What would you sacrifice in order to save your town from economic ruin?  This is the question at the heart of Tanstaafl*, Key City Public Theatre’s original production, running from April 23, 2015 to May 10, 2015. The play, conceived and directed by KCPT Artistic Director Denise Winter, revolves around an industrial town in the Pacific Northwest that, despite its history as a booming metropolis of industry and culture, has inexplicably fallen into debt and disrepair. When a former citizen returns and offers financial security, the town soon learns that “There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch*”.

A Key City Original

The origins of Tanstaafl are as interesting as the play itself. This Tragicomedy draws inspiration from the German language playwrights of the 20th century, such as Durrenmatt, Frisch, and Brecht, whose plays explore the deepest themes of humanity in a bizarre, absurdist way that allows the audience to disengage their disdain just long enough to appreciate the comedy of it all before circling back for a macabre ending that highlights the moral poignancy of the issues at hand.

Tanstaafl holds a special significance for Denise Winter, who, ten years ago, kicked off her tenure as Artistic Director at Key City Public Theatre with a sold-out run of Brecht’s Threepenny Opera. For Winter, the works of these German playwrights are as potent as ever. “They’re not cut and dry,” she says, “They reflect a world in which we take our lessons and our lumps but also lighten our load by finding some humor in the foibles of the human condition. If we can’t laugh at the things that go wrong while also drawing deeper meaning from them, then, what’s the point?”

So, to celebrate her tenth anniversary at KCPT, Winter has taken the opportunity to create an original work that, in addition to exploring German Tragicomedy’s oft-explored themes of economic ruin, greed, and the cost of salvation, has a Glenn Miller score, ensemble dance numbers, and a script that is infused with the places, ideas, and voices of the Pacific Northwest.

The ensemble cast, including some Key City favorites and several new faces, help bring to life this production that breathes with the spirit of Key City Public Theatre, a company deeply rooted in the community. Tanstaafl is a wicked blend of classic tragedy and high comedy that explores the darkest depths of human nature and, with tongue planted firmly in cheek, presents the audience with a choice of their own: laugh at the absurdity of the tale or cringe at its resonance.

Show Details


Tanstaafl is generously sponsored by Playwright for Playwright, Itali Lambertini, and 66 Women. KCPT’s Season Sponsors are PT Fudge Company, Alchemy Bistro & Wine Bar, and SOS Printing. Pay-what-you-wish performances, sponsored by the Port Townsend Arts Commission, will be on Sunday, April 26th and Thursday, April 30th.

Tanstaafl runs from April 23rd through May 10th at Key City Public Theatre in Port Townsend. Tickets ($10-$24) & info at keycitypublictheatre.org and at the box office, 419 Washington Street, 360-385-KCPT.