The Seattle Theatre Industry

By Lesley Koenig, James Phills, Greg Powell
2003 | Case No. SI37
Seattle’s theatre industry had a rich, 38-year history of producing top-quality plays and musicals. In a typical year, the theatres collectively sold over 1 million tickets and pumped over $8 million into the local economy. Historically, the five major theatre companies — Seattle Repertory Theatre, A Contemporary Theatre, The Empty Space Theatre, Intiman Theatre, and Seattle Children’s Theatre — each had a clearly defined mission statement and unique artistic focus. However, by the close of the 2001 season, the theatres’ strategic and artistic identities had blurred as each company pursed growth. Some attributed theatre-goers and donors waning interest and declining support to this homogenization in addition to the slumping U.S. economy. Others argued that there was too much capacity in the industry and that, in order to survive, the stronger theatres had to expand their niches and even drive smaller, weaker players out of business.. The vibrant Seattle Theatre Industry appeared to face monumental challenges to remaining both critically-acclaimed and financially-sound.
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