That wailing you heard rising from Seattle’s theater community last Dec. 5 was a cry of pain at the announcement that Marya Sea Kaminski would be leaving Seattle Repertory Theatre after three years as associate artistic director to take the position of artistic director for Pittsburgh Public Theater.
Losing her as an administrator was only part of it. For 16 years, Kaminsky has been an all-around theater factotum in Seattle: a beloved and acclaimed actor, director, playwright, teacher, and more. She's an MFA graduate of the University of Washington’s School of Drama and a co-founder of Washington Ensemble Theatre, a triumpher in roles that include Hedda Gabler, Electra, the Angel in Angels in America, and Laura Bush; and a—well, you can read her vitae for yourself at her website, maryasea.com. Set aside a couple hours.
Her theater experience started at the University of Pennsylvania, and in her return to the state there’s an interesting echo of the journey of playwright August Wilson: He was born in Pittsburgh, set his 10-play Pittsburgh Cycle there, and moved to Seattle in 1990, where his work became a major aspect of Seattle Rep’s identity. In conjunction with the company’s production of Wilson’s Two Trains Running, which closes Feb. 11, we asked Kaminski for her reflections on Wilson and his work, and on her personal relationship to it, in connection with her new career chapter in his hometown. We also asked if she could share anything yet about her plans in Pittsburgh.
Kaminski: Over the course of the last few months, as this opportunity crystallized and I realized that I will be leaving our incredible city for another, I have thought so much about August Wilson and his legacy. He’s been a great teacher to me, as an art-maker and a storyteller, but even more as a citizen of this country who shares in its rich and brutal history. He’s taught me about race, certainly, and opened the door to human experiences, powerful cultures, and a balance of deep joy and incredible pain, that otherwise I would only be able to speculate on as a middle-class white person.
He’s also introduced me to Pittsburgh. I’d never been to that city until last fall, but somehow it felt familiar—the neighborhoods and the people. His characters—Rose from Fences or Bynam from Joe Turner or Sterling in Two Trains—were the first people I’ve ever known from Pittsburgh. And I admire them. I appreciate the complex and beautiful places they occupy in that city, and how they invite us into their families and their beliefs. August Wilson writes about a vast tapestry of topics in his work, but I think his deepest generosity is the way he invites us into his home, his city, his view. As I consider my upcoming move to Pittsburgh and all the changes it promises, both personally and professionally, I feel myself leaning into Wilson’s stories and looking forward to seeing them in a new way from those streets and bridges, alongside a new community of artists and audiences.
I’ve been working to put together Pittsburgh Public Theater’s upcoming season, and we will be announcing our plans at the end of February. It has been an extraordinary pleasure to work with Ted Pappas, Lou Castelli, and the rest of the staff there, and I am truly thrilled by the year we have ahead.
For more on "Two Trains Running," including prices and showtimes, click here.