Interview with THE PARTICIPANTS! playwright: Jesse Calixto

Jesse Calixto, who is no stranger to the Annex stage, is the playwright of THE PARTICIPANTS!, opening on March 15. Since 2017, Jesse has performed in DEERS, Peggy: The Plumber Who Saved the Galaxy, and You’d Better Sit Down For This, as well as Spin the Bottle and HOLIDAZE.

We asked him a few questions about the play and to get his opinion his favorite character. Read on!

What inspired you to write THE PARTICIPANTS!?

I work in tourism and theatre so when the pandemic shut everything down in 2020 I lost my job and community, I was single and living alone in a studio apartment in Pioneer Square. The Participants was the project that let me imagine a time when the theatres would open up again and I wrote it with Annex Theatre specifically in mind. Stuck in my studio apartment I wrote a play about four strangers locked in a room together. Like now, it was an election year so the division between the Right and Left was at a fever pitch. Social media created an environment where people were stuck in an echo chamber where they could pick and choose their own “facts.”  What was real? What was “fake news? Is this all a hoax? 

What do you want audiences to take away from the show?

I hope it reminds people that despite our differences, we are all enduring the “human experience” together and in the end deserve love and grace.   

If you could play any one of the 5 tracks in the play—James, Nick, Rebecca, Anita, or Phil—who would you choose and why?

I based the character of Anita on my mother and I love her so much. When I read the play out loud, I always imitate her sweet little voice. I think I would kill that role! 

Interview with Deers Playwright: Marcus Gorman

This week we had a brew and a sit down with Marcus Gorman to find out about our Fall Off-night, “Deers.”

You’re the creator of the enDEERing nostalgic romp “Deers”. What is the play about?
MG: Deers is four episodes of a live sitcom about an animal bar in the Cascades, starting with the show’s “pilot episode” from 1982 and concluding in 1993 with a very special series finale. Over those 11 years/seasons, these animals trade barbs, fall in love, and do their damnedest to keep their favorite drinking hole from going under. It’s funny, it’s wild, it’s got a lot of heart, and it’s more than a little weird.

Who are you? Have you worked with Annex before?
MG: I’m a writer and performer originally from the Bay Area, and I currently work at the Seattle International Film Festival as a film programmer and publications associate editor. I’m a company member at Annex and this is my fifth show here; I wrote Natural (2015) and performed in Gone Wild! (2014), Mad Scientist Cabaret (2015), and ACME (2017). Next year I’m collaborating with Jake Farley and L. Nicol Cabe on my sixth show here, a science fiction adventure called Peggy: The Plumber Who Saved the Galaxy. Away from my Annex family, I was the head writer for The Fantastic Misadventures of Twisty Shakes (2016), done in collaboration with The Libertinis and the performing ensemble, and I have a couple of published novels under my belt.

Which artist(s)–theatrical/visual/a uditory & alive/dead–has/have been the biggest influence on your process?
MG: I owe a great deal to the sitcom greats, including Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, Norman Lear, and James L. Brooks. Brooks in particular is this play’s biggest influence; he co-created The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Rhoda, and my favorite sitcom, Taxi. The team he helped put together for Taxi went on to create Cheers. And, of course, Brooks is responsible for The Simpsons and The Critic. These shows are not only lose-your-breath funny and scripted tighter than a drum; each of them has a big, beating heart at their center and a strong sense of humanity. I like my laughs to dig deeper than a punchline.

What is your biggest challenge as a playwright?
I have a tendency to overwrite, so balancing 12 very distinct characters while keeping myself to a 22-minutes-per-episode runtime was designed to break me out of my habits.

Also, that I had to limit myself to only four episodes. I would happily write a full 22-episode season about these characters.

What has been the most rewarding?
MG: The performing ensemble for Deers nailed it within the first few minutes of our first read-through. With this group and the steady, supportive directorial hands of Tootsie Spangles and Quiqui Dominguez, they’ve gone above and beyond anything on the page ten times over. I also love how they’ve really sunk into these characters who had no predetermined genders, which was very important to me.

Thanks Marcus for your insights to this wild show! To learn more about Marcus’ work, visit his website: To learn more about Deers, click here.

Written by Marcus Gorman
Directed by Tootsie Spangles and Quiqui Dominguez
Oct 24 – Nov 8, 2017
#AnnexDEERS #bearorbeer #livesitcom

Interview with Last Stop on Lilac Playwright: Kelleen Conway Blanchard

This week we had a tete-a-tete with the fabulous playwright Kelleen Conway Blanchard to find out about our Fall Mainstage, Last Stop on Lilac.

 You’re the creator of the funny, bloody, fabulous “Last Stop on Lilac”. What is the play about?
KCB: Last Stop on Lilac is about greed and glamor and power and secrets. Set in splashy 1960s Hollywood it’s a noirey dime novel come to life with dance numbers and gore galore.

Who are you? Have you worked with Annex before?
KCB: I’ve been lucky to have worked with Annex on some of my very favorite projects including Kitten’s in a Cage and Blood Countess and The Underneath. I love the sense of absolute possibility and risk Annex embraces. It’s very pure.

Which artist(s)–theatrical/visual/auditory & alive/dead–has/have been the biggest influence on your process?
KCB: My big influences tend to be artists that embrace the weirdos and celebrate what some folks call brow and low class. Those are my people. Also I enjoy art about how we all work- you know-trying to figure out murderers and despots and middle managers. Why? I want to know.

What is your biggest challenge as a playwright?
KCB: For a playwright and let’s be real- for anybody- I am pretty bad at grammar and formatting and proper parenthesis. I have a hard time with all of that. It’s like math. Like word math. No. Nope. So. That’s hard for me. Also, plot and stuff. Whatever

What has been the most rewarding?
KCB: The most rewarding thing about this process has been getting to collaborate with some incredibly talented hilarious people. People who are freakin’ committed and kind and really good at what they do. It’s a hopeful thing. Isn’t it? That a bunch of very different people can get together and make something. Just make a cool new thing together. A cool new thing with blood and dancing. That’s a light in the dark. Well. I think it is.

Thank you Kelleen for your beautiful words and glamorous black comedy. To find more out about Kelleen Conway Blanchard’s work visit her blog Click here to find out more about Last Stop on Lilac.

Last Stop on Lilac runs October 20 – November 11
Thursday-Saturday at 7:30 pm
#AnnexLilac #LastStopOnLilac

Announcing Annex’s 31st Season!

Annex Theatre announces its 31st Season in 2018. Join us as we unveil cultures, environments, and galaxies with a roster of amazing new and familiar artists. Scroll down to learn more and then grab a ticket to the Season Announcement Party on September 9!

 Graphic Design by Corinne Magin


written by Wesley K. Andrews, directed by Catherine Blake Smith
dramaturgy by L. Nicol Cabe
Winter Mainstage: February 9—March 3 Thur-Sat at 7:30 pm

The buddy system required by Row Yr Boat LLC means more than just friendship—to fight terrorists, Rose must get married. Row Yr Boat (Achievement Unlocked) is a dark, surrealist romantic comedy about drones, video games, unreality and magic, set against the backdrop of the War on Terror. Rose T. O’Brien, an eccentric late-20s gamer with massive confidence issues and a deep competitive streak, goes looking for employment in the virtual reality sector at a major industry conference in Vegas. There, Rose is recruited as a sensor for Row Yr Boat LLC, a company with an unprecedented condition for employment: Rose must be married within the year or lose everything. The condition isn’t unreasonable; it’s for her mental health.


written by Kyleigh Archer, directed by Kyleigh Archer & Jen Moon
Winter Off-Night: February 13—February 28 Tues-Wed at 7:30 pm

Due to budget cuts in medicaid, a group therapy is ending prematurely, but these girls have some unfinished business with each other. To celebrate their two years together they host a no-holds-bar ‘Safe Space’ slumber party and it quickly becomes evident the therapy is ending at pivotal moments in each of these girls’ lives. Even for one night they cannot stop the outside forces that shape who they are: opioids, eating disorders, slut shaming, and an inadequate foster system.These girls try to work together to shoulder the burden of living in a world where suddenly, there are no “safe spaces”.


a new musical by Scotto Moore
Spring Mainstage: April 27—May 19 Thur-Sat at 7:30 pm

Silhouette is a science-fiction musical sung by ten voices, exploring the collision of magic and technology on a faraway world. An astronaut crash-lands on a seemingly backwards planet, only to realize the natives are capable of practicing strange forms of magic. But as the astronaut is nursed back to health by the natives, rescuers from her star fleet arrive and threaten to decimate society on this world. Can the astronaut bridge the gap between the hard science & technology of her own people, and the inexplicable magic wielded on the planet? When the astronaut is forcibly taken back to her people, the magic that follows her onto her ship brings chaos and havoc to her tightly controlled home.


written by Sameer Arshad directed by Shahbaz Khan
Spring Off-Night: May 1—May 16 Tues-Wed at 7:30 pm

Islamic supernatural folklore meets American millennial realities in a thought-provoking comedy about dating while Muslim. A sensitive American-Muslim man from a conservative family starts a romance with an inspiring atheist Asian-American woman who was adopted by liberal white parents. The two of them navigate their cultural differences with good cheer and their relationship grows lovingly, peppered with comedic moments of awkwardness. But the invasive supernatural world just cannot handle all this fluffy saccharine goodness. Agendas play out against each other as djinn and angel alike struggle to accept the ever-changing narrative of human sexuality and morality, with everything coming together in a crashing realization that even the Heavens are not immune to the power of the human condition.


written by Holly Arsenault, directed by Erin Kraft
Summer Mainstage: July 27—August 18 Thur-Sat at 7:30 pm

A true story you’ve never heard about the catastrophic cruelty of deportation and the supernatural awesomeness of love. In 1755, a pregnant young woman and her family evade deportation by hiding in the deep woods of a remote island, where they survive for nine years. 250 years later, a pair of lovers, separated by war, attempts to reunite against the backdrop of a second deportation. Part historical drama, part futuristic dystopiana, and part romantic comedy, The Great Inconvenience is a mostly-imagined-but-partly-true love story about enemies and secrets and power and faith and survival.


written by Natalie J. Copeland, directed by Emily Harvey
music by Aaron Joshua Shay

Summer Off-Night: July 31—August 15 Tues-Wed at 7:30 pm

Welcome to Camp Dusty Tread, the friendliest place on Mars! You’re a Mars rover, and you’ve just landed on the red planet! Settle in for a cold night at Camp Dusty Tread, where you’ll learn what it takes to live and work on Mars from your head counselors, Spirit and Opportunity. These interplanetary geologists will warm you with tall tales, camp songs, and cautionary tips for the novice Mars explorer. Rovers and landers of all ages and scientific payloads are welcome to this interactive orientation!


written by Madison Jade Jones, directed by Brandon J. Simmons
Fall Mainstage: October 26—November 17 Thur-Sat at 7:30 pm

Anansi and the Halfling is a mystical journey of discovered identity, ancient truth, and incredible fun told through the lens of a young black woman desperate to find herself.  African storytelling has many forms. Ancient wisdoms were passed down through song, dance and (often comical) metaphorical re-tellings. Anansi and the Halfling strives to bring those storytelling mediums to light in a modern way through the experiences of a young, black millennial. As the story snakes through a college classroom, a mystical story realm, and the home of the gods themselves, puppetry, drumming, and movement are as crucial to the storytelling as the words themselves are. Our heroine strives to learn that in order to know where you’re going, you have to know where you came from. . . even when the past is painful.


written by Marcus Gorman and Jacob Farley, directed by L. Nicol Cabe
Fall Off-Night: October 30—November 14 Tues-Wed at 7:30 pm

A science-fiction comedy adventure about a plumber, an AWOL pilot, and a galaxy in crisis. The year is 3732. Peggy—a Plumbing Specialist First Class at the prestigious Universe University—unexpectedly finds herself trapped in a galactic conflict between worlds. As she and an AWOL female military pilot named Rogen bounce across the far reaches and strange planets of the galaxy looking to stay alive, they become key in the means to achieve peace and save the day.

Annex’s Emily Sershon Interviews Artistic Director Catherine Blake Smith

Annex Marketing Coordinator Emily Sershon sat down with Artistic Director Catherine Blake Smith to get to the bottom of Annex’s unique RFP and season selection process:

EMILY SERSHON: Hi Catherine! Annex just opened it’s annual Request for Proposals. What is that, exactly?

CATHERINE BLAKE SMITH: Annex Theatre puts out a Request for Proposals (RFP) to choose its upcoming season. It’s been a long-standing tradition to eschew the traditional practices of having a sole literary manager field all the incoming scripts and choose them with the Artistic Director, and instead have the Annex Company choose the season. The RFP is the precursor to an interview process, which we call the Pitch Sessions (20-minute interviews with members of the Annex company).

ES: The Company chooses the season? How? And how big is the Company of Annex?

CBS: After visiting as many pitch sessions and reading as many scripts as they are able (different folks use different tactics: some read every single submitted script to help us screen, some people only read the proposals and read the script if the person intrigues them in the pitch session, etc.), then the Company of Annex gathers in what is (now) called Season Showdown. We’re splitting it into two sessions this year, so that we can spend the first day discussing every proposal and the second day selecting the season.

The Company size changes depending on who is available. Last year there were more than 30 people in the room, in previous years I’ve attended there have been about 12. No matter who is in the room, we use the session to discuss the possibility of producing every single considered proposal, through consensus. If we give the person a pitch session, then we talk about their proposal, even if no one advocates for it.

ES: Ok, so the Company that decides the season can be very different year-to-year as the Company changes – and being a Company member just means you’ve worked on a show and are invested in Annex – but you have to be present in the room to participate… Honestly, it sounds a little bonkers to pick eight shows by consensus. What if there’s one hold-out person who won’t let something go? Do they ever get overridden?

CBS: It is a difficult but rewarding process. The first time I experienced it, I wrote about feeling out of place yet belonging. But everyone is welcomed and encouraged to talk about what they did/didn’t like about a proposal, and how it speaks to them as an artist. We use a ‘temperature taking’ vote early on in the day to see what speaks to the room, and that helps guide the conversation.

So the day starts off bonkers but the discussions/topics that people value rise to the top. The role of the Artistic Director on that day (still) isn’t to decide the season, but to listen and respond to what the company is excited about and help create markers/milestones. I’ve only ever experienced [Artistic Director emerita] Pamala Mijatov doing this, and I’m definitely nervous about leading my first process.

ES: Your blog post about the process is from 2012. I love the line you wrote: “By the end of the process, everyone has to agree. Otherwise, not everyone is in support of the season.” That seems like a really valuable point in an all-volunteer organization.

CBS: Yes, it’s the Rousseauian social contract that attracted me to Annex in the first place. At Annex, making decisions through consensus means we talk about which art moves us and what is percolating in the community. It’s really awesome.

ES: What kind of art have you proposed to Annex in your own RFP submissions, and how did the pitch experiences go?

CBS: I have pitched several projects at this point: as a playwright with an unfinished play, as a director for 3 different projects (one was selected), and as curator for festival concepts (both of which were selected). I also participated in the first festival I pitched.

The pitch experiences were great, even from the first one. Since I had witnessed so many, I felt like I had a good handle on how to prepare. The questions in my case have always been more conversational, which can change depending on who is in the room and being interviewed of course!

One year, I was SO nervous I was flushed red. There’s a picture of me, because I was pitching a play about technology and its pervasiveness in our lives. I took a selfie and posted it during the interview. #oldmillennials

ES: Right now Research & Development Wing just closed at Annex, which you curated with company member James Weidman. I understand the concept was conceived during Season Showdown?

CBS: Yes, it was initially conceived during the 2015 Season Showdown, since we were starting to get way more proposals than for which we had slots. James loved the idea of inviting artists who would be a great fit for Annex but maybe didn’t pitch projects that moved us, and I did too. He and I joined forces to pitch in 2016 for the 30th season, because it seemed like such a perfect fit: a season within a season. In a way, it was an extension of The Zig Zag Festival (Summer 2015) and yet way different.

ES: There must be a ton of talent that just doesn’t fit into only eight slots.

CBS: Yes, in the years I’ve participated, there are more people who submit great plays than we have room for.

ES: Attention all badass artists proposers: Keep submitting! We’re sad we can’t choose you all!  Catherine, are you proposing anything this year? Any hint about what it is?

CBS: I am proposing this year, as director of a play that has been evolving for 7 years with a (currently) local and talented playwright. And maybe another iteration of Zig Zag/R&D Wing? But that’s all I can say so far!

ES: Gah, I’m excited! Ok, well before we finish, do you have anything you want to say to potential proposers?

CBS: Talk to company members! See shows at Annex! Be yourself!

ES: Aw. Thank you Catherine! When can the rest of the world expect to hear what’s decided at the Season Showdown?

CBS: July? August?

ES: Summer!

CBS: Maybe September if we do an announcement party again?

ES: Yessss. Ok. Thanks Catherine! Viva Annex!

CBS: Viva Annex!