Cornish College of the Arts president Nancy J. Uscher and Seattle Center director Robert Nellams have signed a 20-year lease for the Playhouse at Seattle Center, officially launching a partnership that began in late 2012. 

The Cornish Playhouse at Seattle Center will host many of Cornish’s educational programs in both the performing and visual arts, while also ensuring that the facility is made available to arts and cultural organizations around the region.

Cornish has managed the Playhouse for the last year under an interim lease agreement, following a public process. A subcommittee of the Seattle Center Advisory Commission recommended Cornish for this management role in September 2012. Seattle City Council approved the long-term lease in December 2013.

Cornish is responsible for maintenance of the interior of the building and has raised more than $200,000 to date, all of which has been invested in safety and production systems

Cornish will also launch the Cornish Playhouse Arts Incubator program, aimed at facilitating risk-taking among the allied arts. Groups from around Seattle will be invited to apply for this curated program beginning in late 2014.

The Playhouse has a long and distinguished history as a theater venue. Following the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair, the building became home to the newly formed Seattle Repertory Theatre. When the Seattle Rep moved to its new facility in 1983, the Playhouse was rented on a short-term basis until 1986, when it underwent a $1.2 million renovation and reopened in 1987 as home to Intiman Theatre. 

In 1998, Intiman funded the addition of the studio/rehearsal hall on the south side of the building. Intiman Theatre Festival continues to rent administrative offices under the lease agreement with Cornish.

The Seattle Center Century 21 Master Plan, completed in 2008, designates the Playhouse as part of the Theatre District Zone, which was intended to create a place for the performing arts.