Intiman Theatre Artistic Director Bartlett Sher and Managing Director Laura Penn accept the 2006 Regional Theatre Tony Award on June 11, 2006.

  • By Paula Becker
  • Posted 9/10/2006
  • Essay 7844
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On June 11, 2006, Intiman Theatre Artistic Director Bartlett Sher (b. 1959) and Managing Director Laura Penn (b. 1961) accept the 2006 Regional Theatre Tony Award at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. The Regional Theatre Tony award, given annually to an American regional theater that has displayed a continuous level of artistic achievement resulting in a significant contribution to the development of regional theater in this country, is the highest awards honor an American regional theater can attain.

From the Far Northwest Corner

Margaret Booker founded the Intiman Theater in Kirkland in 1972. Laura Penn joined the company as managing director in 1994 and Bartlett Sher became artistic director in 2000.

Sher and Penn accepted the award at a ceremony that preceded the televised Tony Awards ceremony. In accepting the award Sher said:

"We come to you from the far Northwest corner of the world. You know most of where we come from rain and business and technology companies and aerospace companies and salmon. But in fact Intiman is a company which really likes to push its work to the edge and has an old-fashioned belief that the work we do as artists is deeply connected to our communities and that work is important to the kind of citizens we can become in America" ("Tony Awards," Intiman Theatre website).
A revival of Clifford Odets's (1906-1963) Awake and Sing, directed by Bartlett Sher, received eight Tony Award nominations including that of Best Director.

Actor Tom Skerritt (b. 1933) presented the award. Skerritt, a Seattle resident, played the role of the Stage Manager in the Intiman's 2004 production of Thornton Wilder's (1897-1975) Our Town, the first production in a planned American Cycle that also includes The Grapes Of Wrath, Native Son, All The King's Men, and To Kill A Mockingbird.

Intiman staff, board members, and donors gathered in the Experience Music Project's science fiction party room to watch Penn and Sher accept the award via a live satellite feed.

The Tony Awards are given annually to recognize distinguished achievement in the field of professional theater. They are named for Antoinette Perry (1888-1946), founder of the American Theatre Wing, an organization dedicated to supporting excellence and education in theater. The American Theatre Wing and the League of American Theaters and Producers, Inc. produce the Tony Awards. The Regional Theatre Tony Award has been given annually since 1976. The award comes with a grant of $25,000.

American Regional Theaters

The American Regional Theater movement began in the late 1940s and by the 1970s when the Intiman was founded it was reaching its heyday. The movement was an indirect outgrowth of the Works Progress Administration's 1935-1939 Federal Theatre Project. The Federal Theatre Project brought live theater to many towns across the nation that had not previously experienced it and broached the then-radical notion that (in the words of Federal Theatre Project director Hallie Flanagan (1890-1961) "now, for the first time, professional theatre might also be considered regionally" (Arena, p22).

Theatre 47, founded by Margo Jones (1911-1955) in Dallas, Texas,  in 1947, is credited as the nation's first modern regional theater. Houston's Alley Theatre, founded by Nina Vance (1914-1980) the same year, and Washington, D.C.'s Arena Stage, founded by Zelda Fichandler in 1950, were followed by a host of other regional theaters across the nation. American regional theaters proved that high quality professional theater in this country was not limited to New York City.

All Seattle's a Stage

Intiman's Director of Communications Stephanie Coen and Director of Marketing Lisa Fulton learned that Intiman had been awarded the Tony on May 16, 2006, at 5:45 am Seattle time via a live webcast when the 2006 Tony Award nominations were announced in New York. Because the Regional Theatre Tony is a special award it is announced with the nominations rather than on the night the awards are given out. Laura Penn told Variety reporter Lynn Jacobson, "Seattle is a vibrant, intelligent, cutting-edge community -- a great place for artists to live and make their work" ("Tony Takes Shine To Seattle").

The Intiman Theatre was the second theater in Washington to be awarded the Regional Theatre Tony Award. Seattle Repertory Theatre was honored with the award in 1990.

Receiving the Regional Theatre Tony Award is an unqualified stamp of approval within the theater industry and an accolade that even members of the general public with little knowledge of theater are quick to understand. Winning it not only confirms the good work such a theater has been producing over a number of years, but also  offers that organization vastly increased access to grants and fundraising opportunities that will support the organization's continuing efforts.

Sources: "Tony Awards," and "History," Intiman Theatre website accessed June 15, 2006 (; Andy Buck, "Top Of The Hour," posted June 7, 2006, Tony Awards website accessed June 15, 2006 (; "About ATW," and "Tony Awards," American Theatre Wing website accessed June 15, 2006 (; Lynn Jacobson, "Tony Takes A Shine To Seattle," Varity Magazine, May 22-May 28, 2006. Vol. 403, No. 1; p. 58, Variety Magazine website accessed June 15, 2006 (; Regina Hackett, "Award Could help Put Intiman In The Black," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, June 12, 2006, p. E-1; Sylviane Gold, "Long Distance Regards From Broadway," New York Times, June 4, 2006; Hallie Flanagan, Arena ((New York: Duell, Sloan and Pearce, 1940); Stephanie Coen, email to Paula Becker July 5, 2006, in possession of Paula Becker, Seattle, Washington.

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