Mission Nonprofit Spotlight: Harlequin Productions

Each month, Thurston Community Media (TCMedia)’s Mission Nonprofit connects with local organizations and agencies that are making positive impacts in our communities. This month, Mission Nonprofit host Andrea Capere sat down with Aaron Lamb, artistic director for Harlequin Productions, a non-profit professional regional theater.

Harlequin Productions, the only professional theater between Seattle and Portland, brings a broad range of fine theater to Thurston County, supporting their mission “to invigorate, educate, and empower our community and all people to feel more, think more, play more, and judge less through the mirror of real live theatre.” In their 28 years, they have completed over 160 productions involving over 500 artists. A non-profit, this amazing success would not be possible without their 400+ volunteers.

In 1991, they started out with just three, one-act plays in a “black box” venue at the Washington Center for the Performing Arts. Their plays were so popular that the following year they performed multi-act plays, including “Hamlet.” By the fourth year, it became obvious they were outgrowing their space at the Center, Lamb says. “They raised, I believe, $1.3 million in about 17 months to purchase the State Theater downtown and renovate it,” he adds.

They now do seven plays a season at the State Theater. New for this coming year they will do two plays back at their original home, the Washington Center.

Living Their Mission

“I think we believe, and I believe, that theater really is a mirror,” Lamb says, “it’s an interesting art form and that it’s language-based and it’s real-life based more than others. So, it’s more tangible oftentimes to people and it can be more active in that way. So we say that theater holds the mirror up to society and basically what that means I think is that theater as an art form can show society what it is and show society what it ought to be. And I think that’s the real thing that were trying to do, to show people what maybe the world ought to be from our idealistic standpoint, maybe, and empower them through just an increased level of empathy with human experience.”

Lamb says he hopes people walk away from what they do with a feeling of wanting do something better in their life, or that the theater opened their eyes to another side or another person’s view that they may not have seen before – and to look at it with empathy.

Even the production of the plays, themselves, with 230-plus people working on them including actors, management, stage crew and volunteers, are part of that mission. “It’s a community engagement exercise,” Lamb explains. “It’s about people coming together to create work.”

It’s not just the plays, however, that speaks to their mission. Harlequin Productions also works toward making sure everyone can enjoy theater. Every production has a Pay What You Can Night, to help those who cannot afford the regular prices. Regular ticket prices, by the way, cover just a bit over half of Harlequin Production’s production costs.

The first preview night of every production is Community Engagement Night, where they give the entire house’s tickets to a non-profit. The non-profit can use it however they wish – as a work party, or volunteer party, sell the tickets as a fundraiser, etc.

Student matinees are another way they give back to the community, where they have school groups come in to watch the productions. These are available for all productions apart from the summer ones.

“I believe that the work we do on stage can have an element of education only in that it presents different points of view that people wouldn’t normally see,” Lamb shares. “That said, we also believe there is no future in theater if we don’t teach our young people the value, so we do have education programs.” Education classes include acting classes for youth, teens and now adults, starting this year.

Above all, Lamb hopes people will come downtown and experience the theater, experience downtown, and “hopefully we will exceed your expectations.”

You can learn more about how to get involved and their upcoming shows by visiting the Harlequin Productions website.

You can watch Mission Nonprofit on channel 77 on Sundays at 4:30 p.m., Tuesdays at 7:00 p.m., Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., and Saturdays at 6:30 p.m. You can also watch on TCMedia.org, Video On-Demand or our Roku channel. To learn more about what TCMedia does, visit the Thuston Community Media YouTube channel or the TC Media website and follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

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