The show goes on! Local theaters stage a comeback

The show goes on! Local theaters stage a comeback
By mattc

Woodland Park Players returned in 2022 with “Nice Work If You Can Get It”, a fun and frothy musical set in the Roaring ’20s. Photo: Alan Alabastro, Alabastro Photography

By Karla Rava

Ready to take a break from Netflix and Hulu? Live theater is back in action and right here in your neighborhood!

Woodland Park Players, Taproot Theatre, and Dacha Theatre are just a few of the many community theaters back to delighting audiences with in-person performances. From comedy to musicals, these theater houses have a little something for everyone to feel both transported to another world and connected to the community.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused innumerable changes in the performing arts industry. They were one of the first to cease operations in March 2020. Some theater houses experienced temporary closures and were able to resume operations once it was safe, while others went out of business permanently.

The ones that were able to persevere have become even better than before—adjusting their programming and offering alternative solutions for greater audience engagement. As a community, we have a lot to gain by championing these curators of drama, laughter and togetherness. Now that they are fully back and functioning, go enjoy the show!

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Woodland Park Players: An ensemble creating communityWoodland Park Players dance and perform on a stage dressed up like a ship

Woodland Park Players put on a hilarious shipboard romp complete with elaborate disguises and tap-dancing sailors with their 2018 production of “Anything Goes.” Photo: Alan Alabastro, Alabastro Photography

Woodland Park Players (WPP) have been around since 2016 and adapted through COVID. WPP was established by a small group of people who wanted to create community in their neighborhoods and build long-lasting friendships.

As a community-based company, most of WPP’s talent pool of actors, dancers, set-builders, costume designers, and technical crew live or work in Phinney Ridge, Ballard, Greenwood, and Green Lake. The orchestra is comprised of musicians from all over, including local high schoolers, instructors, and musicians from area orchestras. WPP is proud to have one of the only complete orchestras in Seattle and to put on productions that rival those of Seattle’s excellent local theaters.

Woodland Park players became a 501(c)(3) nonprofit in 2017, raising almost $30,000 for the community since its inception. Founder Linda Joss notes, “We are very proud that we are a thriving nonprofit! We pay for our show and then each year we grant our profits to neighborhood student arts programs. Together, we are committed to keeping the arts alive by producing one musical a year and donating all proceeds.”

The theater also involves the local community by producing shows that allow for a large ensemble cast and participation in the production. “We are looking for the chance to give our large cast a chance to shine on stage,” Linda explains. Some of WPP’s large-scale productions include Oklahoma, Guys and Dolls, Anything Goes, Curtains, and Nice Work If You Can Get It.

COVID did create a challenge, however. WPP had to decrease its cast size by nearly half—from 40 to 25 members, resulting in more responsibility placed on the people on stage and less community participation.

Throughout the pandemic, WPP took many precautions to prevent the spread of COVID, including masking-up at every rehearsal until the week before opening night, cast and crew testing frequently, and audience members presenting their vaccination status and wearing masks during the show. Linda is proud to report that they have had zero COVID outbreaks. And, just like in pre-COVID years almost every show sold out. As Linda puts it, both are “a huge success!”

Stay tuned for Woodland Park Players’ next production and learn about past shows at woodlandparkplayers.org.


Taproot Theatre: A theater of hope
Three performers dress in 18th century costumes during a performance of "Lady Windermere's Fan"

“Taproot’s cast does a superb job…” wrote The Seattle Weekly about Taproot Theater’s 2018 production of Oscar Wilde’s “Lady Windermere’s Fan”, “…the pacing is snappy but not hectic, the serious moments make an impact, and the play’s likely never been funnier.” Photo: Robert Wade, Robert Wade Photography

Centrally located in the heart of downtown Greenwood, Taproot Theatre tells stories of hope, serving the Pacific Northwest through live theatre and educational programs.

Taproot is the largest local mid-sized theatre company serving over 150,000 people annually throughout the Pacific Northwest with its Jewell Mainstage season, Isaac Studio Theatre season, touring programs, and Acting Studio.

Founded in 1976 by six friends, five of whom graduated from Seattle Pacific University, Taproot has become a mainstay in PhinneyWood. “We’ve been at this location for over 25 years and are honored to be a part of the Phinney/Greenwood neighborhoods. We’re also proud of the work we do with young people through our acting studio and touring with our bullying prevention plays. Most importantly, we are a theater of hope,” says Nikki Visel, the Director of Marketing.

Their mainstage performances are made up of a carefully selected season of plays that include dramas, comedies, and musicals. The season usually includes a mix of new and classic plays, including an offering each Christmas. Mainstage actors are from all over the city, are every age, race, and gender, and are chosen at yearly “general auditions.” Nikki explains, “The folks on our stage look like the folks in our city.”

Taproot’s Touring Company, which tours bullying prevention plays to schools in the Pacific Northwest, is often made up of early career actors, who “cut their teeth” out on the road during the school year.

Like all theaters, it has been a difficult past couple of years for Taproot. In the beginning of COVID, it shuttered the doors to both theatres and pivoted its Acting Studio and school touring to online virtual options.

Nikki says, “Maintaining relationships with our patrons and also trying to keep as many people employed as possible while on a small budget has also been stressful, but as things have slowly returned to ‘normal,’ we are grateful to have survived the crisis, keep many artists employed, and most importantly, continue to serve our patrons.”

Tickets are on sale now for Taproot Theatre’s show, A Night with the Russells: The Legacy of Us, Sept. 21-Oct. 22. Visit taproottheatre.org.


Dacha Theatre: An interactive traveling troupe
Dacha Theater performers look up during a performance of Star Play.

A Dacha Theatre original, “Star Play” is a storybook romp through the night sky that follows Pleione, the seventh brightest Pleiades sister, as she charts a course through the Milky Way to save the red giant Betelgeuse from going supernova. Photo: Brett Love

Established in 2016, Dacha Theatre‘s first production debuted in a backyard. Co-artistic directors and founders Mike Lion and Kate Drummond have a mission to produce devised, immersive, and playful work. Dacha produces original shows, new adaptations of classics, interactive shows, and site-specific works. In their series “Dice,” a cast of seven actors learn the entire script of a Shakespearean play and each night the roles are randomized in front of an audience.

Dacha is a community-based theater made up of a wide range of artists, including both theater professionals and acting hobbyists with day jobs. With an eclectic repertoire, almost all of their shows involve some sort of audience interaction. Mike says, “We believe that the audience is there to tell our stories with us and that they are central to our productions.” All of their shows are done on a sliding scale with a pay-what-you-can option. They believe that nobody should ever have a financial barrier to seeing live theater.

Of course, during COVID live theater wasn’t possible, and Dacha had to cancel or postpone a season of shows and events. Therefore, they pivoted and spent a year mastering new technologies and learning how to produce digital work. Mike recalls, “We continued producing online throughout quarantine, creating live interactive experiences for folks to experience from their computers.” They have recently paired hospitality with their live performances and have given out free food, like cupcakes, as part of the experience.

As a traveling theater, they have performed at the Phinney Center several times. They are always on the hunt for new and non-traditional venues in the greater Seattle area and encourage folks to reach out if they know of any. See what’s next for Dacha and check out “Digital Dacha” at dachatheatre.com.