Seattle Center, following the road map that led to the new Dale Chihuly showroom, is thinking of letting Cornish College for the Arts take over the struggling Intiman Theatre lease. Well, now! When does the sainted public get its chance to put forth better ideas for this facility? We happen to know there are some swell groups out there, ready to have a low-rent, high-traffic, city-subsidized facility. Our sleuthing has uncovered these attractive options:
Occupy Intiman. With the Occupy Wall Street movement struggling for permanent protest space, here's one group that could move in tomorrow. To keep the theatrical tradition alive, the "leadership" would grudgingly allow a few weeks a year for plays — agitprop only. The Occupants would also teach schoolchildren about street theater, street puppets, (alternative) media relations, and the art of extracting donations and food from evil corporations.
Occupy Intiman would stay rent-free for the first 28 years. In exchange the Occupy group agrees to credit Seattle Center in all its social-media communications, thus spreading the fame of Seattle and Seattle Center far and wide, especially to university towns. A special summer-long shut-down of Memorial Fountain would be its contribution to the 50th anniversary celebration at Seattle Center next year. Family programming would include marching on the Gates Foundation every Saturday morning (demands TBA), and linking arms to keep tourists out of the Space Needle on the 150 most heavily used days of the year. Opera patrons arriving in fancy duds (especially furs) would be harassed coming and going, and their waiting limousines would have their tires slashed.
The Experience Terrorism Center (ETC). This proposal would present a neutral-to-sympathetic portrayal of terrorism through the centuries, with particular attention to the heroic martyrs of al Qaeda. This is something no other American city has had the vision or moral courage to do, at least yet. There would be hands-on weapon-building instruction (particularly compelling for teen-aged boys), a film series with rare footage of al Qaeda luminaries explaining their grievances and issuing calls to action, and never-before-seen memorabilia from hideouts and compounds. The public and company employee groups could also attend weekend retreats designed to intensify feelings of guilt among Americans and their sympathizers. This proposal is not a request. Naturally the names of the backers, mostly from abroad and extremely well funded, cannot be disclosed.
ETC would be a huge draw for tourists, since no other city offers such an experience. As with the Chihuly Garden and Glass exhibit, ETC will put Seattle on the world map, and could expect heavy and continuous media coverage, particularly from FOX. Seattle is an appropriate location, owing to its famously tolerant political/cultural climate, but also because of its brush with terrorism: ETC will tell "the other side" to the story of the arrest in Port Angeles of that courageous idealist, Ahmed Ressam.
The Center would put Seattle in the forefront of international understanding, particularly of "the Other," which will help greatly to open up trade opportunities in neglected markets. The ETC would cost nothing in city funds, as the backers would cover all the costs of the conversion and operation by using strong-arm tactics to extract generous contributions from visitors who might wish to leave. In the event of any revenue shortfalls, hostage-taking would make up any deficits.
The Experience Terrorism Center has already lined up significant political support, as you might expect. Among those tentatively backing the idea: five members of the Seattle City Council, Rep. Jim McDermott, the Church Council of Greater Seattle, the UW Department of Victim Studies (formerly the English Department), The Stranger, the tourism industry, and all Seattle Democratic legislative district caucuses. Mayor Mike McGinn, while calling for more studies of the opportunities for nightlife at ETC, has hailed the idea as more evidence that his jobs-creation strategy is working. The Metropolitan Seattle Chamber of Commerce said it was intrigued by the way ETC could lead to significant new foreign investment in the region.
The Monomanium. This fetching proposal would display famous Seattle obsessions. The opening exhibition would feature the defunct Seattle Monorail Project (1997-2004), with an uncanny simulated ride in 3-D. There would be a talking robot of Tim Eyman, who would come up with an initiative title when you explain your secret, dastardly wish. Other displays would show the historic plans for a Puget Sound-to-Gray's Harbor canal, a bullet train to Moses Lake, the Kalakala, and an underwater tunnel to replace the Evergreen Point Bridge.
Naturally there would be a special room for all the proposed Alaskan Way Viaduct replacements, with dramatic scaled models showing for the first time the Frank Chopp "Choppaduct" and $4.6 trillion swooping-over-Elliott Bay suspension bridge. Special rooms would be named for Art Skolnik, Joel Horn, Bruce Chapman, Dick Falkenbury, Emory Bundy, Cary Moon, the Montlake Community Club, Walkin' Will Knedlik, Dale Chihuly, Jeff Bezos, and Paul Allen.
Once again, this exhibit is meant to put Seattle's best foot forward, marking us indelibly as a city of obsessive creativity and wacky stubborness well suited to the new economy. Regular brainstorming sessions led by leading local monomaniacs will tap Seattle citizens' creativity, flooding the region (and the world) with wild new schemes. Financing and audience projections are admittedly still shaky, but with a board of directors composed of fanatics, some way will be found to make it succeed.
With ideas like this on the table, it's almost certain that the Seattle Center folks will call for proposals before consigning the Intiman building to something as provincial and old-hat as a performing arts complex with limited appeal to the worldwide tourism market and cruise-ship passengers. Surely the highly successful outcome of the Chihuly debates, gratifying numerous special interests and providing many press events for official preening, points the way to a robust Seattle debate about the best, most world-significant use of this building.