From Misha Berson, Seattle Times theater critic:
Theater Schmeater is bringing more fringe drama back to Belltown.
After departing its longtime location on Capitol Hill, due to the development of a restaurant directly above its Summit Avenue venue, the well-regarded contemporary company announced Tuesday it will relocate to The Simons Building at 2125 Third Avenue (near Blanchard Street) in Belltown. According to artistic director Doug Staley, Schmeater is designing its own street level, 90-seat venue with lobby, rehearsal space, an office and a scene shop. Tentative opening date is April 2014.
Belltown was a lively fringe theater hub in the mid-to-late 1990s. But as real estate prices skyrocketed in the rapidly gentrifying district, small performance spaces were squeezed out. Some, like AHA! Theatre and the Speakeasy, went out of business. Annex Theatre moved to Capitol Hill digs. Currently only Freehold Theatre Lab/Studio, which focuses on theatrical training, operates a small “black box” theater in Belltown, which it occasionally rents to fringe troupes.
Now the outer, rougher edges of Belltown are areas of new development. And it is a nonprofit developer who will be Theater Schmeater’s landlord, in a 95-unit residential facility owned by the Plymouth Housing Group, which operates 13 Seattle buildings with housing and other services for the homeless.
“One of the exciting aspects of the new location is that I think we will be able to offer theater to a lot of people who otherwise might not get to see it” said Julia Griffin, Schmeater artistic associate.
“We like to provide good retail tenants in our buildings, who will really contribute to the neighborhood. This seemed like a good fit for us,” said Plymouth Housing Group director of real estate Aidan Poile. He noted that there are many new apartment units in the area, and The Simons Building is staffed fulltime with security personnel who monitor the block.
Theater Schmeater is seeking funds to design, equip and furnish its new space. The theater is presenting a benefit jazz concert on Saturday night, and more events to that end. Information: www.schmeater.org.