Off-Stage News

-- While midsized drama troupes around the area (and the country) struggle to survive, Seattle's 28-year-old Empty Space Theatre appears to be thriving.

Empty Space (which nearly expired in 1992) has compiled figures for its 1997-'98 season, and they're rosy: Attendance was up 25 percent from the previous season, revenue was up 31 percent (more than $80,000), and the company ended the season with an operating surplus.

The boosts were largely related to touring and extra performances. The Empty Space's hit version of "The Compleat Works of Wllm Shkspr (Abridged)" extended its run by seven weeks, and toured to the new Kirkland Performance Center.

-- Know a stage-struck kid looking for his break? The touring Broadway musical "Ragtime" is seeking two black male children, ages 4 to 6, to alternate appearing in the show in a brief, nonspeaking role during its December run at the Paramount Theatre. Children must be no taller than 3 feet 6 inches, and must have "considerable concentration." (No kidding.) Auditions are on a first-come, first-seen basis Saturday at the Paramount entrance at 911 Pine St., Seattle. Details: 416-324-5717.

-- Following a batch of dismal reviews, the expensive rock musical "Hunchback" will cut short its run at Seattle's King Cat Theater. The show's final performance will be Sunday, two weeks shy of its projected run.

-- Freehold Theatre Lab hosts a return visit from the Chamber Drama Theatre of Vladivostok, Russia. The company appeared in Seattle several years in a chamber-sized version of Chekhov's "The Seagull." On this trip, they'll perform Maxim Gorky's "The Lower Depths" in Russian, with simultaneous translation, Nov. 19-22 at Freehold Theatre on Capitol Hill, with more performances Nov. 27-28, at Tacoma Little Theatre in Tacoma. Details: 206-568-5893.