A Short History of Mirror Stage

Founding Artistic Director Suzanne M. Cohen started Looking Glass Theatre in Los Angeles in 1991 as a fringe theatre company, and moved to Seattle in 1992. LGT’s hit production of Mississippi Nude by John Reaves for the 1994 Seattle Fringe Theatre Festival was hailed as “one of the best the Festival has to offer.” The West Coast premiere of Moe’s Lucky 7 by Marlane Meyer played the 1996 Seattle Fringe Theatre Festival, and had a three week extension run. Unsure when they might produce again, Ms. Cohen and Producing Director Mona Al-Haddad decided to dissolve the corporation after a two year hiatus following Moe’s Lucky 7.

In 2001, LGT re-incorporated as a professional theatre company with six board members, and Ms. Cohen became the Managing Artistic Director, responsible for all artistic, administrative and business development activities. The company received its 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status in March 2002, and in June 2002, started doing business as Mirror Stage Company. The corporate name changed to Mirror Stage in February 2006.

In October 2002, Mirror Stage kicked off its Season of Premieres with the West Coast premiere of The Knee Desires the Dirt by Julie Hébert. In February 2003, Mirror Stage presented the Northwest Premiere of Far East by A.R. Gurney. The Season of Premieres concluded in November 2003 with the Northwest Premiere of Abstract Expression by Theresa Rebeck.

Mirror Stage’s innovative staged reading series have been engaging the community in examining and discussing topical issues from different perspectives since 2004. Presented without costumes or sets, the emphasis on the text encourages audiences to create their own imagined world inhabited by the play’s characters, increasing empathy and expanding awareness. Following every performance, a moderated discussion with the audience and artists explores the issues raised in more depth.

Mirror Stage launched Feed Your Mind in May 2004 with Hiding Hannah by local Seattle playwright Joy McCullough-Carranza. In January 2007, Mirror Stage partnered with the Central District Forum for Arts & Ideas on The Road to the Nobel Peace Prize: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. presented to more than 1,650 people across Seattle. The 10|40 Celebration on October 15, 2011 marked 10 years of Mirror Stage and 40 Feed Your Mind presentations.

Mirror Stage returned to fully staged productions with the West Coast premiere of Odin’s Horse by Robert Koon, at the Ethnic Cultural Theatre, October 24 through November 11, 2012. Odin’s Horse was named “one of the best productions of 2012” by Seattle Gay News, and nominated for two Gypsy Rose Lee Awards: for Excellence in Direction of a Play (Small Budget) and Excellence in Sound Design (Small Budget).

As of April 2016, Mirror Stage produced 10 seasons of Feed Your Mind, comprised of 54 presentations—more than 60 percent of were written by women playwrights. For the new Expand Upon series, the community selects a theme, and Mirror Stage commissions two local playwrights to each develop a 30-60 minute piece, using the same multi- generational, multi-racial cast—providing opportunities for local artists to develop artistic responses to important issues while engaging the community in meaningful ways.

Expand Upon launched in 2017 with the community-selected theme Institutional Racism, and Mirror Stage commissioned playwrights Rachel Atkins and Seayoung Yim. For Round #2 in 2018, the community chose the theme Incarceration, and Mirror Stage commissioned playwrights Alma Davenport and Stacy D. Flood, adding a second weekend of performances in South Seattle, and two pre-show lectures by a UW professor. Mirror Stage added an April round with Expand Upon: Immigration in April 2019, commissioning new plays by Sophie Franco and Celeste Mari Williams, and also launched the Activism Brunch series in March 2019, with Activism Brunch: Immigration.

By providing post-play discussions which are both interactive and educational, Mirror Stage creates the opportunity to increase awareness and understanding of the complexity of contemporary issues—such as racism, war, sexism in the workplace, capital punishment, immigration, the challenges faced by veterans returning stateside, environmentalism, religious intolerance, media images and body perception—and the far-reaching impact on the lives of us all. Mirror Stage measures changes in audiences’ attitudes and beliefs by surveys distributed at each performance; more than 90 percent of Mirror Stage attendees report new perspectives and ideas following performances and/or discussions.

For more than 18 years, Mirror Stage has featured African Americans, Asian Americans (both South and East Asians), Latinx, Native Americans, and Pacific Islanders, as well as white actors. More than 40 percent of the actors featured in Mirror Stage productions have been people of color—some, but not all, in ethnically specific stories and roles. Mirror Stage is committed to diversity at all levels: on our stage, in our audience, on our staff, and within our leadership. Mirror Stage invites a larger population to see themselves and their stories represented onstage, instead of being excluded or ignored, affirming a broader range of experiences.

For a list of Past Productions, click here.