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Lunch Recap, April 8th. George Green: Arts & Theater in Spokane region.
Set of “Collected Stories” from The Modern Theater Spokane

Wednesday’s lunch featured George Green, Executive Artistic Director of The Modern Theater speaking to the community about the importance–and future– of arts and theater in Spokane.

Nobody knows the state of theater in the Northwest better than George Green. He and his family are incredibly active in the arts community. George’s wife, Briane, is a drama teacher at University High School and his children are actively involved in the program. Some of Spokane’s high schools now boast nationally recognized programs. For example, Lewis & Clark High School operates with a $40K – $50K annual budget and sustains itself on proceeds from ticket sales.

The students that do well in Spokane’s thriving high school scene will often lend their talents to the assortment of community theaters in the region. The theater culture in many larger cities like Portland and Seattle, or as far as Chicago and Minneapolis, reflect traditional industry standards where pay grade correlates with quality. In Spokane, there are gray areas. According to George, the Inland Northwest is unique in removing the distinction between professional-grade performance and community theater productions.   “When you pay to see Professional show in Seattle, you get very high quality. When you pay $15 or $20 to see a community show, you expect that level of performance.”

Spokane, however, is different. “As Spokane moves towards a vibrant, renowned arts community, the caliber of talent  is quickly being recognized as top-tier talent,” says George. “As talent from community theaters is transitioned to semi-pro, community theaters absolutely begin to flourish from this attention.” In fact, the community theaters are being revitalized with groundbreaking success. The first to produce RENT in the Inland Northwest, George has helped the Modern Theater become the first community theater that crosses state boundaries to truly develop a thriving arts community across the region.

Set and cast of “Les Miserables” from The Modern Theater Coeur d’Alene. Photo: Danscape Photograhy

George is different than most directors in that he is directing for the community and the future of the industry in this region. He is taking a hard look at the business side of a creative industry so that the creatives and the community can reap the rewards. According to George, “Communities, business relationships, and governmental obligations are the first patrons to any theater. In order to serve the audience, the theater must first be a business.”

If Spokane continues to support the community theaters and the high-caliber talent coming from the bottom up, then George has hope that in 3-5 years the thriving arts community will have a permanent hold in Spokane and in 10 years that could mean a robust arts industry. “By raising up the community theaters, we raise up the potential for professional theaters in Spokane. This extends to all other industries because people move their families and businesses to be a part of that lifestyle.”

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