5th Avenue

Photo Credit: Dick Busher

5th Avenue Theatre Today

The 5th Avenue Theatre is one of the nation’s most successful creators of new musicals.  It has gained remarkable prominence over the last decade with nine new musicals it has sent to Broadway and the 14 Tony Awards they have garnered (including two for Best Musical).  It has also created a large number of lauded revivals including Guys and Dolls, Candide, The Most Happy Fella, Sunday in the Park with George, Sweeney Todd and Oklahoma!, and ranged with distinction through both the contemporary and classical musical theater works.

In addition to its main stage productions, The 5th Avenue Theatre is also committed to encouraging the next generation of theatergoers through its extensive educational outreach programs which include: The Adventure Musical Theatre Touring Company, The 5th Avenue Awards Honoring High School Musical Theater, the Rising Star Project, Show Talks with Albert Evans, Curtain Up!, the Student Matinee Program, and Spotlight Nights.

Unique in its Chinese-inspired design, this exquisite theater opened in 1926 as a venue for vaudeville and film. In the early days, people eagerly lined up for first-class vaudeville shows, featuring the top touring entertainers of the day. The Theatre later transformed itself into a popular movie palace. In the late 1970s, The 5th Avenue Theatre fell on hard times, but was saved from a wrecking ball by a visionary group of businesses and community leaders. In 1980, the non-profit 5th Avenue Theatre began producing top-quality live musical theater.

Today, under the leadership of Executive Producer and Artistic Director David Armstrong, Managing Director Bernadine C. Griffin and Producing Artistic Director Bill Berry, The 5th Avenue Theatre attracts an annual attendance of more than 287,000 and ranks among the nation’s largest and most respected musical theater companies.

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Photo Credit: Paul Butzi

ACT – The Former Eagle’s Auditorium

ACT – A Contemporary Theatre is home to five performance spaces under one roof in the landmark historic Eagles building at 7th and Union. Founded in 1965, ACT has been a destination for experiencing new voices, stories, and art for half a century. Originally located in renovated community hall in lower Queen Anne, ACT spent its first three decades producing contemporary plays that helped build a community of residents who value and support new works.

In 1996, after an ambitious fundraising campaign and renovation, ACT moved to the Eagles building. The elaborately terracotta-covered building (designed by the Henry Bittman firm) has been known in the past as the Eagles Temple and as the Senator Hotel. The building was Aerie No. 1 of the Fraternal Order of Eagles (founded in Seattle). Constructed in 1924 and 1925, the building had been designed to accommodate a large ballroom auditorium, a gymnasium, a bowling alley, a billiards parlor, apartments, a night club, and ceremonial halls.

Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke there on November 10, 1961 on his only visit to Seattle. The building also served as the home of the Unity Church of Truth from the mid-1950s until 1960, and was a major rock concert venue from the mid-1960s until 1970. Among other groups, The Grateful Dead performed there eight times in the 1960s.

The eight-story building had seen better days and required a massive amount of renovation to turn it into a theatre space. Now, annual attendance is over 150,000 and is home to ACT’s five performance and event spaces as well as the administrative offices, and production facilities for building scenery, costumes, and props.

Allen Theatre, 434-seat in-the-round space
Falls Theatre, 409-seat thrust-stage theatre
Bullitt Cabaret, 150-seat cabaret
Busters, 120-seat event room
Eulalie Scandiuzzi Space, 60-seat black-box theatre

ACT is steadfast in its dedication to producing work with contemporary playwrights and local performing artists through its Mainstage Play series, Central Heating Lab producing partnerships, and the Young Playwrights Program. With more than 450 performances every year, ACT is a community hub where artists and the public connect about today’s issues and ideas, and celebrate the shared experience.

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Photo Credit: Bob Cerelli

Moore Theatre Then and Now

In 1906, owner and developer James A. Moore commissioned architect E.W. Houghton to design the Moore Theatre and hotel to be built in the Denny Regrade area at Second and Virginia. Opening on December 28, 1907, the Theatre was deemed one of the most beautiful and well-equipped movie houses in the nation. The interior décor boasted mosaic floors, with marble, onyx and stained glass. Innovative balcony design replaced upright supports with a steel girder. The seating capacity of 2436 included 26 box seats straddling the walls of the auditorium. Ramps to the balcony replaced stairs. The quintessential Italianate and Byzantine interior was termed the “epitome of architectural elegance,” with a gallery above the mezzanine accessible through a separate side door.

The Moore was host to the famous Orpheum Vaudeville Circuit and was also home to “The Negro Ensemble”, a popular vaudeville group. This Theatre when built had the largest stage of any theater in Seattle and presented touring stage plays, operas, symphonies and musicals. In the following decades, under four different owners it covered all genres of entertainment. In the 70s it struggled to maintain financial viability and during this period was renamed the Moore-Egyptian and also became home to the first Seattle International Film Festival.

Today, under the careful scrutiny of the Seattle Theatre Group, the Moore Theatre continues to offer a wide range of entertainment; dance troupes, alternative rock groups and a variety of stage productions. Various remodeling efforts over the decades have attempted to insure and preserve its original beauty.

The centenarian and oldest of the remaining historic theaters continues to draw audiences with its intimate appeal.

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Photo Credit: Bob Cerelli

Paramount Theatre Today

Perched high atop 9th and Pine, well out of early downtown theater district sits the crown jewel of historic theaters in Seattle, The Paramount. Thanks to financial wizard and real estate genius, L. N. Rosenbaum, on March 1, 1928 unveiled his $2.7 million theater and nine floor apartment tower. 

Recognized as the Seattle Theatre when opened, by 1930 the lessee, Pubic Theatre Chain decided on a name change to the Paramount Theater. Challenges plagued the theatre during its 85 year history beginning with the Great Depression. Escaping lengthy closures the grand lady found her legs and prospered for nearly seven decades. Distinguished as the “most beautiful theater built west of Chicago” this 3000 seat French Renaissance inspired movie palace was designed to also accommodate stage productions from vaudeville in the early days to the massive traveling Broadway productions of today.

Over the course of eight decades with only minimal maintenance the theatre began exhibiting deterioration. Gone were the exquisite imported antique furnishings that embellished the lobby and three mezzanines. Over 140 lighting fixtures to include eight imported crystal and brass chandeliers as well as the entire interior décor were in need of a facelift.

Over 45 theaters in Seattle were losing the battle to the wrecking ball. The Paramount had reached a point where it needed a hero to survive. In 1993, Ida Cole a recent retired executive vice-president with Microsoft purchased the theatre building and began a $37 million renovation and restoration which included the expansion of the building to accommodate a larger stage. In 2002 stepping down as executive director she turned over the reins to the Seattle Theatre Group to continue her legacy.

The Paramount Theatre has with stood the test of time and remains the iconic movie palace of yesteryear.

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Town Hall Seattle

A Model of Adaptive Reuse and Historic Preservation

Founded in 1998 by David Brewster and a group of civic leaders, Town Hall Seattle was conceived with a dual mission: to provide a stable, supportive home for small and midsized arts organizations, and to save a landmark building. Through luck, community support, and an uncanny ability to say “yes” to the good ideas
 of others, Town Hall has emerged as something unexpected — a mirror to the interests and concerns of the community itself, with a calendar that “tells the story of our city.”

Crucial to the organization’s success is its home: the Fourth Church of Christ, Scientist, at the corner of Seneca Street and Eighth Avenue, where downtown and First Hill meet. First opening its doors in 1916, it was rededicated as Town Hall Seattle in 1999. This simple
 but elegant building has been transformed 
in just 15 years from a house of worship to a house of deliberation, dialogue, creativity, and community.

Town Hall serves as the regular performance
 venue for dozens of local nonprofit organizations, often managing multiple 
sold-out performances at the same time in 
the acoustically rich Great Hall (860 seats),
 and in the flexible Downstairs space 
(40-300 seats). Both venues are considered
 “midsized”—a scale generally 
underrepresented in the city, and perfectly 
suited to the needs of our partners. From
 politics and science to music, literature, and
 community events, Town Hall’s programming is a reflection of—and inspiration to—our region’s best impulses: creativity, empathy, expansive thinking, and total community engagement.

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