SURELY, ONE OF THE cultural high points of 2010 in Seattle was Intiman Theatre’s production of Ruined, the Pulitzer Prize-winning play about the tragedies and trials endured by women working in a brothel in the war-ravaged Congo. Not only did it succeed as a compelling—and, strange as it might sound, entertaining—drama with deeply believable performances, the play met every lofty goal that can be ascribed to the arts.
Theater, like painting and sculpture or music and dance, nurtures us and the city we live in. It can teach us about lives on the other side of the world, illuminating the humanity of others while inspiring us with knowledge and emotion. Ruined did just that, managing to balance dark truths with moments of joy and hope, educating theatergoers without resorting to guilt-inducing didactics. Audiences emerged from the theater curious to know more and inspired to reach out and help the women who had endured the crushing upheavals of war. The play filled the house and ran extra weeks. Sadly, thanks to a sputtering economy and mismanagement, it’s Intiman’s budget that’s ruined.
Even when tickets sales are soaring, it’s commonly understood that attendance alone doesn’t guarantee an organization’s survival. Seattle Art Museum saw a spike in memberships and big crowds during the Picasso exhibit. Yet the first two weeks in February, the whole SAM staff goes on furlough. Pacific Northwest Ballet reduced the number of subscription performances this year and has been trimming staff to the bone. And—poof!—the governor’s new budget proposal eliminates the Washington State Arts Commission entirely. Grim, isn’t it?
As Seattle Met arts editor Laura Dannen combed the calendar for the top spring arts events, she saw hopeful signs. This is Seattle, after all, and arts organizations are working hard to attract new and future audiences, using technology and social media and breaking down walls. They’re dancing in the streets and singing in the stores, as a matter of fact. (Check out the YouTube video of the Seattle Symphony “flash mob” singing the Hallelujah Chorus at the downtown Nordstrom during the Christmas shopping season. The wide-eyed expressions of joy on the faces of escalator riders show the transcendent power of song.) So this spring, if you happen to spot a parade of cavorting woolly creatures, it’s not an alien invasion. It’s art.
Editor in Chief