Listening Guide: In the Moment Episode 27

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In episode #27 of In The Moment, our correspondent Tammy Morales interviews Randy Shaw (2:17) about the rising price of housing. Shaw cites a 50-year-old federal law which states that the government would be responsible for providing citizens with houses. But that law has been ignored, and widespread access to homes has been left to the whim of the free market. They explore the factors which have led to the commodification of housing. Shaw and Morales discuss potential strategies for rescuing the housing market from rising prices and the grip of scarcity—strategies like up-zoning, rent control, investment in low-income communities, public housing, and mobilizing communities to vote for changes to local land-use policies.

Chief Correspondent Steve Scher talks with Octavio Solis (13:12) about the dreams of Solis’ past. Solis relates his impetus to record his own history in the manner of retablos—a form of Mexican folk art—and how if he doesn’t write them down they will remain dreams. He explores the ways which he becomes a character in his own stories, a fresh-faced figure who is naive and learns a lot by falling on his face. Solis also talks about how the Chicanos changed the culture of lowrider cars—a metaphor for how two cultures can change and merge to form an entirely new one.

And host Jini Palmer conducted a backstage interview with Zack Akers and Skip Bronkie (22:25)—the creators of the hit podcast Limetown—along with Cote Smith, the author of the series’ prequel novel. They discuss Akers’ and Bronkie’s journey in making Limetown, outlining their favorite parts of the process. They explore the reasons they chose the avenue of audio instead of film or book, and reveal the auditory science behind their approach. They also discuss Smith’s new novel and all the ways that the Limetown world is expanding into different mediums. Akers and Bronkie reflect on the life they’ve made out of the initial idea they had nearly 5 years ago.

Still Curious?
-Read about the latest real estate trends and the future of Seattle housing with these articles from The Seattle Times.
-PBS offers us a video interview with Octavio Solis, highlighting his experiences growing up as a “skinny brown kid” in El Paso.
-Learn more about the history and culture of retablo paintings.
-Season 2 of Limetown is now available—check out their website to listen!

Listening Guide: In the Moment Episode 26

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In episode #26, correspondent Alex Gallo-Brown speaks with Denise Hearn (1:55) about her book The Myth of Capitalism. They explore the notion that our apparently open capitalist society is being undermined by a few goliath corporations who are stifling the competitive market. They discuss workers’ rights, de-unionization, racial inequity, non-compete clauses, mandatory arbitration (which prevents workers from filing class action lawsuits), consumer activism (how we vote with our dollars), and much more.

Chief Correspondent Steve Scher interviews Alex Rosenblat (14:23) about her research on Uber—and the ways consumers and workers are at risk of manipulation by the company’s algorithms. Rosenblat contests Uber’s claim to be a middleman, revealing how the company has quietly separated what passengers pay and what drivers pay in order to charge passengers more without giving drivers their fair share. She outlines the difficulties employees face when unionizing or pursuing legal action, and the precarious situation of having an algorithm for a boss.

Steve also shares a short interview with political scientist Rob Reich (26:57). They discuss the problematic effects of philanthropy on democratic society, and Reich advocates for a shift in the public perception from one of gratitude to criticism. Reich asserts that the very-wealthy are leveraging private resources to influence public policy, which in turn is undermining the idea of democracy.

The feature this episode highlights our program on November 7 with L.A. Kauffman (29:25). She makes the case that grassroots organizing—not the democratic party—was the hero of our last midterm election. Kauffman shares the startling revelation that more people have protested since Trump took office than ever in history, and encourages us all to continue to stand strongly for the values that we hold dear.

Still Curious?

-Writer and former labor organizer Alex Gallo-Brown interviewed Annelise Orleck about the worldwide laborers’ movement of the 21st century. You can explore Alex’s work here, and listen to their conversation here.

-Denise Hearn curates her own blog—take a read!

-The Seattle Times posted an article earlier this month which puts a local spin on the ongoing conversation about Uber’s practices surrounding transparency of information and fair treatment of workers.

-Columnist Anand Giridharadas spoke on Town Hall’s stage in September earlier this year about the problematic aspects of philanthropy in America. The discussion resonates with Rob Reich’s own ideas—check out our recording of Anand’s event.

Poets in the Pews

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Welcome to the first installment of Poets in the Pews – where a poet attends a Town Hall event and writes a poem about the experience afterwards.

Maia Ruth Pody, an 11th grader at the Center School, is a Youth Poet Laureate as part of Seattle Arts & Lectures’ Writers in the Schools (WITS). She attended Town Hall’s recent Blair Imani event where Imani discussed her new book, Modern HERstory: Stories of Women and Nonbinary People Rewriting History. You can watch the event here.

Feminist Sapphics

How were green things torn from the frozen earth? The

ice around the dirt wasn’t merely melted

by a smiling sunlight; it split apart when

        thousands of hands tore

through the ground like ice picks. Behind these clawing

fingers are the fighters, the apoplectic

mothers, tired heroines. Sympathetic

        characters aren’t

working for our modern subconscious. We need

new intelligentsia, ready for the

stories grown from malnourished roots that elder

        women replanted

and their daughters nurtured. The expectation

wasn’t endless martyrdom, so when silence

greets those declarations of reparations

        owed, we speak louder.


There will be a Seattle Youth Poet Laureate & Writers in the Schools reading on 12/3 at Elliott Bay Book Company!

The Seattle Youth Poet Laureate is a program of Seattle Arts & Lectures’ Writers in the Schools (WITS). Founded in Seattle in 2015 by WITS writers Matt Gano and Aaron Counts, the YPL program aims to identify young writers and leaders who are committed to civic and community engagement through their poetry and performance. Each year, a cohort of students work together throughout the year to share their powerful voices, leadership, and love of community at events throughout the region, and the Youth Poet Laureate also gets a book deal with Poetry NW Books to publish a collection of their poems which is released in May. Learn more, here.

Photo by Rick Sood.

Photo by Rick Sood.

Octavio Solis: An Accidental Playwright of Unconstrained Imagination

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This interview was conducted by Margaret O’Donnell, Artistic Director and Founder of the Seattle Playwrights Salon. Powered by Shunpike, the Seattle Playwrights Salon is a staged play-reading series founded in 2016. The Salon meets at Palace Theatre & Bar in Seattle from 7PM-9PM the second Friday of the month. It is one of the few regularly scheduled evenings in Seattle where playwrights and actors can bring new plays in development before an audience.

The interview below has been edited. You can read the full-length version here.


Octavio Solis will be on Town Hall’s stage on December 4 at the Rainier Arts Center discussing his new memoir Retablos: Stories From a Life Along the Border.


MO: You’ve been writing plays for nearly 30 years, and have had at least 25 of your plays produced. How have you changed as a playwright in these years?

OS: Oh, I have more unproduced plays in my folders. Theatres may commission works from a writer, but they’re under no obligation to produce them. Sometimes they don’t like the work. Sometimes the work is just not right for the time or their audiences. These works languish away in neglect, but sometimes they get cannibalized by other newer works.

I think my writing has changed quite a bit over time, but it’s because I’ve changed. We all must or else we become stagnant individuals stuck in some idealized time. Some things, however, still hold true. I still cling to the notions of theatricality—that is, the use of all the elements of live theatre to make the story vivid: lights, music and song, direct address, heightened language. I like works that dance across time and space, that bend these dimensions at will in the way Shakespeare did.

And yet at the same time, I think I’ve settled a bit. I like to focus more on people. I’m more inclined to slow the page down to let them talk. Too much effort is directed at moving the action forward, and not enough on moving the action inward. Each character is a kind of maze, and I am drawn to the language that acts as a kind of string that leads us into and out of the maze.

MO: Are the themes that interest you different than they were 30 years ago?

OS: Yes, I think I have absorbed some new themes into my oeuvre. For as long as I’ve been
a playwright of note, I have devoted myself to defining the American experience for Latinos in this country. The complexities, conflicts, and ironies of being an immigrant in America. The love for and struggle against the temptations of our consumer culture. The Mexican culture as it evolves into a new hybrid American society. What it means to live on the hyphen.

But now I am drawn to environmental issues. I think moving to the country, raising goats and chickens, living off our green garden; these new aspects of our rural life have awakened my environmental heart. Now as I see so much of our forests charred by wildfires, I am struck by how much of it is due to climate change. We’re at a tipping point. We have to respond to the dire
circumstances in our planet, even if we’re only the Cassandras and canaries in the coal mine.

MO: Has the way in which you get inspiration for your work changed over the years? How?

OS: Many companies have concerns they’d like me to address, so some commissions come with issues attached. Still, I have to find what matters to me. I have to be inspired to give them the play that they’re looking for. So often I ask, what is my way in? What about the issue or topic is personal to me? I have to care deeply or else I won’t care at all. What I look for is the element that will change me in the writing. I can’t be expected to change people’s perspective if I am not willing to be changed by the writing myself. So it’s always an education, always a discovery, which means there’s always a risk. By this, I mean that I have to be ready to have my beliefs upended by the work I do. I have to be ready to let the play talk to me directly and indirectly about things I have not considered about myself.

MO: Have your writing habits changed over the years? What works best for you now?

OS: I used to write with fervor every day, every chance I could. I used to stand by my writing with a ferocity that permitted no challenges. I was young. There was still so much room to grow. Over the years, especially since writing is all I do, or at least the only occupation I have full-time, I used to demand that I write every day, all day, and when I was wasn’t I punished myself grievously by not going out and enjoying myself. Now, I know that was wrong. I have learned
that when I’m not writing, I am still writing. I am thinking and processing and engaging with my stories in my sleep, in my idle moments, when I’m driving my car; even when I am doing a repetitive physical task, I am writing. It’s the process before applying fingertips to keys or pen to paper. The dreamtime. The digestion of the idea. Consequently, I have parsed out my energies more wisely. I don’t write every day, but when I finally do sit down to write, I sit for six to eight hours and hammer out what needs to be written. Raw and unvarnished, ugly and badly worded. That’s what a first draft should be anyway. This process has become harder to maintain as I get older.

MO: What are you working on now?

OS: I’m working on getting the word out on Retablos, my new collection of memoir stories by doing readings and book-signings. I am working on a screenplay. I am doing the final touches on the rehearsal script of “Mother Road” which goes in rehearsal at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival this January for its premiere in March 2019. I am revising a work I had produced earlier this summer in Los Angeles. I am winterizing my farm in preparation for the first big freeze of the season.


Don’t miss Octavio’s event on December 4.

“The War of the Worlds” Terrified The Nation… Or Did It?

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It’s the 80th anniversary of Orson Welles’s famous radio broadcast of “The War of the Worlds.” Performed in 1938 as an episode of the American radio drama series The Mercury Theatre on the Air, it allegedly caused mass panic, though, as we explore below, the scale of the panic may be overblown.

The Boston Globe, Halloween morning, 1938.

Seattle Radio Theatre, KIRO Radio, and Town Hall Seattle will present an 80th anniversary live broadcast on October 25, 7:30PM, at SIFF Cinema – Egyptian Theatre.

Before you attend and get spooked, here are a few interesting facts about the original broadcast:

The episode was an adaptation of the science fiction novel of the same name written by H.G. Wells. A futurist and prophetic social critic, Wells has been referred to as the “Shakespeare of science fiction.” His works include The Time Machine, The Island of Doctor Moreau, and The Invisible Man.

H.G. Wells’ book version of the story, first published 1898.

The story of invading Martians was presented realistically, but disclaimers played throughout the episode professing its fictional nature.

The radio play featured work from several prominent Hollywood legends-to-be including Orson Welles himself, who had yet to achieve fame as a filmmaker. His first film, Citizen Kane, didn’t come out until 1941. The script’s author, Howard Koch, would go on to win an Oscar in 1944 for his screenwriting work on the Humphrey Bogart film Casablanca. The composer for the fateful night’s episode, Bernard Hermann, would go on to most famously write the movie score for Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho.

The telephone switchboard at the studio immediately began lighting up with calls from confused or frightened listeners. By midnight, the lighted bulletin that circled the New York Times building read: ORSON WELLES CAUSES PANIC.

Thousands of people across the country called the police, newspapers, and more, asking if what they heard was real.

Amidst all that, perhaps the most terrified listeners were in Concrete, Washington. By coincidence, during the midpoint of the broadcast, the power went out throughout the town. Some listeners ran into the mountains. Others grabbed guns awaiting the attack.

Days later, a reporter asked Welles, “Were you aware of the terror such a broadcast would stir up?” He replied, “Definitely not. The technique I used was not original to me. It was not even new. I anticipated nothing unusual.

Orson Welles performs.

Was their truly mass hysteria? There’s been some debate. Snopes is on the case.


Join us at the 80th anniversary live broadcast on October 25, 7:30PM.

$5 kids 12 and under | $10 Town Hall Members | $15 General Admission

Listening Guide: In The Moment Episode #24

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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.

Still Curious?

  • Want to see some of the maps and charts in Seattleness for yourself? Visit the book listing on the publisher’s website and take a look with their nifty Browse Inside feature!
  • 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!)

Check out previous In The Moment episodes or subscribe to our series podcasts.

Two Quick and Easy Ways to Give to Town Hall

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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.

Employer Matching

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.

Listening Guide: In The Moment Episode #23

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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.

Still Curious?


Check out previous In The Moment episodes or subscribe to our series podcasts.

Welcome to the Town Crier

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“A city’s streets to me are like the wrinkles on an old face,” wrote Margaret Bundy, the editor of Seattle’s Town Crier from 1930 to 1934. “They depict the comedy and tragedy of the life that has passed there; in short, they reflect character.” Town Hall has reflected the character of Seattle for 20 years. As a shared stage for Seattle’s cultural producers and civic groups, Town Hall is where Seattle comes together—to express our creativity, to listen and be heard, and to consider what sort of future we want to create together. And housed in a 102-year-old landmark building, we feel a deeply rooted connection to our town’s history.

That said, welcome to our new blog, the Town Crier, harkening back to our past while propelling us forward.

The original Town Crier was a weekly magazine, published between 1910 and 1938. It focused on Seattle’s news, arts, and culture. It represented a diversity of local voices, featuring artists, musicians, photographers, actors, and more, alongside reviews of local performances and discussions of local, national, and international events. The parallels to our own bustling, broad calendar are undeniable, and as we revitalize our century-old building (its set to reopen in March 2019!)—giving new life to an old name feels especially appropriate.

Town Hall strives to capture today’s voices, just as The Town Crier did a century ago, in fresh and illuminating ways. Through our blog, we’ll profile Town Hall’s speakers past and present—visionaries and thought leaders in the arts, sciences, and civics. We’ll interview Seattle’s policy makers and culture shifters. We’ll invite our community to contribute their own words and experiences. We’ll have a little fun. We’ll ask questions, and by doing so, hopefully we’ll all learn something new. Because Town Hall is a place to reflect—and inspire—our best impulses: creativity, empathy, and the belief that we all deserve a voice.

We look forward to sharing this all with you in Town Hall’s official blog, the Town Crier.

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