On October 23rd, Jill Soloway, creator of Transparent, made their explosive appearance on Town Hall’s stage to celebrate the release of their new book She Wants It: Desire Power and Toppling the Patriarchy. For an evening of raucous conversation and feminist debating, they were joined by special guests Hannah Gadsby, Morgan Parker, Nicole J. Georges, and Faith Soloway.
If you’d like to revisit the evening’s discussion, or if you weren’t able to make it to the event, take a look at the photos below, taken by Libby Lewis.
The evening begins with a bustling crowd as friends exchange excited greetings and fill the hall in preparation for Jill and company. (Town Hall’s own Edward Wolcher is excited too!)
Australian comedian Hannah Gadsby brings the house down with an opening comedy routine.
An interlude from musical guest Faith Soloway, who plays a tune to welcome Jill to the stage.
Jill talks with Morgan Parker in preparation for her conversation with Nicole J. Georges and their session of feminist debating—a social sport of Jill’s own design.
Nicole takes the stage with Morgan, and the crowd listens with rapt attention.
After the show, the crowd arrives for book signings and a chance to meet these powerhouse speakers in person. Audience members show off their Soloway swag, and the speakers pose together.
Soloway fans gather for drinks and conversation at a post-event reception. So many were ecstatic to meet Jill and get their books signed!
Since the tragedies at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, the March For Our Lives movement has taken a stand against senseless gun violence. Town Hall was proud to offer these students a platform to speak to our community, share their experiences, and and discuss Glimmer of Hope, the book exploring the stories and struggles of the March For Our Lives movement and its founders.
In episode #25 of In The Moment, correspondent Mónica Guzmán talks with author and nonprofit founder Blair Imani (1:46) about Blair’s experience during a rally-turned-protest. Blair describes how the event led to her getting sent to prison, which in turn helped propel her visibility as a queer, black, Muslim activist.
Chief Correspondent Steve Scher sat down with Peter Sagal (13:50), host of NPR’s “Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me!”. They delve into a personal biography about how running has shaped Peter’s thinking and his life—and how it continues to help him get through tough times. Peter shares the story of crossing the finish line at the 2013 Boston marathon moments before the fateful bombing. Steve and Peter also discuss the factors that motivated Peter to write his book—from a hard year of divorce and not speaking with his children to the 14 marathons he’s run and the feelings that those experiences have made him want to share.
Jini Palmer meets with Ijeoma Oluo (24:17) to talk about her takeaway from Jill Soloway’s appearance on Town Hall’s stage on October 23. Ijeoma tells Jini about how she finds feminist arguing to be more of an exhausting practice than a sport, and how important it is to get facts right if you have the stage. Ijeoma also addresses a misquote from Nicole Georges about Lindy West (who Ijeoma was sitting next to during the event) reminding us that it’s important to stay fired up and encouraging us to give these issues their due of knowledge and consideration.
Social change isn’t just an idea. It’s people on the street forming demonstrations, rallies, and movements that prove the power of collective action. Town Hall is proud to feature two speakers whose work is tapped into that action, and who join us to introduce the people who are embodying change today.
L.A. Kauffman (11/7) has spent more than thirty years immersed in radical movements as a participant, strategist, journalist, and observer. She shares her front-line perspective, delving into the history of America’s major demonstrations to teach us how to read a protest. With insight on protestors ranging from their overall organization and makeup to the signs they carry, Kauffman explores the nuanced relationship between the way movements are made and the impact they have.
At the heart of these movements there are often individuals—and activist Blair Imani (11/9) intends to make sure they are not forgotten. She shines a light on under-celebrated individuals who have made huge contributions to critical social movements over the last century, but who are often overlooked due to their backgrounds or communities of origin. Imani offers us a radical and inclusive approach to history, celebrating women and nonbinary champions of progressive social change.
People drive progress. These speakers remind us that it’s critical to remember the individuals who’ve made social change possible. Listen in and learn about what it means to be the first one to the streets—and the kind of difference we can make when we demonstrate together.
As the summer heat dies down and the leaves start to fall, we’re seeing our historic renovation come together. During the summer our friends at Rafn Construction focused on strengthening the structure at the attic and roof levels, as well as installing the pathways and infrastructure for the building’s new systems. While we love seeing the progress of the repairs on the building’s exterior—with the restored terra cotta and repaired roof—it’s the interior systems that have us most excited right now.
Roofing work started in September, which enabled the construction teams to begin performing moisture-sensitive work. They’ve been installing the new elevator and hanging drywall in mechanical shafts and parts of the Forum (previously “The Downstairs”). But as the weather starts changing, it’s time to get the roof and walls closed up, get heat into the building, and start putting in finish materials, such as drywall and plaster.
Closing walls means finalizing all of the systems inside them. Ventilation, hot water radiators, refrigerant-based heating and cooling, AV wiring and power, sprinklers, fire alarms, and performance lighting are just a few of the systems they’ve been installing and upgrading while the walls and ceilings are still open.
The interior of the building may look like a jungle of conduit and scaffolding right now, but closing up the walls marks a major step toward making Town Hall feel like home again. As the rooms start to look like their old selves (and in plenty of cases, their new selves) we will have more and more opportunities to see these state-of-the-art systems at work.
We can’t wait to feel the year-round comfort of the climate control and put the state-of-the-art sound system through its paces—and we want you there with us to experience it all next Spring!
Sometime in October, 2001 I first heard the opening musical strains of NPR’s “On Point.” They’re enrapturing, unmistakable—and as of 2001, practically untraceable. This was before most of us even knew how to use the internet. Few people had heard of a small online resource called Wikipedia (launched earlier that year) and it would be nearly a decade before music identification apps like Shazam would explode into ubiquity with the iPhone revolution. I had no way to know this was anything more than the program’s theme music—and once I did learn it was a real song, I had no way to track it down. But when I first heard the jaunty snares and hypnotic guitar loop that announced the start of the program, I knew I wanted more. (That particular tune is “Everything Is Alright” by Four Tet, in case you’re curious.)
I was so fascinated to sit down with Town Hall’s Digital Media Producer Jini Palmer to learn about some of the opening music she uses in our Town Hall podcast series.
Frequent radio and podcast listeners are no doubt familiar with the practice of bookending a program with a few bars of catchy ramp-up music. And plenty of listeners will know the peculiar and unique chagrin of loving the ten seconds of theme song that opens their favorite podcast, but having no idea how to locate the full song. That’s why I was so fascinated to sit down with Town Hall’s Digital Media Producer Jini Palmer to learn about some of the opening music she uses in our Town Hall podcast series.
Recently Jini has been updating the series podcasts to feature opening music from the local label Barsuk Records. She’s selecting songs that she thinks speak to the character of each podcast series, transporting listeners to the right headspace while highlighting each show’s individuality. As I listened to these tracks, I was struck by how much each one had its own distinctive flair—which got me wondering about what it would be like to hear these artists perform on Town Hall’s stage.
For the opening song of our Arts & Culture series podcast, Jini chose the languid pop track “Eleanor” by Hibou, the echoing shoegaze-synth solo project of artist Peter Michel. “This song is from Hibou’s first album, and this particular song is kind of a breakdown of the album’s style.” Jini says. “This one has all the same elements that I enjoy in many of their songs, like the synth-drums and ringing guitar, but with a more measured tone that seemed appropriate for introducing the Arts & Culture lectures.”
But Hibou’s breakneck melodic dream pop isn’t absent from our podcast series altogether—the opening music for Town Hall’s insider podcast In The Moment is in fact “Dissolve,” the very first song of Hibou’s self-titled album. And as listeners of In The Moment can attest, those first driving seconds of Hibou’s energy seem relentlessly committed to putting you in a good mood. I wondered aloud to Jini about the possibility of bringing Hibou to Town Hall in person to perform the theme song at a potential live recording of In The Moment. “That sounds great,” Jini chirps, “and I’m sure Hibou would bring great energy. But a live In The Moment still seems a long way off.”
She turns my attention to a different track: “Eating Paper” by David Bazan. The song’s rhythmic rock guitar—alongside steady ringing tones with a curiosity-piquing timbre from an instrument I can’t quite place—comprise the theme music for our Civics series podcast. “I can imagine David Bazan playing to a packed Forum, with all the chairs full and standing room in the new Library and Bar.” As I listen, I can understand why. Bazan’s lyrics are provocative and profoundly down-to-earth. His honest, confessional tone seems to beg for a more personal performance—the kind that Town Hall’s new Forum or Reading Room are perfectly designed for.
“Or maybe in the Great Hall?” The comment startles me; I had pictured Bazan as such a perfect fit for the Forum that it almost feels wrong to move him, even hypothetically. But her reasoning makes sense. “Could you imagine what it would be like to hear him with the acoustic reflector?” I can. The old Great Hall admittedly had some sound quality issues: dead spots, audio distribution trouble, uneven volume depending on where you sat. The new acoustic reflector will deliver higher quality sound evenly throughout the Hall, and is designed to work with amplified, unamplified, and acoustic music. The songs on David Bazan’s album Strange Negotiations (where Jini discovered “Eating Paper”) switch effortlessly between acoustic, rock, and folk—and seem to live somewhere in between.
I was struck by how much each one had its own distinctive flair—which got me wondering about what it would be like to hear these artists perform on Town Hall’s stage.
Our Science series opening song was a bit of a dark horse, but the selection spoke to Jini’s peculiar sense of humor. She selected multi-instrumentalist Eric Elbogen, a.k.a. Say Hi To Your Mom (or just Say Hi for short) to lend us the gently grooving guitar-and-synth chords of his track “Galaxies Will Be Born.” It’s a deliciously ironic choice, given that the lyrics to every song on that album are pretty much exclusively about the life and times of vampires!
“I chose [this song] because the guitar reminded me of stars twinkling. That, combined with the song’s name, made it relate in my mind to Science since we have so many Astronomy events,” Jini explains. “Plus I thought it was a funny juxtaposition to open our Science talks with a song from an album that’s about mythical creatures like vampires. Most people wouldn’t necessarily make that connection unless they were familiar with the album and what it’s about, so it’s mostly just a joke for me.”
The song certainly primes Science listeners with a kind of pensive quality, but Say Hi’s creatures-of-the-night theme took me in a bit of a different direction. Eric’s music would make a fantastic complement to Seattle Radio Theatre’s annual live Halloween broadcasts at Town Hall, such as last year’s popular show Chimes At Midnight or this season’s live broadcast of Orson Welles’ fateful classic War of the Worlds on October 25, 2018. It’d be a real treat to see Say Hi join the live music accompaniment section for a Seattle Radio Theatre show—but sadly that’s just a beautiful dream. For now, we’ll have to make do with rocking out to his catchy vampire-themed album Bleeder’s Digest on the way to the show.
As our conversation draws to a close, Jini delights me with news of her runner-up musical choice. “I was considering using something by The Long Winters,” she tells me. “I almost went with their song ‘Unsalted Butter’ for the Arts & Culture podcast, and ‘Scared Straight’ for Civics. I like both of those songs a lot, and I dig The Long Winters. But they just weren’t the perfect fit like the other bands. Barsuk has so much good stuff, it was hard to pick.” The comment encourages me to dig deeper into the archives of other bands on the Barsuk record label—and there are plenty of great options to choose from. It’s strange the way we come to learn about amazing music, and how we come full circle. Exploring the origins of theme music back in 2001 inspired me to do the same for Town Hall’s podcasts and fall in love with the music on Barsuk records. And at the end of it all I re-encounter The Long Winters—a group I discovered several years ago because they’ve lent one of their songs to another podcast to use as a theme song.
I can imagine The Long Winters really putting Town Hall’s new acoustic system through its paces, and how they’d certainly bring the house down as headliners at one of our annual Distilled fundraisers or a reopening celebration for our newly renovated building. Of course, I know a Long Winters concert at Town Hall is purely hypothetical. Indeed, so would be a performance by Hibou, David Bazan, or Say Hi. For now I’ll have to make do with the first ten seconds of our podcasts.
But we’ve come a long way since 2001—this time I know where to find the songs.
Barsuk Records has been kind enough to let us use songs from their incredible repertoire. Take a look at their website to find more amazing groups like the ones features on Town Hall’s podcasts.
Episode #24 of In The Moment brings us a conversation between Chief Correspondent Steve Scher and Seattleness co-author Natalie Ross (2:50). She details the things she loves about Seattle, and reveals her history as a Geography major and how it morphed into a focus on landscape architecture and interest in maps. Together, Natalie and Steve discuss the fascinating new insight that comes from examining information from a topographical perspective—and an opportunity to see the place we live in a different light.
Steve also sits in with Dr. Marie Wong (13:04) about the upheaval of land value that’s happening in Seattle’s International District. Wong explains how developers are swooping in and purchasing one-story buildings with the intent to redesign them for newer (and more expensive) purposes. Wong outlines the harmful effects of this practice and explores the potential consequences of this new wave of developments—whose rise may precipitate an exodus of local businesses who can no longer afford to remain in the International District.
Town Hall Correspondent Grace Hamilton interviews David Hu (15:45) about cutting-edge research in the field of animal locomotion and behavior, and how new discoveries are yielding benefits in a vast array of fields, from robotics to food conservation. Hu enlightens us on the topics that are intriguing scientists the most, including the water-storage capacity of cat tongues and the rapid food waste breakdown capabilities of the black soldier fly larvae.
And Edward Wolcher (28:01), Town Hall’s Curator of Lectures, offers us an update on the November calendar. He talks about upcoming Town Hall programs surrounding the rapidly approaching mid-term elections, including our Election Night Viewing Party. Edward also highlights a handful of more lighthearted Town Hall events taking place following the elections—in case audiences need a break from intense political discussion.
Interested in the history and future of Seattle’s districts? Last season Erik Molano, one of our Inside/Out Neighborhood Residents, put together events about two of Seattle’s neighborhoods. Check out out recordings of these events about the history and future of both Capitol Hill and the Central District.
Last year, Grace Hamilton interviewed Yale Ornithologist Richard Prum about animal mate choice and the evolution of beauty. Listen to her interview here.
Edward Wolcher has appeared on In The Moment a few times before. You can hear him again in Episode #10 and Episode #22 (or onstage giving introductions at many Town Hall events!)
Roughly 100,000 people walk through our doors each year. With more than 400 programs spanning the arts, sciences, and civics, Town Hall cultivates an engaged and empathetic community. We produce half of these events, while the other half of our calendar represents the work of 90+ other nonprofits and cultural producers who call Town Hall home. There are plenty of ways you can give to Town Hall and help create a home for this vibrant network of community organizations across Seattle. Whether it’s through volunteer time, tax-deductible donations, or even as an exciting side-effect of your online shopping, there are so many exciting ways for you to support Town Hall.
Give While You Shop
AmazonSmile is a simple way for you to support Town Hall every time you shop on Amazon, at no cost to you. Smile.Amazon.com offers the same products at the same prices—but with the added bonus that Amazon will donate a portion of the purchase price to a charitable organization of your choice. And from October 29 to November 2, AmazonSmile is increasing their donation rate, meaning your AmazonSmile donations will have an even greater impact! This is the largest AmazonSmile bonus donation window to date—so if you’re doing Amazon shopping, be sure to donate during this window to make the most of this incredible offer.
To ensure your gifts have even greater impact, you can potentially double (or even triple!) your donation to Town Hall through the generosity of your employer. Many companies offer matching programs for charitable donations, matching your gifts for certain organizations dollar-for-dollar—and sometimes more. What’s more, your employer may also provide donations to match your hours volunteering time at Town Hall events! If you or your spouse work for a company that offers matching donations, send in the employer’s matching gift confirmation to Town Hall so we can credit you for enabling this matching gift. All volunteer hour matching donations are invested back into our volunteer program—to learn more about volunteering at Town Hall, visit our volunteer page.
And because Town Hall Seattle is a 501c3 non-profit organization, your donations are tax-deductible! Check out our support page for more info.
Our organization relies on the generosity of our community, and it’s never been easier to support Town Hall. Your donations help us keep our tickets radically affordable and our rental rates low, ensuring that everyone can afford to be a part of Town Hall—whether onstage or in the audience.
In episode #23 of In The Moment, sit in with our correspondent Lesley Hazleton as she talks with Michael Hebb (2:05) about her memories of one of his Death Over Dinner discussions. She shares her feelings of freedom and the depth of the kinship she felt at being able to talk openly about death with complete strangers. Hebb and Hazleton explore the philosophy of such deep and meaningful conversations, and how they have the power to transform our understanding of our mortality and ourselves.
Chief Correspondent Steve Scher brings us back-to-back interviews. First he meets with acclaimed journalist and former New York Times correspondent Chris Hedges (16:35), who insists that resistance must become our education if we are to fight the collapse of American society. Then, Steve speaks with David Reich (25:18), Harvard Medical School’s Professor of Genetics, about his work with ancient human DNA. Reich illuminates us on modern DNA research and the ways it is changing our understanding of ourselves as a species.
Host Jini Palmer highlights a Q&A from the conversation between Jose Antonio Vargas and Ijeoma Oluo (27:18). An audience member asks them “How do we go from the microcosm of life to the macrocosm of the country?” To answer this question, Jose and Ijeoma explore the idea that we are all activists in our own way, and address the question of taking action in our communities in order to bring about change on a larger scale.
Lesley Hazleton is Town Hall’s first Scholar In Residence, and a veteran of our stage. Hear more talks with her in our online media library.
Learn more about Death Over Dinner, Michael Hebb’s end-of-life awareness project turned global phenomenon.
How do we want to die?Where do we want to be when our lives end, and what do we want to happen to us after we’re gone? It’s a topic we go to great lengths to avoid, from our hospitals to our homes. But for Michael Hebb, creating an environment for us to join our families at the table and have a conversation about the end of our lives is at the core of his work. Michael Hebb will be speaking on Town Hall’s stage on 10/11/2018 to explore ideas in his book Let’s Talk About Death (Over Dinner). He sat down with Town Hall’s Copywriter Alexander Eby for a deeper dive into the most critical conversation we’re not having.
AE:Your Death Over Dinner project is fascinating. Can you tell me a little bit about where it all started?
MH: For the last 20 years I’ve been gathering people to reinvigorate how we eat together and spend time together at the dinner table, and to make it as impactful as possible once we get there. In many ways we’ve lost the art and the knowledge of how to gather people at a table—not just go out to a fancy restaurant, but actually really use the table as a site of culture and engagement and joy.
This has ranged from bringing Presidents together—working with the Clinton Global Initiative and the Obamas—to working with people that are unsheltered or homeless or suffering from chronic illness. In these contexts we often work our way to the topic of death, and that layer has really morphed the table into a site of healing. Death Over Dinner was a way to get people back to the table to have this conversation and create healing on a larger scale, hopefully to reach millions. If we are our own best healers and our community is the second best, what are the tools for us to help deeply engage with each other and work on the issues that we repress?
AE: And the tool you decided to start with was something that’s commonly present in our homes. We can all get our heads around the idea of sitting down at the table with family or friends and talking over a meal.
MH: Right. Death Over Dinner was a way to cultivate a warmer and more inviting environment to have a conversation about this very complex and weighty topic of death. It’s provocative and it gets people’s attention, but in many ways our approach to death is very broken. 75% of Americans want to die at home and only 25% of us do. So when it comes to end-of-life, half of America is not getting its wishes fulfilled.
Often the reason for this is that people’s wishes haven’t been communicated in the proper way. Families don’t feel emboldened to honor those wishes, and they don’t know what decisions to make for a loved one when dealing with a tragedy or a crisis or a terminal illness. The cost associated with not having that conversation and not talking about death—you can’t even put a price tag on it. The number one cause of bankruptcy in America is medical expense, and the number one line item in those medical expenses is end-of-life expense. It’s literally bankrupting us to continue not having these conversations. Not to mention the emotional toll. If something tragic happens to your parents, your spouse, your friends, and you don’t know what they want, there’s such an additional emotional weight that settles if you’re not able to have these open conversations.
AE: I imagine you could learn a great deal about the people you’re closest to in your life by hearing from them what they would want their last wishes to be.
MH: I’ve never done a death dinner with a married couple that hasn’t said to one another “I’ve never heard that before,” or “I never told you this before.” In a good way. I’ve seen families build compassion and reveal hidden depths to one another. I’ve seen strangers become lifelong friends. We know it’s a critical conversation, but almost no one takes that next step with us, holds our hand or opens the door for us. I wanted to walk into these canyons and help people find the pathway, I wanted to take them through the labyrinth.
And I wanted my book to act as a guide us to start thinking about death and preparing to have this conversation in general. It’s meant to act as a resource to get people thinking about how to talk with the people we love, and also to look inward at our own lives through the lens of death. Death meditation has been around since the birth of philosophy, and is one of the best ways to actually identify how you want to live, to create your own personal mission statement for life. It’s the oldest, strongest medicine for knowing thyself and connecting with others—and it’s also practical as hell. It’s extraordinary that death, the topic we avoid talking about the most, has this much impact.
AE: When you say this is a conversation that we’re not really having, do you mean we as in all of everyone humanity or do you mean just American culture?
MH: Well, I can speak to a certain measure of authority that we aren’t having this conversation in the United States, but this is also true all over the world. In America, it was not until recently that doctors and nurses and social workers had an established code for end-of-life conversations. There’s an emotional weight that comes with those professions due to the fact that many of these doctors and nurses don’t have a healthy way to talk about the deaths that they’ve witnessed. There’s a very large percentage of our medical profession suffering from PTSD, with the highest burnout rate of any industry. There have been improvements, but we’re still at the very beginning.
And this isn’t a problem unique to the United States. I recently worked with the leadership of the Australian healthcare system, the Australian Center for Health Care Research. They discovered our initiative and reached out to us after they did a three year study which concluded that conversations about end-of-life would be the most effective way to improve healthcare in Australia. They were very clear that they had repressed the conversation, and as a result they did not have an especially robust system for living wills, power of attorney, advanced care directives—none of these notarized documents anywhere near the level they would have liked. I told them these documents are great and we should all have them, but it’s the conversations—the living, nuanced, personal conversations—that really help family members to know how to honor somebody or how to make decisions for them if they’re incapacitated.
AE: Do you recommend people organize their own Death Dinners?
MH: Having this conversation over dinner is the context that I introduced, but the book is meant to be for anybody. The goal was to increase people’s literacy and comfort around this topic and their ability to have their own end-of-life conversations with the people in their lives. You can have them in person, over phone, over E-mail. The project is for people who gravitate towards the comfort of dinner as a setting, to remove that barrier to entry. All you have to do is roast a chicken.