Arts and Entertainment

Centerstage Theatre director Alan Bryce: Past, present and future

Alan Bryce, director of Centerstage Theatre in Federal Way. - Kyra Low/The Mirror
Alan Bryce, director of Centerstage Theatre in Federal Way.
— image credit: Kyra Low/The Mirror

Alan Bryce, director of Centerstage Theatre, has been a fixture in the Federal Way arts scene for several years.

And this year's been more eventful than many in the past. Here's a look at how Bryce got here, how the move into Knutzen Family Theatre has gone, and what Bryce sees as the future for Centerstage Theatre and arts in Federal Way.

The past

Bryce started his theater work just out of school, acting in some British regional theater, television and a few movies — including one with Charles Bronson, who shot him in the back.

The script for "Love and Bullets" was admittedly horrible, Bryce said. He even told the director that, but with a star like Bronson, the money was made back quickly and no one quite cared that it was junk, Bryce said. When Bryce saw the film in a London theater, he was one of four people in the audience. He is happy to tell he got the one laugh in the movie.

Bryce continued working in theater in England, including an "off-Broadway" theater, until cuts made by then-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher resulted in several theaters shutting down, including the one Bryce worked at, he said.

He was then offered a position at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.

"That's the kind of offer you can't refuse," Bryce said.

After that, Bryce worked at Proctor's Theatre in New York for almost a decade.

It was there that he was asked to write mystery theater plays which, at the time, he hated. However, he did do it, and word spread.

He continued to write plays for the next five years in what he terms his hiatus, even though he really didn't leave the theater world. He made enough money writing to put all three of his sons through college.

"They were very successful for me," he said.

He eventually moved to Seattle, then joined Act Theatre before coming to Centerstage, where he has been for the past six years.

The present

This year has been eventful for Bryce and Centerstage, to say the least.

"To quote, it was the best of times, it was the worst of times," Bryce said.

It was the best because the City of Federal Way offered Centerstage the contract to manage Knutzen Family Theatre, after Centerstage had been requesting to do so for years.

"All we wanted to do was make it work," Bryce said. "We're really pleased."

The worst has been the economy.

"The same challenges everyone else has had," he said. "Everyone's seeing a dip."

Although performances have been well attended, they haven't been quite what the company expected. Bryce did say that he felt Centerstage was weathering the storm a bit better than Act Theatre, which had to cancel a few shows of "A Christmas Carol" this year.

"During a recession, when people are nervous, where are they going to cut?" he asked. "(Arts) are important but a luxury. They say theater has been dying for 3,000 years."

But Bryce isn't worried about the theater in Federal Way ending any time soon. He already has plans for the next year in Federal Way, including an all-new Christmas show.

He is also looking forward to this year's production of "I Love You Because," which is geared toward a different audience than most plays: The twenty-somethings.

Other plays this year include "Enchanted April" and "Ain't Misbehavin'."

The future

For the future, Bryce would like to see some more inclusive plays. Centerstage is trying to be more diverse. They now have an African American on the board, and Bryce hopes to find a play that will appeal to the Asian population, although he admits he has no idea what that play might be.

Bryce also weighs in on a hot button topic in the arts community of Federal Way: A performing arts center (PAC).

"I am not a critic, but a skeptic," Bryce said.

Bryce believes the city is going about it the wrong way. Those in favor of the PAC should be looking at who would use the facility the most — Centerstage, Federal Way Symphony and 9th Avenue Dance — and build a space to suit their needs.

"I'd love to see a PAC downtown," Bryce said. "But do it right. There's nothing worse than erecting a big white elephant."

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