Tuesday, November 8, 2011

October Forum Notes (Finally!)

I will confess from the outset that these should not be considered minutes. Our group was small but the conversation intense, and I took few notes, so this recap relies on my ever-feebler memory. I also call on any present to add or correct or edit as necessary.

I also have to say, every time we hold one of these forums, I’m reminded why I do what I do where I do. There are some amazing people in this town, and we can all take pride in the project of telling stories.

But anyway…

We kicked off the meeting reporting on the last forum and the progress of some of the projects launched there. Rob Raas-Bergquist laid out plans for the Community Resource Database, which will catalog lendable and rentable props and costumes and set pieces around the city, and which TPS agreed to host. It is being developed with help from Shane Regan.

Outreach to the big houses was suggested, as they routinely have to scrap entire sets. Consensus that there needs to be administration – nobody wants to wait around for the person that said they wanted your set – and the idea floated that we connect with carpenters, the boots on the ground. Tabled for further discussion.

Beth Raas-Bergquist talked about the committee working on a revival of the Fringe Festival (one of the best moments from August’s forum came when someone talked about organizing a fest revival, and Beth raised her hand to say her recent grad school final project was a business plan to re-launch the festival). They are planning to run a pilot, pulling from business plans by Beth and Jake Groshong and fiscally sponsored by TPS, in October 2012. This project team has suffered attrition. Meaghan Darling volunteered to help on behalf of Annex Theatre, and the idea to recruit a rep from each fringe company was floated and will be pursued.

Introductions by attendees got into our reasons for sitting in a basement in Ballard on a Sunday evening, and came universally to caring, a lot, about what we do.

David Orace Kelly spoke first, presenting ideas gathered initially in a graduate school thesis project and continued ever since – the Theatre Values Project. David shared the results of a multi-year survey of values held across the country by theatre practitioners. The results of the 2010 survey and more can be found at David’s website - http://www.dokmfa.org/. I was personally struck by the idea of the “ethical implications” of the choices we make – I hope it is something we can be more open and reflective about as a community.

Paul Mullin spoke next, and focused on his idea of “whole theatre” - a very holistic, multi-levelled way to think about the creation and consumption of theatre, with an intense localism at its base. He kindly published the full text on his blog.

From there, we riffed and covered a lot of ground, often coming back to the idea of needing new business models, of trying to keep artists working and also surviving. We talked about alternative ways to compensate/support actors, like asking Metro to donate some bus passes to working actors.

In the end, we tried to focus the discussion, as last time, into making a list. The list was to be statements we believe to be true – each proffered and group-edited, seconded and added to the list on consensus.

-       There are ethical implications to the art and the business of theatre.

-       When we make theatre in Seattle, we make theatre for Seattle.

-       Seattle theatre must recognize and operate from its position of strength.

-       Making a living and making art should not be mutually exclusive.

This last point came out of our earlier discussion, but was most eloquently encapsulated by Meaghan Darling, fairly paraphrased as, “Nobody owes me a living, but I want them to not prevent me from making a living.” Big House rehearsal schedules were particularly discussed here, as the now-standard 10-6 rehearsal day precludes keeping a day job, while the economics of theatre (and of course there is much debate here) can’t offer a sustainable salary for that work (and we lamented how many amazing actors have had to leave town or the profession). We all rallied around this idea, because it is very much in the spirit of Seattle Theatre: What’s Next as a whole – it is a statement that holds within it hope and offers compromise, which seem to me essential components of productive dialogue.

At this point, we retired to People’s Pub for libations and deep fried pickles and further plotted to change the world for the better, but was is said at the post-STWN bar session stays in the bar. You’ll have to come next time.

Many thanks to the Raas-Bergquists of Ghost Light Theatricals for hosting. Great venue, and perfect for this forum (couches plus bar in the lobby).  And thanks to the People’s Pub for holding some space for use and offering up a drink discount.

The next two months have too many holidays to try and gather again, but let’s start thinking about February.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Notes from the September 12, 2011 Meeting

Many thanks to Rob Raas-Bergquist for taking notes last night. We covered a lot of ground in an hour, with the upshot being we believe the forums are valuable, are planning another tentatively scheduled for October 23, and the projects launched at the August 1 meeting are still moving forward. Individual project notes toward the end - forum discussion up front. As always, if you have questions or suggestions, email me. - JJ

You'll have to excuse my scattered notes, I was trying to capture as completely as possible all the points that were made during this meeting. Feel free to peruse at your leisure.

Seattle Theatre What’s Next: Follow up meeting 9/12/11, 7:00

In attendance: Rob Raas-Bergquist, Jim Jewell, Peggy Lee Gannon, Brandon Ryan, Karen Lane, Dani Prados (called away), Tyrone Brown.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Upcoming Planning Session

I have heard a lot of interest in continuing these forums, and also want to give project leads a chance to report progress and recruit more volunteers. So, we're having an informal planning meeting on Monday September 12 at 7pm in Room G at TPS. Facebook event link below:


Drop me a line if you have questions or suggestions.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Community Resource Network

OK, one more, and then I'm closing the laptop.

Rob Raas-Bergquist and Shane Regan have gotten a fantastic start on setting up a Community Resource Network for sharing props and costumes. I've only had time to scan this doc, and I'm really impressed. Read and share comments - they are looking for input.

Community Resource Network

Final thoughts before leaving for NoCal

Just wanted to share a few thoughts before I ditch town for a few days of much-needed rest.

First of all, I want to thank everyone who came out on Monday night, because it was incredibly energizing to share space with such smart, passionate artists. And I want to thank AJ for letting us come and play in his beautiful West of Lenin space.

And, I say play, because it was fun. I laughed, I gave an "amen," I may have done an Arsenio fist pump because I'm that old. But, the most important thing was that we got to work.

That's really why I tried to bring this meeting together, and was so happy with how it went. If something is important, if it has value, we do it. We take the same positive, generative, proactive, can-do spirit that gets every one of our productions on stage and we apply it to the art of business.*

Before I leave, I'm going to shoot a bunch of author invite to this blog around. Please use it to organize for as long as it is valuable, post info and contacts for projects, but let's get these projects a life and home of their own as soon as possible. Our aim isn't to build a new structure, but better use what we have.

Much love to everyone in this crazy, wonderful community of artists - see you next week!


* - props again to Tyrone Brown for bringing this phrase into the discussion.

Local Playwright Initiative

There was a fair amount of interest in this at the forum and even more at the pub afterward. I originally floated this idea after the Outrageous Fortune discussion last spring.

You can get the original, loosest, highest-level proposal here. Lots more to be talked about at a first meeting - I really believe this kind of vertical-integration is important, and will require being very clear and specific on respective costs and values to potential participating orgs.

I guess what I'm saying is - it takes a leap of faith. Many of the best things do.

I've got a list already - I'll pull together a first get-together after I return to Seattle next week.

The Space Committee

The issue of performance and rehearsal space availability was mentioned time and again on Monday. There are a lot of issues on the table - using the venues we have, finding new space, non-traditional spaces, and working with the DPD. The notes below are the starting point as forwarded by Dan Tarker, Roy Arauz and Aaron more. As always, either reach out to the directly or email me if you want to get connected with the project leads.

Here is an off the cuff mission statement. We'll refine it as we move forward.

The mission of the space committee is threefold:
• To talk with independent theatre companies about their challenges and needs in regards to securing rehearsal and performance spaces.
• To connect with current theatre venues offering rental spaces to theatres for rehearsal and performances in order to learn what their issues are and how to support their business models.
• To build relationships with non-traditional or alternative spaces (store fronts, office buildings, schools, etc.) to learn how independent theatres can secure these spaces at an affordable rate.
• To develop a mechanism to deliver this information and help independent theatre companies secure space for their performances.
• To investigate possibilities surrounding developing a theatre space that can be shared by a number of independent theatres in a cooperative manner.

Thursday, August 4, 2011


I will endeavor to get individual posts for each project up before I head to NoCal tomorrow, but for now wanted to make sure I shared what made it to the big list on the wall on Monday. As always email me if you need help connecting with a project you are interested in.

Note, too, that I am just writing names on as they appeared on the list - help me sort out any mistakes or make important adds.

Committee to re-launch the Fringe Festival
- Jake Groshong
- Beth Raas-Bergquist

Advisory committee to connect with other festivals
- Sarah Grosman
- Maridee Slater
- Dani Prados

Coordinated Lobbying Efforts
- Jose Amador
- Andy Fife (we only added him because he and I have discussed this briefly - you aren't on any hooks, Andy, but important to that discussion)

Hive launch
- Maridee Slater
- Renata Friedman
- Dani Prados

Short Takes on Art/PechaKucha
- Carl Sander
- Jim Jewell

Local Playwright Initiative
- Jim Jewell
- Tracy Vicory-Rosenquest
- Meghan Arnette

Holes Not Drills - Marketing Meeting Re-Launch
- Jim Jewell

Seattle Public Schools Venues
- Craig Bradshaw

Community Resource Network (prop/costume sharing)
- Rob Raas-Bergquist
- Shane Regan

Coordinating Volunteers for TPS
- Can someone please remind me who took this one on?

The Space Committee
- Aaron Moore
- Dan Tarker
- Roy Arauz

If you have taken a lead on a project and I didn't list you, or you have updates, please email me. And, as I mentioned, I'll be adding single posts with as many project details as I have today.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Lists: Creating a Commonplace

Once our speakers finished last night, we took a short break and then reconvened to have a group discussion aimed at filling out four lists: Values, Challenges, Opportunities and Projects. The last list speaks for itself, and we'll be posting project entries along with contact info for those who want to help shortly.

The aim of the other three lists was to create a commonplace - to get down on paper some ideas we could come to rough consensus on, and from which we can proceed. Here is what we came up with (and you will see crossover amongst the lists):

(think of this in term of statement of belief - modeled on NPR's "This I Believe")
- sharing/collaboration/mentoring are valuable
- we can get more people through the doors
- value to working together in lobbying efforts
- communicating and demonstrating that we take responsibility (fiscal responsibility, respect for existing structures and ourselves)
- sustainability - financial, human
- diversity and the conscious embrace of ethnic, gender, age - the need for greater diversity backstage and onstage
- there is real value in our contributions to Seattle

- "fringe" is problematic (or maybe it isn't)
- lack of space (performance, rehearsal and shop)
- difficulties of owning/managing a space
- working with Seattle DPD
- perceived value of theatre
- education about Seattle organizations/government
- communicating with non-theater audience
- fiscal solvency/responsibility

- sharing of resources (space, props, costumes)
- ArtsCrush connecting with other festivals
- open ears in the Mayor's office
- modular light/sound package
- educational exchanges and mentorship
- mine the lessons learned from/by other art forms
- TPS - volunteer your time, commit your company
- underused performance space in Seattle Public Schools

There was so much more of value said. I encourage anyone who attended to share their thoughts - either email me the notes you want posted or a request to be added as a blog author. I'll try to make sense of my event notes and share them as well.

PechaKucha Info from Carl Sander

The format for the talks is called PechaKucha, it started with architect/designers in Japan in 2003 and has spread around the world. Each speaker gets 20 slides and each slide is up for 20 second - no more, no less, so each talk runs 6 minutes 40 seconds. The PechaKucha Seattle event this Friday looks amazing.


The other one I mentioned is Ignite Seattle. http://www.igniteseattle.com/

Here’s a link to an article in Seattle Magazine about various short forms of “idea sharing” happening around town. http://www.seattlemag.com/article/lifestyle/feature-seattle-s-idea-sharing-explosion

Bring Us In From the Fringe

Maridee Slater's document that was mentioned several times last night can be found HERE.

I'll be adding notes from last night and supporting docs throughout the next several days. If you'd like to be added as a blog author so you can post content, EMAIL ME.

And Oh Lordy was some further discussion held

We'll be posting results of this fantastic evening (our final lists, projects and contacts, more discussion notes) in the coming days, but I can tell you this - when I departed the pub near 1am, I was not the last to leave. I am incredibly honored to be part of the group of people who gathered tonight, because they did more than talk (though talk we did that AT LENGTH) - they put their names down and they started working on new projects right then and there.

I could not have hoped for more from this night. Watching artists challenge and be challenged and step up - I'm at a loss for further words.

Except these.

Thank you.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Wrapping Up

After the evaluation period, names were assigned to the several projects that were identified in the course of the evening, and now the group is adjourned and heading to the George and Dragon, where further discussion will be had.

Post Show Discussion Continued

Fiscal solvency needs to be a core value.

The creation of a central fund to help monetize civic arts within the city.

A workshop/symposium to develop ways to communicate with the city.

Fact sharing between artists teaching ways to handle arts resources.

Hive launch.

Bringing people together to help focusing on identifying and using the resources available. Creation of a think tank to create a formal structure to help people understand the civic resources available.

Are other arts in Seattle doing some of this work already? What are the lessons that they have learned.

Leveraging a theater alliance, in order to be able to apply for larger grants.

Creating a volunteer coordinator in order to contact TPS aligned organizations and attempt to get them to staff volunteer hours.

TPS could be used more often than it is.

Pacha Kucha bi-annual symposium
Local playwright initiative

Seattle Public Schools, opportunity talk to S Public Schools in order to use their spaces as theatrical venues. Further tied into a space allocation committee.

Post Presentation Discussion

What follows are some of the salient points raised during this time, updated sporadically.

Creation of a list of available resources that could be shared among theater companies (Resource Sharing List).

Resurrection of Seattle Fringe Festival, starting with the creation of an exploratory/advisory committee.

Identification of "Fringe" as merely a label that was created for local media to latch onto. As a label it is problematic...'Fringe Festival' is an international brand.

It is possible to get more people in the door, it is a core value that we should adopt.

Space is a core issue, but it is important to note that the old models do not necessarily work for all companies. Need to focus on ways that opportunities are available for all.

Need to figure out a way to get DPD to cooperate with community.

Is it possible to develop a mobilized lights and sound system for smaller companies to share for productions. A modular equipment project.

The community is greatly undervalued within the city as seen with 619 Western, Columbia City Cinera, etc.

Extra Speaker: Sarah Grosman

Calling out the destructive world and intrusive realm of theater chat-rooms.

Need to step away from the belief that theater is marginalized. We can't divorce ourselves from the realities, but also recognize that the artform itself has a remarkable bouyancy, ability to survive and adapt.

An over riding fear of trying to do new, unsafe things, far too many safe choices are being made out there. The way we treat rehearsals and one an other rigorously and respectfully, how can we expect the work to be taken seriously or be rigorous?

Craig Bradshaw: For gods' sake, ask for help.

Theater is a community of the people who make it. There is no artform that is more local, resourceful than theater. We have a tendency toward insularity and clique-ishness.

Lists the same mindset that has been affecting the local scene from Fringe through to the big-houses...the one thing that is continually ignored and therefore not used often enough in the mindset: Knowing how to ask for help.

Remember to simply ask. There are resources that could be used.

Meaghan Arnette: Be About Seattle

Need to keep re-thinking about how we do this, and not get stuck in the mire of nostalgia and being bullheaded about these issues. The issues have been around a long time, and a specific

Seattle is a huge boom and bust city, we're on the verge of a Seattle Theater Renaissance, so get ready.

Local Touring Network that is about this region. And quit worrying about the areas beyond our reach.

Stonger organization for playwrights, learn to build communities around playwrights. Create a Humana of the PNW. Learning to create and collaborating on the production side.

Next: Craig Bradshaw.

Caitlin Sullivan: Seattle as Incubator

Throws down against the notion of considering ourselves a World Class Theater Town, it does a great disservice to the talent that is here, and compared to what? New York? Chicago? What we've got is our own, and its identity needs to be cultivated here, then it will be recognized beyond.

Goal shouldn't be more theater companies, but more great theater.

Fringe is more the R&D wing of the Seattle Theater Community. Need to have institutions more present in the regular conversation.

There is a great disservice being done by simply focusing on just getting a space, and not treating what we're doing with the respect and attention it deserves.

Local Playwright Initiative to be discussed at the G&D...

The success that Live Girls have had in being a nomad.

A call is out to find ways for interpretive artists to work with generative artists.

Next, Meaghan Arnette.

Carl Sander: Pacha Kucha

Essentially presenting another idea in which to share ideas with other like minded individuals, specifically Pacha Kucha, which is identified as a very convivial way to communicate ideas.

Carl would like to have one that addresses the culture in Seattle specifically...Some theme ideas: The Last Word (A Critic and artist talk about the dynamic between the two fields) ...A Brief History of arts and history in Seattle. Arts and Sports and their overlap. 10 Ideas to Build Community and Structure. And others.

Has a plan he's willing to talk about.

The demographic of Pacha Kucha and Ignite (two other similar models that have proven successful in Seattle) are pretty broad, a great way to get community involved with us.

Next: Caitlin Sullivan.

Tyrone Brown: Do Your Homework

Re-start Brown Box theater in Seattle: We need to understand the business side of running a company.

We have a ton of great ideas, but ideas alone will not help us gain traction with less artistic minded folks who could support our endeavors.

Another call to bring back the Seattle Fringe Theater!


A call to have opportunities to share knowledge between companies. Also, it is important for the work that is created here to be able to spread out into the world~

Next, Carl Sanders

Karen Zeller Lane: We Need More Specificity and Ways to Connect with Audiences

TPS representative: wants to find new ways of engaging Seattle audiences.

Lack of specificity in mission plagues our theater companies. We have no way of developing relationships when theater companies do not have an identity to latch onto.

Artists need to compensated better and there are ways to get that done. Bay Area and New England Theater contracts. Without audiences, no base to provide an income flow.

A danger to specificity is that it leads to trench warfare and lack of cooperation between companies.

NOTES: Bay Area contract not only addressed mid-sized theaters, but also allowed Fringe companies to use equity actors without breaking the bank.

Aaron Moore Wants a Change in Attitude and Approach

Stop thinking about this as a series of specific actions we can take. We need to share more with each other, think about the craft as something that's specific to Seattle...Taking a new approach, not just in terms of the work that's being created, but also in terms of tone. Creating works that is more of enthusiasm builders.

Looking for adjustments that are simple, making ourselves more available, and open and positive. Looking for ways to address our fears.


Market Research Theater (at Annex) found that the more a Theater likes a play, the less the audience did.

More about 'talking to Seattle:' We need to create theater that speaks to the Seattle population.

Next: Karen Zeller Lane

Jena Cane's Search for Identity

Came to Seattle because of its Theater reputation, created One World Theater...Can Seattle theater stand for something? So that in 20 years we can look back on tonight's event and say that we made a determination to have Seattle mean something.

Jena Cane's idea for that mission: Fresh new work. for her specifically: New script, new work, in general.

A question regarding whether such a focus has helped other cities out was raised, and it wouldn't hurt to try.

Next Aaron Moore.

Jake Groshong Asks Important Questions

Eliminate the notion that theaters are competing against each other for audience base. More information sharing. Availability of space sharing...Organizations that have a structure to take a lead in making spaces available.

Why isn't there a committee that is focused on finding more alternative spaces for theater companies to perform in?

Re-start the Fringe Festival, throws in the hat for Balagan Theater, is willing to discuss that creation after What's Next is completed.

Asks for the creation of more community based committees that gathers forces to address theater needs.

Discussion Items:
Seattle Scenic Studios, makes it possible to inexpensively create scenic Design

Beth Raas did her thesis on the recreation of the Seattle Fringe and has a business model already in place.

TPS is stretched beyond belief, a call to have delegates from each theater company to devote to addressing this issue.

NEXT: Jena Cane.

Bring Us In From the Fringe, Maridee Slater, and company

Participating Administratively, coalition of theater artists in Seattle, in order to create a pipeline, exchanging theater and shows nationwide. Mentioned the number of projects that originated in SEattle in the 90s (Hothouse, Fringe Festival, etc.) Quotes McCandless that there is a lot of theater being generated but it has nowhere to go after that creation. Called Bring Us In From the Fringe.

Group has spoken with representatives from Seattle Center, who say that if a group of interested parties come together, they will be willing to sit down to talk about the possibility of being able to use the Intiman further.

Next, Jake Groshong.

About Our Moderators and Rules of Engagements

Peggy Gannon, an actress with a ton of producing history in town, most recently as one of the founding members of Man Alone Productions.

Andy Forrest, founder of Entros, and a general entrepreneur here to help us formalize the proceedings

Speakers are given three minutes to present their ideas, after that time, two minutes are given over to the audience to address the issues raised by the idea.

After an hour, we will have gotten through our speakers for the evening. A quick break occurs, and then a broader conversation will occur in which Values, Challenges, Opportunities and Projects are identified and listed.

Moderators reserve the right to table discussion to later address at the George and Dragon Pub.

Up first is Maridee Slater and Dani Prados, a the third member of their company who were responsible for crafting a letter that helped spark this event.

And we're off...

Not a full house (summer weather impacts another evening's worth of attendance) but a pretty sizable house nontheless. Time to get to the nitty gritty...

AJ Epstein, proprietor of the West of Lenin, which is hosting this event, warms the crowd up, and introduces event organizer Jim Jewell.

Jim hopes this won't be the last such event scheduled, but much depends on how things go tonight. The most important thing about tonight for Jim is the creation of an actual project list of items that will be done in the future months ahead

Jim introduces our facilitators Peggy Gannon and Andy Forrest, and the event has begun.

Ten Minutes Before It Begins

And the personages are filtering in...Various ADs and company members from up and down the Seattle Theatrical landscape.

A quick glance through the scheduled speakers (who will receive their turns to address the crowd at random) showcase that same diversity:

Live Girls' AD Meaghan Arnette, Tyrone Brown, Balagan Theater's Jake Groshong and Ryan Higgins, Playwright and general provocateur Carl Sander, Tech Director and former AD of A Theater Under The Influence Craig Bradshaw, AD of the BrownBox Theater Tyrone Brown...Just a few of the people who will be sharing their ideas this evening.

A complete listing of who is attending would take more time than is given at the moment, suffice it to say it's an impressive list.

The format for presentation favors the quick and speedy, a basic introduction of an idea, quick informal discussion of same and then a quick shift to the next topic. We will do our best to bring you the highlights.

And now, the waiting...

Tonight's the night!

Just over nine hours before Seattle Theatre: What's Next? at West of Lenin and The George & Dragon Pub. Very excited for the conversation. We'll post updates to this blog as the night progresses, and will try to add supporting documents here as well.

For me, it started with my Open Letter to the Intiman Board, but I also want to give Maridee Slater a shout-out for bringing people together to draft a community letter this spring, and to Peggy Gannon, Scot Augustson, Jena Cane, and Allison Narver for getting together to look at ways to encourage further conversation. Tonight would not have been possible without their existing energy to tap into.

And, of course, HUGE thanks to AJ Epstein for allowing us to use West of Lenin for this event.

See you tonight!