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Best of Olympia 2019: Harlequin Productions and Olympia Family Theater

Readers' Pick: Best Theater Company

Elix Hill and Jason Haws in I Ought to be in Pictures at Harlequin Productions. (Courtesy Harlequin Productions)

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It's a tie. And rightfully so, because the theaters our readers chose as best in Olympia are two very different theaters that appeal to different audiences (with significant overlap), and they are each excellent in what they do -- easily equal in quality of production to the very best in Seattle or Tacoma. The winning theaters are Harlequin Productions and Olympia Family Theater.

Harlequin Productions has been producing quality theater in Olympia for 26 seasons with a mixture of serious drama (original takes on Shakespeare and the most compelling of contemporary dramas such as the award-winning August, Osage County and Mark Stein's strange Mating Dance of the Werewolf). Plus, they have produced original musicals celebrating hit music from various eras from the big band era of the '40s to '60s and '70s rock and roll and soul music.

Still to come this season are: Love and Information, a "fast-moving kaleidoscope" with seven actors playing 100 characters; a new adaptation of Ibsen's A Doll's House; and Man of LaMancha. Less well known but a blockbuster of an intense drama, is the multiple award-winning Blackbird, coming in August. Blackbird is about a young woman who was sexually abused as a child and who confronts her abuser 15 years later. And finally, in October (Harlequin's season runs longer than most) comes the modern feminist play The Women.

Olympia Family Theater is a children's theater presenting shows with both adult and child actors produced for audiences of all ages. Their shows are mostly but not exclusively for children, but almost every season they throw in at least one serious adult drama. Founded in 2006 by Jen Ryle and Samantha Chandler, OFT has now produced over 55 shows in their main stage season, including five world premieres and plays written by local playwrights such as the delightful Fishnapped, by Amy Shephard and Andrew Gordon with music and lyrics by Daven Tillinghast; and 3 Impossible Questions, written by Christian Carvajal, a play based on beloved Islamic folk tales. Up next at OFT is The 100 Dresses, described as "a poignant tale of bullies and bystanders, inspired by a true story. Set in a small Connecticut town in the late 1930s, a group of children try to make sense of people from different cultures. When a Polish family moves to town, and a young girl tries to connect with her classmates, she is taunted and bullied. Recommended for ages 7 and older, playing March 15-31, followed byGo Dog, Go! May 10-31.

Congratulations to Harlequin Productions and Olympia Family Theater for their reader's choice selection as Best Theaters in Olympia.

HARLEQUIN PRODUCTIONS, 202 Fourth Ave. E., Olympia, 360.786.0151,

OLYMPIA FAMILY THEATER, 612 Fourth Ave. E., Olympia, 360.570.1638,

To read more articles about our Best of Olympia winners click here.

Or for our online interactive guide click here.

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