Mirror Stage presents theatre that gets people talking.
Artistic leadership: Suzanne M. Cohen (Managing Artistic Director)
Primary venue: Nomadic; regularly performs at Taproot Theatre (Isaac Studio) and Yaw Theater
The below information is provided by the theatre company. (All material is condensed & edited for clarity.)
Overview: Mission / Vision
Mirror Stage uses the power of theatre to challenge assumptions, bias and prejudice, increasing equity and inclusion while encouraging more thoughtful reflection on today’s issues.
Mirror Stage reflects the diversity of the community onstage in high-quality, progressive, thought-provoking productions that play it smart without always playing it safe. Current programming includes the Expand Upon series and Activism Brunches.
Mirror Stage’s distinctive artistic approach amplifies underrepresented stories, voices, and faces. Mirror Stage nurtures unique artistic voices while providing opportunities for newly emerging artists to work alongside more seasoned professionals. Its innovative staged reading series have been engaging the community in examining and discussing topical issues since 2004.
The Expand Upon series initiates community conversations, increasing knowledge and understanding. The community selects a theme, and Mirror Stage commissions two local playwrights to each develop a short play, using the same multi-generational, multi-racial cast. The plays are presented in tandem, as simply staged readings — actors are on their feet, scripts in hand, no music stands — encouraging audiences to create their own imagined world inhabited by the play’s characters. The cognitive neuroscience of focusing on the text intensifies audience engagement and empathy, connecting people more deeply to perspectives other than their own. Expand Upon enables local artists to develop meaningful artistic responses to important issues in partnership with the community. Free pre-show lectures help set the context, and a moderated discussion with artists and audience follows every performance.
Mirror Stage also holds a thematic Activism Brunch for each series, a month or so before performances begin. Along with teaser scenes from upcoming performances, Activism Brunches present a panel of local experts discussing the issues and ways to advocate for change.
By providing pre-show lectures, Activism Brunches, and post-play discussions which are both interactive and educational, Mirror Stage uses theatre to increase awareness and understanding of the complexity of contemporary issues—such as racism, war, homelessness, sexism in the workplace, incarceration, immigration, the challenges faced by veterans returning stateside, environmentalism, gun control, religious intolerance, media images and body perception—and the far-reaching impact on the lives of us all.
Founding Artistic Director Suzanne M. Cohen started Looking Glass Theatre in Los Angeles in 1991, moved to Seattle in 1992, and incorporated in 1993. Looking Glass dissolved the corporation in 1998 following a two-year hiatus. Looking Glass re-incorporated in 2001, with Cohen as the Managing Artistic Director; received its 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status in March 2002; and in June 2002, started doing business as Mirror Stage Company. The corporate name changed to Mirror Stage in February 2006.
Mirror Stage kicked off its Season of Premieres in October 2002, with The Knee Desires the Dirt by Julie Hébert, followed by Far East by A.R. Gurney in February 2003, and Abstract Expression by Theresa Rebeck in November 2003. The Feed Your Mind staged reading series launched in May 2004. In autumn of 2012, Mirror Stage returned to fully staged productions with Odin’s Horse by Robert Koon, named “one of the best productions of 2012” by Seattle Gay News, and nominated for two Gypsy Rose Lee Awards. Mirror Stage produced a total of 10 seasons of Feed Your Mind, comprised of 54 presentations, more than 60 percent written by women playwrights.
The Expand Upon series launched in 2017 with the theme Institutional Racism. Expand Upon: Incarceration in 2018 added a second weekend of performances in Columbia City and pre-show lectures by a UW professor. Expand Upon: Immigration moved the second weekend of performances to Georgetown, and also launched the Activism Brunch series in March 2019. As of July 2019, seven of the eight Expand Upon playwrights have been people of color, and six have been women.
Recent and upcoming shows include:
Expand Upon: Immigration (April 2019)
Expand Upon: Homelessness, October 5-13, 2019 (thematic Activism Brunch on September 7, 2019)
Expand Upon: Gun Control, April 2020 (thematic Activism Brunch in March 2020)
Statement of centering underrepresented voices & stories
Mirror Stage is committed to diversity at all levels: on our stage, in our audience, on our staff, and within our leadership. Over the past 18 years, more than 40 percent of artists working on Mirror Stage productions have been people of color, including African Americans, Asian/Pacific Islanders (both South and East Asian), Latinx, and Native American/First Nations — some but not all in ethnically specific stories and roles.
More than half of the board, staff and artists working with Mirror Stage in 2019 self-identify as people of color (POC), and the company continues to prioritize identifying and cultivating relationships with new POC artists, staff and prospective board members, as well as reaching out to under-represented communities in audiences. Mirror Stage invites a larger population to see themselves and their stories represented onstage, affirming a broader range of experiences.
Statement of financial accessibility
Every Expand Upon performance has 10 pay-what-you-can tickets ($1 minimum). General admission for Expand Upon is $15, or $10 for students and seniors. Activism Brunches are free, with a suggested donation of $10.