Artfully Edmonds: New managing director for Edmonds’ comedy theatre, The Phoenix

Debra Rich Gettleman has accepted the position of managing director for The Phoenix Theatre, Edmonds' all-comedy performance stage.
Debra Rich Gettleman has accepted the position of managing director for The Phoenix Theatre, Edmonds’ all-comedy performance stage located in Firdale Village Shopping Plaza.

Artfully Edmonds enjoys introducing many fine and accomplished Edmonds-area artists, actors, and writers to My Edmonds News readers. It is always a privilege to showcase individuals who are taking part in the groundswell, “Edmonds, an arts destination!”

This week we are very excited to introduce Debra Rich Gettleman (DRG), newly hired managing director of The Phoenix Theatre, popular stage located in Firdale Village, and whose motto is, “comedy without all the drama”.

An actor, playwright and veteran on stage, Debra comes to us from Phoenix, Arizona. (Yes, we caught the coincidence!)

After assisting in the wrap up of a very successful “Dessert and Laughter” benefit gala, led by the efforts of Megan McKay and Lexie Knull, Debra kicked off her high heels and got comfy for a My Edmonds News (MEN) interview:

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MEN: First of all, Debra, welcome to the Edmonds arts’ scene! I understand that shortly before you arrived in the Puget Sound region, your play Prism, (produced by Arizona Women’s Theatre Company) received very favorable reviews. Aren’t you a welcome edition to Edmonds’ arts scene.

DGR: Thank you for such a kind opening. I’ve enjoyed a wonderful career from Chicago to Los Angeles — to Phoenix — and now here to Washington state. I’ve always heard about Seattle being such a great arts town. But I had no idea that Edmonds was such a rich, thriving artistic community until I arrived and got settled.

– – –

MEN: What is the backstory of how you arrived at the doorstep of The Phoenix Theatre?

DGR: My husband is a pediatrician and we’ve been watching the state of health care change for a while. He had a successful small practice for many years. But it was clear to us that solo practitioners and small health care practices were not going to continue to be viable. So we looked all over the country for the best opportunity to join a large hospital or physician group and we found a home for him at The Everett Clinic.

We have always loved Seattle and the Puget Sound region, and I knew it as a thriving arts community. So we packed up the family and left the Arizona desert for greener pastures!

We came over the summer and got our two boys enrolled in high school and junior high. Then I started auditioning and looking for a spot where I could put my artistic talents, non-profit theatre experience and theatre management skills to use.

MEN: What is the breadth of your arts and theatre skills?

DGR: Well, I’m a professional actor/broadcaster/journalist. I hosted a popular (and slightly irreverent) talk radio show in Los Angeles for a number of years. I’ve been writing my blog for over a decade. I started it as an offshoot of my parenting column for “Raising Arizona Kids” magazine.

After about five years I took it over as my own and began to build readership. It’s been a great outlet for me as a mom and a writer. Writing about day-to-day observations and occurrences helps me give meaning to things that either frustrate, confuse or trouble me.

My older son, Levi, is 16 and he loves being the subject of my writing! I still write for a few magazines and Levi feels totally gypped if he’s not the subject of every column. But my youngest son, Eli, is 12 and he HATES when I write anything about him. It was easier when they were really young and I didn’t have to worry about their reactions to my writing.

One time – when he was maybe 8 or 9 – Eli was so mad about an article I published and subsequently put up on my blog that he created an account on and posted a comment refuting my facts and insisting that I had made up the entire episode. (I almost killed him!)

– – –

MEN: That’s very funny! What parent – and child – can’t identify with moments like that?

Who is your actor-muse?

DGR: I am comedy obsessed and grew up watching reruns of “The Dick Van Dyke Show” and “I love Lucy.” Dick Van Dyke, Mary Tyler Moore and Lucille Ball had huge impacts on me and shaped me as a comedic actor.

At the same time, I literally thought I was Ginger on Gilligan’s Island. I walked, talked and swayed my toddler hips as if I were Tina Louise. Of course, I met her after one of my performances in Los Angeles. She was just back in Los Angeles after a successful theatre stint in New York (because she is a serious actor).

She generously complimented me on my performance. She was lovely and gracious and I, as I have been known to do, said exactly the worst thing ever and totally botched any chance of a positive interaction. I was so excited to meet her that I froze and could barely speak. Finally I muttered, “I’m…um…so thrilled to meet you. . . I grew up watching you on ‘Gilligan’s Island’. Ginger was my idol.”

Her smile immediately melted away and she excused herself to get a glass of champagne. So, not only had I insulted her by making her feel old. I managed to completely ignore all of the real acting work she had been doing since, like, 1975. Argh!

– – –

MEN: In addition to your blog and magazine articles, I understand you have written a number of plays. Which playwright influences the direction of your work?

DGR: Christopher Durang is my favorite playwright of all times. I also love Gina Gionfriddo as well. They both have an uncanny ability to use humor to say incredibly relevant, important things about society and life and relationships. Life really is funny. But being able to find the hilarity in the moments while also grappling with the very real challenges confronting the world is a combination I strive desperately to achieve in my writing.

– – –

MEN: Do you come from an arts family/ arts background?

DGR: No. No. No. I mean, we grew up with a deep appreciation for art, culture and theatre. But no one in my family was artistic.

So in many ways, they just didn’t quite “get” me. I grew up in Chicago and when I came back after college (U of M in Ann Arbor) and decided to pursue acting, my parents tried really hard to be supportive. But they couldn’t help but ask me “when I planned to get a real job” on almost a daily basis.

Finally, after a bunch of their friends saw me in a McDonald’s commercial, they were like, “Oh, yeah. That’s our daughter…the actress.”  Funny what passes for success.

– – – –

MEN: Speaking of success. What would you like to say about the success of The Phoenix Theatre’s recent gala?

DGR: I came into the gala’s planning stages late. Megan McKay and Lexie Knull worked incredibly hard on creating the event and managing all the details. They did an amazing job!

A bunch of us helped out, but Megan and Lexie worked tirelessly on every aspect of the gala to ensure it was a huge success. Yes, we raised some money, which is a huge accomplishment.

I’ve been to so many galas and I have never met warmer people and felt so much support from those who attended. The Phoenix is a special place and that shows so clearly in the love and support from our patrons and friends. I loved meeting everyone and hearing how much people love Melanie Calderwood and The Phoenix.

We had a blast at the gala and I think every single person I talked to had an equally wonderful time. What could be better than that?

[Note: Artfully Edmonds did a rough tally only on the Raise the Paddle and Live Auction components while in attendance that evening and computes that the gala raised over $5,300 not including the Silent Auction proceeds.]

– – –

MEN: Would you like to share with us your personal vision for The Phoenix Theatre?

DGR: From the moment I walked into The Phoenix Theatre for my first audition this past summer, I was delighted by the warmth, kindness and inviting nature of everyone I met. I was also blissfully surprised to discover such a fine group of actors, directors and technical artists in a relatively small city that I’d never even heard of before.

I love the spirit, talent and commitment of everyone working here. But I also felt that The Phoenix wasn’t getting the visibility and recognition it deserved. The Phoenix is poised for growth. We can compete with every other professional non-equity theatre in Seattle.

Many people come to the theatre and say, “I’ve lived in Edmonds my whole life, but I never knew you were here. What a find!”

I would like to no longer be the “best kept secret in town.” But rather, I want to see The Phoenix validated as one of the best small theatres in the state. At the same time, I hope to significantly increase our revenue base through grant monies and corporate gifting; continue to offer an eclectic mix of the highest quality theatre to our patrons, and never cease to be a source of joy, fun and artistic expression for our entire Edmonds community.

– – –



MEN: What’s up next for The Phoenix Theatre?

DRG: A holiday improv/comedy show that showcases our new partnership with DandyLyon Youth Drama. One of the things I feel very passionate about is enriching the lives of children in our community. As you know, arts education and funding for children continues to diminish. So we want to offer some classes and opportunities to share the magic of theatre with the next generation.

DandyLyon Drama offers classes, camps and workshops for kids from elementary to high school age. They are mostly in the Shoreline School District. They are highly skilled and employ the best teachers and acting professionals in town. We want to bring similar youth programs into the Edmonds School District. We are also working on creating a summer camp at The Phoenix where we can bring in a mix of kids (many on scholarship) to expose them to the love, joy and fulfillment that live theatre offers.

The Phoenix Theatre
Upper Level, Firdale Village Shopping Plaza
9673 Firdale Ave.
Nov. 19/20

To officially kick off our partnership, we are inviting the community to “Whose Holiday Is it Anyway?” our improv/comedy Nov. 19 and 20. We have some of the best adult actors from the Phoenix who will be on stage improvising with some of the DandyLyon kids. Plus we have a super silly live auction (We’ll come over and hand address your holiday cards, untangle your Christmas lights, or wrap all of your holiday presents).

We’ll have lots of yummy sweets, a hot chocolate bar and the production for $25. There will also be signature cocktails and a no-host bar for the over-21 crowd.

Tickets for this event are available at this online box office link.

– – – –


Thursday, Nov. 10
7:30 p.m.

Veteran’s Day ~ Salute to America
Edmonds Center for the Arts
410 4th Ave. N.

You’ve got your set of guest passes to Thursday’s musical extravaganza, right? They are available at two Coldwell Banker Bain locations:

  • 108 5th Ave. S., Edmonds and
  • 1400 194th St. S.W. #135, Lynnwood

Special guest artist and Seattle native Gunnery Sergeant Harry Ong of “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band, performing on clarinet will be joined by the Everett Chorale and The Shoreline Concert Band for this exciting community celebration.

Some of the patriotic songs on the program include The Battle Hymn of the Republic, God Bless America, America the Beautiful and, Armed Forces: The Pride of America.


Harry Ong (L) poses with Shoreline Concert Band director, Ken Noreen.
Seattle native Gunnery Sergeant Harry Ong of “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band (L) poses during a rehearsal with Shoreline Concert Band Director Ken Noreen. Photo by Barry Ehrlich.


The Shoreline Concert Band’s selections are Battle Cry For Freedom, Arlington (dedicated to the people at Arlington National Cemetery), and a tribute to Aaron Copland. Band leader Ken Noreen says, “This special concert is really appropriate for [our Veteran’s Day observance]. The Everett Chorale and Shoreline Concert Band will combine to present music to honor our country.”  This wonderful program is done without an admission charge, but attendees are asked to give to a student scholarship fund as they enter.

Coldwell Banker Bain of Edmonds and Lynnwood are sponsors of this concert. To ensure a seat, guest passes can be picked up at either the Coldwell Banker Bain Offices in Edmonds (108 5th Ave. S.) or Lynnwood (1400 194 St. SW #135).

General seating will open at 7:15 p.m.

~ ~ ~ ~


Tuesday, Nov. 15
7:30 p.m.

American Salute!
A Veteran’s Day Observance

Edmonds-Woodway High School (EWHS)
Great Hall
7800 212 St. S.W.

The EWHS Bands will honor Veterans Day in its fall concert.

Earlier in the month My Edmonds News covered the news of a generous gift made by trumpet player Kyle Humann, and an alumni of Edmonds Woodway High School to the music department of EWHS. Read the details at this link.

The suggested donation-at-the-door is $5.

~ ~ ~ ~


Wednesday, November 16
6 p.m. and 9 p.m.

Film Screening

Edmonds Community College
Black Box Theatre
Mukilteo Hall
20000 68th Ave. W. ~ Lynnwood

Global Peace Women, Jun-Ai World Peace Foundation, in collaboration with Edmonds Community College, will sponsor a screening of the film Jun-Ai (which means pure and unconditional love).

An appearance by executive producer, scriptwriter and lead actress, Keiko Kobayashi will highlight the event.


This is not a war film, but rather a story about true love. This film is also not an attempt to show the tragedies of war; but about unconditional love that is eternal despite the changes of time.

It takes place in the summer of 1945, at the end of a long world war. Most of the Japanese who had gone to settle in China had been left there. The dream that carried them had been crushed the moment Japan surrendered.

With most Chinese villagers having lost loved ones at the hands of the Japanese military, Ai, Shunsuke and the other settlers were hanging in a balance of life and death. Shanron and his aging mother helped two Japanese survivors, accepting them unconditionally. Inside of each of them was the beginning of friendship beyond borders, the start of love worth risking their lives for.

Click this link to view the film trailer.

Brown Paper Tickets is handling the box office for this event.

~ ~ ~ ~

Three Artists showcase their collaborations this weekend at the
Three Artists, Lynnette Hensley, Mona Fairbanks and Robin Westbrook showcase their collaborations this weekend at the “Three Artists Holiday Sale”.


Saturday, November 19

10 – 5 p.m.


Three Artists Holiday Sale

Blueridge Neighborhood

18424 71st Ave. W.

Lynnette Hensley, Mona Fairbanks and Robin Westbrook are holding what promises to be a fabulous holiday sale of exquisite vintage items, table runners to add holiday sparkle to your home – even Assemblage Figures, art and jewelry.

We’ve made each name of the participating artist click-able so that you can learn more about their journey and what they offer their patrons.

Drop-ins welcomed!

~ ~ ~ ~

Sculptor's Workshop
Sculptor’s Workshop

~ ~ ~ ~ 2016-show-photoSaturday, Nov. 19

10 a.m.– 6 p.m.

Puget Sound Artists’ Gift Show
201 2nd Ave. S.

A juried gift show, organized by Child’s Pottery and featuring 30 local professional artists will open its doors on Saturday, Nov. 19.

According to Barbara Goodfellow Childs, the artists “turn their talents towards art with the gift-giver in mind for this annual show.”

Entries are “juried to maintain a wide variety of gallery quality work. You’ll find the show overflowing with gifts you’ll buy for friends and family, but want to keep for yourself!” Childs says of the select-quality gift items.

Gift show items include chocolates, honey, and artisan soap; in addition to pottery, wood carvings, paintings, photography, jewelry, glass, and fiber arts,

You may preview the show at this link or on Facebook.

– By Emily Hill

 Emily-2015-Bio-jPeg-for-News-150x150Emily Hill is the author of two novels and a short story collection. Emily is retired from a career in public information and news media relations. If you would like your event listed, or featured, in Artfully Edmonds, Emily invites you to contact her at


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