All someone had to do was ask. The imagination and ambitiousness of Linda Hartzell have made Seattle Children's Theatre one of the city's most reliable venues for resourceful stagecraft—any place that manages to turn the monosyllabic pleasures of a picture book like Go, Dog. Go! into solid entertainment is doing something right. But no one had invited her to take on local work outside of the company since she became artistic director in 1984. Enter Intiman Theatre's artistic director, Bartlett Sher, no stranger to imagination and ambitiousness himself, who had the bright idea to assign Hartzell to directing chores on The Grapes of Wrath, which makes its appearance as part of Intiman's American Cycle this coming October.
"Bart hired me because I tend to do shows that are episodic, where you're going from place to place with large numbers of people onstage," Hartzell explains. She deals with book adaptations on a regular basis at SCT, having grappled with everything from The Red Badge of Courage to The Outsiders, a show that said volumes about the class divide between S.E. Hinton's warring teenagers using only a metal fence. "I tend to like the minimalist, abstract approach to shows because the audience really has to participate to complete the visual picture," Hartzell allows.
There's another reason she seems like a fine choice to tackle the Joad family's travails, and you can hear it in her voice when she proudly maintains that she approaches every play—whether about 1960s delinquency or Depression-era drudgery—"as if we were doing Macbeth or Marivaux." Sher obviously found it in her, too, and told her so when he offered her the job.
"He said he thought I had the heart for it," Hartzell recalls.
Seattle Children's Theatre, Seattle Center, 206-441-3322, www.sct.org.
Linda Hartzell's Picks
Best Place to Grab Lunch at Seattle Center:
Kabob Corner. "It has great fresh lentil soup, falafel, and chicken kabob salads."
Best Place for a Treat at Seattle Center:
Cafe Beignet in the Seattle Center House. "For opening-night presents, I give everybody a $5 credit to go get a latte and beignet."
Best Thai Place:
Lower Queen Anne's Rice N Spice. "I always get the fresh rolls and their halibut with green curry sauce."
Best Pastry Place:
Nielsen's Authentic Danish Pastry in Lower Queen Anne. "Best Danish pastries in the whole area—killer, flaky. If I weren't fat, I'd get one right now."
Seattle Children's Theatre's crowd, naturally. "You can ask anybody. I love an audience filled with people of all ages."
Best Local Married Playwright Couple:
SCT contributors Steven Dietz and Allison Gregory. "Steven has done The Rememberer, Still Life With Iris, Lily's Purple Plastic Purse, and Go, Dog. Go! And Allison is now doing Peter and the Wolf and co-wrote Go, Dog. Go!"
Best Place to Take Kids (That isn't SCT):
Seattle's libraries. "I like places that aren't segregated by social class."
Best Local Children's Charities:
First Place and Treehouse. "Those are the two that we work closely with. First Place is a school for homeless children, and Treehouse deals with kids that have come from foster families and difficult situations."
Best Person to Attend an Opening Night With:
"My husband. He's gone to every opening night with me for 22 years, and he deserves to be thanked. He's sat there while I paced and foamed and dug my nails into his arm."