What’s Your Curiosity Craving?

At Town Hall, we often invite folks to feed their curiosities, and for Homecoming Festival, we’re asking: what is your curiosity craving? In this series, Town Hall staffers will turn their own curiosity cravings into custom festival itineraries. Interested in sharing your own craving and the Homecoming lineup that satisfies it? Write us at communications@townhallseattle.org for the chance to be featured here. If selected, we’ll give you free tickets to your custom itinerary!

Donna Bellew, a Town Hall board member, shares her itinerary:

My curiosity craving is to explore Aristotle’s four cardinal virtues as a way of understanding what is important to being a just society and a just individual.  I know it sounds big and heavy but also super interesting and it turns out Town Hall has A LOT of programming that covers Aristotle’s four virtues: prudence, temperance, courage and justice.

Prudence

Prudence is not a word thrown used much lately.  Maybe it’s too formal or just old fashioned but it’s hard to not argue for the need for some common sense, wisdom and good judgment. On Tuesday, September 17, Marie Forleo takes Town Hall’s stage to delve into her book Everything is Figureoutable, exploring the idea that if you’re having trouble solving a problem or making a dream happen, the problem isn’t you. According to Marie, it’s not that you’re not hardworking, intelligent, or deserving, but that you haven’t yet installed the one key belief that will change everything—everything is figureoutable.

Temperance

Temperance is a word used even less frequently.  In our extreme culture moderation does not get a lot of playing time.   That’s why I’m looking forward to hearing, on September 13, Marilynne Robinson train her incisive mind on our modern political climate and the mysteries of faith. With perspectives from her new essay collection What Are We Doing Here? she investigates how the work of great thinkers about America like Emerson and Tocqueville inform our political consciousness, and discusses the way that beauty informs and disciplines daily life.

Justice  

Luckily justice is a word we hear a lot, mostly in the context of all the extreme injustices that are present in our lives and in the world. Seattle is very lucky that many of Town Hall’s civic programs take a close look at issues involving justice.  One of the many that I’m excited to see in September is Ibram X. Kendi’s talk on the concept of antiracism and how to reenergize and reshape the conversation about racial justice in America. It takes place on September 14.

Courage

Courage is a big, intoxicating word and one that I’m always curious to learn more about which is why I can’t wait to hear author Isabella Tree speak at Town Hall on September 26.  I’m looking forward to hearing the story of how when Tree and her husband (environmentalist Charlie Burrell) found themselves struggling to make a profit from the heavy clay soils of their West Sussex farm, they decided to try something new. They let it go wild. To enlighten us on the trials and outcomes of this bold plan, Tree joins us on Town Hall’s stage with excerpts from her new book Wilding – The Return of Nature to an English Farm. Tree recounts the questions she faced in the process of letting nature reclaim her 3,500 acre, centuries-tilled farmland. What form did the land have before human beings claimed it? What kinds of animals had been crucial to its ecology, and how could they be reintroduced? What would the neighbors think? Join Tree for a discussion of the challenges and successes of this bold mission to revive land and wildlife by letting nature take its course, reversing the cataclysmic declines in biodiversity that challenge Britain and the world.

Want to find more? Check out our full Homecoming Festival lineup!

Town Hall Teen Nights!

Town Hall’s 22 & Under program makes all of our self-produced events free for youth, but all throughout our Homecoming Festival we’re going even further. We’re partnering with TeenTix to host pre-event celebrations for youth only—Town Hall Teen Nights. Teens, drop in at these pre- and post-event gatherings for snacks, talkbacks, and the big ideas you crave.

9/5 Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor – 6:30PM-7:30PM 

Join us for pizza and cupcakes at this pre-show meetup in the Otto (in the Forum).

9/9 Deep End Friends Podcast – 6:30PM-7:30PM

Young Women Empowered hosts a pre-show meet-and-greet in the Otto for youth to mix, mingle, and meet activist and author Virgie Tovar of the Deep End Friends podcast.

9/11 Math Night Pre-Event Game Night – 6PM-7PM

Join us before the show for snacks and games with Zeno Math in the Otto (in the Forum).

9/11 Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz – 6:30PM-7:30PM

Join us for pizza and cupcakes at this pre-show meetup in the Otto (in the Forum).

9/14 Hydrant Showcase – 6:30PM-8PM

Stop by the Forum and join Hydrant for an all-city young musicians’ mixer and jam co-hosted by alumni of The Residency, Rhapsody Project/Unbroken Circle, Próxima Generación, and Beats to the Rhymes. 

9/14 Ibram X. Kendi Post-Event Conversation Circle – 9PM-10PM

Sit in with facilitator ChrisTiana ObeySumner in the Reading Room as they lead a post-event conversation circle exploring Kendi’s discussions of antiracism.

9/25 Jonathan Safran Foer – 6:30PM-7:30PM

Join us for pizza and cupcakes at this pre-show meetup in the Otto (in the Forum).

Town Hall Seattle Reads the Mueller Report

Mere days before Robert Mueller testified before the House Judiciary Committee regarding his special council report, Town Hall hosted more than 100 local actors, journalists, and community activists for a 24-hour marathon reading of the 448-page report in its entirety, including redactions and footnotes. 

It was Town Hall at its best—a community-driven, highly collaborative program, an act of citizen self-education, and an immediate response to what’s happening in the world around us. It was also a wildly ambitious testament to the flexibility of both our new Forum space (formerly known as Downstairs) and our staff. Several hundred audience members joined us throughout the reading, with folks wandering in during the wee hours of the morning and 1,400 more joining throughout the livestream (even a few media outlets stopped by, including The Guardian).  

We’re so grateful to the event organizers (Brian Faker, Sarah Harlett, and Carl Sander), the 100 plus readers who volunteered their time, and to everyone who participated throughout the marathon event. 

You can still experience Town Hall reading the Mueller report for a non-dramatized and non-partisan presentation of this critical document. Watch the full event below (broken into Parts 1 and 2) or listen to the audio, released as a special In the Moment podcast miniseries

Do you want to support timely civics programs like this one? Support Town Hall by becoming a member today.

The Media is Actually Dying

Town Hall and Fuse Washington collaborated for a Media is Dying panel discussion on July 11. Anya Shukla, a rising 11th grader at Lakeside School and a TeenTix Press Corps editor, was in attendance:

I didn’t know that the media was deteriorating. According to Bloomberg, journalism is decaying all around the country, at organizations such as Buzzfeed, Vice Media, and CNN. Even in Seattle, what many would consider an artsy, media-oriented city, the number of journalistic opportunities have dropped by 40%. These are the kinds of cold, hard, scary facts that I learned last week at Town Hall’s The Media is Dying panel, featuring Adrienne Russell, Clifford Cawthon, and Peter Jackson.

I could tell that I was out of my depth as soon as I walked into the event space, which was filled with local political chatter and orange YES t-shirts. I’m not exactly cut off from politics–I keep up with the New York Times–but compared to my fellow audience members, I knew nothing. I don’t pay attention to the goings-on in Seattle; I don’t know who our senators or representatives are. Further proof of my ignorance: I thought journalism was a viable career

According to Jackson, the media’s slow and violent death is not because of a lack of interest–schools are overflowing with story-hunting, news-sniffing students. It’s not due to a lack of opportunity: the internet, with its ability to democratize the news system, has made it far easier for grassroots media organizations to thrive. So what’s the problem?

Unfortunately, the web is a double edged sword: although the internet opens doorways for smaller journalistic organizations, it is also responsible for many of the media’s current struggles. As a former newspaper editor in the audience told us, 65% of a newspaper’s revenue comes from advertisements, but only 15% of the paper’s income goes to the reporters. A decline in advertisers–perhaps because companies can now promote their content by paying Google or using strong search engine optimization–means a reduction in staff pay. As well, the internet makes it far easier for readers to stop subscribing to news: if you can find information anywhere, for free, why should you have to pay the Washington Post or the New York Times? Of course, less subscribers means less money for journalists. The world wide web, a once-brilliant beacon of hope and prosperity for newspapers, is now media’s downfall. 

Money can also affect papers in ways one wouldn’t expect. Jackson let us in on a sobering truth: the best health information comes from a website associated with Kaiser Permanente. Some of the greatest photojournalists in Seattle work for the Starbucks Newsroom. Journalists have to go where the money is, and often, that money is in the hands of corporations focused on promoting their brand. Especially when your article might hurt the billion-dollar company that owns your paper, it can be hard to tackle hard-hitting stories. Reporters can’t bite the hand that feeds them, even though that goes against the necessity of telling the truth in journalism, of not sitting on important information, of being objective. 

So the media is dying. But what can we do to slow its demise? Russell thought that, like in several Nordic countries, government should be required to pay for journalism. Newspapers are a public utility, after all. Jackson believed that we should foster a love for the news at an early age by having children share articles in school. This will pay off down the road, when those kids grow into adults with the power to subscribe–i.e. give their money–to whichever newspaper they choose. I think we need to get young people involved with their cities. Part of the reason I felt out of place at the panel was because I don’t keep up with local politics; I don’t know what I’m saying YES to. I don’t subscribe to the Seattle Times because I don’t think the goings-on of my town are as important as what’s happening in New York or Washington D.C.. If I felt that there was something Seattle could give me, something I could fight for or against, something I would want to read about in the paper, I’d be paying $3.99 a week for the rest of my life. Somehow, I need to become invested in Seattle at a local level, so that I can support our local newspapers. But hey–I’m young. I can change my mindset. I can still learn more about citywide politics, either in the classroom or through my own research. And I’m a quick learner: I now know that journalism is practically over; the presses have stopped. But, hopefully, one day, thanks to a shift in how we think about our towns and an increase in funding and subscribers, I’ll find out that they’ve started rolling again. 

 

What Orcas Can Teach Humans About Menopause and Matriarchs

Darcey Steinke will be discussing her new book, Flash Count Diary: Menopause and the Vindication of Natural Life, at the Forum at Town Hall on July 8. Tickets are on sale now, or buy your tickets at the door!

The following article, written by Brangien Davis, originally appeared on Crosscut:

Seattleites understand the draw of killer whales. Even a dorsal fin glimpsed from a ferry sparks awe. We want to be near their black-and-white bodies, their close family pods, their huge brains, their haunting songs.

But for writer Darcey Steinke, one quality above all others pulled her from her home in Brooklyn to the San Juan Islands in hopes of seeing a killer whale in the flesh: the fact that orcas and humans are two of only five species known to experience menopause.

In her new book, Flash Count Diary: Menopause and the Vindication of Natural Life, Steinke explains how this surprising cross-species connection led her on a cross-country quest to see the centenarian southern resident orca “Granny” (aka J2, who has since died). The trip was a kind of feminist version of Moby-Dick, but instead of hoping to harpoon a white whale, Steinke sought solace from a black-and-white elder.

When she was 50 and having frequent, intense hot flashes (not to mention insomnia, fatigue and anxiety), Steinke began looking around for something — anything — positive about menopause. She noted that in pop culture, menopause is referred to almost exclusively as a punchline, often via dismissive or self-deprecating jokes about hot flashes or mood swings. The self-help books she read couched menopause as a disease that should be fixed, usually with hormone replacement therapy (HRT, which has many risks and unknowns). From pioneering menopause writer Gail Sheehy (The Silent Passage, 1992) to 1970s television star Suzanne Somers (The Sexy Years, 2004), experts promoted HRT as the best shot at “keeping the veneer of femininity intact.” To Steinke, everything read like “boilerplate misogyny.”

Her research unearthed a long history of dubious “cures,” from transfusions of dog’s blood to vinegar sponge baths to putting a magnet in your underpants. All of which, she says, seem a little less strange once you realize that the most popular hormone replacement treatment, Premarin, is made from the urine of pregnant horses.

“Nobody wants to hear about menopause, not even menopausal women themselves,” she writes in Flash Count. It’s an unspoken secret that many women are embarrassed to discuss. Even among middle-aged women, the topic of menopause and perimenopause (the years-long, symptom-heavy suite of bodily changes that lead up to the final cessation of periods) has a hushed air of shame — something to be kept under wraps, because culturally it signifies “your usefulness is over.”

When she found an article in the journal Nature about how postmenopausal killer whales serve as leaders and knowledge bearers in their pods, Steinke felt a glimmer of hope. While menopausal humans are ridiculed or ignored, menopausal orcas are critical members of their society. Given the lack of nuanced human narratives about this significant life change, Steinke latched onto the cetacean story. She took a plane to Seattle, a van to Anacortes, a ferry to San Juan Island and a sea kayak out into the Salish Sea.

Part memoir, part widely researched treatise (with citations ranging from The Incredible Hulk to Simone de Beauvoir), Flash Count argues for a new view of menopause, one that openly acknowledges and embraces it as a phase of life that is confounding and physically nightmarish, but ultimately pregnant with possibility.

“I wanted to fight back, to resist how the culture denigrates and stigmatizes menopausal women,” Steinke writes. She goes on to quote renowned feminist Germaine Greer, author of The Change (1991): “The menopausal woman is a prisoner of a stereotype and will not be rescued from it until she has begun to tell her own story.” And so, Steinke does just that.

I spoke with Steinke in advance of her upcoming appearance at Town Hall Seattle, where she’ll be in conversation with Dr. Deborah Giles, scientist and lecturer at the University of Washington’s Friday Harbor Labs on San Juan Island.

BD: What was it about that article in Nature that clicked for you?

DS: I found out that not only do killer whales go through menopause, but the post-reproductive orcas go on to lead their pods. And in that same article they talked about how menopause is an evolutionary puzzle because most creatures breed until the end of their life cycles — it’s a principle of Darwinian fitness to have as many offspring as you can. The article said menopause probably evolved in human communities for the same reason as in whale communities: because around 50, women get so smart and knowledgeable that they’re more valuable to their communities as leaders than as breeders. This was an idea that I really, really liked.

BD: So you got obsessed. 

DS: I got completely obsessed. There’s a lot of YouTube footage of the southern resident killer whales in the Salish Sea, and the University of Washington’s Center for Whale Research has a live-linked hydrophone— so I could listen 24 hours a day for whale sounds. Sometimes I heard them calling to each other. I also got obsessed with Lolita, who was from L Pod, and was taken 48 years ago from the Salish Sea and is still held captive at Miami Seaquarium. So I went down to see her. And then I flew to Seattle, went straight to Friday Harbor, got in a kayak, and on my first day out, I saw Granny! She was such an iconic whale. It was unbelievable. I’m still not really over it. I’ll never get over it.

BD: But in the book you say the moment wasn’t like the movie Born Free. It was more mysterious. 

DS: Right. When I saw Granny it wasn’t like we had this big connection, like, “Ooh, we are one.” I actually felt like her look said, “What the frig are you doing? Why are you guys out here?” I think that’s related to menopause. The passage is mysterious — it’s not like it’s all powerful. I definitely suffered some. But there was also some fascination with what was happening to my body, my mind, my gender, my sexuality. You’re almost like molting. It didn’t seem completely negative; it seemed more like, human. And real in a way that was not sugar-coated, and not necessarily empowering, but a human experience that should be felt and honored.

BD: Flash Count Diary is currently Amazon’s No. 1 bestseller … in the menopause section. Most of the other books in that category are about “solving the menopause problem” with hormones or diets or essential oils.

DS: I know, I love it! It’s like, The Hormone CureThe Estrogen CureMenopause Is a DiseaseYou Need to Fix Yourself. I’m not totally against hormones, but I’m so happy to be beating all the hormone books! When I was going through menopause — I think I’m at the end now, but I’m not sure — I discovered there are so few books that talk about menopause as something that is nuanced. It was always about how to get rid of the symptoms. There was nothing that was really engaged and respectful. When I started to have hot flashes, they were really uncomfortable, but they were also fascinating as a bodily phenomenon. I found them exquisite in a weird way, too — just to be incandescent with heat.

BD: Alternately there are rah-rah, empowerment narratives, such as, “Hot flashes are power surges!”

DS: As annoying as the menopause books trying to push everyone onto hormones are, those other books that are like, You’ll rise like a phoenix through menopause! were really annoying to me, too. Those are equally unnuanced. … I’m not completely surprised that I’ve landed in the women’s health world, and I guess I’m kind of happy about it. But part of the conclusion of the book is that we don’t need to be ashamed, we don’t need to get rid of it, we should live our own truth. So I like to think that my book is somewhat more punk rock than the others.

BD: It seems like lately there have been a few more menopausal storylines on television. Do you watch Better Things? Pamela Adlon’s character is dealing with her changing body and new life stage in the current season.

DS: Oh yeah, that’s a great show. I think she has a hot flash in one of the first episodes. There is also that incredible scene in Season 2 of Fleabag when the older woman [Kristin Scott Thomas] talks about how wonderful life is postmenopause. But I’m very sensitive to menopause being made fun of on TV, like when hot flashes are laughed at, even if by women. That stuff makes me kind of crazy — do we make fun of people who are having seizures? I’m not saying menopause is an illness, but it is a kind of bodily suffering. I know humor can be a release but most of the jokes are just boilerplate misogyny.

BD: When I was reading Flash Count I found that I sometimes felt embarrassed to be carrying around a book with “menopause” on the cover. And then I’d get mad that I was embarrassed by this thing that happens to half the population. 

DS: Yes, other women have told me the same thing. They think, “Wow, I realized I’m a little ashamed of this, and then I realized how crazy that was.” I mean, if you were reading a book about pregnancy or birth you wouldn’t feel embarrassed. Or maybe even a book about menstruation, because now we have this “menstruation power” movement. That’s connected to the idea in the book that women are mostly valued for their sexuality and their motherhood, so after those days are over, there is some shame attached to menopause. That’s misogyny, too. It’s just not a phase when men find women interesting.

BD: As the author of many fiction titles, did you ever have qualms about writing a personal menopause book?

DS: At the very beginning I wondered, would this taint me as being “the menopause writer”? But pretty quickly I realized even thinking that shows how messed up the culture is around all this. And I started getting kind of angry. I decided, I’m gonna write the most honest book about my own experience, and say what I really think about the way the medical world treats this condition. I got buoyed up by my own fury, so that dealt with the shame I might’ve felt.

BD: “Storylessness has been women’s biggest problem,” you quote cultural critic Katha Pollitt as saying. Her (and your) point is that while we have countless books about women coming of age, embracing sexuality, falling in love and starting a family, the roster of stories by and about women experiencing menopause is measly.

DS: That’s why I wrote the book, right? And that’s kind of why I attached myself to whales, too. I couldn’t find any human stories about menopause, so I got attached to Granny. Two books I did like were The Change by Germain Greer, a philosophical feminist study of menopause and midlife, and Colette’s novel Break of Day, which is a story about Colette’s own menopause and her flirtation with a younger man, a meditation on her sexuality at this age. There is also Simone de Beauvoir’s Old Age — people forget she was one of the first writers who would go out and interview people for her books, to hear their experiences, which is something I did for my book too.

BD: Tell me about the subhead: Menopause and the Vindication of Natural Life.

DS: I love the word vindication — in part because of Mary Wollstonecraft, whose book A Vindication of the Rights of Women [1792] was one of the first feminist books and was very important to me as a young person. But also because menopause is not a disease, it doesn’t need to be cured, it needs to be vindicated! I really wanted the book to be engaging — a fun read — but also a treatise or call to arms. I know that writing it definitely saved me from menopause shame, so I hope that can be true for other women as well.

Darcey Steinke is joined by Dr. Deborah Giles at the Forum at Town Hall on July 8. Buy your tickets now or at the door

Announcing Our September Homecoming Festival Lineup

Town Hall Seattle’s soft-launch winds down as we prepare for our month-long grand reopening festival in September. The festival marks twin milestones: the successful completion of a $35 million renovation of our historic home and the kick-off for the organization’s 20th anniversary season.

Homecoming Festival is a community-wide invitation to explore the renovated Town Hall and experience its new features and capacities, including its newest performance space (The Reading Room) and transformed downstairs space (the Forum). Locals already familiar with Town Hall will appreciate the signature wide-range of topics and perspectives presented—as well as the price point. Nearly all festival tickets are just $5, and now, all events produced by Town Hall are free for everyone aged 22 and younger (made possible through support from the Seattle Office of Arts & Culture).

Homecoming opens on Labor Day (9/2) with former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich and Rep. Pramila Jayapal. The two will hold court in the Great Hall to discuss the state of American politics and the labor movement as they unpack Reich’s call for our country to reinvest in the common good.

Town Hall will show off its upgraded acoustics with concerts ranging from world music stars like Garifuna Collective to kindie-rocker Caspar Babypants. Likewise, the building’s new A/V and technical capacities make it an ideal home for live podcast tapings (such as Vox Media’s The Weeds) and performance art (Seattle-based performer HATLO is the Homecoming Artist-in-Residence). Details for these events are still being finalized.

Highlighting Town Hall’s role as a shared community platform, Town Hall is augmenting their lineup of marquee thought-leaders and homegrown talents with pre- and post-show conversations, locally-curated programs, and artist takeovers (where artists and artist collectives take over Town Hall’s building and transform it through their work for the day). Notably, artist collective TUF will take over the building with concerts, panel discussions, and hands-on workshops, creating spaces to connect and collaborate with a focus on uplifting marginalized identities and challenges white-cis-male power structures within electronic music, art, and media.

More details, parties, and programs will be announced throughout the summer. Tickets go on sale to Town Hall members July 1; public sale begins July 3. More about the festival can be found here.

Select Homecoming Programs:

9/2 – Labor Day with Robert Reich and Representative Pramila Jayapal
Robert Reich joins Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal for a Labor Day exploration of American politics, vicious cycles, and the common good.

9/5 – Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor: From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation
Taylor calls us together to reflect on the five years since Ferguson and the future of #BlackLivesMatter.

9/7 – Caspar Babypants: Back-to-back Saturday Family Concerts
Families are invited to launch of Babypants’ new children’s album with back-to-back concerts in the Great Hall.

9/7 – Suzan-Lori Parks: Town Hall Takeover (to be announced)
Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright takes over the building with workshops, a concert, and a public performance of new work commissioned as a re-inauguration of the Great Hall

9/8 – Rick Steves: Guatemala, Ethiopia, Hunger, and Hope
Travel TV host Rick Steves expands on his passion for travel as a political act and shares the impact of aid helping people battle poverty around the globe.

9/10 – Vox: The Weeds Podcast Live
Vox voices and regular hosts Matthew Yglesias, Jane Coaston, and David Robert take the stage for a live recording of their podcast delving into the areas where politics becomes policy.

9/11 – Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz: An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the US for Young People 
Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz examines the legacy of Indigenous peoples’ resistance, resilience, and steadfast fight against imperialism.

9/13 – Marilynne Robinson: What Are We Doing Here?
Author Marilynne Robinson investigates how great thinkers about America like Emerson and Tocqueville inform our political consciousness.

9/14 – Ibram X. Kendi: How to Be an Antiracist
Ibram X. Kendi energizes our conversations of racial justice, and examines what it means to be an antiracist.

9/15 – June Diane Raphael: The Woman’s Guide to Running for Office and Changing the World
Actor and activist June Diane Raphael presents a practical roadmap for women running for office.

9/16 – Samantha Power: The Education of an Idealist
Samantha Power traces her career as a war correspondent and offers an uplifting treatise for those dedicated to making a difference.

9/20 – Brad Smith: Promise and Peril in the Digital Age
Microsoft President Brad Smith confronts cybercrime, privacy problems, and big tech’s relationship to inequity.

9/21 – TUF Art Collective: Town Hall Takeover
TUF takes over Town Hall too challenge white-cis-male power structures within electronic music, art, and media. With workshops and showcase they create opportunities to connect and collaborate through new media.

9/24 – Naomi Klein: The Burning Case for a Green New Deal
Klein investigates the discussion of our modern climate crisis and presents an urgent case for a Green New Deal.

9/25 – Jonathan Safran Foer: Saving the Planet Begins at Breakfast
Author Jonathan Safran Foer offers us a new approach to saving the planet from climate change: breakfast.

9/28 – Town Green Service Day
Volunteer at Yesler Terrace’s Yes Farm to help cultivate the space with Black Farmers Collective.

Full calendar of currently announced programs available here.

We’re looking forward to having you join us for a month-long housewarming!

It’s Mueller Time: A 24-Hour Live Reading of the Mueller Report at Town Hall

On July 19 (days before Mueller testifies before Congress), more than 100 local actors, journalists, politicians, and community leaders will take over Town Hall’s Forum stage for a complete reading of the Mueller Report. Members of the Seattle theater community (Brian Faker; Sarah Harlett; Carl Sander) are partnering with Town Hall for a continuous, marathon reading of the entire 448-page Mueller report. It will take more than 100 readers a total of 24 hours (July 19, 8pm – July 20, 8pm) to present the report as-is, redactions and footnotes included. When asked to comment on the decision to present the un-editorialized report, Harlett noted: “This is not meant to be a dramatization of the report’s findings. We wish to bring the power of the human voice to an essential document that provides invaluable information about Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and the response of President Trump to that interference and the investigations it set in motion.” The reading is non-partisan, non- dramatized and is not intended as a commentary on Robert Mueller, his team, the report, or its findings.

The reading will take place in Town Hall’s newly renovated Forum space (formerly known as Downstairs). Town Hall has recently completed a $35 million top-to-bottom renovation of its historic building. This event is presented as part of their summer soft-launch preceding the grand reopening Homecoming Festival this September.

All members of the public are invited to attend. No registration is required, admission is free for all, and guests can come and go as they see fit throughout the 24-hour period. Donations will be accepted at the door, and all profits will be donated to ACLU of Washington. Voter registration will also be available onsite throughout the reading.

More about the event can be found here.

When You See John Waters, Make Sure You’re Gross

Town Hall recently hosted John Waters, the famed film director, screenwriter, author, actor, stand-up comedian, journalist, and visual artist. We invited local writer Katie Kalahan  to sit in the audience and share her thoughts…

My hands hurt while John Waters and David Schmader talked about filth and made Town Hall attendees laugh. I fell and scraped my hands right before I heard Waters christen the barely-two-weeks-new remodeled space with riffs on Hollywood money, free porn, the Democratic presidential field, art as magic, Hairspray sequels, all genres of music, graveyard graffiti, and “ample women.” 

We were a little bit late and the event was sold out. My friend and I ran towards Town Hall when I dragged my foot and let my left classic red Reebok hit an edge of uneven sidewalk and then I was face down spread full length on the sidewalk. I jumped up to save whatever face might be left. The heel of each hand was shredded. My skin had pulled back showing raw redness and it stung.

A block later, I went into the Town Hall bathroom to wash up. Remodeled Town Hall has amazing all-gender bathrooms with full-door stalls and a common sink area. I tried to wash my cuts in the sink but the water hurt. I kept yanking my hand back. I checked for gravel in the wounds and didn’t see much. I carefully laid my skin flaps back over the insides of my palms. While I was cringing in the bathroom, my friend enlisted a wonderful Town Hall representative to find a first aid kit. I promised both him and my friend that I would wash out the cuts later, when it hurt less, and covered them with Band-Aids. I felt gross and humiliated and in pain.

It was the right way to join John Waters. We entered the auditorium just before he took the stage. He wore black, cut with orange stripes on his jacket and red-patterned socks. Waters said that he knows about everything except sports and science fiction. Within twenty minutes he talked about money, fat girls, money, death, graveyards, and said the c-word four times. According to Waters, graveyard diggers must be necrophiliacs—but where else could they get a job? They just stand around waiting for people to bury, he said. Schmader makes a comment about body composting (which just passed into law in Washington State) and Waters responded that sometimes the gases from decomposing bodies will make wooden coffins explode. He likes that idea.

John Waters, aka Mr. Know-It-All, is the rightful monarch of trash, filth, and everything irreverent. My palms stung and the audience laughed and someone near me made small cooing sounds of sympathy when he said, “Only say ‘I love you’ when the person you love is sleeping.”

Schmader made comments in order to get Waters going, then Schmader giggled. Schmader said, “So, tell us about the three Hairspray sequels you’ve written,” and Waters said,”I’m going to make a porn version called Pubic Hairspray. Young people won’t come see it because they don’t have pubic hair and they won’t understand. Where do crabs go? They’re extinct now.” Schmader giggled. He mentions that there’s a chapter in Waters’ book about how to have good musical taste and in his answer Waters manages to mention classical music, country, Elvis and masturbating, Elvis and Bieber, and punk rock (“It’s all boys on the DL and big girls with attitude”). Schmader set Waters off again: “You’re really good at bashing Pope Francis,” he said. “Oh yeah, I hate that fucker,” Waters replied to raucous laughter. Waters goes on to tell the audience that Catholics are a worldwide pedophile organization and it’s just starting to come to light. But he added, “I’m glad I’m Catholic because sex will always be dirty.” Waters left the Catholic topic with this image: “If I die and you steal my head, put it under the Pope’s bed covers.” My stigmata burned. Schmader: “How are we doing on time? Oh, we have five minutes left? Okay. (Turns to Waters) What kind of porn do you like?” Waters gives some names, but then goes on a more interesting segue about porn stars whose moms handle their fan mail.

Surprisingly, Waters doesn’t like pooping, he thinks public bathrooms are a travesty, and he’s never been in an airplane bathroom. I was recently saved by a public bathroom. I was saved from bleeding all over my notebook and the Town Hall pews, and possibly crying with shame, and definitely grossing out the people around me. Perhaps Waters prefers a world where I would have bled, cried, and been gross. The bathroom and the Band-Aids gave me the option to be polite and acceptable and unoffensive. Maybe Waters would prefer a world without public bathrooms not only because no one would poop outside of the home, but because we would be filthier, trashier, and less boring.

At the end of the night, I took my busted hands home and didn’t clean them out. Waters had made me laugh and think. He created the most untraditional of families, a troupe of outcast artists—fat girls, gay men, drag queens. After Divine died, Waters and friends all bought graves in the same plot as their friend. “We call it Disgraceland,” he said. When the time comes, Waters and his friends will rot together—unless he decides to have his head cut off and left for the Pope’s unwitting feet to find at bedtime, or to explode a wooden coffin with his decomposing gases. Maybe my friend, who came to the talk of a person they’d never heard of and loved it, who found me Band-Aids, who suggested we check out one of the several hospitals in the area only half-joking, will make art with me and then rot with me. We should all be so lucky.

Until your time comes, if you need to know how to be normal, mild, polite, and traditional, look elsewhere. If you are gross, weird, crazy, and/or an artist craving success and trying to surprise the world, read John Waters.

Moby’s Not Complaining

Town Hall recently hosted Moby, the famed singer-songwriter, musician, DJ, and photographer. We invited local writer Katie Kalahan  to sit in the audience and share her thoughts…

 

“I’m not complaining,” Moby says. Even after everything he’s been through, Moby isn’t complaining. Even after the panic attacks, drinking, sleeplessness, meth, suicide attempts, fame, sobriety, emptiness, Moby is still not complaining. He’s giddy recounting the time that he and David Bowie played Bowie’s song “Heroes” together in Moby’s living room, as giddy as I imagine he was the first time he got to tell the story. He is irreverent, playful, and self-conscious.

Town Hall proper is nearly complete with its renovation [the Great Hall is opening soon], so the event is held in Seattle First Baptist Church, which does not go unnoticed by Moby. The very first thing he says when he walks onstage is, “Is this a piano?” and the second thing is, “I feel bad that I’m wearing this shirt inside a church.” His shirt has an upside down cross and the word “VOID” across it. Then he swears, wonders if it is okay to swear in a church, decides that God would be okay with words describing fecal matter, and concludes that God invented s*** and if we couldn’t s*** then we would all die. He doesn’t miss a beat and answers Ross Reynolds‘ question about touring. Moby speaks in great loops, explaining himself or defending strong opinions. Moby’s unique mixture of sincerity, insecurity, and hope for a reaction make him a great entertainer.

We all know someone like Moby. Someone whip-smart who had a rough start to life, who struggled with addiction, who made mistakes. His talk is a celebration of what happens when you hit rock bottom and live through it. His story is heartbreakingly familiar. When Moby was 33 (Jesus’ age at resurrection, as I’m sure Moby would be quick to point out) he made it big with the album Play. For Moby, it was as if someone swapped out his tough hand with a great hand. “It’s like the world decided to play a cruel joke and give me everything I ever wanted to see how I dealt with it,” Moby says, adding, “but I’m not complaining.” 

Ross Reynolds moves the event into Q&A. Moby answers questions and he strikes me as someone who would happily stay up all night talking philosophy. He also strikes me as someone who would do anything to get a laugh—at Town Hall, that thing is a mimed re-enactment of the time he brushed his flaccid penis up against then-civilian Donald Trump. As Seattle consumes more and more housing, so Seattleites consume podcasts. If you don’t listen to podcasts, I recommend them for when you’re doing the dishes or on a long drive. Heavyweight is a beautifully strange Jonathan Goldstein project in which he finds the answers to people’s decades-old personal questions. In one episode, Jonathan and his friend Gregor try to get back some CDs that Gregor lent Moby in the 90s, which Moby went on to sample to make his breakout album Play. Predictably, someone asked about this podcast episode. Moby says, “I think they cut it from the episode, but the truth is that I have no idea where the CDs are.”

Moby plays three songs. The first is a request from one of the youngest audience members, a child named Alexander, who asks for “We Are All Made of Stars”. The final song is the song that the book title Then It All Fell Apart comes from: “Extreme Ways“.

After the music, Moby says he’s eager to get to the book signing. And no one is complaining.

Photos taken by Rick Sood.

What We Don’t Know About Domestic Violence Can Kill Us

Acclaimed journalist Rachel Louise Snyder takes the Town Hall stage on May 21 to deliver a reckoning with the urgent and widespread problem of domestic violence with insight from her powerful new book No Visible Bruises (glowingly reviewed recently in the New York Times). She’s joined onstage by KUOW’s Sydney Brownstone, and together these two journalists reveal the scale of domestic violence in our country.

Katie Kurtz is a Seattle based freelance writer, currently working on a true crime memoir about three of her classmates whose murder remains unsolved 30 years later. She previews Snyder’s event here:

Why didn’t she leave? This question pointed toward victims illustrates why the culture surrounding domestic violence thrives: The onus is on the woman to escape, not on the abuser who makes her feel like she needs to run for her life.

With the National Domestic Violence Hotline reporting that nearly 1 in 3 women (35%) in the US have experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime, everyone is touched by domestic violence. The numbers may never be fully known, though. Whether the victim is still in the relationship or has managed to leave, the fear instilled by the abuser effectively silences her forever.

In No Visible Bruises: What We Don’t Know About Domestic Violence Can Kill Us, Rachel Louise Snyder unpacks the systemic reinforcement of domestic violence and the various inflection points where intervention is possible. The book opens with a case study of Michelle Monson of Montana and traces hers and her children’s eventual deaths at the hands of Michelle’s husband Rocky. Snyder’s investigation includes interviews with all surviving relatives, including Rocky’s who completed suicide immediately after killing his wife and their children. One among 1,200 possible cases (that’s how many women in the US are killed annually by a partner), Michelle Monson’s story shows how it isn’t one single factor that could have pointed toward a violent end to her life but a gradual accumulation of events.

Awareness is growing that abusiveness does not start out as physical and, as Snyder notes, 20% of these relationships don’t entail physical violence at all. Abusers use various tactics to maintain power over the victim through emotional, psychological, financial, and sexual control. These forms of coercive control can look a lot like the Hollywood version of a budding romance. Stopping by unannounced with a bouquet of flowers may look dreamy in the movies but it can also be an excuse for the suitor to confirm she is where she says she is. France and the UK have laws against coercive control; the United States does not.

Snyder’s book covers the persistent question about whether angry and controlling men can be rehabilitated. Men recognizing their own violent behavior is fundamental to dismantling the structures that support it. But the difficulty in how we get there can be illustrated by this conundrum: Joe Biden was the senator who introduced the Violence Against Women Act in Congress in 1990, shortly before his campaign to discredit Anita Hill. Now we know that gaslighting—named for the 1944 movie Gaslight starring Ingrid Bergman who was slowly being driven insane by her husband—is a form of psychological abuse.

Many of us were glued to Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony about the Supreme Court nominee who—despite our collective fervent invocations that maybe just this once the sexual predator doesn’t win—was approved. Her quote, “Indelible in the hippocampus is the laughter,” speaks to the long-term effects trauma has on survivors. Indelible.  

There will likely be a number of survivors in the audience for this event. We need our community there with us, too. If you or someone you know is experiencing intimate partner violence, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or visit The Hotline website.


Tickets are on sale now for this powerful event, happening on May 21 in Town Hall’s Forum.

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