Loggers at the Balagan

Theatre arts alumni are making a splash on the Seattle fringe theater scene. Their Balagan Theatre on Capitol Hill is doing interesting, cutting-edge work, winning solid reviews, and building a loyal following.

“Balagan” is a Hebrew word meaning chaos. “Our interpretation is that it generally is a mess or chaos that works out for the best,” explains Jake Groshong ’04, one of three co-artistic directors at Balagan.

Balagan was born in 2006 while Jake and Kaitlin Warren ’05 were in Israel working on an artist grant. Jake had acted on Seattle stages and had considered starting his own theater.

“We arranged the initial production of Balagan from Israel via e-mail,” he recalls. “We got a space, we got a crew together to get our first production off the ground.”

They did a full five-show season that year.

“We figured if you’re going to do it, you might as well do it big and do it right,” Jake remembers. That season was performed in a now-closed facility called The Shack. The next year Balagan moved into its own 99-seat space.

Running a theater has been a lifelong dream for Lisa Confehr ’03, co-artistic director. “To actualize it is so exciting,” she says. “I’m inspired by everyone that we work with, and the fact that UPSers are coming here and can work here is fantastic. We have this fresh, vibrant, glowing group of people.”

And, we would add, dedicated. Everyone is a volunteer. Jake’s day job is in marketing and Lisa is a second-grade teacher.

“We make it happen every day because we care and we love it,” says Lisa. “It’s our life and our passion.”

“What keeps us going is the fact that we feel this is something new and fresh to the Seattle theater scene,” Jake adds.

There’s a definite buzz about Balagan. Its production of Arabian Nights last fall earned rave reviews from both Seattle dailies, and February’s hilarious Death,Sex delighted packed houses with what one paper called “breathtakingly sadistic” comedy. Each season has included a mix of classics and new works.

Lisa and Jake are pleased with what Balagan has achieved so far.

“I think our success has proven that we’re offering something that other people aren’t offering,” Jake says. “It just keeps growing. It feels magical all the time.”

—Greg Scheiderer

More on the Balagan at www.balagantheatre.org.