Tacoma Actors Guild fights for survival with solid 'Proof'

By weeklyvolcano on February 18, 2007

Things are crazy-cool on Broadway at 6:30 p.m.  Mariachi music is streaming out onto the street from an event at the Crystal Ballroom, the jazz crowd is walking up the hill to the Rialto to see Bill Frisell, the Black History Celebration is packing the Pantages, and as the rain spatters down, the actors at Tacoma Actors Guild are waiting to get into the building for their show, "Proof," set to hit the stage at 8 p.m. 

TAG's Direcotr of Education Jesse Star Michener walks up, keys in one hand, plate of banana bread muffins for the cast and crew in the other, two bags over her shoulder.  Letting everyone in, she makes her rounds in the vast building, unlocking doors and showing me around “behind the scenes.”

I’m impressed.

We walk up the street to Tully’s, and she tells me that the Broadway vibe on this night makes her happy, and sad.  Happy, because this is exactly the energy that makes the Theatre District feel alive.  Sad, because she’s uncertain that TAG will survive.

“The community just has to show its support by coming to the show, or else the organization just won’t be here,” she admits sadly.

This organization is both her past â€" as well as her husband’s â€" and her household’s livelihood.  Her husband, Mikel Michener, is technical director for "Proof," though right now she’s technically “laid off.”

“Three of us were,” she tells me. “We’re just doing this because we believe,” she adds.

“Everyone here at TAG is giving 150 percent, and it’s just not working,” she admits sadly.

Funding, which petered out and hasn’t come back, has created the need for a creative group of people to resort to creative measures, like the Hitlist seen and heard about in cyberspace, as well as a silent auction, raffle, and proposed donations from sales of artworks by artists Frank d’Ippolito and Alec Clayton, as well as items from the ArtStop at LeRoy Jewelers.

The hope is that these measures, as well as others (like the dare to past subscribers: see the show, for free.  If you like it, join the Hitlist) will lure audiences back into the theater.

“We’re doing everything we can to show the community, ‘we’re back,’“ Jesse asserts, alluding to the non-TAG recent past when the shows produced were technically, “the house of TAG” but driven by the Bellevue Civic Theatre.

Some long-time supporters I talk to before the show have held stoically to their belief in TAG. 

“If I had to choose between TAG and the Sonics,” a gentleman asserts, “I’d choose TAG.”

Betsy Miller, our volunteer Flight Attendant and stand-up comedian for the evening, introducing the show, explains to us that everything we’re about to see is TAG; it “proves” the caliber of what a Tacoma theater is capable of.

I hear someone murmuring “beautiful set” behind me (and I agree, inwardly,) and then the play begins.

I’m impressed.   

I’m also amused, fascinated, emotionally involved, and gut-level troubled by the story that rolls out in front of me.  Yep, F-bombs are scattered about.  Yep, there’s some sex, drugs, and rock and roll.

I’m not a theater critic; anymore I rarely attend the theater and have no “formal” knowledge of what make a theater tick, or what makes a show work.

All I know is, based on my viewing, and experience at the show I saw, I’m joining the Hitlist, despite not having been “tagged.”

I’m challenging all of you reading this to go see the show as well.  Take some time away from the computer, sit in a theater with a few of your closest friends, and get swept away.

The show plays until March 4, and is, in my humble estimation, wicked good. 

Another woman questioned after the show, a Seattleite visiting our fair city, agrees with me.  She’s seen the Broadway version, with Jennifer Jason Leigh, and thought the T-Town version was better.

Yeah, for real. 

Once again, I’m impressed. â€" Jessica Corey-Butler