A Contemporary Theatre’s artistic director Kurt Beattie may have announced his retirement at the end of ACT’s 50th Anniversary Season in 2015, but don’t expect him to disappear from the Seattle theater scene, or even to slow down to judge by the number of current and future projects also announced.
Currently, Beattie is rehearsing up the street for his debut at the 5th Avenue Theatre, where he will play radio announcer/narrator Jean Shepherd in the remount of “A Christmas Story” this December. Meanwhile, ACT’s production of “Vanya and Sonya and Masha and Spike,” which Beattie directed, opened this month and will run through Nov. 17.
After retiring, Beattie will take the role of artistic director emeritus at ACT, stewarding long-term projects already in development as well as acting and directing in upcoming seasons.
“My first role at ACT was in 1975 in Greg Falls’ production of ‘The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui,’” said Beattie recently. As an actor, Beattie quickly became one of the “regulars” familiar to Seattle theatergoers. He has appeared in too many leading and major roles to list at ACT, Seattle Repertory Theatre, Intiman Theatre, and The Empty Space. Other favorite roles include Malvolio in “Twelfth Night” at Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, Macheath in “Three Penny Opera” at Indiana Rep, and Lear in “King Lear” at Seattle Shakespeare Company.
Beattie joined ACT’s staff in 2001 as the associate artistic director and was then appointed artistic director in 2003. His career on both sides of the footlights led him to being named the co-recipient of the 2004 Theatre Puget Sound Gregory A. Falls Sustained Achievement Award and the 2012 ArtsFund Award for Outstanding Achievement.
John Langs, the company’s current associate artistic director, will take over as artistic director for ACT’s 51st season, a decision that Beattie said was done with full support of ACT’s Board and Executive Director Carlo Scandiuzzi. Langs’ credits at ACT include directing the Pinter Festival’s “The Dumb Waiter” and “Celebration,” “Middletown,” “Bethany,” “A Christmas Carol,” and the Central Heating Lab collaboration with The Seagull Project’s production of “The Seagull.”
“ACT stands out as a beacon of creativity and collaboration, aligned with the innovative reputation Seattle is known for,” said Langs. “I look forward to building on the established relationships ACT holds, creating new ones, and engaging in conversation with the tremendous audiences that participate in the exploration of process, performance and ideas.”
Under Beattie’s tenure ACT weathered some tough financial times that threatened to close the doors permanently. Instead of shutting down, Beattie led the company into producing eleven world premieres with local and national playwrights including Yussef El Guindi, Steven Dietz, Elizabeth Heffron, Mike Daisey, among others. Beattie also created Central Heating Lab as a new initiative to present and co-produce multidisciplinary works and help keep all the spaces busy in ACT’s multi-theater building in downtown Seattle. Other major collaborations included the 2012 epic production of “Ramayana,” involving more than 40 artists and designers over two years; the artist-driven Pinter Fortnightly series that morphed into a festival in 2012; a multi-year collaboration with The Hansberry Project to encourage African-American playwrights; and hosting Sir Alan Ayckbourn to direct the American premiere of “Sugar Daddies” in 2013. In collaboration with the 5th, Beattie helped start a series of “chamber musicals” at ACT and directed the well-received “Grey Gardens.”
In 2015, Beattie plans to direct “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” and “Travesties.” He also is developing the adaptation of a Japanese epic for the stage.