Meet Timothy White Eagle, Town Hall’s Spring Artist-in-Residence

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This spring, Town Hall is thrilled to welcome performance and visual artist Timothy White Eagle as our Artist-in-Residence. He has worked extensively over the past two decades exploring Native American, Pagan, and other earth-based spiritual practices. This will be a continued focus during his residency, as he interrogates the differences between early Indigenous peoples’ handling of death and the Christian colonizer approach to death, a topic that has been heavy on his mind in the time of COVID.

One of the roots of his work is thinking about how to decolonize a room that is shaped like a crucifix. Considering that relationship becomes even more poignant when thinking about our Town Hall historic building, which was originally the Fourth Church of Christ, Scientist. As with many Christian Science churches, this one is built to resemble a public building, with no religious symbolism inside or out—except the cross shape of the 860-seat sanctuary, now called the Great Hall, where White Eagle will present the culmination project of his residency on Sunday, June 20 during a six-hour durational open house performance.

White Eagle is a mixed-race, undocumented, urbanized Indigenous American artist and storyteller who was raised by adoptive white parents in working class Montesano, Washington. He was adopted at birth, and due to the circumstances of his adoption is not a registered member of any tribe. His art practices craft experiences and objects designed to heal both creator and audience, with his preferred mediums including objects, photography, performance, and installed stage. “All of my artwork stems from a ritual practice,” White Eagle said, in a video produced by The Stranger last spring. “I, with my work, am looking to heal parts of myself and parts of my community, and I have spent the last 20 years in some pretty intense environments learning about ritual and learning about traditional practice.”

This work began in the late 1990s, when White Eagle curated and performed in his landmark art/coffee house performance venue in Seattle called The Coffee Messiah, a space that is still lovingly missed by reviewers and community members. He spent his 20s exploring performance-based art, and in 1995, he began a mentor/protégé relationship with a Shoshone-Metis teacher, Clyde Hall. Around that same time, White Eagle began helping to craft personal and community rituals within his spiritual circles.

In 2006, he began collaborating with photographer Adrain Chesser, which led to the release of their book The Return in 2014.

White Eagle started working with MacArthur “Genius Grant” award winner Taylor Mac as a consultant on Native American content for Mac’s “A 24 Decade History of Popular Music,” which went on to become a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Drama in 2017. His consulting work led to a small role in the show’s NYC premiere, which further led to a job as Dandy Minion Artistic Director for the touring company of the same show.

In 2016, he returned to his interest in installed space, crafting major installations “The White Room,” followed in 2017 by “The Red Room.”

In 2019, he was the recipient of the three-year Western Arts Alliance/Advancing Indigenous Performance Launchpad Award. Native Launchpad aims to provide US-based Indigenous artists with the tools and resources needed to further their careers. That same year, he was commissioned to create a large installed space, “Songs for the Standing Still People,” as part of the yəhaw̓ show at King Street Station. (Read more about that installation here and find an article discussing it here.) He also received a commission to create temporary work for the AIDS Memorial Pathway in 2019.

In 2020, he was awarded a major Seattle CityArtist Grant for his project The Violet Symphony, which was intended to premiere at On the Boards in March and in New York in the fall of last year. White Eagle and his collaborators continue to brew and consider a performance for Fall 2021 in both Seattle and NYC.

Across the last year, he has been continuing to offer stories and spiritual practices to the community. Most especially that has happened on his Instagram. But also, a year ago now, he shared a video letter to the city, produced by The Stranger, where he offered a “simple, basic ritual that you can do all day long, many many times if you need to.”

Earlier this year, in January, he gathered us (virtually) around the campfire to share a story about the origin of our destructive consumption habits, the importance of holding each other in community, and his hopes for a reconnection with the cosmos for Seattle Neighborhoods’ Reimagine Seattle Storytelling Project. He served as artist-in-residence at legendary experimental theatre club La MaMa during winter 2021.

When asked what pieces of art have been bringing him comfort or joy over the last year, White Eagle noted, “I have been diving into the greatest hits of Indigenous writers: Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko, Tracks and Four Souls by Louise Erdrich, House Made of Dawn by M. Scott Momaday. I have read most of these decades ago, it’s been great to revisit [them].”

And when asked what he’s optimistic about right now? “The young people I know give me optimism, the ones I am connected with have an ability to see the world for what it is: on the one hand, make jokes, not take anything too seriously, and then hit the streets fists raised, seeking change.”

Join Town Hall and White Eagle on May 3 for a free program exploring historical death practices in Indigenous communities, and on June 20 in our Town Hall building for an open house performance honoring the longest day of the year. the Summer Solstice.

Shankar Vedantam Shines a Light on the Hidden Brain

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Shankar Vedantam and Brian Greene will be the keynote speakers for Town Hall’s annual gala fundraiser taking place on April 9 at 7PM PDT. They’ll be discussing the meaning in an evolving universe. The event will be a real-time virtual celebration. Tickets start at just $75, and donations directly support our radically accessible ticket prices. More information can be found HERE.

Our brains are mysterious. There are as many neurons in the brain as there are stars in the Milky Way galaxy. That’s a lot of neurons. There’s much we don’t know about what goes on inside our noggins. How do neurons talk to each other? How does the brain compute? Heck, we don’t even quite know what the brain is actually made up of.

Knowing how much we don’t know, it’s no surprise there’s plenty in our brains that remain hidden. Shankar Vedantam is doing his part to shine a light on that. He joins us twice this month; first as a special guest at our virtual gala on 4/9 and then alongside KUOW’s Ross Reynolds on 4/13 for a talk about the power & paradox of the self-deceiving brain. Vedantam is a writer and correspondent who uses journalism and research to inform the public on social science issues. A lecturer at Harvard University and Columbia University, he’s most known for his Hidden Brain book published in 2010 and the subsequent podcast and radio program. It’s been on NPR since 2015. Shankar likes to focus on the effects of unconscious bias in everyday life.

Whether it be the rituals of how we eat pizza, the relative happiness of winning the bronze medal, or eating cupcakes after working out, Vedantam showcases how our mundane day-to-day activities might not be so mundane after all. Indeed, our unconscious patterns drive our human behavior and those biases shape our choices, and those choices trigger actions that change the course of our relationships with others. This is to say, Vedantam teaches a lot about our brains by using his.

Not to be partial—our hidden brains can’t help it!—but we think you should attend Town Hall’s annual gala fundraiser as Vedantam and famed astrophysicist Brian Greene talk about the universe, and don’t miss Shankar’s event with ross Reynolds on 4/13.

It’s not every man that can explain String Theory to Everyman.

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Brian Greene and Shankar Vedantam will be the keynote speakers for Town Hall’s annual gala fundraiser taking place on April 9 at 7 pm PDT. They’ll be discussing the meaning in an evolving universe. The event will be a real-time virtual celebration. Tickets start at just $75, and donations directly support our accessible ticketing strategies. More information can be found HERE.

It’s not every man that can explain String Theory to Everyman. No, most people can’t put into simple terms what a Calabi-Yau manifold is. Nor what Ricci flatness is. Most folks can’t make much sense of the multiverse, even if they did watch Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Luckily, there are some talented people out there who can take huge mind-blowing questions and concepts and make them understandable to people like, well, us here at Town Hall. Enter Brian Greene.

Brian Greene is a theoretical physicist, mathematician, and string theorist. He is coming to Town Hall to help us understand, in part, the universe. It’s actually something of his forte, synthesizing expert-level ideas in easily digestible ways. Stephen Colbert now understands General Relativity better thanks to Greene. Talking about Einstein, the man who gave us that theory of gravitation, Green, as part of his “Your Daily Equation” video series with World Science Festival briefly highlights what the big deal is with E = MC2. Also, what is String Theory, actually? Greene can answer that with citrus fruit.

A professor at Columbia University, he’s done quite a bit of research on the Calabi-Yau manifolds mentioned above. Don’t know what that is? You’re not alone. You might not know him from theoretical physics circles, but you might from his award-winning books, such as The Elegant Universe, Icarus at the Edge of Time, The Fabric of the Cosmos, and the Hidden Reality. He’s also had PBS specials and, yes, he was indeed in an episode of The Big Bang Theory.

Greene is known for his pioneering work in superstring theory and has been frequently called one of the great “science communicators” of our time. He uses analogies and thought experiences to provide a means for laypeople to learn about String Theory and other heady topics. Can there be a unification of Albert Einstein’s theory of General Relativity and Quantum Mechanics? Greene thinks so. How many dimensions are there to the universe? More than ten? Green thinks so. What is reality? More specifically, what is spacetime? Greene can walk us through it. What are black holes? Did Disney get it right? Not really at all. Is space an entity? Why does time have a direction? Can we travel to the past? Is our universe the only universe?

The most important question, though, is what do the answers mean for us? How does an ever-expanding universe impact our humanity? Now, that’s a lot to unpack. Luckily, we have a premiere science communicator to help us along the way. Get Greene’s help with these big questions at Town Hall’s annual gala fundraiser. Join us!

Your Brand New Town Hall Dashboard

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Several years ago we embarked upon a long-term project to significantly overhaul our ticketing system. After a strong partnership with our friends at Bold Type Tickets, we knew there was frustration and difficulty in navigating away from our site to purchase tickets, needing to have your member number handy to get access to pre-sales, not being able to renew memberships at the same time as making ticket purchases, issues with password resets, and a multitude of others. Plus, as we’ve been focusing on our digital stage programming, we’ve heard concerns about having to log into another platform to watch events. Much like the building remodel and Homecoming, it’s been quite a journey, with some definite growing pains and unexpected delays, but it’s here! We’ve just introduced my.townhallseattle.org, affectionately known to our team as my.THS, to simplify the process of purchasing, donating and viewing online. 

We want to extend a special note of gratitude to you as a member. Town Hall members have always been core to our mission and community, and they are more essential than ever in supporting our work in this challenging time to continue to foster conversations and community. This support has been instrumental in the creation of My.THS, from providing feedback to help us shape what our needs were, to the financial support to get us started on this project. We are finding joy in celebrating this project milestone, and you are a huge part of that. So thank you, and we hope to see you in my.THS soon!

There are a seemingly endless list of reasons that we’re excited about my.THS,—and new discoveries still to excite us—but we’re going to share just ten of them with you here.

  1. Do you have vouchers associated with your membership? If you are logged in to your account, you will see the vouchers you still have left to redeem and be able to apply them to any tickets you choose when you’re checking out. This also means you don’t have to try to keep track of how many vouchers you have left to use—just log in to my.THS and it will be visible with your member information! As a special bonus, all vouchers totals have been reset with the launch, so you’ll have a full set of those to use.
  2. Trying to access member pricing for an event that has a member discount ticket? In addition to having vouchers readily available, member pricing for tickets is automatically available when you are logged in to your account.
  3. Member status and renewal date can now be checked in my.THS. On the very first screen when you are logged in, you will see your membership information. You can upgrade to a higher membership level, you can add secondary member information, and you can see when you’re getting close to renewal time!
  4. Your email address is only shared with Town Hall. No more third party ticketing or broadcast sites! One of the things we hear often is that our community doesn’t always feel secure with sharing their information to Bold Type Tickets or Crowdcast. my.THS solves that problem.
  5. Less staff time spent working with different systems, which means more time to help out patrons! Our previous ticketing system required quite a bit of time from our patron services team to set up and maintain. Rather than wrestling with systems that don’t work for us, my.THS allows us to cut out the middle men, and allows our team to spend more of their time being available for patron needs.
  6. Coupon codes are easier than ever to use in the new system. From working with our members to rental clients and community partners, having our own system allows us to create coupon codes to serve any purpose, and be 100% controlled by our team. The next time you get a renewal membership letter you might even see a special deal!
  7. Town Hall has more control over the ticket buying process and the information that is included in confirmation emails. Another bummer about using third-party sites is that we didn’t have much control over the communications it would send out for events. Our customization for communications has increased by a magnitude, so we can tell you all the things you might need to know—and omit anything you don’t. It also means that our patron services team is going to be better able to respond to technical problems, because it’ll be our system.
  8. Ticket fees have gone down and now directly support Town Hall. Bold Type Tickets/Stranger Tickets added a flat rate as well as a percentage to calculate their fee, usually working out to about $1.36 for a typical $5 ticket but adding up to $2.54 for a $25 concert ticket. Our fee is $1 per ticket, and rather than supporting a third-party company, now your fee will directly support the creation and maintenance of my.THS, as well as the general operation of the platform.
  9. One log in to rule them all! No more having to remember a bunch of different logins and passwords for ticketing and donations and watching events. You log in to my.THS and you’re all set.
  10. Which brings us to perhaps the best feature: everything is all in one place! Once you’ve registered and logged in, you can buy tickets, watch and rewatch events, renew or upgrade memberships, and donate from one convenient dashboard. You can even buy a ticket for a friend and then email it to them!
We hope you will do some exploring. You can find more information, some video walkthroughs, and screenshots of answers to common questions at our brand new patron services page. This system should make life easier, so as always, please reach out to membership@townhallseattle.org if you have any issues with your membership or patronservices@townhallseattle.org if you have any issues with accessing our events.

Maybe There’s A Way to Celebrate with Us After All…

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Hi friends,

On Election Night I wrote to tell you how much we missed you, and missed the chance to share the night’s energy and anticipation with you. I mentioned the power we feel when we’re with people who share our curiosities, our passions, and especially our optimism.

“Optimism” is so often called out as essential to America’s national character. I don’t know if that’s true, but knowing the character of Town Hall for 16 years now I can say that optimism—fundamental to our belief that together we can make the world better for each other—burns hot inside most card-carrying Town Hall-ions, too.

With the last states formally called (if not officially certified) today this election is effectively concluded. And no matter your perspective on the outcome I hope at last you’re getting that sense of closure that allows us to face the future with confidence. I’m going to celebrate with my family tonight—and if you’re in the mood to join me…

A look back through our Media Library will recall some of the extraordinary nights we’ve spent together on the way to this moment: Stacey Abrams and the March for Our Lives, with moving stories of community organization; Amber Tamblyn, on finding political power as you come of age; and World Without Hate, where stories coalesce into a vision of the change we want to see. And from the last three weeks alone–Steve Davis and Chelsea Clinton turn outrage to practical activism; and Jane Fonda/Elizabeth Lesser and Robert Putnam/Shaylin Garrett, issue inspiring calls to overcome self interest in favor of a common interest and heal the country.

After you look back, look forward to tomorrow night’s installment of the Bushwick Book Club, which offers original songs inspired by a book: this time, Eric Liu’s Become America, which collects a number of secular “sermons” from his wonderful Civic Saturdays programs. Many of them are hosted at/with Town Hall. Check out last Saturday’s 11/7 here, and make sure you mark your calendar for next time.

OK, maybe this won’t feel like the laughing, crying, hugging, cheering… But I promise you that in these nights (and too many others to list) you’ll feel the optimism that brought us through to this moment, and the hope that will carry us until we can be together again.

With gratitude and affection,

Wier

Streaming Saturdays With Earshot Jazz

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Want to feel the energy and emotion of live music while you’re stuck behind closed doors? In collaboration with Earshot Jazz, Town Hall is streaming live Saturday jazz concerts at the end of March and the first three weeks of April, directly from our stages! 

What about the virus?

On March 23, Governor Inslee issued a shelter-in-place order for all individuals, with the exception of essential workforce. That description of essential workforce includes allowances for “artists and musicians providing services through streaming,” provided guidelines around safe assembly are also followed. No more than 10 artists and technicians will be present at these events, and social distancing and enhanced hygienic measures will be employed. 

Town Hall and Earshot Jazz agree that music is essential to surviving, even thriving, during this health crisis–and we’re committed to offering live music that supports the health of our local artists, even as it fills your heart and moves your spirit. Whatever else you feel like moving, too.  

Who’s Onstage?

3/28 Alex Dugdale Quartet
Seattle’s favorite tap-dancing saxophonist takes the stage backed by a hard swinging trio of piano, bass, and drums.

4/4 Marina Albero Group
This Barcelona transplant brings Spanish inflections to stunning jazz piano technique and a fascinating approach to the hammer dulcimer.

4/11 Jacqueline Tabor
Award-winning vocalist Jacqueline Tabor showcases signature bluesy vocals—and unveils a new ensemble of Seattle jazz masters.

4/18 Kate Olson Ensemble
Joined by a fluid and inventive quartet, saxophonist Kate Olson brings her distinctive energy to Town Hall.

4/25 Tarik Abouzied with Erskine, Tindall, and Heyer
The veteran drummer of celebrated Seattle projects Happy Orchestra and McTuff brings together talented West Coast musicians for an energetic, uplifting concert.

5/2 Remembering Lee Konitz
Four powerhouse jazz performers come together to affirm the legacy of the peerless alto saxophonist Lee Konitz, who passed away on April 15 from the Coronavirus.

Add some groove to your Saturday nights with weekly concerts from Town Hall and Earshot Jazz!

Connecting Across the Social Distance with Eric Liu

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At a time when quarantines are keeping us isolated from our neighbors, it’s more important than ever to help us maintain connections with our community and stay engaged as citizens. Eric Liu, co-founder of Citizen University, hosts regular Civic Saturday gatherings in Seattle to help us reflect, connect, and cultivate the kind of healthy civic traditions we need during this difficult time.

Town Hall and Citizen University are presenting a Virtual Civic Saturday on 3/28 to give civic-minded Seattleites a place to gather—even if it’s not in person. To preface this livestreamed event, Liu sat down with Town Hall’s Alexander Eby for a conversation about community health.

AE: During this time of social distancing, what are some ways we can maintain engagement with our community and feel that we’re still contributing to our society, even if we can’t do it in person?

EL: There are so many ways! Create a contact sheet for you and your neighbors—it’s a good chance to check on elders and introduce yourself (from an appropriate distance) to folks you don’t know yet. Read and subscribe to the Seattle Times—we in this area are unlucky to be an epicenter of the virus but we are exceedingly lucky to have an independent daily newspaper with such talented and dedicated staff. Circulate your time, talent, and treasure at any scale using any platform available.

AE: When health concerns are making people feel alienated from their neighbors, it’s important to remember that we’re all in this together. Right now, in what ways is Seattle (and our nation) most united?

EL: We are all realizing that when it comes to a pandemic there is no such thing as someone else’s problem. Our community is only as healthy as its least healthy members. That’s always true but most of the time society forgets it. There is no avoiding that truth now.

AE: What agencies and sectors would you encourage people to support right now? Who should we donate to? Who should we patronize?

EL: We should first make sure we help those who help us: health care workers, grocery workers, delivery workers. We can help them by pushing our policymakers and big employers to do right by all of them: living wages, paid sick leave, safer workplaces. Second, we should all get better at asking for help. Epidemiologically and economically, things are going to get worse before they get better. So it’s not so much “who should we donate to” as it is a matter of practicing mutual aid and figuring out how we can help each other.

AE: Many people are finding themselves stuck in their homes with an abundance of free time—the perfect opportunity to buff up our civic education! What are some texts at the top of your “civics required reading” list that you recommend people read during this time? Why do they resonate with you?

EL: Rebecca Solnit’s A Paradise Built in Hell is about how people come together in times of disaster and form the kind of communities that we all yearn for—and she argues that the yearning means that we shouldn’t let that feeling evaporate after the worst passes. We need to pay close attention now, during the crisis, to how we practice kindness and civic love and civic responsibility so that we can keep up those practices after the crisis.

AE: What’s a message you would want all of Seattle to hear and meditate on in the coming weeks?

EL: Society becomes how you behave.

Join Eric Liu online on 3/28 for a Virtual Civic Saturday, or check out Citizen University to explore Civic Sermons from past gatherings

Getting Animated with Gustafer Yellowgold

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A pancake smackdown, gravy bats, a little yellow man from the sun who loves to go on adventures—Morgan Taylor’s creations have been delighting kids and parents alike since 2005. With colorful animations and lively music that The New York Times has called “A cross between ‘Yellow Submarine’ and Dr. Seuss,” Taylor is a fan favorite on Town Hall’s stages. 

Taylor recently sat down with Town Hall’s Alexander Eby to discuss the origins of his beloved character Gustafer Yellowgold, sources of musical inspiration, and ideas for having fun while stuck inside.

AE: Can you tell me a bit about Gustafer? What inspired the character?

MT: What eventually became Gustafer started out as a doodle on a Dayton, Ohio record store marker board in the 90’s. I would draw this yellow, pointy-headed cat-faced creature on the new releases board each week. I put him in absurd situations, like frying up a box of turtles and frogs on the stovetop. He existed mostly on bar napkins until years later when I’d moved to New York City and started a children’s book and music project. I had some fictional short story-songs sung in first person, so when I first drew them out, I used the yellow guy. Coincidentally I already had a song called “I’m From The Sun,” and realized—hey, this is this guy’s story! It was a happy accident really. I put the Sun concept with this character and the whole world sprang forth.

AE: Why choose Minnesota as the setting to introduce an alien to Earth?

MT: Kind of in the same way that Stan Lee put Spider-Man/Peter Parker (and all his fictional heroes) in New York. The fantastic superhero premise has a more grounded, tangible quality when it’s in an actual geographic location. (As opposed to Metropolis or Gotham).

I have a list of Minneapolis bands that inspired me growing up, so I guess that had something to do with it. When I first was conceiving the fictional premise I had Gustafer land on Earth and living in a town called Butterburg. Having him in Minnesota is funnier and gets a good reaction.

AE: Why do kids connect so well with your music? What about parents? 

MT: I’ve always seen it as a “nobody excluded” rather than saying it’s specifically for children. Children are easier to entertain. It’s getting the folks to equally enjoy it that I find the most fun. I think the visual has always played a vital role in how the songs are conveyed. There’s a little magic in the silliness/emotionality combination that seems to work on all ages. 

AE: Which came first for you, the music or the animation? What gave you the idea to combine them?

MT: Always music first. Sometimes a concept will inspire the music, but I always have to have the song before I can start to make the visual. Like, I knew I wanted to write a song called “I Jump On Cake” and the general image the title itself conjures, helped me know what the lyrics should be.

AE: Lots of listeners have said they enjoy the mellow energy of your songs. Why choose to keep the pace slow?

MT: I don’t know. It wasn’t on purpose. Maybe growing up listening to so much soft rock has something to do with it. My live shows are 85% uptempo. And when the songs are mellow, they have the funniest visuals. So they don’t have a sleepy slowness. If your love ballad is sung by an eel or a pterodactyl it almost is better that it’s tender musically.

AE: Which of your songs would you recommend for first time listeners? Do you have any favorites?

MT: It never hurts to start from the beginning. “Wide Wild World” from 2007. That one has a scrappy charm and the songs are each unique to each other. I’m proud of it all. My albums are all short. My first few I barely cracked 30 minutes. 

AE: What are some of your favorite bands? How have they influenced your music?

MT: Beatles are kings of songwriting. Bread are the kings of soft rock style. But, my inner 9-year-old still lives in a room plastered with Kiss posters. After pre-teen years with Van Halen, Journey and Pat Benatar, I grew musically with R.E.M., The Replacements, and especially Minneapolis’ Trip Shakespeare.

In the 90’s it was T. Rex and Guided By Voices (my hometown Dayton, OH buds) and my adult Kiss resurgence. After I moved to New York City I finally found my love of Neil Young, Stevie Wonder, Nick Drake and all the solo songwriter legends like that. As far as influence, I just strive to have my own voice like they all did. The Kiss thing; I had a chance meeting with Gene Simmons a couple of years ago and told him it was no coincidence that I ended up combining pop-rock and fantasy characters.

AE: Lots of kids and parents are cooped up at home right now—what would you suggest for ways to keep from getting bored indoors?

MT: Go outside and run around in the fresh air. Read. Get into new music. Find fun podcasts. Listen to audiobooks! Don’t spend all your time looking at screens. And most of all—create!

Morgan Taylor makes regular stops at Town Hall as part of our Saturday Family Concerts series. Check out all the catchy Gustafer Yellowgold songs on his YouTube page or listen to his latest audiobook.

 

Can You Help Migrating Birds By Turning Off Your Lights?

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Every year, millions of birds migrate along the Pacific Flyway—the migratory path that stretches over 4,000 miles from the coast of Mexico to the Arctic Circle. And each year, light pollution from populated areas can disorient and disrupt the rhythms of these birds. This can confuse, exhaust, and even endanger migrating birds—a 2014 study estimated that between 365 and 988 million birds collide with buildings in the US every year!

To explore the massive world of migration, listen to the full recording of our 2/19 panel discussion on The Pacific Flyway. And to learn more about light, energy, and sustainability in the Pacific Northwest, take a look at the resources offered by Puget Sound Energy. 

Town Hall is proud to announce our Powerful Partnership with Puget Sound Energy! With their support, we’re continuing our Town Green series, combining activist perspectives and policy-oriented programs with cutting edge research from climate studies and environmental sciences. 

For more community conversations focused on sustainability, check out Town Hall’s Town Green series. And to learn about simple energy-saving steps you can take in your home, check in with our Powerful Partners at PSE.

Turn off the lights to help save the earth—and a few birds!

Happy Birthday, Town Hall Seattle

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On this day, in 1999, we opened to the public. It was 21 years ago today that we started a community here. It’s something we continue to do: building our community with wide open doors (though the pandemic has stymied us of late) and radically affordable tickets and stages, where everyone can take part, be inspired, and use their voice to shape our future. We believe that everyone deserves access to fresh ideas and artistic expression. We believe in an equitable Town Hall that belongs to all of us. We believe that, together, we can model the kind of society we want to share. All this is to say, this isn’t a day to celebrate Town Hall, it’s a day to celebrate us all. We can’t do it without you. If you’d like to give your financial support, please do. You can learn more about how to make an impact here.

Back on that first night of programming, Town Hall presented a free celebration of “Seattle’s Favorite Poems,” hosted by Robert Pinsky, Poet Laureate of the United States. Others who read poems that night included local luminaries like Tom Skerritt, Speight Jenkins, Mike Lowry, Charley Royer, and others.

Robert Pinsky’s poem that he wrote for the occasion:

THE HALL

The hero travels homeward and outward at once,
Master of circumstance and slave to chance.
A spirit old and young, man, woman–each life
A spurt of knowing. The hero is the wife
Stitching all day a story unstitched at night
And also the son who calls the Council to meet
In the beamed Hall where the old ones used to gather.
Differing there, each regards all and each other.
A solitary old chief, the hero grieves
His dead companions, a nation full of lives.
The bird in cold and darkness buffeted in
Briefly through the bright warm hall and out again.
All nations wither Chief Seattle said,
And yet they are not powerless, the dead.
The shifting hero wanders alien places,
Through customs of cities and histories of races,
Their arts and evils, their goods, odd works and treasures.
Provincial, cosmopolitan, the hero embroiders,
Recollects, travels and summons together all
Manners of the dead and living, in the great Hall.

When Town Hall reopened recently, after it’s multi-million dollar renovation, we commissioned a work by Suzan-Lori Parks, celebrating our 20th anniversary.  It is below in its entirety.

BEGINNER
a “forever” play by Suzan-Lori Parks

The action of this play starts right here right now.

X: Where do I begin?
Y: Why are you asking?
X: Just curious.
Y: All of a sudden you’re “just curious”?
X: I’ve been curious for – for a long time, but I never thought that the question I asked you was
a question one should ask, really. Because it’s a question that has an answer that could, oh,
idunno, start a fight. Or a party. Or a parade. Or a war. Or a famine. Or a wedding. Or a
healing. Or a fissure. Or a series. Or a portal. Or a race.
Y: A race?
X: You heard me.
Just then, hundreds of PEOPLE, thousands, really, “race” across the stage. As if every single
person in Seattle, Washington, and everywhere too, right, were, right at this very moment,
“racing” out of doors, or “racing” to the gym, or to the job, or to the school, or “racing” as part
of a sport, or late for a bus or a train or a boat or a plane, or trying to cross a river or a border or
a sea. Everybody “racing,” everybody “running” and everybody running on something or
toward something or from something and, also right, everybody running something. Yeah,
we’re all running something aren’t we? And we’re all on some kind of path, a path that takes us
all, in body and/or in mind and/ or in spirit, right in this exact instant, right across this very stage
and also right across the stage in your head. Where this play also is being performed. And each
person, is carrying a FLOWER – what kind of flower? Well, if you’re lucky, it’s the flower of your
own choosing. And as we see the PEOPLE “racing” by, know that, from this moment, for you,
things are going to be better. Because they’re all on the road to recovery and you don’t have to
run cause you’re already there. The ACTION of this PLAY takes place over and over and
FOREVER which means that this is a FOREVER PLAY. Am I getting off the subject? Am I getting
off the path? Not at all. Yay. Back to our play.
X
Y
X
Y
Y: The Human Race!
X: Exactly.
(rest)
You’ve got something to teach me. I can smell it. Go on.
Y: Right, ok, well,
We know that there is no ”I” in “TEAM,”
But did you know that there is a “me” in “ENEMY?”
X: Well done.
Y: Thank you.
(rest)
Did you come all this way to learn that?
X: No, but you came all this way to tell it to me.
Y: Ok. How do you do that?
X: Do what?
Y: Get under the surface of – me. Get inside my head.
X: You open the door and let me in. You flew me into town and opened the door and let me in
and so here I am. I’m here. And I’m in your head. Deeply curled up in there. Giving you a
healing hug.
Y: Mmmmmm. Thank you.
X: That’s what I do. Pretty much. That’s like the – common thread running through my output.
Y: Wow. Deep. What was your question?
X: Which one?
Y: The one up there at the top of the page, or back there, in the past. The question you had
about –
X: Where do I begin?
I have never told an actor how to say a line but it would be really great if they could say it as
close to the same way that they said it the first time (at the start of the PLAY).
X: Where do I begin?
Y: Exactly.
X: Where do I end?
Y: Good questions.
X: And what about the Others?
Y: What Others? Where?
X: Over there.
Y: Oh, they’re you.
X: They don’t look like me.
Y: No?
X: Not at all. They’ve got NNNNNN where I’ve got YAYAYAYAYAY. They’ve got SCRUNNNNCH
where I’ve got HURRRRRRRK. I’m all waaah waaah and they’re woo woo.
Y: They’re you. There you are. Right here. Right there. And over there too.
X: Couldn’t be.
Y: It’s true.
X: So, Everything is part of Everything? One thing expressing itself in an infinite variety?
Y: Bingo.
X: Should I ask “What Else Is There?”
Y: No. Don’t ask.
X: And that’s the whole Game of Life. In One Moment.
Y: Yep. Should we sing a song?
X: Let’s.
We sing “Beginner.”
…we’re going around and around and around and around and around and around again
we’re going around and around and around and around…

Thank you, everyone, for going around and around and around with us.

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