Intiman's new summer festival means bold and crazy busy for local actors

Jul 23, 2012

After running out of money and shutting down last year, Intiman Theatre is back with a groundbreaking summer festival.

"Groundbreaking" because the theater has a new repertory format: a cast of 17 actors -- Intiman's Class of 2012 -- staffing all four summer productions.

For audiences, that means a chance to see an actor stretch in various roles: "Romeo and Juliet" one day; a drag queen take on Helen Keller the next.

For actors like Timothy McCuen Piggee, the festival means three different roles in three different productions. Sometimes in one 24-hour period.

"Normally, repertory happens when you open your first show and you let it run a weekend, a week, and then you sort of feather  in the rest of the performances, the rest of the plays. Here we’re doing all of it at the same time, which is absolutely, on one level brilliant. And on the other level idiotic," he says.

Piggee has worked on all the major theater stages in Seattle, including Intiman, where he's done 8 shows prior. Last year, he was in a Broadway production of "Catch Me If You Can." That's when he read a newspaper account of Intiman's financial collapse after owing more than $2 million. It closed mid-season and let its entire staff go. 

Intiman won a Tony award in 2006 and it's one of those theaters known for presenting innovative and epic work. Everyone in the theater world wondered what would happen next at Intiman. Among those most interested in Intiman's future were the actors who count on having productions to go after in order to make a living.

What happened at Intiman was a new board, new artistic staff, successful fundraising campaign and the decision to break out of what had been.

"We wanted to try a rep company simply because we don't have it here," says Andrew Russell, Intiman's new artistic director.

He proposed a festival done in repertory. And Russell convened an artistic team of advisors -- from playwrights to choreographers -- to weigh in on what productions Intiman would launch.

The summer festival features "Romeo and Juliet," directed by Allison Narver; "Hedda Gabler," directed by Russell; "Dirty Story" directed by Valerie Curtis-Newton and "Miracle!" directed by Dan Savage. "Miracle!" is a new work by Savage, the sex columnist and editor at The Stranger. It's his take on "The Miracle Worker," set in a drag club, and it's raunchy and funny -- if you can stomach material that's rated NC-17.

It's also the production in which you can see actor Piggee in a leopard-printed unitard, Donna Summer wig and three inch heels. He plays Gloria Blaze, an old, sassy drag queen who dances to Chaka Khan.

"Gloria" is Piggee's most physically taxing character. His most emotional is Lord Capulet in "Romeo and Juliet." His third role is the charming and manipulative Judge Brack in "Hedda Gabler."

In all his years working as an actor, Piggee's never had a performing schedule quite like this.

He says he was looking for "a little something" to do this summer.

The festival continues through Aug. 26.