King County Historical Bibliography, Part 12: Theater History

  • Posted 11/23/2004
  • Essay 7154
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This bibliography on King County Theater history was prepared as a community history resource by staff of the former King County Office of Cultural Resources, now 4Culture (King County Cultural Development Authority). It was last revised in November 2000.


King County Landmarks and Heritage Program, King County Office of Cultural Resources
506 Second Avenue, Suite 200, Seattle, WA 98104-2307 (206) 296-7580, 1-800-325-6165 V/TDD


The information given below is a preliminary listing of resources relating to Theatre history in Seattle and King County.

Papers in this series are maintained in electronic format. They are revised and updated periodically as new information becomes available.


Angel, Marc D., "The Sephardic Theater of Seattle," American Jewish Archives, Vol. 25 No. 2, pp. 156-60.

Berelson, Bernard and Grant Howard, "Pioneer Theatre in Washington," Pacific Northwest Quarterly, Vol. 28 No. 2, April 1934, pp. 115-36.

Boyle Wagoner Architects, The Penthouse Theatre Relocation Study, Prepared for the University of Washington, September 1, 1989, Seattle.

Broderick, Henry, Early Stages of Seattle, 1964, Seattle, Dogwood Press (booklet).

Burke, Ed and Betty, "In a Chorus of Shadows: The Story of the Nippon Kan and its Restoration,"  in Turning Shadows into Light: Art and Culture of the Northwest's Early Asian/Pacific Community, ed. by Mayumi Tsutakawa and Alan Chong Lau, 1982, Seattle, Young Pine Press.

Crowley Associates, Final Report of the Downtown Historic Theatre Advisory Group, April 2, 1992, Seattle.

Downtown Seattle Historic Theaters District Feasibility Study, 1993, Seattle, Historic Seattle Preservation and Development Authority, Washington Trust for Historic Preservation and GGLO Architecture and Interior Design.

Duncan, Don, Meet Me at The Center: The Story of Seattle Center From the Beginning to 1962 World's Fair to the 21st Century, 1992, Seattle, Seattle Center Foundation.

Elliott, Eugene Clinton, A History of Variety-Vaudeville in Seattle: From the Beginning to 1914, unpublished master's thesis, 1941, Seattle, University of Washington.

------, A History of Variety-Vaudeville in Seattle: From the Beginning to 1914, 1944, Seattle, University of Washington Press.

The 5th Avenue Theatre of Seattle, 1984, San Francisco, Theatre Historical Society.

Grant, Howard F., The Story of Seattle's Early Theatres, 1934, Seattle, University Bookstore.

Hughes, Glenn, The Penthouse Theater: Its History and Techniques, 1930, Seattle, University of Washington Press.

------, The Dream and the Deed: A Stage Cavalcade of Seattle's Hundred Years, the official play of the Seattle Centennial sponsored by Greater Seattle, Inc., 1952, University of Washington School of Drama.

Ladd., James William, Survey of the Legitimate Theatre in Seattle Since 1856, unpublished master of arts thesis, 1935, Pullman, State College of Washington.

Lincoln, Fred, "Vaudeville in Washington," Washington Magazine. Vol. 2, p. 29-30, September, 1906.

Mahmoud, Salem, Organizational Survival in the Performing Arts: The Making of Seattle Opera, 1976, New York, Praeger Publishing.

Morgan, Murray, "John Considine and the Box Houses, 1893-1910," chap. III in Skid Road: An Informal Portrait of Seattle, rev. ed., 1978. Sausalito, Comstock Editions.

Myers, Dorothy Rae Schneiderman, The Seattle Repertory Playhouse Manuscripts Collection, 1928-1950, 1961, Seattle, Master of Library Science Project, University of Washington.

Nelson, Edwin Leonard, The History of Road Shows in Seattle from Their Beginnings to 1914, unpublished master of arts thesis, 1947, Seattle, University of Washington.

Ottenheimer, Albert M., The Washington State Theater, 1936, Seattle, by the Theater.

Rohrer, Mary Katherine, The History of Seattle Stock Companies: From the Beginning to 1934, 1945 University of Washington Press.

Saloutos, Theodore, "Alexander Pantages, Theater Magnate of the West," Pacific Northwest Quarterly, Vol. 57 No. 4, October 1966, pp. 137-147.

Sitton, Robert M., Evergreen Stages: A History of Theater in Portland and Seattle, 1987, typescript, University of Washington Library.

Savage, Gladys Ferrier, A Brief History of Tryout Theater, Inc., 1951, Seattle, typescript, University of Washington Library.

Tarrach, Dean Arthur, Alexander Pantages: The Seattle Pantages and His Vaudeville Circuit, unpublished master of arts thesis, 1973, Seattle, University of Washington.

Vaughn, Stuart, A Possible Theater: The Experiences of a Pioneer Director in American Resident Theatre, 1969, N.Y. McGraw Hill Book Company.

Welch, Bob, "Intiman Theatre Got Cozy Start in Kirkland," Journal American, June 7, 1985.

West, Ronald Oakley, Left Out: The Seattle Repertory Playhouse, Audience Description and the Problem of Leftist Theater During the Depression Era, 1993, Seattle, unpublished doctoral thesis, University of Washington.


Federal Theater operated out of facilities in Seattle, but also apparently brought a road show to outlying areas. Federal Theater was controversial, and was shut down by the U.S. Congress in 1939. It became a focus of the notorious "un-American activities" investigations by the Washington State Legislature in 1948, with the onset of the Cold War.

Flanagan, Hallie, Arena, 1940, N.Y. Duell, Sloan and Pearce, reprinted 1985, N.Y., Limelight Editions. This is a first-hand, definitive overview of Federal Theater at the national level by the person who masterminded the project and directed it from beginning to end. It contains a brief but informative section on Federal Theater in Washington State, and the production record given at the end of the book shows that many productions were originated in Seattle, Tacoma and the Pacific Northwest.

Hewitt, Gloria, A History of the Washington State Theater, 1931-1941, unpublished master of arts thesis, 1964, Seattle, University of Washington.

Johnson, Evamarii A., A Production History of the Seattle Federal Theater Project's Negro Repertory Company: 1935-1939, unpublished doctoral dissertation, 1981, Seattle, University of Washington.

Monograph on the Noh Stage of Japan. Works Progress Administration Federal Theater Project, 1937, Seattle. Sponsored by the Drama Division University of Washington. UW

Monograph of the Stage, The Passion Play of Valenciennes, WPA Federal Theater Project 813-1, 1936, Seattle. Sponsored by the Drama Division, University of Washington. UW

Priestley, Marilyn, Compiler, Comprehensive Guide to the Manuscripts Collection and to the Personal Papers in the University Archives, 1980, Seattle, University of Washington Libraries. The guide lists a number of collections of papers of interest to the history of WPA, including the Federal Theater Project. Of value are the papers of: Florence Bean James, Bette Anderson, the Seattle Repertory Playhouse, and the Washington State Theater. See also the Seattle Repertory Playhouse Scrapbook at UW Special Collections, Allen Library.

Rune, Ann, Compiler, Oral History Index, Washington State Oral/Aural History Program 1974-1977, October 1977, Olympia, Department of General Administration, Division of Archives and Records Management. The index includes summary information on interviews with several ethnic/minority groups. The African American interviews contain material about WPA. Those with Sarah Oliver Jackson, Betty Theresa Collins Shelman and Joseph T. Staton contain material on WPA/Federal Theater.

Stevedore. This play, produced in February, 1996 by Valerie Curtis-Newton at the University of Washington Playhouse, was a revival of a play staged in Seattle during the 1936 Dock Strike by the "Negro Unit" of the Federal Theater.

Taylor, Quintard, The Forging of a Black Community: Seattle's Central District from 1870 Through the Civil Rights Era, 1994, Seattle, University of Washington Press. See chapter 5, pp. 150-3 for a discussion of the Negro Repertory Company of the WPA Federal Theater in Seattle.

Timber. This was a revival/adaptation of a Federal Theater presentation. In September-October of 1990, Seattle Public Theater presented Timber, A Living Newspaper About Deforestation & Reforestation, a work originally written for the Federal Theater Project by Burke Ormsby and Myrtly Mary Moss. It was adapted by Bryan Willis, with music and Lyrics by Edd Key. According to Abel Green and Joe Laurie, Jr.'s Show Biz: From Vaude to Video (N.Y., 1954), "No troupe of the Federal Theater Project aroused the bitter enmity of the Roosevelt-haters as did the Living Newspaper." The authors dismiss the allegations of communist infiltration of federal theater as anti-New Deal propaganda.

Un-American Activities in Washington State, First and Second Reports, 1948, Olympia, Report of the Joint Legislative Fact-Finding Committee on Un-American Activities, Albert F. Canwell, Chairman. This astonishing, two-volume set of transcripts include allegations of subversive activities including those associated with Federal Theater at the Seattle Repertory Playhouse of the University of Washington. For an alternative view of the Committee, see Vern Countryman's Un-American Activities in the State of Washington: The Work of the Canwell Committee (Ithaca, 1951).

Williams, Guy, "Seattle's History Making Negro Theater," Federal Theater, 1936, Vol. 2 No.1, pp.7-9.


Muir, Timothy John and Renee, "Lost Picture Show or Marquee de Sade," series of articles in North Seattle Press (on movie houses).1993

J. Willis Sayre collections at the UW Drama Department library and Seattle Public Library. The Seattle Public Library Fine and Performing Arts Department and the UW Drama Department are both primary resource collections for theater history materials, including theses and dissertations.

Landmark nominations (National Register, State, Seattle) of historic theaters, including Nippon Kan, Music Hall, Moore, Fifth Avenue, Eagles, Coliseum, Showboat, etc. contain useful information and bibliographic sources.

Perpetual Motion Pictures video in progress on the Coliseum Theatre

KCTS video "Northwest Saturday Night" re: vaudeville

The late Mark Dempsey's "Lost Theatres of Washington State" research files are located at the Museum of History and Industry in Seattle. The materials compiled were intended to be used to publish a book.

by Charles Payton
Revised 11/00

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