“Like many of the past Phoenix productions I’ve reviewed, ‘The Miser’ was a sum of its abundantly talented parts. And for all of us, myself included, I’ve so missed walking upstairs to the doors of the Phoenix and sitting down amongst my other Edmonds local patrons, and enjoying a laugh and some incredibly underrated theatre.” —Mark Sugiyama, Eclectic Arts
Live theater’s back and better than ever.
In Edmonds, The Phoenix Theatre and Edmonds Driftwood Players embark upon a new season of laughs, mysteries, and holiday cheer, with all sorts of exciting, creative productions in store — in-person and virtual.
The Phoenix Theatre bills itself as “the only theatre in the Puget Sound region exclusively dedicated to producing compelling scripted comedy theatre that enriches the cultural lives of the greater Edmonds and Snohomish County community. Our goal is to entertain, inspire, and enrich our audiences’ lives by using humor to illuminate our common humanity. [‘About Us,’ website]”
That’s been the intention of founders Melanie Calderwood (artistic director, veteran actress) and Debbie Palomera (business partner) all along. A tall order they and their cast and crew have been meeting from Day One.
After the Edge of the World Theatre closed in 2008, following 17 years of live performances, Calderwood, an actress there, and Palomera decided to repurpose the former theatre (located on the second floor of Firdale Village Shopping Plaza) as Phoenix early in 2009, rising from the ashes, as it were.
The 96-seat Phoenix Theatre held its grand opening that January, with a trio of comedic shorts, and has been the life of the party ever since.
Besides stage performances, the Phoenix Theatre also offers classes, interactive workshops, internships, and opportunities for community service, including Laughter is the Best Medicine, giving cancer patients a break by making them LOL. Melanie Calderwood uses her considerable, life-long experience as a “nurse navigator” (Evergreen Health Center) with cancer patients and “trained Laughologist” in this amazing program.
“A classic play is classic because it still resonates with people today. This is a hilarious play that deals with the darker side [of life,] but if we laugh, the laughter brings the dark to light. Once in the light, we can start making choices and learn to be better humans. And, watching Harpagon getting duped is thoroughly satisfying.” —“The Miser” director Eric Lewis, Phoenix Theatre press release
The Phoenix Theatre, 9673 Firdale Ave., kicked off its 14th season Oct. 1 with Molière’s classic comedy, “The Miser” (L'Avare ou L'École du Mensonge), after holding summer auditions.
“The Miser” stars Michael Gene McFadden (Harpagon, The Miser), Caitlin Frances (Élise), James Lynch (Clèante), and the Phoenix Theatre regulars in a madcap tale about thwarted love and the machinations of a greedy father. McFadden fairly steals the show as a money-hungry bourgeois, while keeping all the moving parts together.
Funny, absurd, and savagely entertaining, this comedy of manners continues through Oct. 24.
Upcoming Phoenix productions include Daniel Sullivan’s “Inspecting Carol,” Nov. 26-Dec. 19, just in time for the holidays, and “All Together Now!: A Global Event Celebrating Local Theatre,” put together by theatrical licensor Music Theatre International (MTI).
The Phoenix Theatre and Ballyhoo Theatre recently announced auditions for “All Together Now!,” collaborating to join in the global event, along with other theater companies, for a Nov. 13-14 run. The musical revue will involve thousands and thousands of local theaters worldwide and is scheduled to play out Nov. 12-15.
One of the longest, continuously-running community theaters in Washington state, the Edmonds Driftwood Players first took root in 1957, after Earl and Nan Prebezac and their group of talented friends, local actors all, were hanging out and chatting over coffee one day, thinking about a way to bring the theater they love so much closer to home in Edmonds.
The next year, Edmonds Driftwood Players was born. A decade later still, the traveling theater group conglomerated its various gigs at various places in and around town into one main venue, when they, the city of Edmonds, and other supporters helped build a playhouse to call their own, near Yost Park.
The Edmonds Driftwood Players opened in 1968 with a proper, memorable introduction, its cast performing a play called, “George Washington Slept Here.” The 219-seat theater underwent a name change in honor of a founding member and architect Wade James in the 1970s.
The award-winning Edmonds Driftwood Players (2018 Gregory Awards, 2019 BroadwayWorld Awards, 2019 WSCTA Kaleidoscope Awards — “Silent Sky”) is committed to putting on a great act in all kinds of genres, from musicals and non-musicals, to comedies and dramas, and the annual Festival of Shorts (June 24-July 3, 2022), focused on different themes each year and sourced from hundreds of script submissions. The whole gamut.
The Driftwood Players also offers an education program of classes, workshops, and camps, where students get to do their own shows, as well as scholarships and Take a Kid to the Theatre outreach, which gives families living in shelters and transitional housing a chance to experience live theater.
The Edmonds Driftwood Players at the Wade James Theatre on 950 Main St. celebrates 63 seasons this year, starting with “It’s a Wonderful Life — a Live Radio Play,” directed by Craig Schieber and adapted by Joe Landry, Dec. 2-19. The 1946 Jimmy Stewart movie, based on Charles Dickens' “A Christmas Carol,” will play out as a live 1940s radio broadcast.
Up next for EDP: A “Holmes and Watson” twist of fate leaves a cast — and case — of mistaken identity for detective Sherlock’s long-suffering sidekick in this intriguing what-if conundrum, riffing off Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s series from the late 1800s. Directed by Dan Ruiz Salvatura, playwright Jeffrey Hatcher's mystery unfolds March 4-27, 2022.
Both theater companies are doing due diligence following the ever-evolving Covid protocols, enforcing mask mandates, spacing out attendees, and preparing to live-stream whenever possible.
In addition, the Edmonds Driftwood Players outfitted its theater with ActivePure Air Scrubbers by Aerus.
Keep checking websites for updates, as schedules and performances can change on a dime.
Long live underrated local theater!
Photos: Scenes from the Phoenix Theatre’s “The Miser,” Oct. 2021, and the Edmonds Driftwood Players’ “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder,” Sept. 2019.