Friday, September 17, 2010

Where's Mike Rainey?

I graduated from Western Washington University in 1984.

Before the 1983-84 school year, maybe, as I attended, it was the summer session. Anyway, I was chosen for a small, special screenwriting class of eight people. I was the oddball, as I was a Psych major, they were all theater majors, actors, dancers, playwrights. Mike Rainey, Dave Scabina, Sean, Tami, my best guesses at their names from what I could remember.

I had been looking for them ever since. Not like I hired detectives, but when I'd think about it, I'd try to find them and never found who I thought might be them. How I could have missed them, I have no idea.

Since the internet has been available, I've been trying to find those guys or girls. I couldn't remember their names for years; I can't even remember everyone in the group; were there two girls? Seems like it, but I can't really remember (geez, that's pretty sad).

A couple of years ago, I found a few names (that I mentioned above). I searched on WWU website. Nothing. I've searched the internet, nothing. Just this minute, I thought, type in Mike Rainey Western Washington University.


I got a hit! I couldn't believe it at first.
Below, is the article.

But now, I'm a little stunned. Because I just read that Dave, had died, of AIDS. I really hate that damn thing, I've lost too many friends and cool people to it.

I'm putting this article here, so I can reference it later. I'd really like to find any of them; they were such a talented group. But I was most friends with Mike, Dave and Chris. They were sad when I graduated, before them. It broke up the team.

We had such a blast together that year, along with our instructor, Bob Schelonka. I've wanted to find them for years, to see if we could do something together art wise; but it was apparently not to be. Now Dave is gone. I don't know where Mike is. We created some fun scripts that year, we laughed hard, had a great time. I remember working on a script with I think, Dave and Chris, I can't now remember, sitting on my apartment living room floor in "Happy Valley", till my girlfriend Monica, finally threw everyone out.

Chris and I did the "Popsicle Death" script. Actually, Bob said, everyone write down a paragraph for a story. Okay, now shift it left to the person next to you. Now, take that paragraph and write a short script for next class (in two days). So I wrote what came to be the notorious, Popsicle Death, script. I'm currently putting it into a screenplay I'm writing, tentatively titled, "HearthTales" (soon to be at a theater near you!). So these guys had an impact upon my entire life really. Monica is no longer around my life, nor my two wives that came after her. But that class will be with me forever and the work from that class may still one day end up on screen.

Well, anyway, here's to that class(!) and the amazing things at least some of us, did after we graduated. Oh, and if you wonder at the difference between the spelling of "Theatre" and "Theater", as any drama major knows, real acting happens in a "Theatre", you go to see a movie at a "Theater". :)

For the first time ever on this blog, an image....

The “founding fathers” of Annex Theatre.
From left: Dave Skubinna, Micha Rice, Garrett Bennett,
Mike Rainey, Brian Finney, and John Lawler. (circa 1988)

[As an addendum, I think I may have actually (Finally) found Mike. On Facebook of all places. Even though, I've looked there for him many times. Geez. I "friended" him, and he accepted so I think its him, but no word from him yet. He probably accepted and then either was also stunned by my appearance out of no where, or he had to run errands, go to work, who knows. So I'm anxiously waiting to hear from him.]

Mike was at the Sacred Fools Theater, in L.A., for a while.

And so, here's the article that started all this, yesterday....


Annex Theatre turns “legal”
[Annex Theatre website]
Veteran fringe theatre faces challenges of young adulthood
[From: SGN article]

It’s unlikely the founders of Seattle’s Annex Theatre envisioned their scrappy little “fringe company” surviving into its third decade of operation. Frustrated by the lack of opportunity in the Seattle theatre scene in the mid 1980’s, they were simply looking to feed their creative impulses, and banded together more out of mutual self interest, than with any intent to create a cultural legacy.

Yet, that’s exactly what Annex’s “founding five”: Bainbridge High School grads Garrett Bennett, Micha Rice, John Lawler, and Dave Skubinna, along with Skubinna’s fellow Western Washington University Drama alum, Mike Rainey, created when they put on their first production, a pastiche of short plays titled “Midnight Snack”, at Bainbridge Performing Arts Storefront Theatre in 1986.

Now, more than 20 years later, their “little theatre that could” has amassed a body of artistic achievement that puts even Seattle’s major professional houses to shame: nearly 400 productions, including countless world, West Coast and regional premieres; working associations with some of the country’s most innovative playwrights, including Erik Ehn, Glen Berger, Naomi Iizuka, Jeffrey Jones, and Anne Washburn; and most importantly, the development of a sort of “graduate school” environment for a whole host of writers, actors, directors, designers, musicians, and scenic artists, an impressive number of whom have gone onto successful careers not only at the region’s more established theatre companies, but who include among their ranks nationally, even internationally recognized artists such as: Academy Award-nominee Paul Giamatti, L.A. Drama Critics Award-winner Jillian Armanante, former Empty Space Theatre Artistic Director Allison Narver, Seattle Town Hall Executive Director Wier Harmon, solo performer Lauren Weedman, and local playwright/composer Chris Jeffries, to name a few.

Much of Annex’s success lies in its flexibility and responsiveness to the needs and ambitions of its members. Built on a consensus-driven, “collective” management model, all the company’s members have a voice in selecting its management staff and artistic production. Not surprisingly, all of Annex’s founders have moved on (Skubinna succumbed to AIDS in 1994), but what is surprising is the relative ease with which it has continued to reinvent itself, through the tenures of six artistic directors, the participation of hundreds of individual artists, and despite vacating its long-time venue on Fourth Avenue, followed by four years of itinerancy, before finally achieving a soft-landing at Capitol Hill’s CHAC in 2005.

As it approaches its 21st birthday, however, Annex shows little sign of slumping into a complacent, self-satisfied middle-age. A new home brings an invigorating sense of purpose, along with a new generation of ambitious young artists who have been attracted by both the company’s history and reputation, as well as by the promise of future glory.

Art is always a risky business. And yet, while there are no guarantees, Annex Theatre seems to have found a formula for success that has elevated it to the level of a true cultural icon. The “little theatre that could” has proven it can, with polish and panache. And with hard work, savvy programming, and just a little bit of luck, Annex should be around for another 10, even 20 years, providing a creative outlet for young, talented artists who will continue to uphold its mission of “creating bold new work in an environment of improbability, resourcefulness and risk.”
The Annex - Production History
Courtesy of Annex Theatre (2007)

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