A new year brings a new show to a new home for the Burien Actors Theatre, now known as BAT Theatre.
Their former location was gifted in 1993 by King County to the City of Burien after the city incorporated, and BAT’s home had been at the “Burien Annex” since 1980. Starting in the late 1940s as Chelsea Park Elementary School, the building changed hands over the years, and before being demolished served as a community center “annex,” which housed BAT’s theater in the former gym, along with other nonprofit organizations.
Four decades later, in a controversial decision with a lot of local opposition, the Burien City Council voted 4–3 to tear down the Burien Annex. This vote got regional news coverage.
Artistic Director Eric Dickman summarized BAT’s reaction in one word: “Unhappy.”
“We had been talking about coming up with a 10-year plan or 15-year plan to build a new performing arts venue,” Dickman said. “But we hadn’t started that yet.”
To further complicate matters, Gov. Jay Inslee closed public venues on March 20, 2020, including theaters, due to COVID-19. BAT was halfway through their production of The Rocky Horror Show at the time, not knowing what to expect of this new virus. During the shutdown, the Annex was demolished, leaving BAT without a home.
“In March, we had no idea what Zoom was,” Dickman said, but in May 2020, BAT was able to pivot and do their first Zoom performance. “Most of almost all the plays we do have royalties attached. The only show we can show is the one we did that’s in the public domain.”
They also learned to adapt.
Maggie Larrick – BAT’s Executive Director – explained that they dropped off props, costumes and lighting equipment to make sure that Zoom shows went as planned.
“In one case…the person didn’t have a good computer, so we dropped off a laptop so she could actually do it from where she was,” Larrick said.
BAT never stopped looking for a venue, however. A year after performing on Zoom, BAT held their first in-person show since the pandemic started.
“[We] did rehearsals on Zoom until the end of June and then did our first performance…at the end of July,” Larrick added.
After moving out of their location at the Burien Annex, doing outdoor performances and adjusting to virtual shows on Zoom, BAT is ready to move into their new space at Kennedy Catholic High School. BAT signed a contract with the school that lasts until June, 2023.
“The plan is that if it works for both of us, then it would be extended,” Dickman said.
Their first show – On The Market by Jason Odell Williams – will premiere on Friday, Feb. 10 at the school’s Little Theater. Showtimes for On The Market are Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m.; the Feb. 24 showing has been canceled.
Dickman said Kennedy Catholic High School can hold 129 people, 35 more than Burien Annex, but they are still looking for a venue that can hold even more.
BAT is still in search of a permanent home. In an email sent by Dickman, they are looking for a King County-owned property in Burien that can accommodate a 300-seat venue, with an art gallery and affordable housing above the theater space.
In the meantime, BAT plans to incorporate virtual performances into their new schedule.
“We’re going to be doing more Zoom shows next season,” Dickman said. “But we will also be live. We’re going to do both.”
A former singer, now a realtor, struggles with the modern dating scene after becoming a widow two years ago. Her life is turned upside down when she finds a mysterious note from her dead husband telling her it’s okay to “move on.” A touching modern, romantic comedy for grown-ups about love, loss, and finding your Forever Home.
Please note, On the Market contains minimal adult language (one “d” and two “g” words).
(NOTE: there is NO performance on Friday, Feb. 24, 2023).