The first act for Taproot Theatre Company is coming to a close: Producing Artistic Director Scott Nolte is retiring from his position after co-founding Taproot with his wife Pam over 44 years ago. The first press Taproot ever received, via writer Ray Ruppert, couldn’t have said it better. “Six young people in pursuit of a dream, which older heads might consider unlikely if not impossible, have formed the Taproot Theatre Company…”
The company began as a touring company in 1976 with performances in churches, schools and libraries, but in 1977 when the company was incorporated into a not-for-profit theatre with a Board of Directors and by-laws, the future vision already included an acting school and Mainstage productions. Under Nolte’s careful guidance Taproot has grown to become Seattle’s oldest and largest mid-size professional theatre, serving over 180,000 people annually with its “theatre of hope” through its Mainstage and touring productions, and acting studio.
The first printed program for Taproot Theatre describes the 1976 company as “an ensemble of actors with our life and faith firmly rooted in God the Creator.” That rootedness has remained, allowing the company under Scott’s leadership to pursue plays exploring issues of justice, race, and economic division in addition to plays that entertain and bring laughter. This combination is what Scott has liked to call “a well balanced meal” for the company’s over 3,000 subscribers. That same rootedness has also granted perseverance for the challenging job of maintaining and growing a theatre company through four location moves, five recessions, floods, thefts, a massive fire which destroyed an entire building, an explosion and now, a global pandemic.
In 1988, Scott Nolte’s vision and leadership led to the purchase of an old movie house, The China Theatre, in the Greenwood neighborhood of Seattle and renovation work began with contractors and the efforts of countless volunteers and donors. Taproot’s vagabond existence, producing in three different locations over 20 years ended in 1996 when the company moved into the remodeled space as a fully operational 226 seat theatre in the Greenwood neighborhood of Seattle. A devastating fire destroyed the company’s second building in 2009. Seattle’s entire theatre community joined Taproot’s loyal patrons to come alongside with help at that time. The Kendall Center opened in 2013 providing more room for the company’s acting classes, offices, and the 119 seat Isaac Studio Theatre. Taproot now had the space that Nolte envisioned to help grow the next generation of theatre artists.
Nolte directed over 150 productions in his 44 years with Taproot Theatre including regional premieres, classics, and new works along with his beloved classic comedies.
Co-founder Pam Nolte served in multiple positions through the years with the company working for twenty-five years as the theatre’s Marketing Director, Taproot’s Community Liaison, a company actor, and teaching artist. Her most recent years were spent creating and managing Taproot Theatre’s pioneering work in providing theatre classes for individuals experiencing memory loss.
Although the Noltes’ formal roles with Taproot are coming to an end, they will continue their work as theatre artists, directing and acting with the company when their skills are requested. When the theatre is allowed to reopen its Jewell Mainstage, post-pandemic, Scott will direct two of Taproot’s postponed productions and Pam will resume the acting roles she was originally cast in for the Mainstage season.
Over their 44 year tenure, the Noltes created a family of over 1,000 actors, designers, technicians, teaching actors, and staff members. Their legacy will live on through that family, a family which also includes the hundreds of thousands of donors, subscribers and students Taproot has served with its “theatre of hope”.
At the end of this difficult year, Scott Nolte can trust that as he passes the torch to incoming Producing Artistic Director Karen Lund, Taproot Theatre Company will continue to tell the stories of hope and courage that Taproot’s audiences can look forward to for years to come.