Friday, September 4, 2015

The City of Lakewood Celebrates Lakewood Playhouse Theatre Day

Published in the Weekly Volcano, Sept. 3, 2015
poster for A Few Good Men, art by James Stowe
By way of celebrating a local treasure, the City of Lakewood has proclaimed Sept. 18 Lakewood Playhouse Theatre Day. The day will be celebrated with a special ribbon cutting ceremony presented by the Lakewood Chamber of Commerce and with a reception with food provided by Carr’s Restaurant and a house full of local dignitaries and actors from previous and current Playhouse shows.
The company was founded in 1938. The building that now houses the theater was built in 1965 by the Lakewood Community Players and the Lakewood Arts Foundation. Since opening its doors 50 Years ago, it has presented more than 300 productions on both its main stage and through its Lakewood Institute of Theatre Education Program (established in 2002). 
During those 50 years, the Lakewood Playhouse has hosted special presentations by hundreds of local groups including The Lakewood Senior Players, the Pierce College Theatre Group, Last Ditch Efforts, New Muses Theatre, The Outfit Theatre Group, the Asian Film Festival and countless number of music groups.
A true community theater that provides education for youth and performance opportunities to local actors, Lakewood Playhouse has always striven for professional level performances. Former Managing Artistic Director Marcus Walker, who died March 11, 2011 of metastatic melanoma, often told me he wanted me to review their shows with the same strict criteria I would use when critiquing a professional company such as Seattle Repertory Theater. That is indicative of the level of professionalism Lakewood Playhouse has always insisted on. And by-the-way, I reviewed My Name is Asher Lev, the last play Walker directed, at both Seattle Repertory Theater and Lakewood Playhouse, and the Lakewood play was the better of the two.
The theater’s current manager, John Munn, is only the sixth managing artistic director in the theater’s 50-year history. This season is Munn’s fifth at the helm. He says he is proud to be supported by a staff of “incredibly creative and dedicated professionals and artists.”
“We have assembled an amazing array of shows this season with something for everyone,” Munn says. “The directors for each of the productions have such a passion and vision for their shows that we can’t wait to share them with you.”
Munn says he has no formal training as an artist. Outside of a few years in college and in high school, 
his training comes from working in local community theatres over the past 40 years in more than 100 shows as either an actor or director. 
 “When I sit inside our 172 Seat Theatre, and I start to think about all of the shows that have happened under its roof, it is both staggering and humbling to know that we are the caretakers of that. Just stop and think of the lives that were changed here by either being in a show or by seeing one. I know that almost sixty thousand people have seen our shows over the last four seasons that I have been here. Imagine that number over this Playhouse's 50-year history. Consider all of the actors whose lives were forever changed by being a part of that "one show." There you have to realize all of the amazing stories that have been told by the thousands of creative artists who have made them possible. Fifty years. One building. Only made for one purpose. To house a rich theatrical history. We are all a part of that. You. Me. Folks that are reading this article and smiling. All of us. With this next season, we begin the journey of the next 50 years ... and who wouldn't want to be a part of that?”
The 2015-2016 season kicks off Sept. 11 with A Few Good Men, the military court drama by Aaron Sorkin, winner of the 1990 World Theatre Award. A Few Good Men will be followed by the live radio show of the horror classic The Birds Oct. 23-25. This will be the eighth of the Playhouse’s live radio shows. They are always wonderfully fun entertainments. Next up will be Treasure Island, followed by Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia, Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, the ever-popular Noises Off, and finally the Tony Award-winning Avenue Q.
“We have so many other 50th Anniversary Surprises in store for you,” Munn continued, “You won’t want to miss a single thing.  And, as you know, we always look forward to welcoming you home soon!”
The ribbon cutting ceremony and reception on Sept. 18 is scheduled for 5:30-6:30 p.m. Guests are invited to come back later that evening for the 8 p.m. performance of A Few Good Men.
Lakewood Playhouse Theatre Day, Sept. 18, 5729 Lakewood Towne Center Blvd., Lakewood, 253.588.0042

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