Interplayers Theatre was incorporated in October 1980 as Spokane Interplayers Ensemble by the husband and wife theatrical teaching and performing team of Bob and Joan Welch. It was the first resident professional theatre company in the history of the Inland Northwest.
The Welch’s had moved to Spokane in 1954 to raise their family from New York City, where they attended the Dramatic Workshop at the New School for Social Research (where Lee Strasberg and Stella Adler were on the faculty) alongside Marlon Brando, Harry Belafonte, Walter Matthau, and Tony Curtis.
The Ensemble was an outgrowth of the Professional Actors-in-Training Program that the Welch’s developed during their 18 years running the theatre department at the small private liberal arts Fort Wright College. When the college closed as a four-year institution in 1980, they decided to form the Ensemble. Joan was designated the Artistic Director and Bob was the Managing Director.
It took a year to establish the professional company and find a home. They signed a lease on the old Eagles Lodge building at 174 S. Howard in September, and they opened the theatre on October 30, 1981. The first production was The Male Animal by James Thurber and Elliot Nugent. It had special significance to the couple – they had gotten married between the matinee and evening performances of the play at the New School in 1948.
Interplayers has produced at least seven plays per season since that opening night. Eight years after the Welch’s signed that first lease with the four city firemen who owned the building, they were able to buy it. Until that time, Interplayers has only had possession of the second floor. Rehearsals took place in what is now the Gellhorn Gallery.
By 1995 Interplayers had 3,000 season subscribers and was running at 93% average capacity per season. Personnel included a permanent technical crew of seven as well as office staff and of course the company of 36 ensemble actors. It had a 16 member Board of Trustees and an 18 member Advisory Board.
The Welch’s retired from Interplayers in 2001, after 20 years of running the theatre, directing a number of the productions and always keeping their hand in by acting in a few each season. They handed the reins of the theatre over to Robin Stanton, who served as Artistic Director from 2002-2005. Nike Imoru took over for the 2005-2006 season, followed by Wes Deitrick in 2007, and Karen Kalinsky from 2007-2008.
Reed McColm took the artistic helm in 2009 and is the current Artistic Director. He was joined in 2011 by Pamela Brown as Executive Director.
Interplayers has been a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization since its founding. Over the years it has received grants from The National Endowment for the Arts, the Washington State Arts Commission, Foundation Northwest, Washington Trust Bank, US Bank, Safeco Insurance and many area charitable foundations such as the Johnston-Fix, Leuthold, Jewett, Greg Green, Dicker, Harriet Cheney Cowles, Johnston-Hanson and the Wasmer Fund for Arts.
Interplayers began life as Spokane Interplayers Ensemble. And that’s what it remained until the Welch’s retirement. After that it was called Spokane InterPLAYERS. Then in 2008 it became Interplayers Professional Theatre and finally the Board of Trustees decided in 2012 that it would be known simply as Interplayers Theatre. And that, folks, is where we are.