This is the face of one very happy, very surprised, and phenomenally talented actor (and writer and director) to whom this award is long overdue:
Marya Sea Kaminski learned about her award tonight at Bathtub Gin, a Belltown bar you have to enter through an alley. It's a tiny, festive but not roaring, brick-and-candlelight place with no sign outside: pretty much the only bar in the Belltown neighborhood (where Kaminski had been teaching until about 10 pm) where you'd want to tell someone she's a genius, a city treasure, and that you'd like to give her $5,000 and a QFC sheet cake.
Especially when that municipal treasure has been on the Genius shortlist for nearly half a decade.
What The Stranger wrote about Kaminski in last year's Stranger Genius shortlist:
It has become an annual tradition at The Stranger to wring our hands about not giving a Genius Award to actor, director, teacher, and writer-of-solo-shows Marya Sea Kaminski. And here we are again.
She made the Genius shortlist in 2006. She made the Genius shortlist in 2007. And she's done it again. Why don't we just give her a Genius Award already? Maybe because, as great as she is, we know she will go even higher. Electric and mercurial, Marya Sea Kaminski galvinizes audiences whether she's playing an innocent little girl with disturbing fantasies (Mr. Marmalade), or an idealistic and doomed college student (My Name Is Rachel Corrie), or Hedda-fucking-Gabler (blahblahblahBANG). She's also one of the smartest directors in the city (Finer Noble Gases, Museum Play) and a heart-wrenching writer. Her October: A Eulogy, a recounting of her little brother's suicide that she read at the gazebo in the Seattle Arboretum last October, made everyone within earshot a little more humane. Goddamnit, why don't we give her a Genius Award already?
Looking back over 2010, I can pinpoint the moment that sealed Kaminski as this year's Genius Award for theater: the afternoon of Sunday, January 10, about halfway through her performance of Electra for Seattle Shakespeare Company. (I didn't know this moment was The Moment at the time, of course. I spent the rest of the year watching theater, subconsciously waiting for something to claw at my guts with the same ferocity. Nothing did.)
Kaminski, playing Electra, one of the most tortured souls you can see on a stage (suck it, Beckett, Williams, Shakespeare, and everyone else!), had just heard that her brother had been killed in a freak horse-racing accident. Which sounds a little collateral, except that that brother was Electra's only hope to murder their mother, who had murdered her husband, who had murdered his daughter, Electra's sister. (And you thought your family was fucked up.)
When Electra heard about her brother's death, Kaminski dropped to her knees and keened one word over and over: Pain. That syllable, uttered seven months ago, was an almost nauseatingly emotional peak in a long and rich career of acting, writing, and directing. A mournful syllable that led to this:
When she first figured out she'd been lured to Bathtub Gin to get a Genius Award, Kaminski got a little misty-eyed and called her ma. Afterward, a few tipsy people toddled over to ask what was going on. "So you won this 'ward for... theater fabulousness?" one friendly and slurring lady asked. Kaminski blushed. "Yes," I cut in.
The slurring lady offered to buy Kaminski a drink. One of many drinks I expect she'll be offered between tonight and the Stranger Genius Awards party on Sept 17.