Here is Spokane. It lies about 270 miles east of Seattle, just shy of the Idaho panhandle, and is the largest city in Eastern Washington. While the city currently has no resident professional theatre, area community theatres abound and consistently provide platforms for local playwrights to develop new work, particularly Spokane Civic Theatre, Stage Left, and Ignite! Community Theatre.
The Civic Theatre, founded in 1947, has had one or more playwrights-in-residence continuously since 1982 (Sandra Hosking and me), and has steadfastly nurtured development of new work by these playwrights, including mounting premiers of their plays as part of its main stage or studio season. The Civic Theatre also maintains a “Playwrights’ Forum Festival,” now in its 32nd year. The festival showcases short plays, 30 minutes or less. In recent years, the festival guidelines have narrowed submissions to playwrights from the Northwest (Washington, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and the two westernmost Canadian provinces). This year’s festival, scheduled for June, was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and will be rescheduled when it is safe to do so. When it occurs, the festival will feature nine Northwest playwrights, six from Spokane: Jean Hardie, Matthew Weaver, Pamela Kingsley, Mica Pointer, Tristin Canfield, and Natalie Schmidt (Youth Division winner). The remaining Northwest playwrights are Paul Lewis (Bainbridge Island, WA), Scott Stolnack (Seattle, WA), and Rachael Carnes (Eugene, OR). Notable festival alumni include Bret Fetzer (Seattle, WA) and Trish Harnetiaux (Brooklyn, NY).
In recent years, in conjunction with its festival, the Civic Theatre has hosted a “Playwrights Gathering” for regional playwrights, with speakers and panels on the art and business of playwriting, along with a social hour for attendees. The 2019 festival guest speaker was current Western Region DG Council member Kate Danley (Seattle, WA).
The Civic Theatre also recently redoubled its effort to help develop full-length work by local playwrights. Since early 2019, it has showcased Moby Dick - A Musical by Ed Bryan (book & lyrics) and William Berry (music), and Tim Rarick’s A Place to Call Home. After the Civic Theatre production of Moby Dick - A Musical, it was revised and produced at The Edge Theater in February 2020, as part of the Chicago Musical Theatre Festival. My latest full-length play, Exile, was set to premier in the Civic Theatre’s studio this past April but has been postponed due to the pandemic.
Ignite!, located in Spokane Valley and founded in 2005, also nurtures new works by local playwrights, including producing Molly Allen’s full-length play, On Shaky Ground, and a Matthew Weaver Showcase, featuring an evening of his short plays. It also occasionally hosts table readings of new works.
Stage Left, founded in 2011, has in recent years produced full-length works by resident playwrights, including Sandra Hosking’s Creeps and Molly Allen’s Closing It Up. Stage Left also holds several annual short play festivals, including “Fast and Furious” (one-minute plays), “Playwrights’ Playground” (10-minute plays) and “Left Overs” (overnight play festival).
In Fall 2019, Pamela Kingsley and Matthew Weaver founded “Spokane Playwrights’ Salon.” The salon is designed to promote interaction between area playwrights through monthly meetings and a private Facebook page. Its goal is to provide members the opportunity for discussion, networking, mentorship and informal readings, with feedback by colleagues. Over twenty Spokane area playwrights have responded.
Pandemic aside, Spokane playwrights are grateful for the enduring support of local theatres and the promise of a working salon that will provide new opportunities to enrich their craft.