Thursday, March 19, 2015

Court allows defamation suit against swinging former employee of Spokane theater

Posted By on Thu, Mar 19, 2015 at 1:58 PM

A state appellate court has allowed a previously dismissed defamation lawsuit against a polyamorous former employee of Spokane Civic Theatre who engaged in vitriolic blogging against the arts center to proceed.

The court’s decision is the latest development in the story of Yvonne Johnson, the former executive artistic director at the Civic who helped turn the financially struggling theater around, but also left a trail of enemies before being abruptly fired from her position.

One of those enemies was James Ryan, who was hired in 2010 as the theater’s full-time music director. After being hired, the theater received an anonymous email disclosing the non-monogamous nature of Ryan’s marriage as well as his use of nude photographs and texts while searching for sexy times online.

The theater, according to the court, also discovered that Ryan mentioned his place of work and used his employee photo while cruising for sex online. According to the court, the theater also learned that Ryan initiated some of his solicitations while on its premises.

When Johnson found out, she wrote him a lengthy letter stating that he was being terminated not because of his “swinger lifestyle” but because he had coupled it with his employment, which the theater worried had the the potential to alienate potential donors. According to the court, Ryan admitted to posting to Craigslist looking for sex, but denied that he linked it to the theater.

Freshly unemployed, Ryan started an invective-filled blog against the theater. He also obtained the domain names “” and “” According to the court, Ryan used his Internet presence to stymie the future job prospects of Johnson.

In 2013, Johnson responded by filing a suit against Ryan for intentional interference with business expectancy and defamation. Ryan got the motion dismissed using an anti-SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) defense.

Many states, including Washington, have anti-SLAPP laws that are designed to prevent libel, slander or interference-with-business lawsuits that are designed to stymie free speech regarding issues of public concern.

However, the appeals court ruled that Ryan’s blogging activities were of a personal, not public concern, and reversed the lower court’s dismissal.

(Clarification: Polyamory and swinging are not the same thing. Swingers are couples seeking seeking sexual relationships with other individuals that aren’t emotional or romantic in nature. Polyamorists seek relationships that are also romantic or emotional in nature.)
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Friday, March 6, 2015

Marmot Art Space opens in Kendall Yards

Posted By on Fri, Mar 6, 2015 at 1:43 PM

Melissa Cole in front of Marmot Art Space
  • Melissa Cole in front of Marmot Art Space

Happy First Friday, Spokane! The spring-like weather has arrived just in time for a new art space to sprout up in Kendall Yards. West Central's new neighborhood continues to blossom into one of Spokane's up-and-coming developments with various dining options, small businesses and now a growing art community. 

Marshall Peterson, the man behind the Marmot Art Space, beamed when talking about his new project.

"There are frogs and there are lizards, and all of them are important. I believe that Marmot Art Space will be a part of the ecosystem of Spokane's art community," Peterson said, adding that he hopes to create a space to showcase local artists and provide a gathering space for the community. 

The artist of the hour has been concealed behind butcher paper on Adams Alley up until tonight, however it's now been announced that Marmot's first show features celebrated Spokane artist Melissa Cole. Cole cuts the ribbon to the Marmot at tonight's First Friday grand opening, with events starting at 5 pm. 

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Wednesday, February 11, 2015

INK Art Space moving to Kendall Yards this spring

Posted By on Wed, Feb 11, 2015 at 1:24 PM

A scene from one of last year's Girls Rock labs at INK. - KRISTEN BLACK
  • Kristen Black
  • A scene from one of last year's Girls Rock labs at INK.

The Kendall Yards development perched on the north bank of the Spokane River is growing so fast even we sometimes feel like we can't keep up, and the Inlander sees these almost daily changes right outside its front door. Another new venture is moving in just across the street from Inlander HQ in May, when creative arts education nonprofit INK Art Space is set to relocate. 

Since it was founded last March, INK has been headquartered in a second floor space above the Bartlett (228 W. Sprague), thanks to a subsidized lease agreement with the building's owner, Dan Spalding. There, the nonprofit has hosted a slew of mostly free arts, music and technology workshops and programs for local, school-age kids.

The all-volunteer nonprofit, co-founded by Spalding and Spokane literary icon Jess Walter, has held classes in spoken word poetry, street art, music writing, digital arts and filmmaking, all thanks to local artists and creatives who've donated their time to teach at INK. Many of the free workshops, however, have been taught outside of INK's downtown space at Spokane Public Library branches to better reach underserved communities.

Yet the new Kendall Yards space — INK is actually set to move into a combination of two currently empty street-level spaces (1218 and 1214 W. Summit Parkway) between Mom's Custom Tattoo and MonkeyBoy Bicycles — should help with that aspect, says INK Board President Mischa Jakupcak.

"It's a great neighborhood for foot traffic and kids," Jakupcak says. "Where we’re at right now, around us there isn’t a ton of parking, and it’s not close to neighborhoods where we serve youth. We do a lot of programming with kids from West Central, so we’re nearer to where the kids are."

Kendall Yards developer Greenstone Communities is donating the space to INK through its charitable Greenstone Foundation. The new spot should allow INK to eventually offer a consistent, open-door schedule, whereas now it's typically only open during scheduled events, Jakupcak says. Once the creative space is up and running, she hopes to offer regular after-school programs and tutoring through partnerships with local universities like Gonzaga and Whitworth. 

INK plans to continue partnering with the public library system to host off-site classes, too, among other public venues the nonprofit has worked with in the past year. 

"We're really excited," she says. "We're going to have some tech aspects open to the public and it's really going to be a community center for people of all ages."

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Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Dave's not here, man, but Cheech & Chong are coming to Idaho

Posted By on Wed, Feb 4, 2015 at 3:52 PM

In the late '70s and early '80s, it was hard to find a hotter comedy act than the duo of Cheech & Chong, unless you count the time Richard Pryor set himself on fire

The stoner comics took a nightclub act and turned it into a pop cultural force, creating hit movies and best-selling albums (including that famous "Dave" sketch) that gave every serious weedhead and occasional dabbler a reason to laugh the night away before hitting the Cheetos. 

After their creative partnership seemingly dried up, the two split in the late '80s, with Cheech Marin going on to some mainstream success in movies like Tin Cup and on shows like Nash Bridges, while Tommy Chong hit the road to do standup and created a line of pot-related products. That business eventually got him in trouble thanks to some overzealous California law enforcement, landing Chong in jail for nearly a year

When he got out, his old buddy Cheech was ready to get the act back together, and Cheech & Chong have been pretty much touring the casino and theater circuit ever since. 

They will hit the Coeur d'Alene Casino on Thursday, March 5, along with WAR, the killer Latin-funk outfit that provided the soundtrack to some of Cheech & Chong's most memorable movie scenes with their tune "Low Rider." Tickets for the show are on sale now for $45 and $55, via TicketsWest. 

This clip from Up In Smoke shows how well the comedy team and WAR go together: 

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Monday, January 19, 2015

The Modern Theater announces its 2015-16 season lineup

Posted By on Mon, Jan 19, 2015 at 4:25 PM


Only a couple months into its merger, and leaders at the Modern Theater — the new-ish name for the combined incarnation of what formerly was Interplayers Theatre and Lake City Playhouse — are busy planning for the future. 

This past Saturday, the nonprofit theater group officially announced the lineup of shows it's staging at both its Spokane and Coeur d'Alene theaters. Season tickets for the 2015-16 season go on sale Sun, Feb. 1. Following is the production schedule; find descriptions of each performance on the Modern Theater's blog.

The Modern Theater Spokane:
Other Desert Cities (drama), Sept. 25-Oct. 11
Wild Parties (musical), Nov. 6-29
Lucky Me (comedy), Jan. 1-17, 2016
Last of the Boys (drama), Feb. 19-March 6, 2016
Next to Normal (musical, April 7, 17, 2016 — this show is to be a special co-production with the Coeur d'Alene Summer Theatre, and is performing at the Bing Crosby Theater.
The Ladies Foursome (comedy), May 13-29, 2016
Man of La Mancha (musical), July 8-30, 2016

The Modern Theater Coeur d'Alene:
Rock of Ages (musical), Sept. 11-Oct. 10 — we're assuming based on their site listing A Rock Show for the Ages, since the Modern can't really say til Feb. 1)
The Great American Trailer Park Christmas Musical, Nov. 27-Dec. 20
All My Sons (drama), Jan. 22-Feb. 7, 2016
Maybe Baby (comedy), March 4-20, 2016
A Bright New Boise (dark comedy), April 22-May 8, 2016 — a play by Moscow, Idaho-native Samuel D. Hunter.
Anything Goes (musical), June 3-26, 2016
Dogfight (musical), July 29-Aug. 14, 2016

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Thursday, January 15, 2015

Spokane Civic Theatre debuts "pay-what-you-can preview night" tonight

Posted By on Thu, Jan 15, 2015 at 1:40 PM

Mallory Ware as Smeraldina and Preston Loomer as Truffaldino in the Civic's  The Servant of Two Masters. - SARAH WURTZ
  • Sarah Wurtz
  • Mallory Ware as Smeraldina and Preston Loomer as Truffaldino in the Civic's The Servant of Two Masters.

The arts should be accessible to everyone, which is why the Spokane Civic Theatre is debuting a new, budget-friendly preview night ahead of its next production, The Servant of Two Masters.

Though opening night is officially this Friday, the public can catch a preview performance tonight, paying what they can afford at the box office.

Suggested entry is $5 per person, and seating availability in the 335-seat main stage theater is on a first come, first served basis, says the Civic's marketing coordinator Miranda Larson.

Doors tonight open at 6:30 pm, with seating starting at 7 before the curtain rises at 7:30 pm. Thursdays typically serve as a production's final dress rehearsal, with the previous night designated as "friends and family night" for the cast and crew members. 

The idea to open up the Thursday night rehearsal came from the Civic's artistic director, Keith Dixon, whose former theater, Theatre Baton Rouge, offered a similar program.

"It helps with accessibility to the community theater because some people can't afford it," Larson says. "We're doing it for every production [going forward] to let people who otherwise wouldn't be able to come. We want the community to be a part of local theater."

Though the suggested entry is $5, Larson says those attending can pay more or less, depending on what they're comfortable giving.

For the Civic's next Studio Theatre production, Orphans, pay-what-you-can night is set for Thursday, Jan. 29, a week from today.

While the new preview night is open to the general public, the Civic has for some time been offering student rush tickets when a production on the main stage has at least 30 open seats, or there's at least 10 seats in the studio theater. Rush tickets are generally half of what regular student pricing is, but tickets at that rate are only sold 30 minutes before the performance, and only when the minimum number of seats are available. For Servants, rush night tickets are $9.

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Monday, November 24, 2014

Spokane Civic Theatre's 2015-16 season lineup announced

Posted By on Mon, Nov 24, 2014 at 2:29 PM


Not halfway into its current, 68th season, the Spokane Civic Theatre has already announced the lineup of shows it plans to produce for its 69th year, starting in the fall of 2015. 

Right now, the theater is staging a musical version of the classic Dickens' tale A Christmas Carol, running through Dec. 20. Read Inlander theater writer E.J. Iannelli's take on it in this week's issue, out a day early, on Wednesday, Nov. 26, in light of the Thanksgiving holiday.

For the 2014-15 season, the community theater kicked things off with a bang, opening with an impeccable production of Fiddler on the Roof. And those who saw it won't soon forget the previous season's sold-out run of Les Miserables

Keeping with its theme of musicals and other familiar favorites, the Civic's 2015-16 season opens on the Main Stage with Catch Me If You Can, The Musical, Sept. 18-Oct. 18, 2015.

It will be followed by these shows, on the main stage:

  • White Christmas, Nov. 20-Dec. 19, 2015
  • Les Liaisons Dangereuses (Dangerous Liaisons), Jan. 15-31, 2016
  • Little Women, The Musical, Feb. 26-March 20, 2016
  • The Fox on the Fairway, April 8-May 1, 2016
  • Ghost, The Musical, May 20-June 19, 2016

Downstairs in the cozier Studio Theatre, the 69th season features:

  • Evil Dead, The Musical, Oct. 16-Nov. 15, 2015
  • Sordid Lives, Jan 29-Feb. 16, 2016
  • Hapgood, March 18-April 10, 2016
  • Fiction, April 29-May 21, 2016

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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Just 10 days left in 2014 Short Fiction Contest, so send us your stories

Posted By on Wed, Nov 12, 2014 at 12:40 PM


Ten days, folks. TEN DAYS. That’s all the time remaining to get your stories in for this year’s Inlander Short Fiction Contest. We’ve seen submissions pick up in the last couple of weeks, but we know you’re just putting the finishing touches on those gems.

Remember, we’re looking for unpublished stories of less than 2,000 words based on the theme of “spirits,” however you want to interpret that. Stories must mention an Inland Northwest landmark, and must be submitted by 11:59 pm on Nov. 21 (again — 10 days away!).

And there’s the $500 in cash prizes for our top stories. Additional details here.

We’ve also set up a fiction contest Facebook page to answer questions and invite friends. Feel free to help spread the word.

If you need some last-minute inspiration, renowned regional author Sharma Shields is hosting a Flash Fiction Workshop on Saturday on how to craft “ultra-short stories” that leave a strong impact. It’s over at the South Hill Library.

And feel free to read through some of our previous top stories from years past. We’re looking forward to going through this year’s entries. Good luck.

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Monday, November 3, 2014

Going modern: Recently merged theaters take a new name

Posted By on Mon, Nov 3, 2014 at 3:53 PM


Recently merged thespian centers Interplayers Professional Theater and Lake City Playhouse announced today that they have a new name: The Modern Theater.

Spokane's Interplayers Theater officially merged with Coeur d'Alene's Lake City Playhouse in September. As of today, the theaters will be known as The Modern Theater Spokane, and The Modern Theater Coeur d'Alene, respectively. In a press release, Modern Theater Executive Artistic Director George Green says that the new name is one of many changes aimed at making the theater more efficient.

"While it is not uncommon for companies to experience change and re-branding, we are very sensitive of the outcome this will have on both Spokane and North Idaho communities,"  Green says in the release. "We are making our best efforts to revitalize and grow while honoring the positive history that the prior venues exhibited over many years."
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Monday, October 27, 2014

Downtown Spokane interactive art residency seeks applicants

Posted By on Mon, Oct 27, 2014 at 4:18 PM

A view of the Laboratory art residency unit's back deck space.
  • A view of the Laboratory art residency unit's back deck space.

The downtown Spokane interactive art space Laboratory is looking for applicants for its new artist residency program. The program calls for artists with a particular interest in interactive art, or "art that responds to the presence of interaction of the viewer," says Laboratory founder and director Alan Chatham. 

Chatham founded Laboratory in 2013 as an alternative space for artists to create and show interactive pieces.

“Interactive art as a fine-art medium is really just kind of beginning to take off,” Chatham says. “So right now there’s not a whole lot of support for it. That’s why we’re kind of hoping to be one of those first organizations to really support and help interactive artists produce work.”

Successful applicants to the residency are to begin working there next month. Laboratory will house the two artists in a recently renovated downtown apartment (located above The Bartlett, at 228 W. Sprague; residents also get free access to all Bartlett concerts during their stay) for 1-3 months, in addition to access to a 200-square-foot studio, mentorship from Chatham, and a monthly stipend. In return, resident artists are expected to produce at least one piece of art for display in the storefront gallery, located at 301 W. Main. While Chatham is personally funding the project for now, he's also starting to look for donations.

So far, applications for the residency have been light, with the majority coming from Europe. 

"The [interactive art] scene in Europe is a lot more vibrant, I think," he says.

Spokane interactive artist Alan Chatham has worked on many public art projects, like this window display at 1011 W. First earlier this year.
  • Spokane interactive artist Alan Chatham has worked on many public art projects, like this window display at 1011 W. First earlier this year.

Artists can apply for one of three focus areas, or "tracks," that provide themes for the residency. The production track is "for people who have a really cool idea and want to make something," Chatham says. The research track includes brainstorming new tools and techniques for interactive art, while the learning track is designed for artists who want to take part in the residency but need to hone their skills. All three were developed with the development of interactive art in mind. 

Interested applicants can apply at the residency's website before the first residency slot deadline of Saturday, Nov. 1. 

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