The History of Teatro ZinZanni

In 1992, Teatro ZinZanni’s Founder, Norm Langill, walked into a spiegeltent and fell in love.  Inside the tent, everything was possible:  Feats of terrible strength!  Manic antics!  Beauty beyond belief!  Art as dinner, dinner as art!

Norm found his own “Palais Nostalgique” tent in Belgium and convinced the builders, the Klessens family, to bring it to Seattle.  Inspired by the great cabarets of Europe, he created a bold dinner show steeped in absurdity and spiked with a fresh sense of comedy.  From around the world, he brought in celebrated artists schooled in cirque, clowning, cabaret, aerial arts, magic, and illusion.  From renowned Seattle restaurants, he brought in top chefs to create a five-course meal extraordinaire.  Norm describes it all as, “the nightclub of your dreams”.

A Track Record of Success

Established unique entertainment brand with an unparalleled track record of sales and marketing success:

  • 1.5 Million guests since 1998 averaging 60,000 guests annually with 2016 representing a record breaking year for the company
  • The initial 1998 ZinZanni production enjoyed a 14-month sold-out Seattle run, leading to an 11-year run in San Francisco and a 2002 return to Seattle for a total of 19 years of operation
  • Runs at 85% capacity in strong theatre and dining markets
  • Established relationships 500+ national businesses, travel organizations, and event planners as a part of our group sales business representing over 20% of ticket sales
  • Critically acclaimed with rave reviews from The New York Times, Variety, & USA Today
  • Currently developing a permanent San Francisco site on a noted waterfront location at Embarcadero and Broadway

History of an Iconic Institution

  • 1972 One Reel Vaudeville Show was founded by Norman Langill and Louise DiLenge. They created funny topical skits and performed them on the back of a Model A truck that traveled around the Northwest. They won awards and audiences and as a result, were asked to produce other events.
  • 1980 One Reel took over production of Seattle’s Bumbershoot Arts Festival and reshaped it into a successful cultural landmark. From 1980-2010, under Langill’s leadership, One Reel expanded to develop and produce local, national and international cultural events, including Family Fourth Fireworks, Summer Nights on the Pier concerts, WOMAD at Marymoor Park, the Goodwill Arts Festival, and tours of international groups including Cirque du Soleil, Grand Kabuki Theatre of Japan and the Bolshoi Ballet. Over the years, staff trained at One Reel went on to lead production companies and cultural institutions around the country. Bumbershoot became a nationwide model for festivals, the Fireworks were rated in the top 5 in the country by Time magazine, the international projects won awards and major grants, and events such as the Summer Nights concerts inspired the creation of similar series around the Seattle area.
  • 1992 While One Reel was producing a multilingual music festival at the Barcelona Cultural Olympics, Norm spotted a spiegeltent that sparked the original concept for Teatro ZinZanni.  Inspired by the great cabarets of Europe, spiked with a fresh sense of American comedy, and steeped in absurdity, the vision for Teatro ZinZanni took shape.
  • 1998 One Reel launched Teatro ZinZanni as an “off-season” special project, drawing on the founders’ creative roots, the company’s production capacity, and their access to world-class artists in all genres. The Klessens family allowed their antique mirrored spiegeltent to be sent from Belgium for a 12-week run on a temporary site opposite the Seattle Center. The new event, starring Ann Wilson and an international cast of musicians, comedians, and circus performers, proved extremely popular and continued its sold-out run for 14 months.
  • 2000 Teatro ZinZanni took the tent south and re-opened in San Francisco on the Embarcadero, and the show became an instant hit and ran year-round through the end of 2011. Celebrities such as Robin Williams were among regular guests, and Joan Baez performed in five separate runs. Teatro ZinZanni contributed to the revitalization of the waterfront following the collapse of the double-decker freeway in the 1989 earthquake and redevelopment of the Embarcadero.
  • 2002 Teatro ZinZanni returned to Seattle due to popular demand, with a second spiegeltent from Belgium. The location at 6th and Battery converted a former Cadillac dealership into a fully-operating venue and kitchen and ran for 5 years until the site was sold to build a 600-unit apartment building.
  • 2007 Teatro ZinZanni returned to the original location within the Seattle Center Theatre District. In addition to year-round performances in two cities, the company developed a circus arts education program and offered special concerts, late-night cabarets and family programming. Teatro ZinZanni created a boom for circus arts in both cities with Seattle in particular seeing a rise in circus and variety arts groups including SANCA, Moisture Festival and Circus Conundrum.
  • 2011 Teatro ZinZanni split from its parent company, One Reel, as the year-round operation continued to see growth.
  • 2012 Teatro ZinZanni was one of 80 businesses on the Embarcadero that closed in San Francisco to make way for the America’s Cup yachting races of 2013. The tent and production moved to Costa Mesa for a limited engagement during the holiday season.
  • 2015 With the support of city, business, and neighborhood leaders, Teatro ZinZanni plans to return to San Francisco were solidified with a unanimous vote from the Board of Supervisors approving the development of a four-story boutique hotel with the acclaimed company as the anchor at the corner of Broadway and the Embarcadero. The project will break ground in 2018 and slated to open in early 2019.
  • 2016 Teatro ZinZanni had a record-breaking year for attendance and sales in its final full year at the Seattle Center Theatre District location.