Photo by LaRae Lobdell.
Timothy McCuen Piggee is a mainstay of the Seattle theatre community. He’s appeared on most local stages, including ACT, Seattle Rep, Intiman, 5th Avenue, Village Theatre, and Seattle Children’s Theatre. Nationally, his work has been seen at the Denver Center Theatre Company, Arizona Theatre Company, Kansas City Repertory Theatre, Milwaukee Repertory Theatre, Portland Center Stage, and Pioneer Theatre Company. This year Timothy was the recipient of both the Lunt-Fontanne Fellowship and the Gregory Falls Sustained achievement awards. He travelled with the 5th Avenue Theatre’s production of Catch Me if You Can to Broadway, and is a professor at Cornish College of the Arts.
He began an association with Showtunes Theatre Company in 2000 as Hapgood in Anyone Can Whistle, and returned to the company in 2008 as Chuck Baxter in Promises, Promises (in which I had the great pleasure of directing him). Now he is in the director’s chair for Showtunes’ 2015-2016 season closer, WORKING. Timothy and I talked about his life, his lengthy career in the Pacific NW, and his vision for the show.
Your career was already on the rise in 2000 when we met. How does it feel to be one of the old guard now?
Goodness! Old? I certainly feel old. To be honest, I really don’t think about it. I’m just grateful to be able to do as much as I can for as long as I can. I will say, that is pretty scary how quickly time passes.
You are currently directing WORKING for Showtunes a cult favorite musical that died on Broadway. Tell all about what attracted you to the show, and why this is a good fit for ST.
Maggie Stenson Pehrson (Showtunes Executive Producer) approached me several months ago about directing something in the Showtunes season. My schedule was flexible enough to accommodate the Working slot and so I agreed. WORKING is an interesting piece in that it doesn’t contain traditional dialogue scenes between characters. All the dialogue is based on interviews conducted by the remarkable Studs Terkel for his famous book. The show is pretty much direct address targeted at the audience, so I think the Showtunes format might compliment that particular theatrical device.
And it was just announced that you are going to be the director for Seattle wraps production of A Raisin in the Sun in their next season. Congratulations! If my memory serves, you were in the cast of the show at Intiman sometime back. For you, why is the play still timely, and what do you hope to bring to your interpretation.?
Yes, I played Bobo [in A Raisin in the Sun]. I’ve had a long history with the play having been in it a handful of times, and then teaching it for several years at Cornish College of the Arts. As long as human beings fight to control their own fates and as long as Americans strive towards personal achievement, this play will be relevant. The issues that Ms. Hansberry illuminates in her play, poverty, segregation, ambition, abortion etc., are sadly ever-present. I’m not seeking to preempt anything in this new production; I want to illuminate (as best as I can) the interpersonal relationships that drive the story. I’ve had some good role models for directing this piece, Tim Bond and Jacqueline Moscou.
You are among the most respected actors, educators, and now directors in Seattle. You’ve also never hidden the fact that you are gay, even before it was fashionable to shout it from the rooftops. I’m aware that you’re in a long-term relationship, and respect also that you’re a very private person, but please address your thoughts about being gay in 2016 Seattle.
You’re right. I am a private person. I don’t mean to sound glib, but I’ve tried to manifest positivity and inclusiveness in as many aspects of my life as I can. I don’t know if I can answer (to anyone’s satisfaction) such a question… I won’t lie; violence and intolerance are on the rise in this town. You try and do as much as you can, for as many as you can–period.
Who in your mind are the current crop of talented African American playwrights who have followed the road Lorraine Hansberry charted?
Well, I suppose that depends on what lens you’re looking through. Commercially I’m pretty sure you can draw a direct line from Lorraine Hansberry to Suzan-Lori Parks, Lynn Nottage and Danai Gurira. I imagine Lorraine would be grinning at Shonda Rhimes’ success!
You’re quite beloved as an educator and as a fellow faculty member at Cornish. Talk about your experiences there and what you would like to see in the future.
Cornish has provided me with bountiful opportunities for growth and creativity, both as artist and as an educator. I have been extremely fortunate to collaborate with colleagues who challenge and support me, students who teach me patience, bravery and compassion.
My hopes for Cornish’s future include fiscal strength, diversity, innovation, and a strong partnership between faculty, staff, and administrators, focused on the best practice for teaching, learning and art making in the community we serves.
What makes you laugh?
What makes you cry?
Who is your boo?
Well, that’s a bit touchy. You know after my bitter and very public split with Mrs. Butterworth, I didn’t think I’d ever love again. However, I have begun seeing someone new. David, you might as well know that Duncan Hines and I are giving it another shot. He really is sweet.
What are your Dream and Nightmare vacations?
Dream: A transatlantic voyage on the Holland America line; Nightmare: A Caribbean cruise on the Carnival line.
Musical: Chimney Man in Jelly’s Last Jam 5 years ago, Tommy Albright in Brigadoon; Play: Current age, anyone in Joe Turner’s Come and Gone. 20 years ago, Jack Johnson in The Great White Hope.
Favorite and least favorite foods
Favorite: Just about anything off the grill; Least: Deviled Eggs! (Good god!)
Your genie gave you one wish. What is it?
More wishes! (I’m not kidding!)
Favorite and least favorite words
Favorite, Yes; Least, Larva
James Earl Jones or Morgan Freeman? Why?
What the hell is wrong with you? Ask me which of my parents, because that would be easier.
When you meet the man upstairs what are you hoping he will say to you?
“Hey everybody, things just got fun!”
Single tickets ($21-$46) are available now for Showtunes Theatre Company’s WORKING, running May 7-8 at Benaroya Hall, over the phone (206-215-4747), online, via mail (download a subscription form and mail it in), or in person at the Benaroya Hall Ticket Office on the corner of Third Avenue and Union Street. Ticket Office hours are Monday through Friday, 10 a.m.–6 p.m.; and Saturday, 1 pm-6pm.