The Season of Reemergence cover of The Dramatist includes an illustration of a chrysalis hanging from a budding branch and emerging monarch butterfly
Pacific Northwest: Making Memories
Spokane Civic Theatre’s Firth J. Chew Studio Theatre - Photo courtesy Spokane Civic Theatre
Spokane Civic Theatre’s Firth J. Chew Studio Theatre. Photo courtesy Spokane Civic Theatre.

by Bryan Harnetiaux

Live theatre in Spokane is back! This hub of theatre in Eastern Washington is now serving regional playwrights more than ever. Two local theatres in Spokane have recently featured original works by regional playwrights, following the extended shutdown of live productions due to COVID.

Stage Left Theater in downtown Spokane, which is in the process of converting to producing only new work, returned to live theatre with two world premieres, Space Man and Broadway, by its Resident Playwright Molly Allen. The theatre is once-again calendaring live short play festivals of original works four times a year. It will also mount the premiere of Spokane playwright Tristin Canfield’s full-length play An Aviary for Birds of Sadness next season. For more information see

In June, after a two-year postponement due to COVID, Spokane Civic Theatre held its 32nd Playwrights’ Forum Festival, one of the most enduring new works festivals in the West. The slate of short plays by Northwest playwrights included Boxes and Finding Mother Courage by Pam Kingsley; Crosswords by Natalie Schmidt (Youth Division winner); Ethan and Emma by Jean Hardie; Inertia by Rachael Carnes; Looking for Business by Mica Pointer; Perspective by Tristin Canfield; The Terrible and the Sublime by Scott Stolnack; Tin Soldier by Paul Lewis; and Willy’s Mother Gets in the Car by Matthew Weaver. As is customary for Civic festivals, on the Saturday of the festival, a “Playwrights Gathering” was held for regional playwrights, featuring various individual and panel presentations on the art and business of playwriting. The special guest was Spokane native (and my daughter) Trish Harnetiaux, whose first produced work as a playwright, See You in the Majors, was in the Youth Division of Civic’s festival when she was thirteen years old. Submission guidelines for the Civic’s 33rd Playwrights’ Forum Festival will be available this Fall. See

Another post-pandemic development is the arrival of Spokane Playwrights Laboratory (SPL), with a stated mission “to help local writers create original plays,” according to Co-Founder Scott Doughty. SPL furnishes its playwrights with the unique opportunity to develop their work into a fully realized rehearsal script ready for production. It provides time, resources, and professional expertise in an extended workshop environment. The development process concludes with a staged reading before an audience, with direct feedback. SPL is currently accepting scripts for the 2022-23 workshop series. See

In Summer 2021, a new professional theatre surfaced in Spokane: Spokane Ensemble Theatre (SET). Its mission, according to Artistic Director Josephine Keefe, “is to strive to generate inspiring, bold, provocative art in an inclusive and inviting space.” SET has already worked collaboratively with both Stage Left and SPL. Its Summer 2022 schedule includes productions of Much Ado About Nothing at Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture and Hedwig and the Angry Inch at the Bing Crosby Theater. 

In Spring 2022, the Native Women in Theater Coalition was formed in Spokane. The stated mission of this performance collective of Indigenous artists is to “share our stories, heal our lands, and give each other new songs to sing.” Currently, two major events are in the works. In September, the Celebrating the Trickster One-Act Play Festival will premiere in Spokane, as part of the One Heart Native Arts and Film Festival. The Coalition has also scheduled for April 2023 Manifesting Our Own Destinies, with Stage Left Theater providing the venue. According to Coalition founder Misty Grace, this “lease-back programming” for Indigenous theatre artists is designed to “build relationships between Indigenous Americans and the local artists and artistic directors who wish to support and uplift our unique voices and stories, and to empower Native people to decide for ourselves what we want from theater.” For more information see

by Harold Taw

After a two-year COVID-19 hiatus, nothing signified Seattle’s return to community and live theatre more than ACT Theatre’s December 2021 production of A Christmas Carol. As Scrooge’s heart warmed in the embrace of the Cratchit family, so too did artists and audiences reemerge from isolation and recall our commitments to one another and to compassion. In January 2022, the Omicron variant spiked, but our local theatres enhanced safety protocols and highlighted the thrills we’d missed while streaming shows online: the 2000-seat 5th Avenue Theatre produced a swirling, kinetic, and blessedly racially diverse Beauty and the Beast; the 250-seat Taproot Theatre cartwheeled into slapstick comedy with exquisite physical and verbal dexterity in See How They Run. By the time April 2022 rolled around, we were ready to play again, masks on and vaccine cards in-hand, at Infinity Box Theatre Project’s CENTRIFUGE Festival, which smashed together five science writers with five playwrights to produce five shows within five days utilizing a skeleton production crew and randomly selected directors and cast members. What resulted were plays on magpies demonstrating altruism; criminal law on space stations; barnacles reciting poetry; the communion between a pioneering female painter of the Victorian Era and a contemporary Chinese grad student; and how our microbiomes might be able to override microchips implanted in our brains. No audience (or group of theatre artists) has been so entertained while delving into cutting-edge science.

by Maritess Zurbano

My favorite memory from this season was on April 10. My first ever musical Wow, Seattle? was produced as a musical workshop in New York City at the New Works Festival. My stage manager sat in the back row of the TADA! Youth Theater with her cell phone and FaceTimed the entire production to me back in Seattle. What’s amazing about this moment is that it was my first musical, it was produced during the pandemic, it was well-supported by Leviathan Lab (a Filipino American producing company who has never met me in person but trusted in my talents and reputation and chose to support it), and that almost the entire cast and crew were Filipino American. I was able to accomplish all this after a mastectomy two weeks earlier. My favorite memory from my musical was “I Never Liked Him Anyway,” where the protagonist is cleaning her fish tank and receives a life-changing text. It was born out of an exercise that was given to me in my Musical Writing Class taught by Kirsten Childs at the Dramatists Guild Institute via Zoom. Her exercise was to create a moment where the character is doing a chore and receives a life-changing phone call. This is the song that inspired the composer Annastasia Workman to create the music for me. She and composer Yu Nishiyama, graphic designer Jerry Hsiao, and director Davidson Mulkey donated their talents as a gift during my cancer treatment; I was also supported in my cancer healing journey by the Dramatists Guild Foundation’s Emergency Fund.

by Merridawn Duckler

My favorite memory of this super difficult season was not from a production but a group of teenagers. I’d been invited to judge for a poetry slam at a Portland, OR high school, winners continuing to a state contest. I knew how devastating this time has been for kids, especially any in theatre. But as they stood and read from their phones, from memory, from falling apart notebooks, I was again in a rapt audience. In a library where staff had created a refuge and a place of challenge—a stage! The performers brought their unvarnished feelings that were also crafted. There were the usual enemies, like parents and homework, but also an unblinking look at broken systems, the might of friendship, sex, love, the ability of language to change everything. You wanted to give everyone the highest score, but undeniably some were gifted and had considered what a poem was, what performing it meant. They honored the form but dared to make it their own. In this year when I’ve been unmoved by streams and unmoored by distance, it was incredible to witness how talent, energy thrown to the winds and an actual human face of hope can return us to theatre. And, by the way, none of these kids were accessorized, coifed, or could have been played by twenty-year-olds. They had labs, orthodontia appointments, and volleyball practice, unabashedly themselves, full of worries, questions, and ridiculous dreams. I only wish you’d been there. It was an unforgettable night of theatre.  

World Premieres: Oregon, Washington, Wyoming, Alaska

Ice Box Cake and the Man from Lima by DONALD BAKER. Stage Left Theater, Spokane WA, Spokane, WA

Bone Records by HEATHER BEASLEY. Laramie Plains Civic Center, Relative Theatrics, Laramie, WY

No More Harveys by CHANTAL BILODEAU. Cyrano’s Theatre Company, Anchorage, AK

Vagabond Lives of the Barnacle Poets by PAMELA HOBART CARTER. Theatre Off Jackson, Infinity Box Theatre Project, Seattle, WA

Riding Bicycles in the Rain by ERIN K. CONSIDINE. LPCC Gryphon Theater, Relative Theatrics, Laramie, WY

A Stormy Night at the Queen City Speakeasy by TAMMI DOYLE. Carlson Theatre at Bellevue College, Bellevue, WA

The Queers by MIKKI GILLETTE. The Backdoor Theatre, Fuse Theatre Ensemble, Portland, OR

Exile by BRYAN HARNETIAUX. Spokane Civic Theatre, Spokane, WA

Abraham’s Land book and lyrics by LAUREN GOLDMAN MARSHALL, music by Roger Ames. Kirkland Performance Center, Theater of Possibility, Kirkland, WA

Afterwords by EMILY KACZMAREK. The 5th Avenue Theatre, Seattle, WA

Treasure Island book and lyrics by PATRICIA HAINES-AINSWORTH, music by TERENCE ALARIC LEVITT. Wagner Performing Arts Center, Sky Performing Arts, Monroe, WA

I Don’t Want To End Up As A Douchebag Character In One Of Your Plays by KATE MCMORRAN. Oregon One Act Festival, Portland Center Stage, The Actors Conservatory, Portland, OR

A Carol for Christmas book and lyrics by JANET MOUSER, music by JAMES CAMPODONICO. Portland5 Winningstad Theatre, Stumptown Stages, Portland, OR

Bryan Harnetiaux
Bryan Harnetiaux

lives in Spokane, Washington and is the current DG Eastern Washington ambassador. He has been the playwright-in-residence at Spokane Civic Theatre since 1982. Bryan has written over 40 plays, thirteen of which have been published. His latest full-length play, EXILE, which was in rehearsal when COVID hit, finally premieres at the Civic this fall.

Harold Taw
Harold Taw

is a playwright and novelist whose writing has featured on NPR, in a New York Times bestselling anthology and The Seattle Times. He wrote the book for PERSUASION: A New Musical (Taproot Theatre 2017) He is writing book and lyrics for IN A BETTER WORLD: A Multiverse Musical.

Maritess Zurbano
Maritess Zurbano

is a playwright and professional magician who has been produced at Ars Nova, Fringe Festival NYC, and with dramaturgy from the Public Theater. Maritess resides in Seattle where she is writing her memoir and healing with treatments for breast cancer.

Merridawn Duckler
Merridawn Duckler

is a poet and playwright from Oregon. Fertile Ground, IPOP Festival, Playwrights Forum Festival, commissioned by Newport Performing Arts Center. Residencies at Yaddo, Last Frontier Theater Conference, HBMG, Spokane Playwrights Laboratory. She’s the drama editor for Narrative Magazine