Washington Center needs to come down from the clouds

December 16th, 2011 by Ken

The financial problems facing the Washington Center for the Performing Arts can be traced to two reasons.

The economy and the public’s need to make choices regarding spending is the major driver. There’s almost nothing the Center or its Board can do about it.

But the second problem is directly related to the Center’s image. People in this community see it as an elitist organization that’s more concerned with bringing culture to this backwater community than it is to providing entertainment the unwashed masses want to see.

There – I’ve said it. For decades now, people have whispered about how the Washington Center for the Performing Arts was nothing more than an extension of highbrow entertainment and appealed only to those whose entertainment hearts rested in Seattle.

There’s nothing wrong with art. Ballet, orchestra performances and chamber music has its place. The Center is a good location for just such entertainment. But, it doesn’t appeal to everyone, and it doesn’t always fill seats. Bringing in dance troupes from Harlem, or singers from South Africa or Appalachian banjo players elevates the highbrow culture of the community, but it puts off those who pay the bills – – the taxpayers.

The acts that many people want to see never make it to the Washington Center. They can be found at the various performing centers found in the reservation casinos. Willie Nelson, Leann Rimes, Tanya Tucker and many other good performers never grace the stage at the Washington Center.

While some local groups use the Center for their performances, many others are not able to afford the costs. Union labor and union requirements concerning staffing levels makes it impossible for many others to afford the fees,

At one time, the Washington Center was the only performance center available. Now we have many others including those at South Puget Sound Community College and the North Thurston Public Schools.

It’s time the Washington Center comes down from its lofty perch and begin to meet the needs of the community for good entertainment instead of just cultural education.

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