The Washington Center for the Performing Arts’ 2022-2023 season marks both a return to pre-pandemic norms — it’s the first full season with subscription plans since theaters closed in March 2020 — and a fresh start. When the season launches Nov. 4 with “Stunt Dog Experience,” the center will have a new look for the first time in two decades, with new seats, new carpet, new colors and more.
“I’m excited,” said Jill Barnes, the Center’s executive director. “We’re back, and we’re going to be back in a new venue. … My cup has just been so full at every show I’ve gone to. I’m trying to really enjoy those moments and never take them for granted.”
Barnes is most excited about the season’s mystery show (June 8, 2023). The show, to be announced Nov. 3, will feature an artist (or multiple artists?) whom audiences have requested over and over. “You know me — I can’t pick just one,” she told OLY ARTS. Another pick: Scottish rockers Skerryvore (April 14, 2023), whose performance will be preceded by a whisky tasting. (“Whisky” is the Scottish spelling.)
Comedy is king, making up at least a third of the season — more if you count shows with comedic elements. Some Stars of Native Comedy (Nov. 5, 2022), featuring self-proclaimed Naughty Rez Dog Gilbert Brown, is a new showcase from Indigenous Performance Projections, which is also presenting “The Aunties” (Nov. 18, 2022), a multimedia show focused on First Nations matriarchs.
Both Seattle International Comedy Competition (Nov. 17, 2022) and Ladies of Laughter (March 10, 2023) are back, as is Comedy in the Box, offering six shows from January through June. At least two of the theatrical productions qualify as comedies — and both resemble past shows that were hits at the Center: Friends: The Musical Parody (Feb. 26, 2023) is along the lines of The Golden Girls Show: A Puppet Parody, and Women of a Certain Age (May 6, 2023), a musical about three moms aiming to appear in a TV singing competition, is a younger-skewing show in the mold of Menopause: The Musical.
Among the season’s big names are Jake Shimabukuro, bringing his Christmas show to the Kenneth J. Minnaert Center for the Arts on Dec. 9, 2022; Los Lobos (March 23, 2023) and Blind Boys of Alabama (Jan. 28, 2023), performing with harmonica legend Charlie Musselwhite. The late Ray Charles is the subject of the tribute show “Ray on My Mind” (March 26, 2023).
As in seasons past, the Center is offering a Broadway touring show (Legally Blonde, Feb. 2, 2023), the literary-focused Center Salon (May 19, 2023) and an evening of contemporary dance (Ailey II, Jan. 31, 2023). Irish dance and music are represented, too, with “Éireann: A Taste of Ireland” (March 12, 2023).
Also back: a National Geographic Live presentation (Jan. 20, 2023), a sing-along (Frozen II, April 29, 2023) and the popular series Black Box Jazz (Jan. 13, Feb. 24, April 7 and May 26, 2023) and Silent Movies with organist Dennis James (April 2 and 30, 2023).
The 2022 – 2023 season offers some different showtimes than in seasons past. Some family-friendly shows are happening earlier, and Sunday shows now happen at either 2 or 5 p.m., a change inspired in part by the Olympia Symphony Orchestra’s success with 3 p.m. concerts.
Though it will offer shows at new times and in a new setting, the season feels in many ways just like old times, with trainer Chris Perondi’s popular stunt dogs a fitting start. The rescue-dog showcase was scheduled to perform at the center on March 20, 2020. “That was the first center-presented show cancelled in 2020,” Barnes said. “it’s finally happening.”
The Washington Center for the Performing Arts’ 2022-2023 season
The Washington Center for the Performing Arts,
512 Washington St. SE, Olympia
Season tickets are on sale now. A 15% discount is available for those who buy tickets to five or more shows. Those who buy eight or more can also stay in the same seats for the shows they choose.
Individual tickets: Prices vary. Those go on sale Aug. 2.