SHARING IN SEATTLE
A spirit of sharing permeates Seattle. When ED caught up with Steve Coulter, tech director at A Contemporary Theatre (ACT), he was off to a bagel breakfast for area TDs, this time to discuss findings about new equipment. TDs gather regularly, as do area costume shop managers and production managers. Staff from most of the major Seattle houses — Seattle Repertory Theatre, Intiman Theatre, Village Theatre, The 5th Avenue Theatre, Empty Space, Seattle Children's Theatre, and three Seattle-based universities — share stock as well as ideas, at no cost to one another. “Right now, in our production of Born Yesterday, all our upholstered pieces are borrowed. We reupholstered them and will give them back in better condition,” says Coulter.
SCENIC, LIGHTS, SOUND & PROJECTION SOURCES
“We tend to use the same crafts people, too,” says Coulter, who is partial to Nicolette Vannias, an upholsterer the Seattle Rep also uses. When scenic (and sometimes costume) designer Carey Wong needs drops painted for projects, even in other cities, he often calls Cynthia Moore, charge scenic artist at the Seattle Children's Theatre. “She had a career in Baltimore doing faux finishes for residential and commercial projects before moving to Seattle,” says Wong, who also thinks set designer Edie Whitsett — chief scenic artist at Pacific Northwest Ballet — is “one of the best scenic artists in Seattle.”
Martin Christoffel, a freelance scenic and projection designer, likes three local scene shops. The first, TPN is a big facility with metal fab, wood fab, and a big paint floor that often builds trade show exhibits and industrials (Christoffel is design director). He says Pacific Studio, often used for exhibits, and Dillon Works, which does unusual and interesting carving, also have excellent facilities and staffs.
Compton Lumber has been in town for more than 100 years, supplying lumber to theatres at discounted rates. When ACT suffered a financial disaster and closed for a period, Coulter says Compton continued to sell to ACT when it reopened, even before the debt was paid. Coulter also trusts Bob Rossman of Rossman Industrial Supply, who stocks theatrical paints and painting equipment and who will drive what a theatre needs to its shop door at a moment's notice. Lonny Heaton at Cascade Reflections is the man to go to when dealing with water. “When we have a waterproofing issue, he gets into the water with the rest of us to see what's involved,” says Coulter.
Former stagehands at ACT started PNTA, the Pacific Northwest Theater Association, to facilitate lighting and sound rentals. The owner “knows the light board that everyone in town has. He knows how old it is, how long it's been there, and what's happened to it over the years. When a computer board crashes, he knows where to go in town to borrow something identical or compatible,” says Coulter. Christoffel goes to Staging Techniques' local outlet for equipment.
Local resources are plentiful, except for fabric. Although Christoffel finds remnants at a discount and a good selection at Pacific Fabrics, Wong goes to Portland for the Mill Ends Store or Fabric Depot, “which probably has the largest selection of decorator fabrics in stock in the Pacific Northwest.”
Seattle Repertory's costume shop manager, Nancy Julian, also leaves town for Nancy's Sewing Basket, between Vancouver B.C. and Portland, OR. Nancy's is good for the odd zipper, thread, bits and pieces.
“Ramuta's Shoe Repair does all our dance rubber,” she says, adding that nearby theatres and national tours of musicals also rely on it. When they get backed up, someone at Broadway Shoe Repair helps out. “We often split a job between the two businesses when we have lots of shoes to do or need a short turnaround. Both really understand what we do and how our schedules work. They're willing to do things on short notice if it's an emergency,” she says. Julian has praise for another shoe vendor, Zappos.com: “Their stock is fabulous. Their people are fabulous. Their service is fabulous. What more can I say?”
The owner of Private Screening, a vintage clothing and accessory store with stock from the 1910s to the 1980s, searches her back-stock for hard-to-find items and lets shop managers take things out for fittings. Bernie Utz, a fixture in downtown Seattle for decades, is “an old fashioned men's hat store complete with wooden counters and cabinets and piles and piles of hat boxes. When we need a dove grey homburg in a 7 5/8 or a white snap-brim Panama that's where we go,” says Julian.
PeriodCorsets.com is based in Seattle. Owners Susan Davis and Becky Kaufman have worked in the costume shops of Seattle for years. “They manufacture a range of corset styles along with petticoats and other period underwear items. They also do custom projects. Their pieces are well made, economical, and it's great to be able to drive up to their location and pick up what you need,” says Julian.
RESEARCHING IN SEATTLE
Library research is so critical to Wong's design process, he travels the Pacific Northwest to do it. He uses Seattle Public Library, Tacoma Public Library, and Pierce County Library. “And if I really want to explore a topic in depth, I'll go down to Portland to use the Multnomah County Library,” he says, where the clipping collection “seems more extensive and better maintained.”
When Scott Weldin and Martin Christoffel collaborated on scenery and projections for a modernization of Peer Gynt set in the Pacific Northwest for the ACT, they pulled hundreds of images from the Museum of History and Industry, which specializes in Seattle history. Getty Images is based in Seattle, and Christoffel uses it often — but usually working from their online image banks.
If you have used design resources in Atlanta, Orlando, or Providence, contact Davi Napoleon at firstname.lastname@example.org.
WHERE TO GO:
Scenic, Lights, Sound
Cascade Reflections: 253-435-0106
Compton Lumber: 206-623-5010; www.comptonlbr.com
Dillon Works: 425-493-8309; www.dillonworks.com
Mill Ends Store: 503-786-1234
Cynthia Moore: 206-762-1074; email@example.com
TPN: 800-545-8760; www.tpnevents.com
Pacific Fabrics: 888-659-0929; www.pacificfabrics.com
Pacific Northwest Theater Association: www.pnta.com
Pacific Studio: Marc Burns, 206-783-5226 x112; www.pacific-studio.com
Rossman Industrial Supply: 206-367-6282
Staging Techniques: 206-352-0300; www.staging techniques.com
Nicolette Vannias: 206-443-2210
Edie Whitsett: 206.898.2900; firstname.lastname@example.org
Broadway Shoe Repair, 206-328-9469
Byrnie Utz Hats: 206-623-0233
Private Screening: 206-548-0751
Seattle Public Library: www.spl.org
Tacoma Public Library: www.tpl.lib.wa.us
Pierce County Library: www.pcl.lib.wa.us
Multnomah County Library: www.multcolib.org
Museum of History and Industry: www.seattlehistory.org
Getty Images: www.gettyimages.com
A Contemporary Theatre: www.acttheatre.org
Empty Space: www.emptyspace.org
The 5th Avenue Theatre: www.5thavenuetheatre.org
Intiman Theatre: www.intiman.org
Seattle Children's Theatre: www.sct.org
Seattle Repertory Theatre: www.seattlerep.org
Village Theatre: www.villagetheatre.org
[Editor's Note: Information is provided by participating area designers and as such omissions are possible. This is not meant to be an exhaustive list of resources but rather a snapshot from a handful of artisans.]