin borrowed lines from “The New Colossus,” a sonnet by Emma Lazarus engraved on a bronze plaque and mounted on the statue’s pedestal.

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

These words held a special meaning for Berlin. In 1893, when he was five years old, his family fled Tsarist Russia—along with the many thousands of other “homeless, tempest-tost” refugees driven from their homes by brutal anti-Jewish pogroms.

Berlin’s last memory of Russia was watching his house burn down while his mother held him and wept. His first memory of America was seeing the Statue of Liberty, her torch lifted to welcome him and his family as their crowded boat arrived in New York Harbor.

Twelve million immigrants—Irish, Jewish, Chinese—arrived in the United States in the late 1800s. Some came with money; others, like Berlin, came with little more than the clothes on their backs.

As difficult as immigration was, assimilation proved even harder. Firmly shut out from most professions by the “old-money” Protestant establishment, some new Americans seized on the opportunities provided by the theater.

The Irish were the pioneers. Vaudevillian George M. Cohan and symphony conductor Victor Herbert invented early musical comedy and American operetta. But by the second decade of the twentieth century, most of the writers and producers of musical theater (and many of the performers) were Jewish.

Irving Berlin was the first of the great Jewish success stories.

As “Izzy Baline,” he was raised in dire poverty in the stinking New York slums. He peddled newspapers and sang for pennies on the street. His father was a cantor who died when Izzy was young, leaving behind his mother, two sisters and a brother. Izzy left home at 13—the pennies he earned weren’t enough to pay for his keep.

Young Irving Berlin
Irving Berlin circa 1910

Although Izzy Baline was a musical illiterate with only crude piano skills, he somehow taught himself to write music and lyrics (someone else had to write down his tunes). In 1907 he changed his name to the American sounding “Irving Berlin,” and in 1911 “Alexander’s Ragtime Band” propelled him into the top rank of songwriters. He remained America’s Songwriter Laureate until his death in 1989, aged 101.

Berlin’s story became the mythic template for the lives of all Jewish songwriters: early poverty, entertaining on the street, living on dreams, name change, sudden success, fur coat for Mama (optional).

For the most part, this is a myth, encouraged by Hollywood rags-to-riches tales. Although they had to struggle to succeed, nearly all theater songwriters came from comfortable, even privileged backgrounds. Most of them were second-generation Americans whose immigrant parents had done the hard work of establishing themselves in the New World.

George and Ira Gershwin’s father was a successful dreamer who loved to start new businesses, and when George showed a precocious musical talent he was immediately provided with good teachers. By his mid-teens, he was working for a Jewish-run music publishing house, where he made valuable contacts with theater producers and Broadway stars.

Jerome Kern’s father was a Jewish German immigrant who became a stable owner and a prosperous merchant. The Kerns sent Jerry to the best schools, and even to Germany to study piano and composition.

Irving Berlin, Rodgers and Hammerstein
Irving Berlin with Oscar Hammerstein and Richard Rodgers at an audition.

Richard Rodgers and his two future collaborators, Lorenz Hart and Oscar Hammerstein II, wrote varsity shows at Columbia University. Hammerstein’s grandfather, Oscar I, built theaters and opera houses; his father managed the largest vaudeville palace in Manhattan.

Dorothy Fields—a rare female lyricist for Broadway and Hollywood who wrote everything from “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love” to Sweet Charity—was the daughter of the retired vaudeville headliner Lou Fields.

The most notable non-Jewish songwriter was the Episcopalian Cole Porter, grandson of the richest man in Indiana. While a student at Yale, he became determined to write musical theater songs. He tried for ten years to place his sophisticated pieces on Broadway. Finally, one day he confided to Richard Rodgers, “I think I’ve found the key to success. I’m going to write Jewish tunes.”

Nowadays we’d call that cultural appropriation. But Porter was on to something. Musical theater songs had undergone a striking change since the influx of Jewish composers. Consciously or not, Jews had brought the flavor of temple chants and klezmer tunes to Broadway melodies: modal scales, “bent” notes and major/minor ambiguities.

By a remarkable cultural coincidence, some of those Hebraic influences corresponded with root elements of African-American blues, making Jewish-inflected tunes irresistible to jazz artists.

Harold Arlen made the “Jewish blues” his signature style in songs like “Stormy Weather,” “Blues in the Night,” “Come Rain Or Come Shine,” “One for My Baby (And One More for the Road),” “The Man That Got Away” and dozens more.

And of course, Gershwin mastered the hybrid style. “It Ain’t Necessarily So” borrows its melody from a Jewish prayer. That clarinet solo that kicks off “Rhapsody in Blue”—is it a blues riff or a klezmer wail? The creations of these and other Jewish songwriters (and musical convert Cole Porter) form the basis of the Great American Songbook, the “standards” that are rediscovered and reinterpreted by every generation.

What writers avoided in their musicals was the long, painful Jewish history of persecution and exile. Instead, they disguised their concerns by telling stories of other cultures and races and classes in conflict. So instead of Jews versus goyim, we get musicals about Sharks and Jets, an Oklahoma farm girl and a “Persian” peddler, an upper-class gentleman and a Cockney flower girl, an English schoolmistress and an Asian king—et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

In the 1960s, Fiddler on the Roof—a musical that ends with the destruction of a Russian shtetl—finally broke the taboo against telling the true Jewish story. It could have been about Irving Berlin’s early childhood.

Berlin, like many immigrant Jews, struggled to leave behind his past, though the old melodies sometimes crept into his tunes. He genuinely loved his adopted country and aspired to write not just its popular songs, but its anthems: “Easter Parade,” “White Christmas,” “God Bless America.” Berlin even wrote the theater anthem, “There’s No Business Like Show Business.”

Finally, in 1949, at the pinnacle of his fame and secure in all he had achieved, he wrote his majestic Statue of Liberty song, perhaps addressing it to the frightened young Izzy Baline:

“Give me your tired, your poor . . .
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

irving-berlin-plays-as-fred-astaire-and-ginger-rogers-dance-12


For tickets to Irving Berlin’s Holiday Inn at The 5th Avenue Theatre, click here.


 

Sarah Rose Davis on Holiday Inn

What was the first show you were in at The 5th?

My first show at the 5th was  A Christmas Story in 2010. I was the swing, which meant I understudied eight women in the ensemble. It was my first professional job out of college and I had never even understudied one person in a show, let alone eight. I was terrified.

How many shows have you done at The 5th in total?

I had to actually go back through the season archives to figure out how many exactly. I have done 22 productions with The 5th and Holiday Inn will be my 23rd. That is only counting the mainstage productions. I have also done over a dozen new works and readings with the 5th.

1. Sarah Rose Davis as Linda Mason in Irving Berlin's Holiday Inn at The 5th Avenue Theatre - Photo Credit Mark Kitaoka

How do you feel you have evolved as an artist over the years?

I have grown immensely as a performer over the years. The 5th really pushed me to develop my dance skills by simply giving me numerous opportunities to dance in the ensemble and also in leading roles, encouraging me to become a stronger more confident performer all around. Dance was always something I considered to be my fourth or fifth threat (ha) but now I feel pretty confident as a singer, actor and a dancer, making me much more well rounded and versatile. I love playing a leading role, but dancing in the ensemble of shows can be incredibly difficult and demanding work, and I absolutely love having the opportunity to do both.

Who are some of the people you have acted for or with who have inspired you or motivated you to be better, particularly at The 5th?

It’s funny, when I started working at The 5th I was consistently one of the youngest people in the cast, starting when I was 21, and I would look up to people like Trina Mills, Taryn Darr and Billie Wildrick and admire their focus and professionalism, and now I not only do I get the opportunity to work and dance alongside them, but they are now some of my greatest friends. Eric Ankrim directed me in ELF and Grease, and now we are starring opposite each other for the second time! It’s just awesome that I get to work with people I have admired for so long that are now such a huge part of my life. The 5th feels like family, no matter what your role in a production is.

4. Eric Ankrim as Jim and Sarah Rose Davis as Linda in Holiday Inn at The 5th Avenue Theatre - Photo Credit Mark KitaokaWhat are you looking forward to about Holiday Inn?

I’m looking forward to working my butt off! I love working hard in a show, and this show is jam-packed with all the good stuff -beautiful classic holiday music and tap dancing to name a few. Being in a show around the holidays means guaranteed hangouts with some of my closest friends. Taryn, Matt, Eric and I are all really great friends and already have such a strong connection that I am excited to bring that to the show and our characters relationships. Also, Holiday Inn is one of my Dads favorite movies!

 

Lightning Round:

  • Favorite holiday? A tie between Halloween and Christmas!
  • Favorite cold-weather beverage? Hot chocolate with a million mini marshmallows
  • Cake or pie? Cake, unless it’s pumpkin pie aka the only pie I like.
  • Underrated musical? I Love You Because!
  • Favorite thing about Seattle at the holidays? The festive lights downtown, downtown shopping, and being in the Christmas show at the 5th.

Holiday Inn plays November 24 – December 31. Click here for tickets.

Photo credit Mark Kitaoka


 

Volunteer Spotlight: John Sigala

When did you start volunteering at The 5th?

I’m a new volunteer and started volunteering at The 5th with The Sound of Music.

Why do you love musical theater?

I was introduced to musical theater in 1968 when I went to London through my high school summer foreign study program.  I saw Man of La Mancha and loved it and see a musical whenever I can.

What makes coming to The 5th special?

The 5th has a reputation for musicals and the theater is one of the most beautiful I’ve seen and gives the feeling of something magical. Also, its programs introduce young audiences to both the venue and to participation in all facets of theater, which makes it a special place to volunteer.

What’s your favorite memory here?

If had to name one in my short history with The 5th it probably would be seeing the reaction of the kids watching The Little Mermaid and the excitement when asked if they wanted a Little Mermaid tattoo.

Where are you from?

I was born in Fresno, California but raised and went to school in the Salinas Valley and Monterey Bay area.

What do you do outside of volunteering here?  

I’m retired but am a volunteer for Sound Generations, Fremont Fair and Festivals and Bumbershoot.

And the Winners Are…

The winners of the 2016/17 Subscriber Choice Awards have been announced.

At the end of every season, we ask our subscribers to vote for their favorite performers, designs, and musical moments from throughout the last season. We are proud to share the winners of the 2016/17 Subscriber Choice Awards.

The cast of Disney's The Little Mermaid at The 5th Avenue Theatre - Photo Credit Mark KitaokaFavorite Production
The Little Mermaid

Diana Huey as Ariel in Disney's The Little Mermaid at The 5th Avenue Theatre - Photo Credit Mark KitaokaOutstanding Female Actor in a Leading Role
Diana Huey as Ariel in Disney’s The Little Mermaid

Richard Gray stars in Murder for Two - Photo Credit Mark KitaokaOutstanding Male Actor in a Leading Role
Richard Gray as The Suspects in Murder for Two

Fun Home
Outstanding Female Actor in a Supporting Role
Abby Corrigan as Medium Allison in Fun Home

MKitaoka_161007_6523
Outstanding Male Actor in a Supporting Role
Don Darryl Rivera as Sancho Panza in Man Of La Mancha

Greg McCormick Allen and Shaunyce Omar in The Pajama Game - Photo Credit Mark Kitaoka
Outstanding Female Actor in a Featured Role
Shaunyce Omar as Mabel in The Pajama Game

MKitaoka-161123-1617
Outstanding Male Actor in a Featured Role
Melvin Abston as Sebastian in Disney’s The Little Mermaid

Bea Corley stars as Mary Lennox in The Secret Garden - Photo Credit Mark Kitaoka
Outstanding Performance by a Child Actor
Bea Corley as Mary Lennox in The Secret Garden

Dynamic Duo Chris DiStefano and Richard Gray in Murder for Two - Photo Credit Mark Kitaoka
Outstanding Direction
Daniel Knechtges for Murder for Two

Sarag Rise Davis and the company of The Pajama Game - Photo Credit Tracy Martin
Outstanding Choreography
Bob Richard for The Pajama Game

20161007_TMartin_0119Outstanding Music Direction
Cynthia Kortman Westphal for Man Of La Mancha

MKitaoka-0508
Outstanding Set Design
Anna Louizos for The Secret Garden

MKitaoka-0753
Outstanding Lighting Design
Mike Baldassari for The Secret Garden

20161123_TMartin_4817Outstanding Costume Design
Amy Clark & Mark Koss for Disney’s The Little Mermaid

Outstanding Musical Moments
“The Impossible Dream” from Man of La Mancha
Performed by Rufus Bonds Jr.

Outstanding Musical Moments
“Steam Heat” from The Pajama Game
Performed by Taryn Darr with Ryan Patrick Kelly and Davione Gordon

Outstanding Musical Moments  
“Hernando’s Hideaway” from The Pajama Game
Performed by Sarah Rose Davis and the company of The Pajama Game

Outstanding Musical Moments
“Lily’s Eyes” from The Secret Garden
Performed by Tam Mutu and Josh Young

2017 Theatre Impact Award
Deborah Engelbach

2017 Theatre Impact Award
Misha Berson

 


To learn more about subscriptions at The 5th Avenue Theatre, click here. 


 

Matt Owen on Holiday Inn

5. Matt Owen as Ten Hanover in Irving Berlin's Holiday Inn at The 5th Avenue Theatre - Photo Credit Mark KitaokaWhat was the first show you were in at The 5th?

The first show was Anything Goes in 2000. Where has the time gone???

How many shows have you done at The 5th in total?

I think Holiday Inn makes 20…or 21? Not exactly sure!

How do you feel you have evolved as an artist over the years?

Hmmm…tough question. I feel like I basically grew up performing at the 5th. My first show I did here was when I was 17 years old. I think with age comes confidence—knowing where my strengths lie, understanding how to better communicate with my fellow artists both on and off the stage. And like anything…the more you do something, the better you get. I feel like I should have a deeper more profound answer for this, but I’m sure Eric Ankrim’s answer will be very impressive…so…maybe I’ll just go with, “Whatever Eric said.”

7. Matt Owen and Taryn Darr in Holiday Inn at The 5th Avenue Theatre - Photo Credit Mark KitaokaWho are some of the people you have acted for or with who have inspired you or motivated you to be better, particularly at The 5th?

Working with a truly amazing group of people. I adore these folks. David directed my first professional show (Anything Goes 17 years ago), and Jamie Rocco and I have worked together many times. Also this cast, crew, and orchestra? C’mon! I couldn’t ask for a better group of people to work with. The 5th has always been my home away from home, and I feel so lucky to get to spend the holidays here.

What is it like to be in a holiday show at The 5th?

Holiday shows are always great. There’s just a positive energy in the air. The audiences really get excited, and being in Seattle (where I grew up, but no longer live) during the holidays is just special. Also, there are usually FAR more delicious backstage sweets. And seeing as I’m playing the “dancing role” in this show…I think I’m entitled to a cookie…or 50.

Lightning Round:

  • Favorite holiday?  Thanksgiving. Hands down.  Perfect excuse to eat my face off.
  • Favorite cold-weather beverage? Does Scotch count?
  • Cake or pie?  No question.
  • Underrated musical?  One of the best books of a musical ever written.
  • Favorite thing about Seattle at the holidays? Getting to spend time with my wonderful family…and pie.

Holiday Inn plays The 5th Avenue Theatre November 24 – December 31. Click here for tickets.

Photo credit Mark Kitaoka

Taryn Darr on Holiday Inn

What was the first show you were in at The 5th?

My first show was Gypsy in 2001(with Matt Owen!) I played a Hollywood Blonde and the front end of the cow, respectively.

2. Taryn Darr as Lila Dixon in Irving Berlin's Holiday Inn at The 5th Avenue Theatre - Photo Credit Mark KitaokaHow many shows have you done at The 5th in total?

I’ve lost count. I do, however, remember exactly where I was when I got my first offer at the 5th. I was home for Christmas in Gresham, Oregon. I cried tears of joy. I continue to be grateful for every moment I get to spend on this stage.

 How do you feel you have evolved as an artist over the years?

When I first started my career, the “gift” I gave myself after each show was to have the poster of the production framed. Maybe I thought I wasn’t going to be doing this that long (I had initially set out to be an archeologist), but needless to say, I ran out of both funds and wall space to continue that treat-yo-self idea. So with that, I’ll say I’ve grown to have a wee more confidence in myself and to know solidly where my strengths are as an artist.  That said, there are things that still terrify me, so there’s always something to work on.

Who are some of the people you have acted for or with who have inspired you or motivated you to be better, particularly at The 5th?

Oh, there are too many to name! I’ve been so fortunate with my time here in Seattle as well as New York City to have worked with some absolutely AMAZING artists and creatives. My nearly 20-year career as a triple threat has been shaped immensely by just watching others—seeing artists work tirelessly to develop a scene, sing with grit and guts, appear to dance so tall when they’re really so short, or chew scenery like it’s taffy. So many friends in this business are, simply by just being themselves, master classes on musical theatre.

What are you looking forward to about Holiday Inn?

The fabulous dancing! The stunning costumes! My hilarious friends! This swoon-worthy era! And the cookies! Any cookies.

What is it like to be in a holiday show at The 5th

A holiday show at the 5th is truthfully very busy! My family lives in Oregon and when I’m doing a show there just isn’t quite enough time to get down there for Christmas. What’s wonderful though, is that the 5th Avenue always makes everyone feel like family with its own holiday traditions. The tree-trimming party is my favorite—just the coziest, most joyful day. Cast, crew and creative gather together in the lobby on a break during one of our long technical rehearsals. We trim the tree, take lots of “family” photos, and usually end up eating so much that when we head back to rehearsal, our costumes magically have shrunk.

6. Matt Owen and Taryn Darr in Holiday Inn at The 5th Avenue Theatre - Photo Credit Mark Kitaoka

Lightning Round:

  • Favorite holiday? Thanksgiving. Food, friends and football! (Go Hawks!)
  • Favorite cold-weather beverage? Whatever goes with bourbon
  • Cake or pie? Peach pie and German Chocolate cake. I don’t do this one or the other nonsense.
  • Underrated musical? Andrew Lippa’s The Wild Party
  • Favorite thing about Seattle at the holidays? (A show at the 5th!) The twinkly lights everywhere. The crisp, salty air coming off the Sound. Two open lanes and extra attendants in the parking garage.

Irving Berlin’s Holiday Inn plays November 24 – December 31 at The 5th Avenue Theatre. Click here for tickets.

Photo credit Mark Kitaoka.


 

The Black and White Rag

By ALBERT EVANS, Artistic Associate

On a bright spring morning, in the city of New Rochelle, New York, E. L. Doctorow sat at his desk in a darkened room, staring at the wall. A fresh sheet of paper stood in his typewriter, but an idea for a new novel eluded him.

Doctorow was determined to keep to his daily writing schedule, so he lit his pipe and began to describe what he saw—the wall. Having soon exhausted that subject, he moved on to the room and the rest of the house: a spacious residence built in the early 1900s. He began to imagine the family that might have lived there during that time—dominant white Protestants, served by second-generation Irish Catholics who cleaned their houses, tended their lawns and lived out of sight “somewhere downtown.”

His novelist’s eye zoomed out to take in nearby New York City, ruled by titans of business, administered by tough politicians and peopled by the full range of humanity, from the upper classes living in marble mansions, to the desperately poor tenement dwellers—the Italians, Poles and Jews who had fled poverty and hunger in their homelands, thousands of them arriving every month on what the rich sneeringly called “rag ships.”

At the bottom of the social ladder were the Blacks, many of them former slaves, who migrated north to escape the new bondage of the Jim Crow laws only to find themselves again unwelcome and unemployable.

But despite the sharp divisions between rich and poor, there was an exciting spirit of change in the city. It was an age of invention and speed—the country was connected by thousands of miles of railroad tracks and telegraph cables. The miraculous new telephone made cross-country vocal communication possible. Men were even building flying machines and conquering the air! The phonograph turned a nation of amateur music makers into a vast audience of listeners. A new kind of music caught the spirit of the age—75 years later, Doctorow would use it as the title of his book: Ragtime.

WHAT WAS THIS MUSIC?

Ragtime began as a way of playing any kind of music by “ragging” the melody, a rhythmic trick which almost certainly originated with the African American plantation culture of the mid-1800s. Over a steady beat—foot stomping or hand clapping—a banjo player would alter a melody so that accents that would normally fall on strong beats might instead playfully land on weak beats, or even between the beats. This was not new — it was called “syncopation” and had been used as an ear-catching effect in folk and classical music for years. But the plantation players would rag the entire melody, beginning to end. These first raggers were amateurs. Nothing was written down, so the origins of ragtime are hard to trace.

Around 1890, ragtime traveled north and was taken up by pianists who entertained in big-city saloons and brothels. Some of these “professors” could actually read and write music. All of them learned from each other and the idea of rags as composed pieces with identifiable authors emerged.

Scott Joplin was one of those authors. Born in Texas in 1867 and raised in Missouri, he was an ambitious and serious-minded kid, one of the first generation of African Americans born after the end of slavery. His parents were both musical, and young Joplin was given free piano lessons by a sympathetic German music professor who introduced him to the classics. In his late twenties, Joplin played in the places where he could find work—in the bars and bordellos. He was enraptured by ragtime, and soon made it his mission to elevate rags to the level of Chopin Nocturnes or Bach Preludes. His first publication, “Original Rags,” brought him notice; his second, “Maple Leaf Rag” (published in 1899) swept the world—the first instrumental piece to sell over a million copies of sheet music. For the next two decades, Joplin’s rags were the gold standard, admired and played all over the world.

Joplin-style “classic ragtime” is a piano genre, a fusion of Black and White styles that seems to musically advocate for the harmony of the races. The left hand is the “White” hand. It lays down the steady “oom-pah” rhythm and four-square chords of the parade march. (John Philip Sousa, America’s March King, was a great Joplin admirer and advocate.) Against that conventional foundation, the right hand—the “Black” hand—plays ragged melodies in the new syncopated style invented by the plantation pickers and fiddlers. Together, the two hands work together like a happy machine, creating an almost hypnotic mood and sustaining it for three or four minutes, the length of a typical rag. Despite the seeming freedom of the right-hand, ragtime is not jazz—its themes are carefully composed and players are not expected to take liberties, except for an occasional virtuosic flourish. Joplin even tried to limit the speed at which his rags were played. Often printed on his music was this:

“Note. Do not play this piece fast. It is never right to play Ragtime fast.” – Composer

For the first few years of the Ragtime Era, the sheet music titles and cover art made it clear that rags were being offered as examples of “quaint” Black music, often with minstrel show references. But as the music moved out of the saloons and into the genteel parlors of White society, that marketing angle was dropped. Titles became politely vague and artwork depicted well-dressed white couples riding horses, rowing canoes, or attending palm court dances. Neither approach had much to do with the music. But the image of Joplin himself was never obscured or downplayed. His dark, dignified face looks out proudly from his compositions. “Maple Leaf Rag” gave him a secure income that allowed him to pursue the writing of operas, though none ever earned a dime.

As ragtime grew from a novelty to a craze, popular songwriters began naming their marches and two-steps “rags,” even if they had barely a lick of syncopation in them, like Irving Berlin’s breakthrough hit “Alexander’s Ragtime Band.” The era of classic ragtime came to an end in 1919, two years after Joplin’s death. The Ragtime Era was followed by the Jazz Age, which borrowed the syncopations of ragtime, added the freedom of improvisation and revoked the speed limit. Ragtime enjoyed a nostalgic mid-century revival, along with Dixieland jazz, barbershop quartets and other “old-timey” styles. Ragtime was typically caricatured as raucous honkytonk music. Male performers wore derbies and striped shirts with sleeve garters; females wore anachronistic flapper dresses and feather boas. The pianos were sometimes tricked out to sound metallic and even out-of-tune.

In 1970, a young musicologist named Joshua Rifkin recorded an album of Joplin rags performed in respectful, authentic style. It was an ear-opening success, and suddenly classic ragtime was back in vogue. The music got another boost when Marvin Hamlisch adapted several of Joplin’s pieces (most prominently “The Entertainer”) for the soundtrack of The Sting. Ragtime, E. L. Doctorow’s best-selling novel, appeared in 1975, followed by a 1981 movie and, in 1996 became the stirring musical you will see today.


Click here for tickets to see Ragtime at The 5th Avenue Theatre.


 

A Story About Us: An Interview with Peter Rothstein

By Kwapi Vengesayi, Community Engagement Specialist

On December 8, 1996, Ragtime, a musical based on the 1975 novel by E.L. Doctorow, celebrated its world premiere at the Toronto Centre for the Arts. Fourteen months later, on January 18, 1998, it made its Broadway debut, which marked the beginning of what would be a two-year run: 27 previews, 834 performances, 13 Tony Award® nominations and four wins, including Best Book of a Musical and Best Score.“The original production was glorious,” says Peter

“The original production was glorious,” says Peter Rothstein, director of The 5th Avenue’s production of Ragtime. “It had a huge and incredible cast, it was an epic production; it was theatrically thrilling.” Peter Rothstein is the Founding Artistic Director of Theater Latté Da based in Minneapolis. In fall of 2016, Rothstein directed a new, reimagined

Peter Rothstein is the Founding Artistic Director of Theater Latté Da based in Minneapolis. In fall of 2016, Rothstein directed a new, reimagined
version of Ragtime. With a scaled down cast of just 15 actors—11 adults and four children—Theater Latté Da’s production presented a new take on the original musical. As Rothstein continues to develop the show, this number has also adjusted. The 5th’s
production features 13 adults and four children.“I intentionally said there would be no chorus.

“I intentionally said there would be no chorus. The production would engage just the principal characters.” For example, in the opening number when the immigrants are introduced, the entire cast is onstage singing, but the event is focused in such a way that the audience observes only the Jewish immigrant Tateh and his child rather than a full chorus of immigrants. As a result, the central characters are given more attention, more focus.These principals then serve as the ensemble,

These principals then serve as the ensemble, chorus and narrators of each other’s stories. When Coalhouse is purchasing a Model T, you’ll see the rest of the cast playing the factory workers. This allows the audience to spend more time with each actor than they would in a more traditional large-scale production. It also underlines a central metaphor in the piece. “As a community, as a nation, we are personally responsible for each other’s story. I believe that,” Rothstein says.“Ragtime is about our core values as a nation.” At a

“Ragtime is about our core values as a nation.” At a time in which the nation’s social and political climate has been abrasive when it comes to conversations about identity, Rothstein feels that Ragtime is a production that will inspire dialogue. Anchored in the narratives of three characters—a Jewish immigrant, an African-American musician and an affluent white woman—this musical weaves these stories in a profound and beautiful way as it explores the different relationships the characters have within the power structures of the nation.


Click here to get tickets for Ragtime at The 5th Avenue Theatre.