Intiman Producing Artistic Director Andrew Russell and Executive Director Phillip Chavira talked about how Intiman shaped Andrew for the last nine years, some of his favorite moments, and where he is going next.

PC: So Andrew, why do you feel this was the time to pass on artistic leadership at Intiman?

AR: I thought I would move to Seattle for three to five years, but the Pacific Northwest has a bewitching spirit, and I got caught in its spell. Thank goodness I did. Because of this magical place I’ve had a journey that’s been one of the most challenging and important experiences of my professional and person life, and I will forever be grateful for it and the hundreds of friends and collaborators who I’ve connected with along the way. I began working for Intiman Theatre in the spring of 2009 as the Associate Producer, and then partnered with the board in summer of 2011 to begin plans to re-open the theatre with a new producing model and revived mission. I had a sense at that time that my role in the long arc of Intiman’s history was to re-open the company, create something new that was needed, and then step away when the timing was right. And now, the timing is right. Why is now the right time? Because it is important for artistic leadership to change so that the perspectives of guidance shift and grow with the times, because it is time for others to bring their incredible skills and talents around the big table – I’ve used my midwestern might to move us this far and now we need a new approach, and because we need more women and people of color in leadership.

PC: When are you stepping down as our Artistic Lead, and where are you going next?

AR:Watch out Seattle, and watch out Intiman – you will never fully free yourselves from me. When I showed up I was 27 with no tattoos and had never hiked a mountain, and now I’m 34 with with over 10 tattoos and I could bike that mountain for you. So, even though I’m moving on I will always call Seattle my home. I will remain in my position at Intiman until the end of 2017 to direct Sara Porkalob’s masterpiece DRAGON LADY, to assist in a healthy transition, and to celebrate all that this city and this theatre company can do together. After that I will live in NYC and focus on writing and directing several musicals that have been born, bred, and buttered in Seattle and have exciting steps in the future. What I’ve learned – thanks to my time in Seattle – is that I love making work based on real people who have done bold and audacious acts and have changed their communities, and the world. These include;

  • STU FOR SILVERTON which was commissioned and developed at Intiman in 2013. This musical by Breedlove and Peter Duchan tells the story of Silverton, Oregon and their choice to elect America’s first transgender mayor.
  • THE LONG GAME which was developed with Cynthia Stroum, The 5th Avenue Theatre, and Seattle Repertory Theatre. This is a musical I am co-writing with Richard Gray about whistleblowers and journalists, and asks: what does it take to tell truth in America? The story features Dorothy Kilgallen, Laura Poitras, Jack Ruby, and Edward Snowden.
  • THE RUMBLE WITHIN which is being developed with The 5th Avenue Theatre, and written with Richard Andriessen. This crazy little musical sings the story of the Seattle fasting expert Linda Hazzard, and the murder of dozens of wealthy health-seekers including Daisy Haglund. I like to call it a mix of Jenny Craig and Sweeney Todd.
  • I’m also working on developing a musical with and about the life of Big Freedia, an incredible bounce artist and icon out of New Orleans.

PC: Can you name your favorite Intiman memory?

AR: This is an impossible question to answer, as there are so many. I will never in my life forget watching the climax of Stu For Silverton as the Westboro Baptist church were chased away as the fictional and the real Stu of STU FOR SILVERTON were on either side of me watching – both in tears. I will also never forget the hysterical and moving conversation between two of my most influential mentors – Dan Savage and Tony Kushner in conversation at Town Hall. Nor will I ever forget producing both WEDDING BAND and MIND by Alice Childress, and getting to collaborate with Valerie Curtis-Newton so deeply. Nor will I forget the first time Marya Sea Kaminski descended from the sky in our productions of Angels in America. Nor will I forget the first time I saw Ryan Purcell and The Williams Project perform their transcendent ORPHEUS DESCENDING. Or the opening night of the just about perfect production of BOOTYCANDY. I won’t ever forget collaborating with Jennifer Zeyl every step of the way. If you want to make a fella cry, just ask him to think about how much this woman has done for Intiman, Seattle, and me. Damn this is a hard question. And damn it is hard to say goodbye.

PC: What is Intiman’s financial state right now?

AR: When the theatre paused operations in 2011, the Board made the bold choice to re-open and since then we have worked hard to satisfy our debt obligations and are scheduled to retire all debt in 2018 – that means we will have negotiated or paid down almost $2 million. This is one of the other reasons I feel comfortable moving on – the theatre is in strong shape financially and can now think about important questions like: where do we perform, where do we consider home, and what is this next step of growth? I’m looking forward to what Phillip Chavira and my successor will do in years to come.

PC: If you could name your biggest accomplishment at Intiman, what would it be?

AR: Although I am so proud of re-opening the theatre company with this amazing Board of Trustees and community members in 2011/2012, it is the last few years that have made me the proudest. Our mission is solidified in this city – to produce theatre that wrestles with American inequities – and the quality of our work has remained top notch. Plus we have education programs now that bring our mission to life – the work we are doing in Franklin High School, our Emerging Artist Program, our corporate training program – and we are working with the artists and community leaders that reflect that mission – Valerie Curtis-NewtonSara PorkalobDedra WoodsC. Davida IngramMalika Oyetimein, our new Executive Director Phillip Chavira, and the list goes on. I’m proud that I could offer a jumpstart, but even prouder that our community and mission are off and running.

PC: What will you miss the most Intiman Family?

AR: You you you you you you you. All of these people who have shaped and shoved me into who I am today. I am really good at technology and FaceTime and emojis and and will stay so connected but I am already missing the incredible community of humans. Seattle is at such a point of change, and is an entirely different city now than the one I entered in 2009. I will miss very much the chance to continue shaping it into the “next” city that it will become. What I know for certain is that as Seattle grows and changes, more than ever we need theatre, and more than ever we need a theatre company like Intiman. I’m thrilled to see Intiman through its own period of growth and can’t wait to see what the future brings for the organization. Ever since the theatre was founded in 1972 it has had a tendency to consider bravery and activism in its choices, and that is the the legacy that we’ve focused on in our re-opening and in our programming choices.

DRAGON LADY by Sara Porkalob and directed by Andrew Russell.

Single tickets go on sale Tuesday, July 11.