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Interview with Kiki Penoyer

Over 55 donors contributed to our PONCHO Forum Renewal Project and helped us bring this venue into the 21st century with new theatrical sound and lighting systems, audiovisual capabilities, comfortable seating, and more. For this edition of Backstage Pass, we are excited to feature Annual Fund supporter Kiki Penoyer, who named a seat in the renovated space.

QUESTION: What is your first memory of theatre?

ANSWER: My 5th grade teacher, Mrs. Foss, had a fondness for theatre. We put on several plays that year, and because I was the smallest person in my grade, I was a shoo-in for any script requiring a little girl or ingénue character. I’ve been hooked on theatre ever since!

Q: How did you first get involved with the Rep?

A: My high school was deeply invested in its art and humanities programs; thanks to the Rep’s discounted student tickets, one of my classes went to a performance of The Great Gatsby in 2006. And I’ll be honest with you: I did not like the book. In fact, I still don’t. But the Rep’s production was really great and, much to my surprise, I felt a connection with the source material. To top it off, there was an actual pool onstage, and actors used it! After that, I felt like the Rep definitely had some kind of magic going on, and I’ve been seeing shows here ever since.

Q : What inspires you to support the Rep?

A : The late, great Jerry Manning spearheaded a program in 2010 that brought Rep artists from various disciplines to my college. These professional artists teamed up with their student counterparts to teach us the ins and outs of theatre-making. Over the course of a week, my fellow classmates and I participated in incredible workshops, lectures, exercises, and rehearsals led by the artists of Seattle Rep. Two professional playwrights and two student playwrights had a chance to develop four brand-new scripts. It was such an amazing opportunity. As a result, every single one of the students who participated in the program is currently a working theatre artist in some capacity, including myself. That focus on nurturing new works and new artists has always been part of the Rep’s mission and having experienced that mission-driven work firsthand as a student drives me to support the organization that once supported my own artistic growth.

Q : What motivated you to name a seat in the PONCHO Forum?

A : The community-centric vibe of the PONCHO has always been one of the coolest things about the space; it is home to new works presentations, workshops, rehearsals, parties—lots of opportunities for artists and audiences to mix, mingle, and create together. The renovation is a chance to extend the PONCHO’s reach even further. The more people know about it and can access it, the more that important work of mixing, mingling, and creating can continue. I can’t wait to see how it looks in action!

Q: In your opinion, what is the most important work that Seattle Rep is doing?

A: The commitment to new work and new artists has always been first of mind when I think of the Rep, and I’ve really enjoyed watching that commitment manifested, especially in the past year. Overall, Seattle as a community has a lot of work to do in terms of equity and inclusion, but the region should look to the Rep for inspiration. I think the Rep has taken great steps toward equity and inclusion over the past few years: actively seeking out stories by and for more diverse groups of humans. The installation of the hearing loop in the PONCHO Forum and an increased accessibility commitment is vital. Producing plays that aren’t just about white people is vital. Housing rentals by theatre companies that are committed to putting more women onstage is vital. Seattle Rep, a major arts organization in our community, is visibly doing this kind of work.

Q: What production stands out to you as essentially the Rep?

A: Everything about 2016’s production of Luna Gale was so very, very “the Rep”—a group of phenomenal actors, an intense script asking socially-relevant questions, an innovative set, and relentless attention to detail. That show ticked all of the "essentially the Rep" boxes for me.

Q: What do you do when you aren’t supporting the Rep?

A: By day, I manage the Historic Admiral Theater, a 4-screen movie house in West Seattle and by night, I’m active in the local theatre scene in a number of ways—writing, performing, enthusiastically attending, etc. If I am ever not doing either of those things, I am probably hiding in my house playing video games with my husband or watching SVU with at least one cat on my lap.

We’d like to thank Kiki for her continued support and for participating in our Supporter Spotlight segment.