The first act for Taproot Theatre Company is coming to a close: Producing Artistic Director Scott Nolte is retiring from his position after co-founding Taproot with his wife Pam after 44 years.

The company began as a touring company in 1976 with performances in churches, schools and libraries, but in 1977 when the company was incorporated into a not-for-profit theatre with a board of directors and by-laws, the future vision already included an acting school and mainstage productions.

Under Nolte’s guidance, Taproot has grown to become Seattle’s oldest and largest mid-size professional theater serving over 180,000 people annually with its “theatre of hope” through its Mainstage and touring productions and acting studio, according to a press release.

The first printed program for Taproot Theatre describes the 1976 company as “an ensemble of actors with our life and faith firmly rooted in God the Creator.”

“That rootedness has remained, allowing the company under Scott’s leadership to pursue plays exploring issues of justice, race and economic division in addition to plays that entertain and bring laughter,” according to the press release. “This combination is what Scott has liked to call ‘a well-balanced meal’ for the company’s over-3,000 subscribers. That same rootedness has also granted perseverance for the challenging job of maintaining and growing a theatre company through four location moves, five recessions, floods, thefts, a massive fire which destroyed an entire building, an explosion and, now, a global pandemic.”

In 1988, Nolte’s vision and leadership led to the purchase of an old movie house, The China Theatre, in the Greenwood neighborhood of Seattle and renovation work began with contractors and the efforts of countless volunteers and donors. Taproot’s existence, producing in three different locations over 20 years ended in 1996 when the company moved into the remodeled space as a fully operational 226-seat theater in Greenwood.

A devastating fire destroyed the company’s second building in 2009. Seattle’s entire theater community joined Taproot’s patrons to help at that time. The Kendall Center opened in 2013, which provided more room for the company’s acting classes, offices and the 119-seat Isaac Studio Theatre. Taproot now had the space that Nolte envisioned to help grow the next generation of theatre artists.

Nolte directed more than 150 productions in his 44 years with Taproot Theatre including regional premieres, classics, and new works along with his beloved classic comedies. 

Co-founder Pam Nolte served in multiple positions through the years with the company working for 25 years as the theater’s marketing director, Taproot’s community liaison, a company actor and teaching artist.

Her most recent years were spent creating and managing Taproot Theatre’s work in providing theater classes for individuals experiencing memory loss.

According to the press release, although the Noltes’ formal roles with Taproot are ending, they will continue their work as theater artists, directing and acting with the company when their skills are requested.

When the theater is allowed to reopen its Jewell Mainstage, post-pandemic, Scott Nolte will direct two of Taproot’s postponed productions, and Pam Nolte will resume the acting roles she was originally cast in for the Mainstage season. 

Over their 44-year tenure, the Noltes created a family of over 1,000 actors, designers, technicians, teaching actors and staff members. Their legacy will continue through that family, which also includes the hundreds of thousands of donors, subscribers and students Taproot has served with its “theatre of hope.”

“At the end of this difficult year, Scott Nolte can trust that as he passes the torch to incoming Producing Artistic Director Karen Lund, Taproot Theatre Company will continue to tell the stories of hope and courage that Taproot’s audiences can look forward to for years to come,” according to the press release.