Arts and Entertainment

Surprising facts about the opera, theater, ballet, museums

Seattle Opera performs
Seattle Opera performs 'Aida.'
— image credit: Contributed


510 Bellevue Way N.E., Bellevue

5 things you didn’t know:

- The only art, craft and design museum in the Pacific Northwest.

- Takes two weeks and a crew of four people to install a new exhibit.

- Receives two-thirds of its budget from contributed income.

- Housed in a former funeral home in the 1970s.

- Offers more than 100 community programs annually.

A must-see:

George Nelson: Architect | Writer | Designer | Teacher, Oct. 29- Feb. 12. Reaching the height of his career in the mid-20th century, George Nelson is a founding figure of American design. BAM will be the third museum in the country to show this exhibit. People may remember his work: bubble lamps, coconut chairs and the flat bench still used in museums today, says Nora Atkinson, local curator.

The last word:

Selecting exhibits is a balancing act. “We try to have a little traditional art work, a little cutting-edge work and a good balance of Northwest artists with national and international talent,” Atkinson says.


321 Mercer St., Seattle

5 things you didn’t know:

- Internationally recognized as a top U.S. ballet company.

- Snow used in “Nutcracker” is 200 pounds of fireproof confetti paper.

- The “Nutcracker” Christmas tree, which grows from 14 to 28 feet, was constructed by Boeing engineers.

- Company dancers collectively wear out more than 2,000 pairs of pointe shoes annually.

- Reached 18,000 students and families last year through outreach programs such as DanceChace and field trips.

A must-see:

When people ask artistic director Peter Boal what the season highlight is, Boal responds: “What isn’t?” Still, if he had to choose, it’s the new “Don Quixote,” originally created for the Dutch National Ballet. PNB will be the second company and first American company to premiere the ballet Feb. 3-12. Be sure to watch for the lead ballerina’s feat of 32 foutte turns and hops on pointe.

The last word:

PNB’s top marks in the Teen Tix awards couldn’t be cooler, if you ask Boal. “The fact that teenagers think we’re the best in town speaks to our programming,” he says.




1300 1st Ave., Seattle

- Offers pay-what-you-can admission.

- Its Seattle Asian Art Museum in Volunteer Park was the original SAM and opened in 1933 during the Great Depression.

-  The cars hanging in the museum’s lobby are part of a piece created by the Chinese artist Cai Guo-Qiang who also led the design and special effects for the opening and closing of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.  All

the cars are white Ford Tauruses except for one Mercury.

-  Alexander Calder’s bright red Eagle (1971) sculpture at the Olympic Sculpture Park is lined up exactly with “Eagle” street in Belltown.

This was not intentional.

- Hammering Man weighs 26,000 pounds. The arm hammers silently and smoothly four times per minute.  It is actually owned by the City of Seattle, not by SAM.

A must-see:

“Elles” exhibition opening in fall 2012 is a collection of work by women artists from around the world, originally shown in France at the Centre Pompidou. All pieces by male artists were taken down for the occasion.

The last word:

SAM is excited about doing this show, one that will raise consciousness of women’s art, says Deputy Director of Art, Chiyo Ishikawa. “It’s sure to get people talking.”


321 Mercer St., Seattle

5 things you didn’t know:

- Commissioned and premiered The Who’s rock opera “Tommy” in 1971 starring Bette Midler, who sang the Acid Queen song.

- Set studios (located in Renton) has also constructed doors for the monorail, sets for the video game “Myst,” and the current “Making of

Avatar” exhibit at Experience Music Project.

- Has one of the largest programs for arts patrons in their 20s and 30s in the nation, with 600-plus members.

- When its signature work, “Der Ring des Nibelungen,” premiered in 2009, audiences came from 49 states, 23 countries, and brought in $9.5

million to Seattle’s economy.

- It takes an average of 105 hours to design, construct, and fit a costume for a lead singer.

A must-see:

The Italian opera, “Attila” will make its Seattle Opera premiere in January. The King of the Huns and his conquering hordes clash with cunning women warriors and a scheming Roman general in this work of

historical fiction.

“There’s some very nasty, but fascinating characters,” says Jonathan Dean, director of public programs and media.

The last word:

People who have never been to the opera don’t know what they’re missing, Dean says. “Hearing unamplified voices, and seeing what human beings can do, shake the air, shake your ears – it’s amazing how moving

it can be.”


303 Front St. N., Issaquah

5 things you didn’t know:

- Provided 994 weeks of direct employment for Actors’ Equity Members this season, more than any other theater in the state.

- It’s original musical now on Broadway, “Million Dollar Quartet” has already logged more than 2,000 performances in Issaquah, Everett,

Chicago, London, and New York combined.

- Typically spends more than $1 million developing and producing a single new musical for its Mainstage.

- Its artistic director and executive producer have worked a combined total of 50 years in their positions.

- Owns land and three buildings in Issaquah worth more than $15 million.

A must-see:

An original Village musical, “Take me America” Sept. 14-Nov. 20 is a compelling story of people seeking asylum in the U.S. It’s gritty, tough, rock n’roll, and will be sure to generate a lot of excitement, says artistic director Steve Tomkins.

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