A Retrospective on Town Hall’s 2019/20 Season: Town Green

As we prepare for a new season of programming here at Town Hall, we also want to take the time to reflect on the past season. Although it did not end up looking as we had expected, there were many accomplishments to celebrate.

One of those accomplishments is a seventh year of our Town Green initiative. Town Green is a cross-disciplinary series devoted to the environment, sustainability, and local wildlife. In addition to events with scientists, activists, and policy experts, Town Green also sponsors days of service and provides a forum for all of us to share thoughts, voice opinions, and activate ideas in our community.

We were pleased to present a wide range of over a dozen events during our 2019/20 season that fell under the Town Green umbrella. Here’s a look back at those:

Kicking off the season on September 24 was journalist Naomi Klein with Seattle City Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda in conversation about the idea of a Green New Deal, with insight from Klein’s book On Fire: The [Burning] Case for a Green New Deal.

The next day, writer Jonathan Safran Foer was in conversation with Town Hall correspondent Steve Scher about Foer’s book We Are the Weather: Saving the Planet Begins at Breakfast. Foer discussed his assertion that catastrophic climate change has resulted from the production of meat, and presented a call for collective action.

And in a third consecutive night of Town Green events, award-winning travel writer Isabella Tree joined us on September 26 to enlighten us on the trials and outcomes of her bold plan to let her farm go wild, with thoughts from her book Wilding – The Return of Nature to an English Farm.

A week later, journalist and author Florence Williams was in conversation with president/CEO of The Trust for Public Land Diane Regas about the positive effects of nature on the brain, based on her Williams’ book The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative.

One of the most effective ways of helping the environment is public transportation. Writer Christof Spieler was in the building to bring us his vision of some of the most important discussions in transportation, encapsulated in his book Trains, Buses, People: An Opinionated Atlas of US Transit.

Mycologist Lawrence Millman introduced us to the remarkable universe of fungi, drawing from his book Fungipedia: A Brief Compendium of Mushroom Lore, combining ecological, ethnographic, historical, and contemporary knowledge.

There are few remaining frontiers on our planet, but perhaps the wildest and least understood are the world’s oceans. Investigative reporter Ian Urbina joined us to share from five years of perilous and intrepid research in his book The Outlaw Ocean: Journeys Across the Last Untamed Frontier.

Feeding a global population is an incredibly daunting endeavor. Senior researcher Timothy A. Wise was in conversation with bio-cultural diversity expect Million Belay to assert their belief that we must rely on small-scale farmers to show the way forward as the world warms and the population increases.

In a panel discussion moderated by Northwest Harvest CEO Thomas Reynolds, Congresswoman Kim Schrier, entrepreneur Taylor Hoang, and PLU’s Director of Multicultural Outreach and Engagement Melannie Cunningham discussed food as a human right, and hunger as an absence of justice.

To celebrate a new multimedia book and campaign, We Are Puget Sound: Discovering and Recovering the Salish Sea, we hosted an evening to hear from some of the book contributors, like Mindy Roberts, Director of Washington Environmental Council People for Puget Sound; Leonard Forsman, the Suquamish Tribal Chairman; and Les Purce, the co-chair for the Orca Recovery Task Force.

Professor and author Robert H. Frank drew our attention to the threat of climate change, and recommended a possible solution for creating action around it: peer pressure.

Elephants are one of the most charismatic of megafauna. However, their rapidly declining numbers are troubling. But photographer Art Wolfe and author Dr. Samuel Wasser joined us to offer hope that all is not lost with inspiring accounts from their book Wild Elephants: Conservation in the Age of Extinction.

In an enlightening discussion, an all-star panel of experts answered the question: how are the health of soil, plants, bees, and humans connected? Panelists Elissa Arnheim, Anne Bikle, Dr. William DePaolo, and Dr. Jenifer Walke were joined by moderator Bob Redmond of Survivor Bee.

In conversation with Town Hall correspondent Steve Scher, professor and author Daniel C. Esty joined us with excerpts from A Better Planet: Forty Big Ideas for a Sustainable Future, a collection of essays on ecology, environmental justice, Big Data, public health, and climate change, all with an emphasis on sustainability.

We celebrated the magnificence of waterbird migration along the Pacific Flyway with authors Audrey DeLella Benedict, Dr. Robert Butler, Dr. Geoffrey Hammerson, and Gerrit Vyn.

Horticulturalist Ross Bayton presented a crash course in plant history, ruminating on the origin and significance of scientific plant names.

Is organic food really worth it? What does it mean if something’s labeled “Fair Trade,” or “Biodynamic,” or “Cage Free”? Health, nutrition and sustainability expert Sophie Egan joined us in conversation with environmental author Tim Egan to explore the world of ethical food choices, drawing from her book How to Be a Conscious Eater: Making Food Choices That Are Good for You, Others, and the Planet.

Acclaimed journalist Dahr Jamail joined us via livestream with a retrospective on his travels across the globe to observe the consequences of climate change, presenting his findings from his book The End of Ice: Bearing Witness and Finding Meaning in the Path of Climate Disruption.

And rounding out the season, we were joined by investigative science journalist Sonia Shah to discuss how migration is an essential part of history, and how migration should not be seen as a source of fear, but of hope.

What were your favorites? Did you have any big takeaways from these events?

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Town Hall Digital Registration Tips & FAQs

As Town Hall continues to pivot and adjust with the ever-changing world, we want to keep you in the know about updates to our livestreaming programs. You made the leap with us, as we (somewhat gracefully) dove into livestreaming last spring. We tested and learned many things and now we are back with new systems in place! Here is what you need to know about livestreaming our content this fall:

After offering free livestream programming since the COVID crisis started, we will be returning to our model of paid registration for digital events. In keeping with Town Hall’s commitment to accessibility, we have several ticket options for our digital events: $5 Individual ticket and a $15 Household ticket. Though we will continue to offer free tickets to anyone 22 & Under, reintroducing ticket income will allow us to continue to produce at our fullest capability.

To buy a ticket:

  1. Click on the event you would like to stream. You will be redirected to Stranger Tickets to complete your purchase.
  2. Choose the appropriate price level: General – $5, Household (3+ people viewing)  – $15, 22 & under – Free
  3. Check out
  4. You will receive a confirmation email of your purchase from Stranger Tickets AND a separate email from Crowdcast with the link to the program.
  5. When you are ready to watch the event, just click on the Crowdcast link and enjoy!

If you would like to watch the event with live captions, join us on Youtube. A link to our Youtube event will be posted on our Crowdcast page in the chat feed.

Want to watch later?

No problem! You can click the Crowdcast link in your email and watch the event anytime you like. You can even rewatch as many times as you’d like. If you’re buying a ticket after the event occurred, you can purchase the replay for $5 through Crowdcast following the event.

Running late to an event?

On Crowdcast it’s easy to rewind an event if you are joining in late. Just hover your cursor over the video and drag it back to the beginning of the event.

Still having complications?

If you have any trouble logging in, or joining the livestream, please feel free to email patronservices@townhallseattle.org. Our friendly Patron Services team will be online before and during each event to assist with any event questions.

Thank you so much for your flexibility and willingness to try new things as we adapt our current systems to continue community conversation.

An End-Of-Season Message from Wier

Looking back, I don’t think anyone will remember Town Hall’s 2019-20 as easy, but it certainly started and ended in celebration. This eventful year featured our first (almost!) full season back in our beautifully renovated building, and a return to our nomadic, Inside/Out years with an (almost!) fully virtual program. I reflected a bit on the highlights of the year in the video below, and I hope you’ll take a look.

I’m in the building once-twice a week, and every time I experience a deep feeling of loss. I wonder when we’ll have a full audience in the Great Hall again; when the building will hum with the energy of multiple events, when we’ll gather for another party in the Reading Room or a pre/post-show drink in the Otto. We don’t know when it will be, but we’re already planning for the time that we can welcome you back, and envisioning how it might work. Here’s our commitment to you for the next season:

  • continued presentation of digitally-produced events
  • livestreaming events that happen once we’re back in the building, in addition to small live audiences when its permitted
  • sustaining our $5 ticket model

Since early March, we’ve offered our digitally-produced events completely free with an option to support us with a donation. Everything you’ve heard about the struggles of non-profits right now is true; and like other organizations, we’re facing decreased revenue and deep impact on our financial stability. Next year’s budget is 65% of our 19-20; to address this shortfall, we’re introducing a $5 charge for our digital events. Though we will continue to offer free tickets to anyone 22 & Under, reintroducing ticket income will allow us to continue to produce at our fullest capability.

Our programming will be dark—and our administrative offices will be closed—from July 3 – July 26. If there is a time-sensitive need while our office is closed, please send us an email at help@townhallseattle.org. We’ll be back in the office on Monday, July 27 returning phone calls and emails. Before we go away for July, be sure to join us for Pramila Jayapal sharing stories of her political and personal history with Naomi Ishisaka on Wednesday, July 1 and a special live episode of Life on The Margins, featuring Ijeoma Oluo, on July 2. We’ll pick up the thread again with a cool program with the Institute for Systems Biology on July 30.

And so here we are—celebrating the start of a new chapter with a new building, and celebrating the start of a new chapter with a new online stage. Wherever we find each other in the year to come, thank you for being essential to Town Hall’s commitment to the truth; to civil discourse; and to strengthening our community, through shared experiences of ideas and arts, at a time when we surely need it.

With gratitude,

Wier Harman
Executive Director

Life On The Margins Special Editions

The Life on the Margins podcast features co-hosts Marcus Harrison Green, Enrique Cerna, and Jini Palmer as they share stories not just about marginalized communities, but from within, and alongside them. In each bi-weekly installment of this residency podcast, they engage with the narratives and experiences of our city, sharing them more widely with the Town Hall community.

In solidarity with the Black and Brown community in the fight for justice against police brutality and the institutionalized racism that enables it, the hosts of the Life On The Margins podcast have released two special edition episodes featuring discussions of police accountability, racism as a public health threat, the search for answers surrounding the death of Manuel Ellis while in police custody.

June 7, 2020

It Can Happen Here, Too

In this special edition of Life on the Margins, we probe deeply into the case of Manuel Ellis, a Black Tacoma man who died under suspicious circumstances while in police custody on March 3rd, 2020. The investigation into his death was seemingly dormant until it roared into the public spotlight this week after Washington Gov. Jay Inslee demanded a full investigation into the 33-year-old’s death. Since then, video footage of his fateful encounter with police, along with an audio recording of him saying the words “I can’t breathe,” have led the mayor of Tacoma to call for the firing of the four officers involved in the case.

We discuss the case and hear directly from the Ellis family, about their hard-fought battle for the truth. We also discuss how it relates to the national unrest currently raging around police accountability.

June 5, 2020

Rage, Riot, Racism : The Killing of George Floyd

The May 25 killing of George Floyd, a black man, by Minneapolis police sparked outrage and protests across the nation that sees no signs of abating. If anything, the demonstrations have intensified the longstanding desire for America to address chronic and systemic racial disparities.

Also needing to be addressed, is law enforcement’s accountability to communities of color. Those are issues we continue to have in our own backyard, as the family of a Tacoma man who died in police custody continues to search for answers.

In this special edition, an emotional conversation Dr. Ben Danielson, pediatrician, and medical director at Odessa Brown Clinic in Seattle’s Central District, about racism as a public health threat. We also hear from the family of Manuel Ellis, who are still searching for answers three months after his death in police custody. And Matt Chan has commentary on the relationship between the Asian and Black communities.

Town Hall Seattle Statement on the Deaths of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and George Floyd

Whether seen as individual lives tragically taken, or the latest examples of our nation’s 400 year history of systematic disregard for Black Americans, the heartbreaking deaths of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd over just ten weeks have left our nation—and this community—convulsed with grief. As sad and shocking as these stories are we know that they are just the reported examples of an incomprehensible structural crisis, at once too big and too painful to comprehend.

As individuals and as an institution, Town Hall Seattle shares the pain felt by so many. We are in solidarity with our Black and Brown colleagues and community members in the fight for justice against police brutality and the institutionalized racism that enables it.

Town Hall is committed to becoming an anti-racist organization. We have made specific commitments around our present and future operations, with the goal of modeling the society we want to live in. We have a very long way to go toward this goal; more information about that process and our commitments is here.

Who Was The Joyce Girl? A Conversation with Annabel Abbs

Author Annabel Abbs writes powerful stories that capture the lives and struggles of remarkable women. Her first novel, The Joyce Girl, tells the fictionalised story of Lucia Joyce, forgotten daughter of author James Joyce. Abbs gives voice to Lucia and enables her to tell her own story—a fascinating, heartbreaking tale of thwarted ambition, passionate creativity, and the power of love to inspire and destroy.

Abbs will be streaming a Town Hall discussion of The Joyce Girl on 6/9/2020. To preface the conversation, she spoke with Town Hall’s Alexander Eby about the life of Lucia, what it means to be a self-taught writer, and the amazing but overlooked artists who Abbs finds inspiring.

AE: Can you tell us a bit about The Joyce Girl?

AA: It’s a fictional re-working of a critical period in the life of the only daughter of James Joyce (the Irish author of the great modernist novel, Ulysses), Lucia Joyce. The novel is deeply researched, but all of Lucia’s letters, medical notes, diaries were destroyed, so there was very little of her left. During this period—1928 to 1934—she lived with her family in Paris where she was training to be a dancer. She was supposed to be a very good dancer and had performed in dance tours in Italy and Belgium as well as at various theatres in Paris. But during this time she stopped dancing, and I wanted to understand why she had given up something she loved. At the same time her father was grappling with his final book, Finnegans Wake, which took 17 years to write. Lucia was also believed to have had an affair with Samuel Beckett at this time, and then with Alexander Calder, who became her drawing teacher when she gave up dance. Later on, she told other people she had been engaged to each of them.

AE: How much of the story is biographical and how much is fiction? Why did you choose a mixture of the two, rather than fully in a biography format?

AA: Lucia is already the subject of a biography written by a Joyce scholar, and although I relied heavily on it, the book is constrained by the absence of material in Lucia’s voice. No new material has come to light, so I felt wary about writing a second biography. I felt her story lent itself to a fictional re-telling where I could slip beneath her skin and imagine her experience—at the centre of an oddly dysfunctional exiled family but in the wild excitement of Paris at its creative apotheosis. All the characters are based on real people and all the main events of the novel actually took place, so the biographical facts acted as my scaffolding leaving me free to imagine Lucia’s thoughts, feelings and responses.

AE: What was it like to write the characters of James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, and Carl Jung? How did that experience compare to writing Lucia, particularly as a figure whose personal character is likely less well-known but is more central to this story?

AA: Lucia was the hardest character to write. Not only had her own letters and diaries been destroyed but so had hundreds of letters that mentioned her or discussed her predicament. I felt as though I was looking for her through an endless telescope. I had quite a few photographs and one snippet of autobiography that I used to look at in a London archive, but it was hard to fathom her from so little. Joyce, Beckett and Jung have tens of biographies between them, as well as collected letters, interviews, voice recordings and numerous scholarly works. I read four biographies of Beckett, and hundreds of his letters, as well as attending an entire season of his plays, going to something every day for a month. I had a much clearer sense of their characters, their foibles, their likes and dislikes.

Lucia came to me in that strange liminal time between wake and sleep. It sounds weird, but in those few minutes I found a version of her—my version.

AE: Many would consider James Joyce and Samuel Beckett to be household names—yet not Lucia Joyce. Why do we have so few details about her life? What initially drew you to tell Lucia’s story—and what draws you to continue that discussion today?

AA: Yes, Joyce and Beckett are household names, as is Carl Jung—who she was sent to in 1934 as she became more and more fragile. This juxtaposition made me uncomfortable—the way the men in her life had become legendary figures while she had been erased from history, barely a footnote in most scholarly works on Joyce. There was considerable evidence that Joyce had been hugely influenced by Lucia, and inspired by her dancing. References to it appear throughout Finnegans Wake. I felt this needed acknowledging. I was indignant at the attempts to wipe out all trace of her. But the stigma of mental illness was very strong then. Lucia’s story is really about what happens when you live in the shadow of another person, what happens when your own creativity is thwarted, and the dark underbelly of jazz-age Paris. There was an entire community of extraordinary dancers (mostly women) in Paris at the time, most of whom have been forgotten. We still think of 1920s Paris as being very much the playground of Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Joyce, Picasso. But there were just as many women trying to live in a new, more emancipated way. I’d like to see them all resurrected.

AE: How does your own work as a dancer compare with Lucia’s point of view? When researching Lucia’s life, did you find that you and she had any similar experiences from working in that field?

AA: I’d done some dance before but not the freeform modern dance that Lucia trained in. So I tracked down someone who had trained with the same woman as Lucia. She was nearly 90 and she introduced me to a group of dancers (most of them very elderly!) and a teacher who taught me to dance the same method. It’s called the Margaret Morris Method (Margaret Morris was the name of the woman who devised this style of dance) and it’s still going in some parts of the world. It’s a very expressive form of movement, with lots of improvisation. I loved it, and it gave me an immediate understanding of how Lucia must have felt when she danced. It’s nothing like ballet. It’s very free, very creative. It was Lucia’s voice, I realized. She spoke through her body while her father spoke through words.

AE: You mentioned that Lucia served as her father’s muse for Finnegans Wake. Can you elaborate on this, based on your research about their lives and relationship? 

AA: Joyce attended all Lucia’s performances and there are accounts of her dancing in his study while he wrote. Finnegans Wake is full of references to dance and when she was initially hospitalized he visited her every Sunday and they danced together. Later, Lucia said that all the bits in Finnegans Wake about dance, love and madness were about her. Dance seemed to be how they communicated when words failed them, it seemed to be a bond between them. What struck me was how they were both breaking boundaries. He was writing a book about the ‘dark night of the soul’ using language as it had never been used before (or since) and she was dancing using movement as it had never been seen before. Her dance was as radical as his writing.

AE: What do you think of the concept of “the muse” in general—as a typically feminine figure that’s been woven into our concept of authorship in classical and contemporary literature? Do you see the archetype as empowering? Damaging?

AA: The notion of the muse (usually female, often supine) seems quaintly old-fashioned now, thank goodness! It’s a notion that requires a person to be both subject and object, making it inherently problematic. I find it hard to see the traditional muse as anything other than passive and possessed. On the other hand, in the past being a ‘muse’ offered women the chance to do something a little more interesting than they might otherwise have done and to have exposure to a circle of artists and writers. So I’m reluctant to write them off. All too often they were aspiring artists themselves. They frequently had an enormous impact on the works they inspired, but received no credit for this. This is what bothers me—how little agency they seem to have had and how little credit they received.

Does anyone call themselves a muse now?

AE: You’ve famously decided against formal writing courses and MA programs, instead building your own curriculum and structure. How long did it take you to figure out what worked for you? How do you keep yourself motivated?

AA: I had too many family commitments to do a course, although I would dearly have loved the support network that comes with doing a Creative Writing Masters! Instead I bought some books and devised some creative writing exercises that I did whenever I was stuck. And I read like crazy, copying out lines and paragraphs and then dismantling them so I could better understand the author’s craft. I also edited and rewrote, over and over. I was kept motivated by my rage at how Lucia had been treated. Whenever I stalled (which was often), I took out a photograph of Lucia in the mental hospital where she died, and was re-fuelled with anger. Then I got back to work.

I think you need to be comfortable with a certain amount of chaos, uncertainty and isolation if you take this route. COVID-19 lockdown is a good dry run!

AE: Who are some female writers and artists from history who inspire you, but who have been overlooked or overshadowed in their time? Who are the female artists and authors who inspire you today?

AA: Oh so many…where to start? Overlooked…all the best-selling female poets of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Many women wrote and published hugely popular poetry, but very little made it into the cannon. It frequently lacks the muscular style of their male counterparts but why do we rate muscular more highly than emotional? Letitia Landon is my current favourite—she wrote under the initials L.E.L and died tragically at the age of 36. I’ve also been researching and writing about a painter called Gwen John who also worked in 1920s Paris but was completely overshadowed by her brother, Augustus John.

Finally, I’ve spent much of lockdown looking at the paintings of Georgia O’Keeffe—all that open space has helped keep me sane in my London house—and reading Hilary Mantel, one of the best historical novelists writing today (in my view!).

Annabel Abbs will be streaming a Town Hall conversation about her book The Joyce Girl on 6/9/2020.


What Are People Doing? Commencement

Every week the Town Crier blog looks back at Seattle’s near-forgotten Town Crier magazine to see what was happening, and talk about what’s happening now. One of the largest sections of the original Town Crier was “What People Are Doing,” highlighting things like, “Mrs. Jane Douglas Champlin was the honor guest at an attractive luncheon” and, “There is the sort of an exhibition at the Fine Arts Gallery which will appeal to the various members of a family.” In this series we’re revisiting the old column and tying it to our community’s current happenings, asking: “what are people doing?”

Throughout Seattle and across the country, stay-at-home orders have disrupted normal class schedules. Many students have found themselves gearing up to attend virtual graduations, or taking final exams remotely. Despite the strangeness of the times, it’s certainly nothing new for students to enjoy a well-deserved graduation. The same was true in 1920 as well, says the Town Crier. 

“The Saint Nicholas School held its Commencement exercises yesterday morning, June 4, for the class of 1920, in the Fine Arts Gallery,” mentions the ‘Crier in their June 5, 1920 issue. Renowned for its attendance by many of the most prominent families in Seattle, the Saint Nicholas School was a private girls’ school that prepared its students both for navigating  Seattle’s high society, as well as for pursuing their own courses of higher education.

“The School, under the direction of Miss Edith Dabney, has made an enviable reputation as one of fine Ideals that are being realized in the life of the pupil, and when it comes to the last analysis there can be nothing of higher worth gained from any school than the building of character.” Sounds like a worthy institution. 

Of course, we have many worthy schools today as well. One such establishment is Cornish College of the Arts, who are proudly broadcasting a graduation of their own. Cornish invites us to celebrate a fresh wave of burgeoning artists with a virtual commencement ceremony on May 16 starting at 11AM. The event will feature the work of talented performers and speakers from the class of 2020. The festivities also include addresses from President Raymond Tymas-Jones, Provost William Seigh, and Cornish alumna Skye Borgman. 

Sounds like a worthy way to spend a Saturday!


What Are People Doing? Virtual Museums

Every week the Town Crier blog looks back at Seattle’s near-forgotten Town Crier magazine to see what was happening, and talk about what’s happening now. One of the largest sections of the original Town Crier was “What People Are Doing,” highlighting things like, “One of the gayest parties of the season was the dance given by Mr. and Mrs. James Doster Hoge at the Golf Club” and, “Youngsters, taking advantage of the cold snap, have hunted up the old ice skates of various vintages and are indulging themselves in the rare sport of skating.” In this series we’re revisiting the old column and tying it to our community’s current happenings, asking: “what are people doing?”

Even a century ago, Seattle was no stranger to the arts. “There are three small but exquisite bronzes by Prince Troubetzkoy now on view at the Fine Arts Gallery, 1218 Fourth Avenue, which are well worth seeing,” wrote the Town Crier issue published May 8, 1920. “The work of this sculptor is accepted as being among the very best of its kind and of a marked individuality, so it is really a privilege for Seattle to be given an opportunity to see these bronzes.”

Prince Paolo Petrovich Troubetzkoy (1866-1938) was an acclaimed artist and a sculptor, described by playwright George Bernard Shaw as “the most astonishing sculptor of modern times.” Interestingly, back then Seattle valued free access to the arts just as much as we do today—even for viewing the work of a master such as Troubetzkoy. “Admittance is free and the public is cordially invited to attend,” the Crier informs us.

Troubetzkoy’s work is no doubt inspiring to behold in person, though perhaps it’s for the best that his sculptures have already come and gone. After all, if his work were here today our options for viewing it would be limited to livestream or video—a somewhat diminished experience for a medium as tactile as sculpture.

Luckily we still have access to fine art in Seattle today, even while sheltering in place. The Frye Art Museum had to suspend their exhibition of the work of video artist and photographer Agnieszka Polska, but an excerpt of the exhibit is still viewable virtually! A far cry from bronzes, this installation of Polska’s work follows a childlike sun who is a helpless witness to ethical and environmental collapse on Earth. 

The Seattle Art Museum is also presenting their own suite of ways to enjoy the arts at home. They recently released a virtual discussion reflecting on the ways that living in quarantine impacts our daily rhythms. Pam McClusky, Curator of African and Oceanic Art, ruminates on artwork propelled by walking, and the ways our rhythms adjust to each landscape we cross. 

Be sure to check out the websites for these local museums and keep an eye out for future videos. Though we can’t be there in person to enjoy these exhibits, it’s certainly easier to engage with inspirational art today than it would have been 100 years ago. 

Though, to be fair, we’re probably not doing anything Troubetzkoy wouldn’t have done if he’d had the internet.

Left On Red: The Month of Red May, Seattle’s Vacation From Capitalism

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. 

During a typical season, May at Town Hall would find fascinating conversations about capitalism and society making their way to our stages. We typically partner with our friends at Red May as part of their eponymous festival of radical art and thought, featuring local and national speakers helping Seattle turn red for a month. As they say, maybe we can’t move beyond capitalism by next week—but we can sure as hell take a vacation from it.

This year, while we won’t be able to keep up the tradition of bringing Red May speakers to our space, you can still take your vacation from capitalism—Red May is broadcasting their full calendar of events! Take a look at some of the highlights from this upcoming month of alternatives to capitalism:

The Antifada podcast (5/7) is a one-stop destination for “Ultra-Left-Post-Posadist-Nihilist-Anarcho-Communist-comedy and politics.” In this episode, our hosts delve into the effects of the coronavirus on our workforce and examine the future of work at a rare moment when almost nobody is working.

Negative solidarity: an aggressively enraged sense of injustice—the belief that “Because I endure lousy working conditions (wage freezes, no benefits, increasing precarity) everyone else must too.” Will this viewpoint expand in scope and intensity after the quarantine? Sit in with Jason Read, Jeremy Gilbert, Jo Isaacson, Steven Shaviro, and moderator Bruno George for a panel discussion on The Future of Negative Solidarity (5/9).

The Dig (5/15) is an acclaimed podcast from Jacobin magazine, featuring journalist and host Dan Denvir. He sits down with Holly Jean Buck from the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability for a discussion on global warming, technology, and the work ahead of us for repairing our relationship with our planet.

The Behind The News podcast (5/21) brings together Asad Haider, Jodi Dean, Leo Panitch and moderator Doug Henwood for a wide-ranging panorama of the current moment: how will the coronavirus affect our country, and what strategies should the Left follow to derail the next push for more austerity?

Dissent magazine has been called one of America’s leading intellectual journals and a mainstay of the democratic left, with a mission to cultivate the next generation of labor journalists, cultural critics, and political polemicists. They bring us an episode of their Belabored podcast (5/24), delivering punchy labor journalism from Cal Winslow and Emily Cunningham with Michel Chen and Sarah Jaffe.

In her book Capital is Dead McKenzie Wark poses a provocative thought experiment: what if we are not in capitalism anymore—but something worse? Political theorist Jodi Dean sits down with Wark with a forward-looking conversation on Communism or Neo-Feudalism (5/25).

Coronavirus has shone a harsh light on the US carceral state. Just like with nursing homes and elder care facilities, the overcrowded and unsanitary conditions at jails, prisons, and penitentiaries are ideal conditions for the incubation and spread of the virus. Red May convenes a panel of local experts for a discussion on The Covid Crisis and the Carceral State (5/30).

Still curious about Red May? You can take a look at their full festival calendar on their website—or dig into previous Red May events at Town Hall with a look into our archives.

What Are People Doing? Seattle Shakespeare

Every week the Town Crier blog looks back at Seattle’s near-forgotten Town Crier magazine to see what was happening, and talk about what’s happening now. One of the largest sections of the original Town Crier was “What People Are Doing,” highlighting things like, “Miss Pollock spoke of ‘Experiences and Opportunities in France’” and, “Mrs. Castlen, one of the active promoters of horseback riding in the city, carried off the blue in the polo class and was the only woman competing against the army officers.” In this series we’re revisiting the old column and tying it to our community’s current happenings, asking: “what are people doing?”

“Next week the Shakespeare fans are going to have their innings and there will be a whole week given over to the plays of the immortal Bard of Avon at the Metropolitan,” wrote the Town Crier on May 7, 1921. Seattle’s love of Shakespeare, then and now, certainly can’t be denied. 

It’s been documented that Shakespeare wrote some of his plays from home during the 1603 outbreak of bubonic plague. Would that we all had the resolve to write a masterpiece right now—but second best to that is watching some of the Bard’s plays in action. Luckily, Seattle Shakespeare Company has us covered. They’ve put together a collection of streaming options for viewing Shakespeare performances at home, and have partnered with local artists to present “Ruff Reads” of classic plays. And for those who want to put on their own productions, they’re even offering resources for teaching Shakespeare’s work.

Of course, the ‘Crier had its own idea of what a good performance looked like. “John E. Kellerd comes again with his company and those who have heard him will remember the delightful simplicity with which he reads his lines. In his creed, ‘The Play’s the Thing,’ and he never smothers it with upholstery and mouthings.” A high bar to beat, indeed.

“Incidentally, you’ll be surprised to see the number of Shakespeare devotees in this town. ‘Best people,’ you know, and all that sort of thing.” 

Stay healthy, all you best people out there.

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