Director’s Notes: New Musical ‘Breakup Bench’ at The Scratch this Week

The Scratch, a free festival of new works, begins its “In Pencil” staged readings series today with a new musical by Rheanna Atendido, called Breakup Bench. It shows twice: this afternoon at 18th & Union, and Tuesday night at 12th Avenue Arts. 

Director Hattie Claire Andres shared insight about the new musical. 

Breakup Bench runs through August 20. The Scratch festival, featuring new work from seven playwrights plus a night of short works from eight young playwrights, runs through August 27.


About the playwright:

Rheanna Atendido, author of ‘Breakup Bench’. Photo by Brett Love.

Rheanna Atendido is a Filipino-American playwright, composer, and performer. Performance credits include The 5th Avenue Theatre (Mamma Mia!, AMT educational tour’s Northwest Bookshelf); Seattle Repertory Theatre/Public Works Seattle (The Odyssey); Village Theatre/Village Originals Beta Series (ZM); and Taproot Theatre (Bright Star). She has composed for companies such as Book-It Repertory Theatre, ArtsWest, and The Horse in Motion. Original works include Breakup Bench and Cultural Essay; and her Quick Musicals collaboration with playwright Maggie Lee was featured in last weekend’s Village Originals Festival of New Musicals (with the 14/48 Projects). Her debut album, Letters to Whomever, can be streamed on major online music platforms.

About the show (from the playwright):

Breakup Bench is an actor-musician pop-operetta about a girl who takes guys to the same park bench to break-up with them. One day, her bench disappears and she finds herself stuck in a long-term relationship, unable to break things off without it. Things get even more complicated when an ex returns and a whole new set of problems arise. While navigating the maze that is modern dating, the three learn to cope with their relationships in love – real, fake, and lack-thereof.


Talking Through the Piece: NWT Q&A with director Hattie Claire Andres   

What is Breakup Bench about?

Breakup Bench is a pop-operetta, meaning much of the show is told through musical numbers. There are currently 36 songs in the show. The show is written for three actor-musicians, who provide all of the instrumentation for the show as well.

Writer Rheanna Atendido grew up with a love for reading Young Adult romance novels and wanted to write a love story of her own. She came to the realization that when she pictured the leading women in these stories, she always pictured a white woman. Breakup Bench consciously centers a woman of color as the lead of this love triangle story. The characters are intentionally named with generic titles “Her, Him, and Ex” because this could be anybody’s story. Rheanna intends that future productions will be open to any combination of gender identities and expressions, becoming “Her, Her and Ex” or “They, Him, and Ex” for example.

What’s the mood? 

Rheanna’s music has a contemporary-pop singer-songwriter sound. The show is uplifting, hilarious, touching, and heartbreaking. It moves fluidly from scene to scene.

What insight does it give from a unique or underrepresented viewpoint?

In addition to the intention mentioned above to center a woman of color in a love story NOT explicitly about race, the musical theatre cannon is still so drastically dominated by cis-white male writers and composers. Seattle is working hard to change that but it will take years before the musical theatre cannon built over the past 100+ years starts to truly reflect what our country looks like. To have a piece written by a woman of color with no white men on the creative team is still a radical act in the musical theatre world.


About the director: 

Hattie Claire Andres, director of ‘Breakup Bench’. Photo courtesy of The Scratch.

Hattie Claire Andres (she/her) is stoked for her first collaboration with The Scratch. Hattie is the Artistic Associate at Seattle Repertory Theatre, Festival Producer for One Coast Collaboration: a new play festival, a teaching artist with Seattle Children’s Theatre, and a proud co-founder of the Young Americans’ Theatre Company. Recent directing and assistant-directing credits include: Mamma Mia! (Seattle Musical Theatre); the Rising Star Project, Annie, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Kiss Me, Kate, Romy & Michele’s High School Reunion, The Secret Garden, The Pajama Game, Little Mermaid, and Man of La Mancha (The 5th Avenue Theatre); The Odyssey (with Public Works Seattle), Lizard Boy, and Dear Elizabeth (Seattle Repertory Theatre); Alice in Wonderland, Madagascar, and Shrek (Seattle Children’s Theatre).

The Scratch in Pencil: Breakup Bench runs through 8/20 at 18th & Union in the Central District (8/18) and 12th Avenue Arts on Capitol Hill (8/20). Reservations are free for all, with donations accepted at the door; reserve here. Accessibility notes for 18th & Union: restroom is gender-neutral, single-stall; theatre can be made wheelchair accessible with a ramp, but the restroom is not — please contact venue ahead of time to ensure smooth access. Accessibility notes for 12th Avenue Arts: restrooms are gendered and multi-stall, with one nearby gender-neutral, single-stall restroom available by key code. Theatre and common areas are wheelchair accessible.

The Scratch festival runs through 8/27, with several different new works in two venues. See full schedule and reserve free tickets here.

Chase D. Anderson is Editor & Producer of NWTheatre.org.