Meet Village Theatre’s Associate Artistic Directors

Associate Artistic Directors (from left to right) Brandon Ivie, Jes Spencer, Tim Symons

Brandon Ivie, Associate Artistic Director – New Works l 5 years at Village Theatre

Brandon oversees new musical development at Village Theatre, including the Beta Series. His experience in new work development involves almost 100 readings, workshops and productions on Broadway and across the country. His other credits include Off-Broadway, The Public Theater/Joe’s Pub, Paper Mill Playhouse, Ford’s Theatre, Goodspeed Musicals, Signature Theatre, Barrington Stage, TheatreWorks Silicon Valley, Seattle Repertory Theatre, The 5th Avenue Theatre, and The Kennedy Center.

Tim Symons, Associate Artistic Director – Music l 16 years at Village Theatre

Tim has been a part of the Village Theatre orchestra since 1997 and has been the head of the music department since 2005. He has been a major voice in Village Theatre’s artistic decisions for the last two decades. He has music directed over 30 Village mainstage productions, as well as countless Village Originals and KIDSTAGE projects. Tim works regularly as a freelance music director, composer, and jazz musician, and his work has been seen at The 5th Avenue Theatre, Seattle Children’s Theatre and ACT.

Jes Spencer, Associate Artistic Director – Casting & Arts Engagement l 6 years at Village Theatre

Jes has been overseeing Casting for Village Theatre since 2015 and is proud to work with the amazing artists in the thriving Seattle theatre community. She is the Co-Curator & Co-Producer of Village Theatre’s NextStage, a program that focuses on career development for artists. She will be working to grow Village’s Arts Engagement programming and provide opportunities for patrons and community members to engage on a deeper dramaturgical level with shows. She has worked around the country in arts management, administration, and production for Arts Center Enterprises Inc., Nebraska Theatre Caravan, and for Taproot Theatre and The Inverse Opera. As a director, Jes has worked locally with Village Theatre, KIDSTAGE, Taproot Theatre, ArtsWest, Showtunes!, and SecondStory Repertory.  

A Message from the Desk of Robb Hunt

September 30, 2021

When the other founders of Village Theatre and I took our first steps toward the creation and establishment of this organization, we had dreams of what it could be and what our hard work would bring to the stage and our community. As Executive Producer, I have had the privilege to lead this incredible theatre into the future and I wanted to take this opportunity to share with all of you that, after 43 years, I will be retiring this season.

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“What a Year!” Photo Credits

From Top to Bottom, From Left to Right

The first cohort of the Northwest Creator Residency Program: Nicholas Japaul Bernard, Imana Gunawan, Kevin A. Haylock, David Rue, Lex Marcos, Aaron M. Davis-Norman, Lauren Du Pree, seranine, Porscha Shaw, Lisa Kwak, Be Russell

Cast of Summer Independent Jasper in Deadland (Northwest Theatre Press Sam Freeman)

Cast of Sing-it-Forward in from of Cope Gillette Theatre (Screenshot from online event)

Spotlight: Sharing Stories. Creating Connections. (Screenshot of the show logo)

Beth DeVries in Beyond the Curtain Video Series filmed in Confluence Park (Screenshot from Video)

Rona Siddiqui, 2021 Writer in Residence, in Interview Segment (Screenshot retrieved from youtube)

Shaunyce Omar in the Virtual Cabaret Series (Screenshot retrieved from youtube)

Cast of Sing-it-Forward in from of First Stage (Screenshot from online event)

Sara Rose Davis in the Virtual New Works Cabaret (Screenshot retrieved from youtube)

Jimmy Shields and Charles Simmons in Beyond the Curtain Video Series filmed in Confluence Park (Screenshot from Video)

Taryn Darr in the Virtual Cabaret Series  (Screenshot retrieved from youtube)

Cast of Summer Independent Urinetown (Northwest Theatre Press Sam Freeman)

NextStage Logo

Cast of Summer Independent The Spitfire Grill (Northwest Theatre Press Sam Freeman)

Cast of KIDSTAGE Virtual Production of Godspell (Screenshot from Youtube)

KIDSTAGE Originals Festival Logo

Eric Polani Jensen in Beyond the Curtain: Holiday Edition Video Series (Screenshot from Youtube)

Alumni of KIDSTAGE program perform at Sing-it-Forward (Screenshot from online event)

Rona Siddiqui in Residence with Village Originals

August 19, 2021

Rona Siddiqui recently finished a week long residency with Village Originals. During this residency, she worked on her show Salaam Medina: Tales of a Halfghan, which she describes as “a zany, vaudevillian fantasia of bi-ethnic identity exploration.”

Rona is an award winning writer and is also an accomplished music director having won an Obie for her work on the Pulitzer Prize-winning A Strange Loop (by fellow Village Originals writer Michael R. Jackson). She was last at Village as the Music Director of The Passage in our 2018 Festival of New Musicals.

Learn more about Rona and her residency by watching this short video.

Village Originals Update

Village Originals has continued to develop new musicals and support artists, even while our doors had to remain closed due to the pandemic. We are proud to tell you about several projects that have made progress over the past 18 months, as well as a new program and an exciting new collaboration with The 5th Avenue Theatre! Here are just a few of the highlights of the recent work that Village Theatre has done to support artists and new musical development:

  • Village Theatre commissioned a new work in 2019 called Broken Ground. When we commission a work, it means that we have an idea/concept and hire writers to bring that story to life. Broken Ground (book and lyrics by Christine Toy Johnson, music and lyrics by Jason Ma) tells the story of a grief-stricken young woman in a small farming village in China who discovers her destiny through messages embroidered by her late mother in an ancient writing system created by and only for women. So far, the work has had a table read with a mix of Seattle and NYC talent, which was the first time a full draft was read through with music. It will continue to be worked on over the next year.
  • Eastbound, which was part of our 2019 Festival of New Musicals, will continue with development at Village Theatre in the near future. Since The Festival, Eastbound had a virtual table reading in 2020, and was featured in the National Alliance for Musical Theatre’s virtual 2020 Festival of New Musicals.
  • We saw great success with the Northwest Creator Residency Program, which supports Seattle-area BIPOC artists as they begin work on a new musical. We are excited to share that this program will continue next season. Examples of projects that came out of this year’s residencies are:
    • AARON NORMAN, PORSCHA SHAW, KEVIN HAYLOCK – creating a musical that they describe as Last Airbender meets Hercules meets Black Panther plus Lion King, that is Shakespearean in scale featuring the breadth of African-American music (rap, jazz, soul, etc)
    • NICHOLAS BERNARD – a musical about two gay fathers adopting a child, and then one of the fathers gets cold feet. Written as a modern disco musical (in the style of Jessie Ware);
    • LAUREN DU PREE – is writing a version of The Wizard of Oz set in the world of social media, where Dorothy is an older Black woman who gains social media fame by accident.
  • NWxNW is our first collaboration with The 5th Avenue Theatre, and both organizations have made a 3 year commitment to this project which supports local musical theatre writers. The three writing teams have been selected, and each team will be working on musicals based on the photographs of life in the PNW taken by local photographers. Each of the winning photographers received a $500 prize for their pictures being chosen as inspiration for this project.
  • Just last week, we had NYC-based, award-winning composer/lyricist, orchestrator and music director Rona Siddiqui in Issaquah for a writers residency. Rona was working on her new musical Salaam Medina: Tales of a Halfghan, which is a zany, vaudevillian fantasia of bi-ethnic identity exploration. Triggered by an interaction with a TSA officer, “Halfghan,” Medina Eskandani is whisked down a rabbit hole of memories dealing with body hair, racist cousins, airport security, and pesky head scarves as she faces her fear and frustration around what it means to identify as a person of color (her Middle Eastern side) when she has spent her whole life trying to be “white” (her Italian side). Rona describes the show as in the style of The Muppet Show and Laugh-In, which already sounds amazing, and we can’t wait to see the result of her work with us!
  • Our Membership levels have changed! We now have just three levels of membership: the One-Day Festival Membership, the Village Originals Membership and the Village Originals Circle Level Membership. Visit our website for more details about each level and the associated benefits, and to get signed up!

Photo 1: The reading of Eastbound from The 2019 Festival of New Musicals (photo by Sam Freeman/Northwest Theatre Press), showing Zachary Noah Piser, Beth DeVries, Ya Han Chang, Cheeyang Ng, and Shuyan Yang; Photo 2: an image representing the Northwest by Northwest collaboration with The 5th Avenue Theatre; Photo 3: the participants in this year’s Northwest Creators Residency (all names along with bios can be found on our website); Photo 4: Rona Siddiqui.

KIDSTAGE: Providing “Skills for Theatre, Skills for Life” Through Summer Independent

July 21, 2021

By now we hope you’ve had a chance to catch one of this year’s KIDSTAGE Summer Independent productions of Spitfire Grill or Jasper in Deadland. Or maybe you’re still looking forward to attending Urinetown, which is opening July 30 in IssaquahIt has been thrilling to be able to open our doors to audiences again for Summer Independent and wanted to share a little bit more about this wonderful program with you.

What is Summer Independent?

Summer Independent is unique to Village Theatre. It provides a professionally mentored production experience to students with a background in live theatre and gives those students the resources and support needed to produce their own full-scale show from start to finish. During this program, members of Village Theatre’s professional staff mentor the artistic team, who are considered professional interns. As a result, Summer Independent participants are challenged to reach the goal of attaining the highest professional standards possible and the program is an entry point to professional theatre for the entire production team. Many talented young theatre-makers who have been involved in the program have gone on to work professionally both locally and nationally at venues such as Village Theatre, Seattle Opera, The Paramount Theatre, ACT, The 5th Avenue Theatre, Seattle Children’s Theatre, Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, and On and Off-Broadway.

A Lasting Impact

The influence of Summer Independent on those involved with the program becomes obvious when speaking to some of the talented participants.

Jeremy Steckler, the director of Jasper in Deadland, became involved with KIDSTAGE 5 years ago, when he was 18, and fondly remembers being welcomed into the program: “I still remember my first audition for Sweeney Todd and how Aaron Alonso (KIDSTAGE Production Manager, Everett) invited me in with open arms. I was shocked at how kind everyone was to this kid they’d never met before. Strangers became castmates, and these castmates became life-long friends.”

Cast members of Jasper in Deadland; Photo credit: Sam Freeman, Northwest Theatre Press

For Jeremy, the experience of directing this summer has been invaluable. “This directing experience has been incredible. There aren’t many theaters in Washington that will willingly give a few students free-reign with a show–including having my mentor be the legendary Brandon Ivie (Village Theatre Associate Artistic Director)… Overall, this process has shaped me into the leader, actor, and director I have always wanted to be.”

Andrew Long, the Technical Director for Spitfire Grill and Urinetown, has been involved with KIDSTAGE for two years.  Although Andrew says it has been challenging to work on two shows so close together, he has felt incredible support from his mentor, Brad Bixler (Village Theatre Technical Director), and the rest of his team. “I will forever and always cherish the meaning of this program, which allows young theatre artists to explore their artistic vision in a setting where we are allowed to explore.”

Cast members of The Spitfire Grill. Photo credit: Sam Freeman, Northwest Theatre Press

Perhaps this is the greatest impact of this program, that the next generation of theatre-makers find themselves in control of their own art. If the three shows featured this summer in our Summer Independent Program are any indication of the future of theatre, we can all rest assured knowing the art form is in incredibly capable hands.

Join us for Summer Independent

Come join us to see what Jeremy, Andrew and the rest of the talented KIDSTAGE teams have been working on!  You can still catch Jasper in Deadland through Sunday, July 25 or Urinetown from July 30-August 8.

A Message from the Desk of Robb Hunt

Village Theatre’s Executive Producer brings you an update.

July 12, 2021

First. I want to say a very happy opening to our Summer Independent production of The Spitfire Grill. I also can’t wait for our upcoming Summer Independent productions of Jasper in Deadland and Urinetown coming soon to our stages. Our students continue to amaze me with their adaptability and the way they have continued to come together to make theatre whether it has been digitally or now on our stages. It has been so wonderful to hear the sounds of theatre being made on our stages again. 

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Congratulations, KIDSTAGE Graduates!

The Class of 2021 is headed out into the World and we know they are destined for great things!

June 14, 2021

“Skills for Theatre … Skills for Life” These words, the motto of our KIDSTAGE program, have become not only a mantra for the students and families that participate in our Youth Education programs, but also a galvanizing reminder to our organization as to why arts education is invaluable in young people’s formative years. Some students have participated in our programs for the majority of their lives while others have been with us for only a year. Regardless of their tenure, their dynamic contributions in our programs have been undeniable.

This year’s 55 KIDSTAGE graduates are making bold choices as they take their first steps beyond high school and embark on journeys to use the skills they’ve honed in our programs. Some will travel, volunteer, and continue their training as artists and performers, while others have made the choice to enter college in the fall. Schools include:

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A Message from the Desk of Robb Hunt and Jerry Dixon – Welcome Back Season

Village Theatre’s Executive Producer and Artistic Director bring you an update on our 2021/22 season.

June 2, 2021

Thank you for your continued support and encouragement over the last year.  We believe theatre represents the things we have not been able to enjoy in these long months and while we aren’t quite there yet, we are excited to be sharing the plans for our anticipated Welcome Back season with you. 

Based on the constantly changing reopening guidelines, the need for continued social distancing, and the safety protocols required by the unions representing our artists, we took a look at how to achieve success in the coming year. This means we have had to make changes. The original season plans we made and shows we chose have had to be put on hold. We hope to bring these productions to our stages in the future, but in the meantime, the possibilities and our return to the theatre we love is exciting. 

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AAPI in Theatre History

This May, in celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, Village Theatre has curated information on AAPI theatre artists who have contributed to the repertoire and advancement of American-theatre throughout history. We hope you enjoy reading about these artists as much as we enjoyed writing about them!  

Photo credit: Lia Chang

David Henry Hwang

David Henry Hwang has been described by the New York Times as “a true original,” and by Time Magazine as “the most important dramatist of American public life since Arthur Miller.” He is a Tony Award winner (for M. Butterfly) and nominee (for Flower Drum Song and Golden Child) , and a three-time finalist for the Pulitzer Prize (for M. ButterflyYellow Face, and Soft Power). He is also the most produced living American opera librettist. David was born in Los Angeles in 1957, the only son and oldest of three siblings to parents of Chinese heritage. While a student at Stanford University, he produced his first play, “FOB” (Fresh Off the Boat) in 1979, which won an Obie Award for best new American play. After graduating from Stanford, David enrolled in the Yale School of Drama for a year. During that year, he wrote two short plays, The Dance and the Railroad and The House of Sleeping Beauties. David is probably best known as the author of M. Butterfly, inspired by the opera Madame Butterfly and based on a true story about a French diplomat and a Chinese spy. M. Butterfly garnered him a Tony Award in 1988 as well as a Drama Desk Award, a John Gassner Award, an Outer Critics Circle Award and it was also a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. M. Butterfly has gone on to be staged in over four dozen countries, was made into a movie, and revived on Broadway in 2017 with Julie Taymor as director. In 2011, his play Chinglish, written in English and Mandarin, premiered on Broadway and was named Best New American Play by Time Magazine. David also co-wrote the book for Aida, wrote the book for the original musical-comedy version of Tarzan and, more recently, a writer and consulting producer for the Golden Globe-winning TV series The Affair

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