7 theater events to ensure a play-full Seattle summer

From a Vietnamese American teenager to Henry VIII’s ex-wives, local stages are presenting an array of voices this season.

six women dressed in theatrical takes on Elizabethan royalty take a powerful stance on stage

The six wives of Henry VIII take back their storylines in the power-pop musical ‘Six,’ coming to The 5th Avenue Theatre. (Joan Marcus)

From Shakespeare to sci-fi to military switchboard operators, local theaters are producing an array of summer plays both indoors and outside. Here are some of the season’s most intriguing dramatic offerings.

Cost of Living 

What does it mean to be a caretaker? How does one give meaningful care, and how does one receive it? What are the power dynamics in these essential interpersonal transactions?

This Pulitzer Prize-honored play by Martyna Majok — which receives its local premiere this month at Sound Theatre Company — ponders such tricky questions by way of a quartet of compelling characters.

Eddie, a truck driver, has been caring for his wife Ani, disabled in a car accident that occurred while the couple was estranged. Meanwhile, Jess is struggling financially, and takes a second job as a home health aide for John, a wealthy student who has cerebral palsy. 

Both situations are complex, and Majok has been widely praised for her keen, subtle and unpredictable examination of these relationships. Sound Theatre co-artistic director Teresa Thuman leads this balancing act in the local production. 

Variety has called the 2016 play (also nominated for a 2023 Tony Award) a “heart-opening exercise in empathy deftly suited to the form” and “the kind of theater that imprints on the body and lives in your bones.” 

If you go: Sound Theatre Company’s Cost of Living, at 12th Avenue Arts, June 9 – July 1 (livestream available June 11). ($6-$79)

Seattle theater artist Desdemona Chiang directs ‘Bound’ at Seattle Opera. (Steve Korn)


Part of its efforts to broaden programming to include a more modern, diverse range of themes, composers and artists, Seattle Opera is presenting an hour-long contemporary opera by composer Huang Ruo and librettist/poet Bao-Long Chu.

Based on a true story, it concerns a Vietnamese American teenager, an honor roll student, who shoulders a hefty load of responsibility after her immigrant parents divorce and her mother leaves the family. 

How can Diane step up to contribute financially to the struggling household, care for her siblings and continue to excel at school? How can she balance familial duty with her own aspirations? 

Bound first raised these questions at Houston Opera in 2014. The Seattle premiere is being staged in the tall-windowed, smaller-scale Tagney Jones Hall by noted Northwest theater director Desdemona Chiang

If you go: Bound at Seattle Opera in Tagney Jones Hall, June 9 - 18. ($65)


According to the late Polish author/philosopher Stanislaw Lem, “Man has gone out to explore other worlds and other civilizations without having explored his own labyrinth of dark passages and secret chambers, and without finding out what lies behind doorways that he himself has sealed.”  

Lem explored that relationship between a distant world and our own humanity in his classic 1961 science fiction novel Solaris. And now Book-It Repertory Theatre is introducing a recent stage adaptation of this metaphysical tale about a crew of scientists stationed on an alien planet. 

As they attempt to comprehend and communicate with extraterrestrial life — which takes the form of a vast body of water — they inevitably learn more about themselves and each other.

Lem’s book has been adapted numerous times, in different media, including Andrei Tarkovsky’s well-reviewed 1972 film and Steven Soderbergh’s (less well-reviewed) 2002 take. The Book-It production is scripted by Scottish playwright David Greig and directed by Gus Menary, the company’s outgoing artistic director.

If you go: Book-It Repertory Theatre’s Solaris at the Center Theatre at Seattle Center, June 17 - July 9. ($23.50-$68.50)

L-R: Brandon Ryan, Ian Bond, Jay Woods, Alexandra Tavares and Jim Gall star in the space drama ‘Solaris’ at Book-It Repertory Theatre. (Tony Beeman)

Seattle Outdoor Theatre Festival

What is summer in the Emerald City without Shakespeare in the park? For a full multicourse meal of the Bard’s work, performed on grassy meadows encircled by tall trees, get thee to Volunteer Park for this popular annual event. 

The festival offers a weekend of performances, all free of charge (though hats are passed, so support your love of theater). And of course, bring your own blanket, sunscreen, wine and picnic for maximum pleasure.

This year’s menu includes a dozen Shakespeare performances from several local theater troupes, including stalwarts Greenstage and Seattle Shakespeare Company’s Wooden O. (Further performance details TBD at press time; check Greenstage.org for updates.)

And if one packed weekend of Shakespeare isn’t near enough, check the roaming summer schedule: GreenStage is performing Henry VI, Part I and Romeo & Juliet at various parks (July 7 – Aug. 12); while Wooden O is tackling The Tempest around the Sound (July 6 – Aug. 6).

If you go: Seattle Outdoor Theater Festival at Volunteer Park, July 8 – 9. (Free)

Six the Musical

Coming to the Paramount Theatre, Six is an international hit and a 2022 Tony winner (for best musical score and best costume design for a musical) that captures — in song and sass and soul — grievances by the numerous wives of that serial marry-er, King Henry VIII.

Decked in Elizabethan mini-dresses and teensy royal crowns, these are women who deserve to vent! And vent they do, in a satirically twisted sing-off to win the prize for who suffered the worst under the English monarch’s reign.

Was it Catherine of Aragon, demoted and exiled because she couldn’t provide Henry with a son? Or Anne Boleyn, who didn’t deliver a male heir either, and was executed for (according to many historians) trumped-up crimes? The list goes on, with all the ex-wives getting their clever say.

In one of the power-pop numbers, for example, Anne of Cleves sings: You, you said that I tricked ya / 'Cause I, I didn't look like my profile picture / Too, too bad I don't agree / So I'm gonna hang it up for everyone to see…

Henry’s marital problems have sparked too many dramatic and literary interpretations to count. But Six succeeds as a unique pop-musical romp with bite and verve. Created by the British team of Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss, the show has successfully toured the UK and been presented on stages in Australia and South Korea. The Paramount run is its Seattle debut.

If you go: Six the Musical at The Paramount Theatre, July 12 - 23. ($40-$125)

Henry VIII's ex-wives sport sunglasses in a number from the musical ‘Six.’ (Joan Marcus)

The Hello Girls

When did American women first answer the call to wartime duty? Way back in 1918, when 33 intrepid ladies shipped out to France to lend a hand as U.S. Army telephone operators during World War I. They became the country’s first women soldiers.

The Hello Girls is the well-received Off-Broadway musical that celebrates the real-life contributions of the Bell Battalion Telephonic Ladies’ Switchboard Unit #1. This intrepid, all-female crew provided vital connections during the dawning age of telecommunications. 

Taproot has often excelled at staging such upbeat, small-scale musicals in its cozy space, and this one sounds like a good fit. Taproot artistic head Karen Lund directs the show's Seattle professional premiere, with music and lyrics by Peter C. Mills and a history-based book by Mills and Cara Reichel. 

If you go: The Hello Girls at Taproot Theatre, July 12 – Aug. 12 ($15-$56)


The original American musical 1776, first staged in 1969, used history, song, dance and wit to chronicle how America’s founding fathers clashed and compromised while hammering out the Declaration of Independence during the sweltering summer of 1776. Lauded for its incisive songs and warts-and-all take on the Continental Congress, it earned a Tony at the time.

In this Broadway reboot — coming up at The 5th Avenue Theatre — the show has been reconceptualized with a post-Hamilton contemporary twist. It boasts a racially diverse, transgender, female and nonbinary cast, who portray such white male signers of the Declaration as Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and John Adams. And it does so without changing much in Peter Stone’s original book or the songs by Sherman Edwards.

Then why the gender shifts in casting? Diane Paulus, who co-directed the New York production with Jeffrey L. Page, told The New York Times in September: “I want the audience to hold that dual reality, of what the founders were, but also a company of actors in 2022, who never would have been allowed inside Independence Hall.”

The revival has sparked both praise and debate. Quite a few reviewers were enthusiastic about the reboot (The Denver Post praised it as “a fascinating experiment full of thrilling performances and important questions”).

But others were sharply critical of this revisionist approach (Theatremania deemed it an “over-amplified, terminally woke revival that doesn't really have anything to say”). You’ll have to decide for yourself. 

Note: Seattle theater artist Sara Porkalob, who caused an internet uproar with a frank interview she gave as a cast member in the Broadway show, is not part of this touring show.

If you go: 1776 at The 5th Avenue Theatre, Aug. 2 – Aug. 6. ($49-$159)

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About the Authors & Contributors

Misha Berson

Misha Berson

Misha Berson was the chief theatre critic for The Seattle Times for 25 years, now working as a freelance writer and teacher.