Most Influential Seattleites of 2017: Intiman Theatre's Andrew Russell and Jennifer Zeyl

Seattle Magazine presents the Most Influential Seattleites of 2017.

When Andrew Russell, Intiman Theatre’s artistic director, took the reins of the debt-ridden, Tony Award–winning Seattle theater institution—just after it cancelled its 2011 season and laid off its entire staff—the then 28-year-old faced an enormous question: “How do you heal a community and re-create a theater company in Seattle?” he says. 

He turned to producer and set-design veteran Jennifer Zeyl, then under contract to design a production for the dissolved season, to help envision those next steps. Bolstered by positive feedback from theater subscribers and supporters, they began to nurture an emerging vision: to produce work of equity, diversity and inclusivity, and to support the artists and writers who make it. 

The creative partners scaled back what once was yearlong programming to a summer festival of a handful of productions, launched an emerging artists training and development program for those historically underrepresented in theater, codeveloped a technical theater training program at Franklin High School and began to introduce season cocurators, such as 2017’s powerhouse playwright Sara Porkalob (her musical Dragon Lady closed the theater’s 2017 programming last month). 

“In 2012, we did four plays by white men,” notes Zeyl, who officially became the company’s producing artistic producer in 2014. “In 2016, the entire season was written by black, female playwrights.”

Russell recently announced that he’s moving on to pursue his own projects in New York, but Zeyl is hoping his replacement will continue to evolve the theater, now that it’s on firm footing. 

Intiman is on track to be debt free in six months (down from almost $2 million), is diversifying its leadership team and—once again—is growing a strong audience and contributing impactful work to Seattle’s theater scene.

Read about the rest of 2017's Most Influential Seattleites here.


Related Content

Plus: The trial of the Seattle Seven

De Aunt’e Damper builds community for a more inclusive Seattle

From activists to poets, many African Americans have played crucial roles in shaping Washington state history

Plus: Looking back on the Battle of Seattle