Fall in Seattle was a sad season, with the unbelievable realization that an arsonist had destroyed one of the Greenwood / Phinney Ridge most beloved cultural institutions. The arson devestation to neighborhood businesses and the Taproot theatre was both shocking and sobering.
Winter is a new season, and like a sparkling cover of fresh snow, the Taproot Theatre is back…. and with a roar. We visited the Taproot last night for their first show at the newly renovated location. The rejuvenation of the theatre in such a short period is truly incredible to see. The theatre space is new, modern, lively, and filled with the energy of the both the performers and community itself.
In some ways, the previously chosen C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce represents the community’s own balance between the hell of the fire and the “heaven” that is the amazing performances at this theatre. There was no question that the audience was filled with the love and energy to see the Taproot back in such a beautiful space.
The show kicked off with the producing artistic manager thanking the community for its support, together with the Seattle Fire Department and specifically the team that saved the theatre that fateful October night. The fire is also an important reminder that the theatre’s continued vitality depends on the community’s continuing support. Although donations are great – just as important are the ongoing annual subscriptions to the theatre’s season.
The show itself – The Great Divorce – is not about marriage and divorce. It’s a 1940’s fantasy by the Christian focused author of the Chronicles of Narnia. The proselytizing show begins in a foggy Grey Town where passengers bicker as they await the “bus” to either heaven or hell. Characters in the play dress in either grab grey “ghost” clothing or very brightly colored spirit colors. C.S. Lewis himself is portrayed as a detached 3rd party observer of the scenes, allowing him to comment and participate.
The show was first produced just two years ago by a smaller New York company, and in Seattle just a cast of ten portray over 20 characters. Each scene displays the fight for conversion. Sometimes with husbands and wives – but each is a battle for the souls of the lost. The show’s lighting and the marble-like background changes with each scene to portray the mood.
The Taproot Theatre and the Greenwood community have proven their stamina with the rapid return of this cultural institution and a play that challenges both the intellect and the spiritual agenda. As the Theatre and community consider an expansion of the space into the now vacant area from the fires – the packed house and energy of the show are a strong endorsement to growth. Special deals for younger audience members including the pizza+ theatre special for only $10 are worth a look for students around the Seattle region. The Great Divorce plays the Taproot through February 27, 2010.