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Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Final Cake of the Day: The Stranger Genius Award for Theater Goes to Marya Sea Kaminski

Posted by on Thu, Aug 5, 2010 at 12:55 AM

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.

And the year before that:

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.

Congratulations to Marya. And to everybody.

  • All photos by Kelly O.


Comments (21) RSS

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She's so adorable! Man, I want Brendan Kiley to bring ME a cake and tell me I'm a Genius.
Posted by Gloria on August 5, 2010 at 7:51 AM · Report this
Hooray! Hooray hooray hooray.
Posted by Holly Arsenault on August 5, 2010 at 7:54 AM · Report this
Marya is definitely the most deserving of the bunch this year. She's amazingly talented and damn sweet. You couldn't have made a better choice, Brendan.
Posted by Brian from Hugo House on August 5, 2010 at 7:55 AM · Report this
Toasterhedgehog 4
She looks like the most delightful person ever in those photos.
Posted by Toasterhedgehog on August 5, 2010 at 8:11 AM · Report this
Enigma 5
She was brilliant in Electra. I was telling everyone I knew to see this because it was the kind of performance that sticks with you for years.
So deserving.
Posted by Enigma on August 5, 2010 at 8:30 AM · Report this
I'm a student of hers at Freehold right now and can tell you that she is even MORE awesome than she seems in this article!
Posted by Kawaii on August 5, 2010 at 8:42 AM · Report this
Mullin 7
@6 That's the blessing/curse of theatre, Kawaii. In order understand how awesome a talent like MSK is, you have to go out and see her in person.

May she stay here in Seattle and keep perpetrating her amazingness for decades to come.

@ Kiley, what can I say? You finally did the right thing. Frankly, I was getting sort of sick of you teasing Marya and all of us, because there is absolutely no question in my mind that she is the real deal. And you know I don't say that lightly.
Posted by Mullin on August 5, 2010 at 8:47 AM · Report this
StillNon 8
she seems rad, I love that 2nd pic, hahaha
Posted by StillNon on August 5, 2010 at 8:56 AM · Report this
Tracy 9
Massive congratulations! The hairs on the back of my neck stood up reading the description from damn that production was amazing!
Posted by Tracy on August 5, 2010 at 9:06 AM · Report this
very well deserved (and long overdue)!
Posted by brueso on August 5, 2010 at 9:23 AM · Report this
Amy Kate Horn 11
The only thing I've seen of hers--Condo Millennium--was milquetoast. So we're just not mentioning that show?
Posted by Amy Kate Horn on August 5, 2010 at 9:35 AM · Report this
@ 11. Well, she's produced an enormous body of work over the years. So if that's all you've seen, you haven't seen nothin'.

(And maybe hold the squawking about what has and hasn't been mentioned until *after* her Genius profile is published.)
Posted by Brendan Kiley on August 5, 2010 at 9:44 AM · Report this
Amy Kate Horn 13
Fair enough. I believe you that she's a Genius and will look for her onstage in the future.
Posted by Amy Kate Horn on August 5, 2010 at 9:49 AM · Report this
I must echo the sentiments here - Marya is an AMAZING actor. I get goosebumps nearly every time I see her on stage. But, did you know the girl can also rap like nobody's business?? Her performance of "White Girl's Blues" during the Cheap Wine and Poetry performance at Bumbershoot 2008 was INCREDIBLE! I, for one, was totally smitten! Congrats Marya :)
Posted by JaimePMcG on August 5, 2010 at 10:16 AM · Report this
Definitely well-deserved: congratulations Marya!
Posted by COMTE on August 5, 2010 at 10:57 AM · Report this
amyl 16
Posted by amyl on August 5, 2010 at 12:33 PM · Report this
Geni 17
About freaking time. Yay!
Posted by Geni on August 5, 2010 at 5:27 PM · Report this
I was lucky enough to be one of her theater students at Cornish College of the Arts this past year and she is the single most inspiring person I have ever had the honor to work with! An amazing actress, incredible director, inspiring teacher and fabulous human being. No one is more deserving than Marya!
Posted by Leelah on August 8, 2010 at 1:16 AM · Report this
I was lucky enough to be one of her theater students at Cornish College of the Arts this past year and she is the single most inspiring person I have ever had the honor to work with! An amazing actress, incredible director, inspiring teacher and fabulous human being. No one is more deserving than Marya!!!
Posted by Leelah on August 8, 2010 at 1:19 AM · Report this
A P.S.- upon further reflection, my reaction is- The Stranger got off cheap only giving her one cake (and one check). I respect the hell out of actors- I'm one myself- but Ms. Marya is much more than that. She's a five-tooled player as they say in the MLB- she not only brings it as an actor, but she writes, directs, teaches and about every other aspect of theatre- making.
Posted by brueso on August 9, 2010 at 3:52 PM · Report this
Well deserved and about time. Marya always sets the bar for everyone else she's performing with, and her "Electra" was simply brilliant. I just can't wait for whatever she does next.
Posted by writerjer on August 13, 2010 at 3:57 PM · Report this

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