Started last Summer, founder and artistic director Mickey Rowe says the inception was spurred by a typical actors’ lament: “We [referring to himself and founding partner, Laurie Roberts] weren’t, at the time, cast in anything. And we came to the realization that we just needed to do something. It’s silly to wait for someone to give us something to do.”
But Rowe goes on to say that it was more than that. “I wanted to do theater that was about Seattle. I wanted to do theater that was inspired by Seattle, but I wanted Seattle to be inspired by the theater, too.”
And deciding to bring their first show to waterfront was a natural step. “I‘ve always loved the pier,” says Rowe. “You can’t get much more Seattle than that.”
Ten years ago after the Nisqually earthquake, the city of Seattle cancelled their popular summer concert series when emergency construction on the freeway viaduct that traverses the waterfront began. Ten years later, with the very same viaduct scheduled for demolition, new life is being breathed into the city’s beloved Waterfront.
It was the perfect timing for Rowe and company to bring art back.
Working hand in hand with Seattle Parks and Recreation, Rowe finagled their way into the Waterfront’s biggest weekend that summer. “We opened our production of Romeo and Juliet the same weekend the Great Wheel was unveiled,” he says, referring to the sky-scraping Ferris wheel that now dominates the neighboring pier. “It worked out really well.”
Rowe had his Seattle-inspired backdrop. But how would his theater inspire the city?
“Shows are free,” Rowe says. “And we accept donations for charities that are directly related to our productions.” For Romeo and Juliet, the group partnered with the Trevor Project, an organization for the prevention of teenage suicide.
“We’re partnered with a great charity called Teen Feed. They give homeless teens a safe place to eat meals, and they provide mentors and relationships that they wouldn’t have otherwise.”
Rowe recognizes that some may not understand how this charity relates to Beckett’s piece. “Our cast is young,” he reveals. “And we dressed them like the homeless people who you see on the waterfront.”
Age, he stresses, is something that AoTW is very conscious of.
“If you do a play that is meant to have older actors, and you use younger people to play those older roles with no rhyme or reason except for those are the resources you have… well, we don’t want to do that. We constantly ask ourselves, “What is going to make our production totally different and smart and how can we change that up?”
Youth is also seen in the fine art displayed before and after the performances, where local homeless teens have provided paintings, drawings, and other physical manifestations of their experiences.
Beckett’s Waiting for Godot often asks the question, “What are we waiting for? And should we keep waiting?”
Rowe, along with the whole Arts on the Waterfront crew, are done waiting. They are creating. The result is a mishmash of theater, art, and life that pulses with Seattle blood.
Arts on the Waterfront presents, Waiting for Godot
August 16, 17, 18, 23, 24, 25, 30, 31, and September 1 at 7:00pm
Waterfront Park, 1300 Alaskan Way, Seattle, WA 98101