Artfully Edmonds: Phoenix Theatre launches fourth season of laughs

David Bailey, Laura Hanson and Rick Wright in Phoenix Theatre’s most recent play, "Bedtime Stories."

By Ellen Chappelle

If you haven’t ventured to the south end of Edmonds in recent years, you might be unaware of a great place to enjoy a good laugh. The performers and staff at the Phoenix Theatre, lovers of laughter that they are, present mostly comedies to their appreciative audiences.

Rising like the proverbial phoenix in the 96-seat Firdale Village space formerly occupied by Edge of the World Theatre, the Phoenix Theatre team mounted their first show in January 2009. Artistic Director Melanie Calderwood, along with many other Phoenix actors, had performed in Edge plays. So as Edge closed its doors, she and business partner Debbie Palomera jumped at the chance to continue offering theater to Edmonds by opening a brand new theatre company.

Calderwood discovered theater while in nursing school in Cleveland. A move to Seattle for graduate school in pediatric nursing turned permanent, with Calderwood now working at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance by day and performing by night.

Calling theater her “primary hobby,” Calderwood says she enjoys “getting to know other actors and crew members while working on a show. There’s a real sense of family during a production. I have worked with some truly talented actors and crew members at the Phoenix and at the Edge of the World Theatre before it. I also enjoy listening to reactions of the audience during a show and talking with them afterwards. They are very appreciative of all our hard work on the stage and what we’ve done with the theatre space.”

Melanie Calderwood and David Bailey in "Bedtime Stories."

Season Four, now in progress

Phoenix Theater’s first show of the season, “Bedtime Stories,” was an enjoyable collection of humorous vignettes, each taking place in a bedroom. The five actors deftly covered three roles each, creating well-defined characters and keeping the audience laughing and guessing as to the next plot twist. SeattleActor.com called the “tight little production” heartwarming.

“The new season has a wide variety of comedies,” said Calderwood. “We have the broad comedies and the more sophisticated humor of “Absurd Person Singular.” It’s a combination of what has worked previously, such as “Farndale,” and some shows that will be new to our audience. However, they are all very funny in their own way and hopefully the audiences will find them very entertaining. We spend a great deal of time and energy choosing what we hope people will enjoy seeing during each season.”

Phoenix Theatre’s 2011-2012 schedule:

“The Haunted Through Lounge and Recessed Dining Nook at Farndale Castle” 
by David McGillivray and Walter Zerlin, Jr. 


Oct. 21-Nov. 13, 2011

The ladies of the Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Townswomen’s Guild Dramatic Society make yet another spectacle of themselves, complete with their harassed producer and some extremely vigorous sound effects, in this sinister, spine-chilling mystery of murder and mayhem that is guaranteed to bring the house down, or at least a substantial part of the set.

Christmas Belles

by Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope, and Jamie Wooten

Dec. 2-23, 2011

A church Christmas pageant spins wildly out of control as three squabbling sisters try to rein in the mayhem. Amidst an ailing Santa, a vengeful sheep and a reluctant Elvis impersonator, a family secret emerges that just might derail the entire production. And on top of everything else, the pageant will be shown live on cable access television for the first time ever.

Thunderbolts and Dunderheads

by Todd McGinnis

Feb. 3-26, 2012

Iris, the Goddess-Of-Rainbows, goes to the “head office” on Mount Olympus looking for a promotion. Instead, she’s threatened with being downsized. Her only hope of survival is to take on the one job no one else wants. So what’s a poor goddess to do? Find out when this myth-sterically funny, award-winning farce comes to the Phoenix to breathe hilarious new life into the Ancient Myths.

The Golden State

by Lauren Wilson

March 30-April 22, 2012

In this raucous farce, Gertrude Hopper rules over her adult children and illegal servants with an iron fist. With a fortune in her bra and a maternal instinct warped by the profit motive, Gertrude plans to marry off her son and farm out her daughter’s womb to a wealthy widow. Her plans run aground, however, as her children make a final, desperate bid for love and independence in this 21st Century reinvention of Moliere’s classic comedy, The Miser.

Absurd Person Singular

by Alan Ayckbourn

May 25-June 17, 2012

Three couples, three kitchens, three Christmas Eves. Within three consecutive Christmas eves, we see the rise of an unappetizing entrepreneur and the fall of the notables who snubbed him. Ayckbourn demonstrates once again that he is the king of British farce in this well-oiled and sidesplitting comedy that explores and needles the English social rituals.

Professional-quality theater close to home

Edmonds is home not only to excellent visual art, but boasts high-quality art in the performance arena, as well. “Although we are not actually professional, all of our productions are of professional quality,” said Calderwell. “Many of our shows in the past have been favorably compared to the professional theater in Seattle. Our ticket prices are more reasonable and there is ample free parking. There are also excellent restaurants nearly so that you can easily make it a wonderful, full evening without driving to Seattle.”

Volunteers are the heart of the Phoenix

As is the case with most community theater companies, Phoenix Theater lives and dies by its volunteers. “There would be no Phoenix without the volunteers,” said Calderwood. “We have a wonderful board of directors who are very enthusiastic and work very hard to make the theater a success. Each one takes their role very seriously and put in long hours for the theater.”

Despite a small army of dedicated volunteers, there’s always room for more. The Phoenix is currently seeking a managing director, set designers, set construction staff and wine servers. These volunteer positions “provide a ton of experience and a chance to work with a fun and growing company,” she said. New volunteers will also enjoy learning from and working with the current staff members. Calderwood gushes about her “wonderful staff. I’m very lucky to have each and every one of them,” she said.

Theater space rentals

The Phoenix also rents out its 96-seat auditorium for events. Offering an intimate performance space and loads of free parking, the theater is a perfect spot for recitals, performances and other events. Near the heart of Edmonds, The Phoenix Theatre is 20 minutes from downtown Seattle and 10 minutes from Everett. For more information or to book your rental, call 206-533-2000.

And if you’re looking for a good laugh, visit the Phoenix Theatre soon and enjoy a comedy or two!

With a background in theatre and journalism, Ellen Chappelle is perfectly poised to covers the local arts scene for My Edmonds News. She also keeps busy writing and editing for artists and small businesses, publishing an informational site for dog owners and creating handcrafted jewelry. Please keep her posted about all things artistic in Edmonds by emailing her at arts@myedmondsnews.com.

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