Book-It Repertory Theatre built a 30-plus year legacy of creating new, evocative plays from some of the most compelling books on the shelves. By creating theatre exclusively from literature, Book-It strove to inspire a love of reading through a live, communal experience.
With over 150 original adaptations to its credit, Book-It is widely respected for the consistent artistic excellence of its work. We are proud of our interpretations of classics by authors from the Western canon of literature—Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, Bram Stoker, Miguel de Cervantes, Kate Chopin, and Herman Melville, among many others. And we are thrilled to bring new, or often excluded, voices to that list of exceptional authors: N.K. Jemisin, Octavia Butler, Jamyang Norbu, Tochi Onyebuchi, and Imbolo Mbue, to name a few.
Additionally, our Arts Education Program brought children across our state diverse works by authors such as Yuyi Morales, Mem Fox, Derrick Barnes, Jon Scieszka, Patricia Polacco, Matt de la Peña, Kate DiCamillo, Lois Lowry, and Francísco Jiménez. We toured to schools, libraries, and community centers in urban, rural, and island communities across Washington.
Though we produced our work primarily in the Center Theatre of Seattle Center’s historic Armory building, our work was shown in multiple local venues including ACT, Intiman, Seattle Art Museum, Town Hall, Freehold, North Seattle Community College, Northwest Asian American Theatre, Hugo House, On the Boards, Café Nordo, and Seattle Rep. Our adaptations have been performed in theatres across the country, including the Hartford Stage, Center Stage Baltimore, Children’s Theatre Company, Theatreworks Palo Alto, Portland Center Stage, and others.
Book-It closed its doors in 2023, but we hope that our body of work, commitment to thoughtful adaptation, community impact, and legacy as a Seattle institution live on.
Our Mission: To transform great literature into great theatre, through simple and sensitive production, and to inspire our audiences to read.
Our Vision: To be a nationally-known theatre arts center where Book-It’s partnership of theatre, literature, and education nourishes the literacy and the artistic vitality of our community.
Our Land Acknowledgement: We would like to acknowledge that our company works on the traditional land of the first people of Seattle, the Duwamish people, past and present; and we honor, with gratitude, the land itself and the Duwamish Tribe.
Founded over 30 years ago as an artists’ collective, Book-It began by adapting short stories for performance and touring them throughout the Northwest. Built on the love of reading and the passion for literacy these artists had, Book-It became a stalwart of the Seattle theatre community.
Book-It Repertory Theatre’s history begins in 1986, when Co-Artistic Director Jane Jones led the 29th Street Project in New York City, an artistic collective that comprised graduates and company members from the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco, to experiment with performing short stories for the stage. After moving to Seattle in 1987, Jane Jones, Tony Pasqualini, Mark Jenkins, Robyn Smith, and Sarah Brooke, among others, formed The Collective in a three-story walk-up on Pine Street in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood. Myra Platt, Book-It’s future Co-Artistic Director, joined The Collective in 1988. Members began to experiment with the concept of Book-It by adapting literature into theatre. The only rules to produce a Book-It piece, at that time, were that it must be from a work of literature and there could be no editing or playwriting. For the next several years, the company would hold free, monthly public performances of short stories in what they called the Book-It Style.
In 1990, The Collective incorporated as Book-It: A Performing Arts Company, a 501(c)3 organization. They quickly established their first Board of Directors and moved to the Oddfellows Hall on Capitol Hill. Meanwhile, Book-It company members John Billingsley, Tony Pasqualini, and Mark Jenkins co-founded the (then) Capitol Hill acting studio Freehold. That season, Book-It performed seven short stories in Seattle’s second Fringe Festival (winning Best of Fest) and began touring to community centers, schools, and libraries.
Book-It members continued to explore and develop techniques for adapting literature and holding in-house performances for the next several years. For the 1990-91 season, Book-It’s first annual budget was $10,750. It had a total of 60 actors and directors in the company, paying dues, and had performed nearly 100 short stories for the public. In 1992, Book-It was invited to tour stories throughout the King County Library System, a tradition that would evolve into Book-It’s current Arts Education Program, formalized by Myra Platt in 1996, and developed by then-Education Director Gail Frasier.
The “Book-It Style”
Jane and Myra honed a narrative theatre technique that became known as the Book-It Style. Their script adaptations honored the source material by using the written text as it was seen in the literature. This meant utilizing narration as a theatrical convention or transforming it into dialogue between characters.
Finding a Home
In 1994, Jane Jones and Myra Platt became Book-It’s first co-artistic directors, and the following year, Book-It established its first home by renovating a 50-seat black-box theatre on Westlake Avenue North. For its first subscription season in the new space, Book-It had 39 subscribers and an annual budget of $64,200. The Company received high artistic praise from local reviewers for its innovative and polished productions.
The 1996-1997 season achieved several milestones for Book-It. Following a collaboration between Jane Jones, Tom Hulce, and Peter Parnell to adapt John Irving’s novel The Cider House Rules, the show premiered at Seattle Rep (co-directed by Jane and Tom Hulce). This sparked another long-time collaboration: Book-It produced Owen Meany’s Christmas Pageant, from John Irving’s novel A Prayer for Owen Meany, which became Book-It’s holiday standard for the next seven years. Meanwhile, Book-It received rave reviews, gaining broad attention from Seattle theatergoers. This same year, Book-It received the first-ever Stabilization Grant from Don Johnson and the Kreielsheimer Foundation to hire a full-time managing director.
To The Seattle Center
With a growing subscription base, Book-It outgrew its Westlake venue. With community support from Corporate Council for the Arts (now ArtsFund), Theatre Puget Sound, and Seattle Center, the company moved its operations to the Seattle Center House, now known as The Armory.
Moving Toward the Future
Before the pandemic hit us in March 2020, Book-It had 1,300 loyal subscribers and a staff of 17 along with an intern program. Our main stage season offered an annual 4- or 5-play subscription, and our Arts Education Program toured curriculum-based stories to schools and libraries throughout Washington State. In addition to touring, our Arts Education programs offered long-term residencies (2 weeks-7 months) at schools. We annually served more than 77,000 people through both mainstage and educational programs.
Closing the Book
In 2023, after 33 seasons, Book-It made the decision to cease operations. We are so grateful to everyone who has been part of our story.
- The Seattle Times Unsung Heroes and Uncommon Genius award to Jane Jones and Myra Platt
- Brava Award from the Women’s University Club of Seattle to Jane Jones
- Mayor’s Arts Award
- Governor’ s Arts Award
- F. Kennedy Center Partner in Education
- MetLife/TCG Aha! Think-It! Do-It! Grant recipient