Sonia Nelson

Document Type

Case Study

Publication Date



Susan Trapnell


Susan Kunimatsu


University of Washington drama professor Gregory A. Falls founded A Contemporary Theatre, now known as ACT Theatre, in 1965. In the five decades since, ACT’s productions have garnered national attention and numerous awards, from Tony and Obie awards to Pulitzer Prizes. In 1996, ACT moved from its first location, Queen Anne Hall, to the historic Eagles Auditorium in downtown Seattle. Now named Kreielsheimer Place, the eight-story building was renovated into 44 low income housing units plus ACT’s five performance and event spaces, administrative offices and production facilities. Stakeholders included government and private interests: housing advocates, downtown businesses, and historic preservationists, in addition to the theater community. ACT’s staff and board of trustees executed a $30 million capital campaign. But the move, and subsequent management missteps and artistic setbacks left the theater $1.7 million in debt and facing bankruptcy seven years later. The story of how ACT clawed its way back from the brink and regained its artistic and financial footing is as dramatic as any play.

Organization or Event

A Contemporary Theatre (ACT); Eagles Auditorium

Form of Entity


Area of Activity

Arts Presenter/Distributor (any artistic discipline)

Artistic Discipline