Remembering Sarah Nash Gates: Beloved Artist, Mentor, Board Member and Friend

In December of 2015, Seattle lost a treasured artist and teacher, Sarah Nash Gates. She will long be remembered by the staff of The 5th Avenue Theater as one of our greatest influences, a wonderful board member and a true friend. While 5th Avenue audiences would know her for her incredible costume designs, her devotion to theater and arts education made its influence felt in ways that patrons might not perceive.


5th Avenue audiences were amazed by Gates’ talent as a costume designer when she brought Oliver! to life in stunning vivid colors, followed by the critically-acclaimed production of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Carousel. She designed for other Seattle institutions including Intiman, Seattle Rep, Seattle Children’s Theatre and Seattle Opera. She also worked nationally with theaters including Denver Center Theater Company, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, and Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus, among others. She served as president of the United States Institute for Theatre Technology in the early 90s (the first woman and costume designer to hold that office) and served three years as president of the University/Resident Theatre Association.


Gates became a member of the Board of Directors of The 5th Avenue Theatre in 2008, quickly becoming the Chair of the Education Committee, which oversees our many education programs. Over the years, these programs have grown to reach over 65,000 young people across Washington State, thanks in part to her vision and leadership. She was an ardent supporter of programs like Rising Star Project, which provides direct mentorship to young people interested in all facets of theater—completely tuition-free, and Adventure Musical Theater Touring Company, which tours locally-written curriculum based musicals to schools across the state.

She retired as the Executive Director of the UW School of Drama in 2013 after a 20 year career nurturing generations of theater artists and professionals, but could not stay away for long. She came out of retirement recently to serve as the Interim Divisional Dean of the Arts.


The 5th Avenue Theatre has played a major part in cultivating a local talent pool. But as the Executive Director of the UW School of Drama, so did Gates. Many who work regularly on our stage were mentored by Gates as they first tentatively navigated careers as professional theater artists. Artists including lighting designer Robert Aguilar (Little Shop of Horrors; Jasper in Deadland), actress Taryn Darr (A Chorus Line, Val; White Christmas, Judy), and director Brandon Ivie (A Christmas Story, The Musical; Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella) met with her regularly at UW, garnering insight into the professional world of theater that they would eventually pursue.

Gates was also a founding member of Theater Puget Sound, which has become a mainstay of Seattle’s vibrant and multi-faceted theater community, connecting companies with artists and artists with each other. She encouraged collaboration and communication on every level.

The 5th Avenue Theatre will always remember Sarah Nash Gates for her artistry, her passion for mentoring young artists, and her dedication to her community. We mourn her loss, and share our deepest sympathies with her family and loved ones.

This production of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying is dedicated to her memory.

By BRIDGET MORGAN, Public Relations & Communications Manager

Drop Dead Dangerous: Meet The Assassins

We kick off a series of weekly casting announcements for Assassins with Rich Gray as Charles Guiteau. Learn about Gray’s career as a local actor and composer in his 22nd production with the 5th Avenue, and discover the unique presidential assassin he portrays: a man with a troubled mind and aspirations for a career in the White House.

1516 Assassins Guiteau Rich Gray
About the Actor:  Richard Gray

A regular in the Seattle theater scene, Richard Gray was last seen on the ACT stage in the pre-Broadway run of First Date. He has performed in 21 productions at The 5th Avenue Theatre including recent stagings of The Music Man, Carousel, Spamalot and A Room with a View. Among his favorite roles are “Baron Bomburst in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Max Bialystock in The Producers and a Gregory Award Nominated performance as Amos Hart in Chicago.

Gray is also known as a celebrated composer in Seattle, with recent works including Cold Turkey, Love Is Love, Time Again in Oz, Lyle the Crocodile, the Barrymore Award Winning Best Musical The Flea and The Professor, and The Gregory Award nominated Dick Whittington and His Cat. 

Gray’s upcoming role at the 5th Avenue is a dark venture into the mind of presidential assassin, Charles Guiteau.

About the Assassin: Charles Guiteau

Born in 1841, Charles Guiteau was a preacher, writer and lawyer who had a history of mental illness. He took an interest in politics and penned a few speeches in support of the Republican nominee, James Garfield. After Garfield won the presidential election, Guiteau felt the new president owed him a position in his administration for his support and demanded an ambassadorship to Paris or Austria. His requests were repeatedly denied and he was banned from visiting White House. Angered by this rejection and feeling God had told him to, Guiteau plotted his revenge and on July 2, 1881, shot President Garfield.

Famed inventor Alexander Graham Bell hastily invented the world’s first metal detector to help doctors locate the assassin’s bullet lodged in the president’s body. His efforts were in vain. The doctors laid President Garfield on a metal spring mattress to search for the bullet, which lead to many “failed attempts” to locate it. Additionally, there was little understanding at the time of germs and the necessity for sterilization. Despite these medical failures, the president managed to survive several months before succumbing to his wounds.


How to Write a Satire By Being Really, Really Smart

How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying is a textbook example (if textbooks were hilariously funny) of the standard definition, and a sharp refutation of Kaufman’s gloomy prediction. But it’s understandable why Kaufman made his cynical joke. He was a writer and director, and satires usually appeal more to authors than to the public. Theatergoers stubbornly prefer to go home after a musical cheered and uplifted, rather than reflecting bitterly on “foolishness or vice.”

But if a show is sufficiently nimble and its satirical arrows hit the bull’s-eye, even political and governmental shenanigans can lift the spirits. George and Ira Gershwin’s Of Thee I Sing proved the point in 1931, when it combined a presidential campaign with a beauty contest, the winners to be married at the inauguration. Of Thee I Sing became one of the few smash hits of the Depression years. (Ironically, it was directed by Mr. Kaufman.) Continue reading “How to Write a Satire By Being Really, Really Smart”

Frank Loesser

Frank LoesserFRANK LOESSER was a short, pugnacious tough guy who peppered his speech with New York street slang and carried himself like one of the lovable hoodlums from his own musical Guys and Dolls. Meeting him, you might assume he was a lower-class denizen of the outer boroughs, someone who had worked his way up the show-biz ladder driven by hunger and chutzpah.

But if Frank took you home to meet the folks, you would enter a cultured Manhattan residence and shake hands with his father, a well-known professor of music; his mother, who gave lectures on modern literature; and his older stepbrother, a renowned concert pianist. Frank was the outlier of the family—not exactly a black sheep, but the son who chose a different path and created a persona to match.

That path was popular music. At first, he wrote only lyrics, working for $100 a week—a job he later described as “a rendezvous with failure.” In 1936, he placed a song in a Broadway revue. The show folded quickly but the song caught the attention of Paramount Pictures, who put him under contract. He was 25 years old and working in Hollywood! Continue reading “Frank Loesser”

The Art of Making Music: 2016 Director’s Dinner

On January 8th, The 5th’s Executive Producer and Artistic Director, David Armstrong hosted the annual Director’s Dinner and presented a discussion on The Art of Making Music. Fifty Director’s Circle members gathered on the historic 5th Avenue stage to enjoy a festive dinner by Duos and participate in a discussion with Larry Blank, Jason deBord, and Ian Eisendrath.

deBord, Blank, Walsh, Eisendrath
Left to right: Special Guests Jason deBord and Larry Blank with Connie Walsh and Ian Eisendrath

The theme of the evening was focused on how the music makes a musical. Our guests learned about the impact orchestrators, conductors, musical directors, and dance arrangers play in shaping the story on stage.

Mr. Blank received a Drama Desk Award for orchestrations for A Christmas Story (which premiered at The 5th in 2010) and has been nominated for both the Tony Award® and the Drama Desk Award for his orchestrations in The Drowsy Chaperone, Irving Berlin’s White Christmas, and Catch Me If You Can (also heard at the 5th Avenue).

Bloome, Kagan, Porters
Left to right: Board Members Sharon Bloome and Richard Kagan with Beth and Buzz Porter

Mr. deBord was the Resident Music Supervisor for Once, as well as conductor/music director for RENT and Priscilla Queen of the Desert. At The 5th, he was associate music director and associate conductor on  Shrek – The Musical, dance arranger for Yankee Doodle Dandy and is joining the team as dance arranger for with the upcoming production of Paint Your Wagon.

Mr. Eisendrath is The 5th Avenue’s Music Supervisor and Alhadeff Family Director of New Works. Most recently, he was the music supervisor conductor and arranger for the highly acclaimed Seattle Repertory Theatre and LaJolla Playhouse co-production of Come From Away, a new musical developed here at the 5th Avenue.

Atkinson, Covey, Weber, Crowe, Weber
Left to right: Linda Atkinson, Marilyn Covey, Jeffrey Weber, Barbara Crowe, Karen Weber

This once a year opportunity to engage with artists and explore the 5th Avenue stage in its raw form was a fun and informative experience enjoyed by all!

For more information on how you can become a Circles member, please call Christine Johnson at 206.260.2171.

6 Tried and True Tips for Bringing Kids to the Theatre

Is this your child’s  first time to the theater? Here are a few tips for an enjoyable experience for you and your whole family!


Week of the show

Tip 1: Start the conversation early
You are giving your child a great learning opportunity! Help them understand your expectations for their behavior in the theatre before the excitement sets in.


  • What do you think going to the theatre is like?
  • How is seeing a musical different from going to the movies?
  • What should we do when a song or dance is finished?
  • What does being respectful mean?

Act it out:

  • Can you show me what it looks like to sit in the theatre?
  • Show me what it look like to get out all of your giggles and energy before we get to our seats!
  • Pretend you have a question during the performance! What should you do?

Continue reading “6 Tried and True Tips for Bringing Kids to the Theatre”

Holiday Musicals at The 5th Avenue Theatre

The holidays are a festive time, a time for thanksgiving, for family and for cheer. And what provides more joy than a good old holiday musical? Throughout the years, The 5th has produced a number of musicals during the holidays, but here are three of our favorites. Continue reading “Holiday Musicals at The 5th Avenue Theatre”

Top 5 Reasons to Support The 5th Today!

Your Gift Makes a Difference.

Our amazing family of 5th Avenue donors makes our work on the stage and beyond possible. Here are 5 great reasons to make a year-end, tax-deductible gift to The 5th:

5. Pay It Forward
You can help us share the joy of theater with children and families all season long with free tickets to one of our productions.

4.  New Works
With your help, The 5th has created 17 brand new musicals, and many have or will travel to Broadway, adding vibrant new works to the canon of musical theater.

Continue reading “Top 5 Reasons to Support The 5th Today!”

Let’s go on an Adventure! The 5th Avenue Theatre’s Adventure Musical Theater Touring Company

Adventure-Musical-TheaterThe Adventure Musical Theater Touring Company has been taking the magic of musical theater on the road to students across Washington State since 1994. Continue reading “Let’s go on an Adventure! The 5th Avenue Theatre’s Adventure Musical Theater Touring Company”

Our Favorite Things of 2015—From Your Education Department at The 5th Avenue Theatre

2015 has been a truly incredible year full of engaging and inspiring educational programming for audiences of all ages. Each of us in the Education Department here at The 5th is grateful for the opportunity to work with an amazing community of students, patrons and donors who support our work year after year. Continue reading “Our Favorite Things of 2015—From Your Education Department at The 5th Avenue Theatre”