Duh: The Importance of Early Childhood Education

On July 17, in the Forum at Town Hall, there will be a screening of the documentary, No Small Matter, and a post-movie discussion about childcare access. Get your tickets now.

The film’s directors are Danny Alpert, Jon Siskel, and Greg Jacobs. Town Hall’s own Jonathan Shipley talked to Jacobs about early childhood education, brain works, and Cookie Monster.

Greg Jacobs

JS: What got you interested in the subject matter? Do you have children of your own?

GJ: So my co-directors—Danny Alpert, and Jon Siskel, and I—all have slightly different “origin stories” for how we got interested in this issue. For me, it started when we were asked to do a video for The Ounce of Prevention Fund, a big early childhood advocacy organization here in Chicago. The video was about their flagship Educare, an incredible early learning center for low-income kids and families on the city’s South Side. After a week of filming, I was like, ‘Why hasn’t anyone told me about this!?’  

I’d been interested in education issues for a while (I’d written a book about school desegregation in my hometown of Columbus, Ohio), but I’d pretty much given up on K-12—the battle lines were so entrenched that it seemed like nothing we tried would make things better. But seeing Educare made me think, ‘What if the best way to improve the K-12 system is actually to improve the raw material coming into it? What if instead of 5 out of 25 kids arriving at a kindergarten class ready to learn, 20 of 25 did? What impact would that have on, well, pretty much everything that follows?’ And that’s when I became a zealous convert to the cause!

And by the way, I do have two kids, but sadly, they’re now teenagers, so they’ve both aged out of No Small Matter.

JS: The director statement on your website says, “Duh!” of course early childhood education. What made you want to take this on as a project?

GJ: After that first video, we did a few more, and each one made us more convinced of the issue’s scope and importance.  Finally, we said, ‘We want to do ‘the big one’—the comprehensive, issue-defining, Inconvenient Truth-type feature documentary about the power and potential impact of early childhood education.’ But, to be honest, there was probably no way we could’ve done such an ambitious film and engagement campaign on our own. Fortunately, we discovered that our friend and fellow Chicago filmmaker Danny Alpert also happened to be interested in the issue, so we decided to join forces and tackle the project together. Best decision ever. 

JS: What are some of the most important facts you learned while making the film?

GJ: No Small Matter makes a brick-by-brick argument for why investing in the first five years is so crucial. Each step of the way, there are jaw-dropping facts or statistics—a baby’s brain is making a million neural connections every second; in over half the states in the U.S. putting an infant in childcare costs more than sending a kid to public college; just three percent of all educational expenditures in the U.S. go to 0-5, etc. But because early childhood is inescapably about big people taking care of little people, probably the most important facts involve the destructively inadequate pay and respect we give the early childhood workforce. On average, ECE teachers make less than dog-walkers and parking attendants; around 46% of them are on some form of public assistance; turnover is roughly 30% a year; and in a study of the expected lifetime earnings of undergraduate majors, early childhood education ranked 83rd —out of 83. That’s unsustainable. 

JS: What are some of the most surprising things you learned while making the film?

GJ: Suffice to say, we are not scientists. So it was fascinating to begin to wrap our heads around the surprising science of early childhood development, including the groundbreaking work being done at I-LABS in Seattle, which we feature in the film. Researchers know so much more now about how the developing brain works than they did even ten or twenty years ago that the science has outstripped the public’s understanding of what really matters during the 0-5 years. And it turns out that what truly helps build a healthy brain is not flashcards or fancy technology, but the environment of relationships within which a child is raised—the more back-and-forth interactions a baby has with loving, supportive adults, the better that child’s odds in life will be. Which is why the issue of early childhood education is never just about children—it’s always about families and communities, as well.

JS: What were some of the most emotionally affecting moments for you while making the film?

GJ: There were a lot. But probably the most powerful thing was seeing, over and over, the struggles of parents and caregivers who are doing their absolute best in the face of constant, unyielding economic stress. Since Americans tend to treat 0-5 as a purely private matter—one that is neither shaped by politics nor political in its consequences—these parents and these caregivers often think that the problem must be them. Which is why so many of them have such emotional responses to No Small Matter—it’s often the first time they’ve seen their own struggles set in a larger context: the abdication (or privatization) of our social responsibility to support families with babies and young children. Or, as Geoffrey Canada puts it in the film, ‘Here’s an enemy that most folks don’t even know we need to fight.’

JS: For someone without kids/family, why watch the movie?

GJ: As I always say, our target audience is anyone who has, knows, or was a child. Because No Small Matter isn’t just a movie about parenting (though parents will certainly learn stuff). And it’s not just a movie about kids (though there’s a lot of fascinating stuff about early childhood development). It’s a movie about how we as a nation support—or don’t support—families with babies and young children. And that, as it turns out, affects everyone, because so many things that so many people care about are impacted by that issue: health care, crime, economic opportunity, inequality, workforce development, even military readiness—the list goes on and on. So whether you have little kids or not, we can pretty much guarantee that if you go see No Small Matter, you’ll laugh, you’ll probably cry, and you’ll leave the theater viewing the world differently than you did when you came in. Plus cute babies and Cookie Monster!

JS: What can people do to ensure early childhood education is available in their neighborhood/city/state?

GJ: One of the things we love about early childhood as an issue is that it’s not just powerful, it’s possible—it’s one of the very few issues that both Republicans and Democrats can agree on. That said, building a high quality system of support for families with young children is going to take time, it’s going to take movement on multiple fronts (prenatal care, home visiting, family leave, childcare, pre-K) and it’s going to take public will. So the first step for people is understanding just how powerful an issue this truly can be—telling that story is the goal of No Small Matter. Once you get it you can’t go back, so the next step is acting on that understanding, making it a part of your everyday political filter, a litmus test for your candidates, a measure of your community’s health. Basically, treating it like the grown-up issue it really is. If enough people get to the point where they, too, view this as ‘duh’, then we might actually see what advocate Dana Suskind calls ‘population-level change.’

Watch the movie at Town Hall. Listen in on a panel discussion after. Ask questions. Take steps. Tickets are on sale now

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.

We Did It!

Our General Manager, Mary Cutler, floated into the office this morning, arms swaying and voice sing-song: “Today is a normal day. Let’s all pretend it’s a normal day.” It is, decidedly, not a normal day. But we echoed her feigned calm and did our best to think about anything other than what was happening across the street. Our final inspection was underway. If given the thumbs up, the building—after nearly two full seasons of renovation—would officially be ours again.

That calm pretense was traded for cheers as Mary shared the good news: we passed. As of 11:46 am today, May 16, Town Hall Seattle is no longer a construction site.

The staff raced over and (without hard hats!) entered through the freshly painted 8th Ave doors, explored stairwells, and marveled at the Reading Room’s bare but beautiful form. We gathered on the Great Hall stage to pop a bottle of champagne, toast one another and the community that made this possible—and also to really feel what’s on the horizon. Wier’s toast hit home: “Twenty years of Town Hall. And now, right now, we get to start it all again.”

Whether you’ve been with us since 1999, met us during Inside/Out, or are stumbling across this post because a friend happened to share a link: we are so incredibly glad you’re here. The future and possibilities of Town Hall have never been quite so bright, and each of us are necessary to manifesting its potential.

We mean that in the grand sense, and also in the practical. This summer is our soft launch; there’s still a lot of fine tuning ahead of us and we need your help–your presence and participation–to get it right. Please lend us your patience (and opinions!) as we grow into the new building, and we hope you’ll enjoy new details coming into place every time you visit this spring and summer (from smaller items like wayfinding signage to big things like bar service and commissioned artwork). With your help, the building will be the best version of itself in time for our big Homecoming festival this September!

Our very first event in the Great Hall is just days away (Tuesday, May 21), and we can’t imagine a more fitting debut for the room. Joshua Roman, our longtime friend and Town Music Artistic Director, will lend us his virtuosic talents in a solo cello concert. There are still a few tickets remaining, and we hope you’ll join us to help mark the moment.

Even as we celebrate the end of our own renovation, we should note: more than just Town Hall has been under construction. Our full block is in the midst of being developed. While the plaza and Ovation towers are being built, the Forum is accessible via our new at-grade West Entrance, reachable from the loading zone on Seneca street.

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.

Arts & Action To Better Our Community

Can arts change our communities like they change our lives? ArtsFund will share pivotal research from their first-ever Social Impact of the Arts Study in King County on May 17 at Town Hall’s newly renovated Forum. Town Hall asked Sarah Sidman, ArtsFund VP of Strategic Initiatives and Communications to interview KUOW’s Marcie Sillman about the study and the impact of the arts.

Marcie Sillman and Sarah Sidman

Sidman’s recent interview with Sillman is below:

It’s a pivotal moment for King County. We’re experiencing rapid economic and demographic growth while simultaneously grappling with pressing challenges around education, homelessness, healthcare and mental health, workforce development, and income inequality. On May 17th, Town Hall and ArtsFund are presenting “Arts & Action to Better Our Community”, a panel discussion and civic dialogue focused how arts advance positive and equitable outcomes in our community.  I’ll be sharing findings from our new Social Impact of the Arts Study, followed by a panel and discussion examining how we can harness the impact of the arts to address these challenges and advance community priorities. The panel will feature Randy Engstrom, James Miles, Vivian Phillips, and Jay Vogelsang, and will be moderated by Marcie Sillman, Arts & Culture reporter at KUOW who has been covering the sector in King County for more than 30 years.

I recently sat down with Marcie to talk about the program, arts’ social impact and the potential for making positive change in our community, and the urgency around having conversations like this one.

SS: What’s your passion around the topic of arts’ social impact? Why are you involved in this program?

MS: I’m involved because I respect ArtsFund. My passion goes beyond the social impact of arts. I have a passion for the arts and cultural realm of society in general. If you want to narrow it down to talk about social impact, I truly believe that ‘art outlives politics’. I think this is a realm where what can happen is changing lives. I think the way that you really make change is to touch somebody in the most ineffable of ways. An artistic experience can do that. And, more than that, there’s a whole lot of scientific study that talks about neural pathway development and creative problem-solving. So, scientists are on the side of what I always knew.

SS: You’ve said before, and just alluded to it now, that the ArtsFund study reinforces what you’ve seen to be true…can you elaborate?

MS: Over many years, I’ve done a lot of stories that talk about community engagement, or as I was just saying, creative problem-solving. Most of them have an educational focus, but also community-building. Participation in something as simple as singing together can create new kinds of communities, where maybe they didn’t exist before. The results of your impact study confirm all these stories. I’m like, ‘well, of course!’.

SS: You’ve been covering arts and culture in our region for over 30 years. Over the course of that time, what do you think is unique about the Central Puget Sound arts and cultural landscape and how it has evolved?

MS: I think we don’t really understand the breadth and the quantity of what we have. We have everything! I think the cultural community is so varied. We’re rich in areas like contemporary dance, we’re a center for literature, we’re clearly a center for theatre, visual arts as well. This is a center where people come. I think what’s unique about our community in all areas, is a willingness to collaborate and work together. So, what I’ve seen is both a growth in what’s offered, but also a community that has a lot of mutually supportive elements. A third strand of change that touches on social impact, is that when I first started reporting on the cultural community here, it was on individual productions or individual artists. I still do that, but what I see now is less of a divide between professional performances or professional artists and community-based arts and arts that come from growing immigrant communities for example.

SS: The scope of partnership was one element that we uncovered in the study—4 out 5 arts nonprofits are working together with partners outside the sector, with schools, city departments, refugee and immigrant organizations, hospitals and clinics, senior centers, and so much more. How do these trends that you just mentioned plug in to this conversation?

MS: Based on close observation over a long time, what I’ve seen is more intentional partnerships from big organizations, like the Seattle Symphony working with Mary’s Place on the Lullaby Project. The Seattle Art Museum is a great example as well, of really being much more strategic in the kind of partnerships that it’s building with intention to make social change. I think there’s a growing awareness across the city in all sectors that they don’t just exist on an island; that they’re part of an ecosystem—and for an ecosystem to remain healthy all parts of it have to be healthy. Arts organizations are doing what they can to really be intentional about building that health.

SS: What are some ways you’ve seen the arts and cultural sector take on community challenges?

MS: That has started in the Office of Arts and Culture. I think under Randy Engstrom’s leadership the Office of Arts and Cultures’ main mission is to use culture in all of its forms to foster social and racial justice and equity in this city. To have that city department setting the tone sends a message all the way down the line. They’re modeling what they think organizations can do and I see that reflected in the kinds of offerings at major professional organizations.

SS: Where do you see ArtsFund plugging in?

MS: Clearly ArtsFund has played a major role in the health of the city. Before we can even have the social impact conversation, there have to be organizations to have that conversation. So, I think what you do has been pivotal in really shining a spotlight on why arts and culture really matter to our region. If you were not developing board members, if you were not providing funding, if you were not holding organizations up to a certain level of health, the conversations that ensued could not exist.

I think that this study is the next step. I think one of your roles is to try reach beyond the community itself, and try to fold in community members who, as you found in your survey, have attended arts events but who may not think that arts are critical in any aspect of their life. I think your role, if you have the means to do the kinds of studies you have done, is to have hard numbers. Data seems to speak to a large portion of our citizenry in ways that maybe stories of the heart don’t. I may be able to touch 10 people who don’t need the statistics, but the statistics in our data driven society really seem to make an impact.

SS: Why do you think it’s important we be having these conversations now?

MS: Ever since 2008 with the great recession, arts organizations have been really struggling to rebuild their funding. I think that they’re also trying to figure out how to expand their audience base and provide programming that speaks to an increasingly diverse population. In doing so, to make these cultural entities and cultural activities something that is indispensable in our society. I think we need to talk about the social impacts. I think we need to talk about economic impacts. I think we need to talk about community ties. I think we need to talk about what the arts say about who we are. We have increasingly diverse populations that are coming from places and bringing their own cultural traditions with them and they’re important, they’re touchstones. I think every conversation about why arts and culture are intrinsic to who we are as human beings is important. We can’t have enough of those conversations!

SS: You’re the professional interviewer—what should we have asked you? Anything else you wanted to say?

MS: I’m glad that this event is happening, I expect it will be a really fruitful conversation because there are some great minds who are going to be on the panel. Arts and cultural activities not only make us richer and well-rounded human beings, but as you’ve shown, they really do change lives.

Join us at Town Hall on May 17th to continue the conversation. You can purchase your tickets now.

The artwork atop this blog post is entitled ‘Seattle Artist’s Magic’, created by Taylor Hammes.

Paint the Town Red

Seattle is a city that demands we think outside the box, and few series exemplify this idea quite like Red May. For the month of May, speakers gather to interrogate contemporary issues through the lens of Marxism, political economy, feminism, race, and philosophy—and three of the festival’s marquee events are coming to paint Town Hall red.

On May 10, Bhaskar Sunkara and Nancy Fraser step up to bolster our faith in neoliberalism. They explore the building blocks of this ideal: the two central tenets of recognition (who deserves rights) and distribution (who deserves income). Sunkara and Fraser highlight the fraying of these ideals and break down the iconic words of political theorist Antonio Gramsci “the old is dying and the new cannot be born.” Together Sunkara and Fraser outline ways we can combat the rising outsider populist politics on the right and left which represent a larger crisis of hegemony for neoliberalism.

Just one week later, the Red May City Council convenes for a panel discussion of our city’s rapid expansion. They address concerns from those who see Seattle as their home—concerns that a new high-paid, high-tech workforce is annexing the city’s spaces with rents and restaurants that only they can afford. They stoke this critical conversation and address the political, philosophical, and existential questions that define our city’s new urban struggle.

Following this discussion of a workforce takeover of Seattle, Red May brings us Down With Work! on May 23, an inquiry into the heart of the capitalist infatuation with work. This panel takes us on a deep dive into the activity we least like doing, questioning the idea that it’s normal and necessary to commit massive amounts of personal time and emotional energy to our jobs. They conceptualize the idea of modern society without work, envisioning alternatives to a civilization—and a population—free of the constraints of a workforce.  

Many of us wonder about alternatives to capitalism, or the high-speed growth of Seattle’s buzzword culture. Red May offers us a refreshing idea: maybe we can’t move beyond capitalism right away, but at least we can take a month-long vacation from it.

We Are All Made of Stars: A Brief Conversation with Moby

What do you do when you realize you have everything you think you’ve ever wanted but still feel completely empty? In the summer of 1999, Moby released the album Play, arguably the album that defined the millennium and propelled him to stardom. But then it all fell apart. He’ll discuss the second volume of his memoir, Then It Fell Apart, on May 10 at Seattle First Baptist Church. You can get your tickets now. Before he hits the stage, he sat down to chat with Town Hall’s marketing manager, Jonathan Shipley.

JS: I was curious as to how you navigated and navigate friendships, pre-fame and post. Post-fame you must be leery of anyone befriending you, asking yourself, ‘What do they want from me?’ Friendships you made before you were famous must have been hard to navigate as you became a star.

M: It’s not so much that I question people’s’ motives, it’s more that pre-fame friendships tend to be based around shared circumstances and frames of reference which makes friendships more effortless. It can be hard to navigate resentments and bitterness on the part of old friends.

JS: What celebrities that you’ve hung out with have been positive influences on your life? Which ones, not so much?

M: David Bowie, Lou Reed, and David Lynch have all been wonderful, positive friendships. I’ll avoid that second question—I don’t need more enemies.

JS: Now that you’re on the other side of fame, what skills do you wish you had developed before becoming famous?

M: I honestly have no regrets, nor do I wish I’d done anything differently. I’m grateful for the weird life and perspective I have. Life and perspective are, by definition, the product of the circumstances that led to them.

JS: What did you wish you did differently after Play blew up?

M: Nothing. I love the mistakes I’ve made, as they’ve taught me more than any of the things I ended up doing reasonably well.

JS: Having ‘fallen apart,’ what are you most proud of about yourself after the fact?

M: That I can still, at times, string sentences together.

JS: Are there ways that being a music celebrity better than being, say, an actor?

M: In a way it’s better that I have a lot of creative autonomy. A musician’s work can generally be more bespoke, personal, and sui generis.

JS: You mention being sad and lonely before Play. Post Play, did that amplify it or diminish it? In what ways?

M: Curing loneliness post-Play became compulsive, at least until I got sober.

JS: What sort of emotional connections to audiences are you hoping to make with your music?

M: Ideally, a connection based in honesty, shared experience of the human condition, and service. That might sound cliché, but it’s true.

See Moby discuss his life, and maybe he’ll play a tune or two, on May 10. Get your tickets here.

Also, according to Moby’s Twitter feed, he’s the adopted son of John Waters. John Waters will be at Town Hall on May 29. You should attend that, too! Tickets are on sale now.

Listening Guide: In The Moment Episode 31


In episode #31 of In The Moment, Chief Correspondent Steve Scher talks with Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Hedrick Smith (3:45) about the incredible groundswell of community movements that took place around the time of the 2018 election. Smith comments on the remarkable strides made in just one year, with states adopting gerrymandering reform to combat election rigging, restoring voting rights for felons, and securing public funding for campaigns. Smith shares the hope he felt from these election results and real moments of democratic change—and the broader movements they inspired.

Then, correspondent Reagan Jackson talks with renowned Kenyan writer Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o (17:36) about his proudest memory. Thiong’o responds with a story of his mother, who put him through school and instilled in him the value of always doing his best, even though she couldn’t read or write. Thiong’o also discusses the time he spent in exile and the reason he was incarcerated by the Kenyan regime for over a year after the release of his landmark play Ngaahika Ndeenda. Thiong’o and Jackson talk about the current political climate, Thiong’o’s hopes for the future of his own legacy, and the importance of authors writing in their native tongue to preserve the philosophy and culture each language contributes to the world.

And host Jini Palmer shares recordings from the Town Hall community, who provided questions for therapy columnist Lori Gottlieb (25:22) in preparation for her arrival on Town Hall’s stage on April 10, 2019. Jini presents Gottlieb’s insightful responses to each of these intriguing and personal questions.


Still Curious?

-Hedrick Smith appears in numerous video discussions of democracy, including this video exploration of the material in his book Who Stole The American Dream?

In this video interview, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o shares his thoughts on memories and how they make us who we are.

Lori Gottlieb writes the column Dear Therapist for The Atlantic, where she addresses many of the same kinds of questions that the Town Hall community asked.

-Town Hall’s Jonathan Shipley interviewed Lori Gottlieb for our blog. Check out their conversation on the Town Crier!

Plaques are Back!

Hello Friends,

The capital campaign to renovate our historic building has been a monumental effort for our community, board, and staff over the last two years. We’ve hit several major milestones over the last few months, and we can see the light at the end of the tunnel (and renovation project!). Most recently we had great success with our Take the Stage crowdfunding campaign where nearly 450 of you gave almost $245,000 and helped unlock a $200,000 challenge match from an anonymous donor.

This groundswell of community investment has inspired another donor to help propel us towards the finish line of this campaign. Longtime donor and friend of Town Hall Chuck Nordhoff has stepped forward with additional matching dollars for donors who want to add their names to the Great Hall stage. He will match $50,000 for named plaque gifts made from now until April 15!

Because of this incredible generosity, we’re extending the opportunity to have your name inscribed on the Great Hall stage. So if you missed your chance to Take the Stage, you can still support the renovation, inscribe a plaque, and become a permanent part of a Seattle landmark! Visit lovethistown.org to learn more.

Town Hall Seattle has a collective voice; this community of speakers and artists and audiences belongs to all of us. It has always been true, and never more so than right now, as so many of you have stepped up to secure the future of the building and the organization. Thank you for being a part of Town Hall–and thank you for your support as we finish our long journey home!

With gratitude,

Wier Harman
Executive Director


PS – With your help, we’ve already come so far and have just $2.5 million left to raise to complete our historic renovation. Visit lovethistown.org to inscribe your plaque today!

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