Company of STU FOR SILVERTON. Photo by Chris Bennion.

Stu for Silverton is a brand new musical that’s been cooking for the last three years. Peter Duchan, Craig Jessup (aka Breedlove) and I have been working on crafting a theatrical piece that does justice to the remarkable real­life story of a small town that elected a transgender mayor and marched away the conservative Westboro Baptist church that came to shame them.

The real­life story is full of joy, high stakes, and pure theatrical gold. We know we need to get it just right for the experience on stage to even come close to what happened in real life. Although we aren’t done yet, the time has come to invite an audience into this process so we may take it to the next step. Thus a production of Stu for Silverton is now playing through Sept. 15.

Musicals take a long time to develop. Jerome Robbins first proposed the idea of West Side Story to Leonard Bernstein in 1949 (then entitled East Side Story) and it didn’t open in DC until 1957. Drowsy Chaperone began at the Toronto Fringe Festival in 1997 and won the Tony on Broadway in 2005 for best book and score. Are we comparing ourselves to Bob Martin, Don McKellar, Lisa Lambert, Greg Morrison, Jerome Robbins, Leonard Bernstein, Arthur Laurents, or Stephen Sondheim? Absolutely not. The point is these projects take a long time.

The mission of Intiman Theatre is to produce theatre that is relevant to our time and as diverse as the community in which we live. Stu for Silverton does that. All of us here have believed in this project since its conception. To support this musical’s development we’ve launched a new program, Start Up Stagings. Through this program we commission and provide a workshop as well as a production within the festival, and with this comes many opportunities for progress, review, feedback, lesson­learning, and growth. Its a program we’ll continue and hope to do again in 2015.

As part of the program we’ve made a commitment to the writers. We’ve promised not to invite press to review this production, and have made it clear every step of the way that this project is in development and changing throughout the festival run.

As I write this I’m sitting in a rehearsal hall about to put in an entirely new scene, stage a number differently, and implement several lyric changes throughout the script. All of us – actors certainly included – are doing the best we can to make this uniquely Pacific Northwest folk­tale turn into the best possible musical. We could only take it so far without an audience. That’s what was needed, and that’s what we’ve made possible this summer.

Peter Duchan and Craig Jessup (AKA Breedlove) Photo by Hayley Young

Only with an audience is the equation complete. Every single audience member brings with them a depth of response. There are numbers that we thought were right/wrong until we had an audience and there’s feedback from audience members that has directly impacted the changes we are just now going to implement, and will make in the long­term. That’s what this summer’s production is about ­ collaboration with an audience.

We have a contractual obligation to not invite nor provide complimentary tickets to press in order to review this summer’s production of Stu for Silverton. We cannot control what someone chooses to do despite what we suggest and distribute.

Some reporters opted to purchase their own tickets and review the show anyway. Once their remarks were published, we decided to use the positive response to raise awareness of the powerful and moving story of Stu and the town of Silverton. Call it cliché or call it cheesy but we really do believe that the more people who see this story the better the world will be. The choice to use press quotes to promote the production was not an affront to those who respected the wishes of our organization and withheld reviews, but rather a means to help us sell tickets and reach as diverse an audience as possible.

Like most non­for­profits, our ticket sales are meant to cover half of our operating budget and it is my responsibility as a producer and leader of this organization to ensure that we sell as many tickets as possible. I report to a board, over 800 donors, and a variety of constituents, and it is the responsibility of all of us here to do everything we can to sell tickets and build awareness around this powerful story so that we may grow as an organization and serve those in the Puget Sound region for years to come.

I guarantee that everyone who’s experiencing the show live is getting a strong production. Just ask one of the thousands of people who’ve seen the show. Stu for Silverton has some of the best performances you’ll see on stage this summer ­ just wait until you see what Mark Anders, Bobbi Kotula, and Charles Leggett are doing up there. The show has strong production values, a killer 4­piece band, a gifted cast of 14, choreography by Mark Haim and Marc Kennison, and celebrates a new folk­hero just a couple hundred miles away.

The most expensive ticket price is $42, but for the last 6 weeks the show has been $35 and one can see it for as low as $26.25 with a festival pass, $20 if you are a senior or a student, and Pay ­What ­You­ Can at all times if you’re under 25. Compared to every theatre in the region this is a very appropriate ticket fee, and generally more affordable than the majority of offerings for a theatre production of this size and nature. All of us here are proud to offer a fantastic night of musical theatre for an affordable price.

We’ve put our heart, soul, and resources into this new American musical that we hope will one day represent this region positively on the national stage in years to come. We’re proud to have created a program that supports writers and celebrates the audience’s role in this process without inviting press to review. Nonetheless we respect and understand why publications feel mission­driven to review the production, and we respect and value those that haven’t and defend our choice. Everyone is right.

With that being said I’m writing this to encourage everyone to step away from their computer and into the theatre. The real story here is happening night after night on our stage thanks to the hard work of many local artists and the bravery of a small town just south of Portland.

Andrew Russell
Producing Artistic Director
Intiman Theatre