A Man of the People: Edwin Lindo and Estelita’s Library

In an unassuming building that used to be home to a wine bar, a community library and bookstore lies, ready to be explored. With a focus on social justice, ethnic studies and liberation movements, Estelita’s Library is open to anyone and has something for everyone.

Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison. Ceremony, by Leslie Marmon Silko. To Be Young, Gifted and Black, adapted by Robert Nemiroff. There is no order to the books on the shelves. There is an element of discovery. Chinese Communism and the Rise of Mao, by Benjamin Schwartz. The Souls of Black Folk, by W.E.B. Du Bois. Homer’s The Iliad. It’s like someone’s den. A few shelves long against one wall. Another shelf on the far wall with paperbacks. Most of all the books dealing with race, politics, gender, justice. Crazy Laws and Lawsuits: A Collection of Bizarre Court Cases and Legal Rules, by Robert Allen. 

The books on the shelves have been placed there by Edwin Lindo. He’s never run a library before. He teaches at the University of Washington with the Department of Family Medicine. He got his BS in Business Administration/International Relations from the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California and a Doctor of Jurisprudence degree from the UW School of Law. He’s never worked in a bookstore, either. He runs this place—Estelita’s social justice library, bookstore and community space crammed into a little space on Beacon Hill. It’s across the street from El Centro de la Raza and behind a place called Chop House—a beauty salon.

Edwin Lindo (center) in conversation with patrons
Edwin Lindo (center) in conversation with patrons

Estelita’s was in a wine bar. The old counter now has vintage Black Panther comic books in it, old Black Scholar magazines, too. There are “Democracy is Power” postcards available for the taking. On the walls—African masks, tree branches with little bird nests in them (art created by local Briar Bates). Paper skeletons sweep across the front window. There are Che Guevara posters. An upright piano is shoved in by the window. There’s a church pew. There are a couple of tables with burgundy tablecloths on them to read, or commiserate, or to play chess.

The Responsibility of Intellectuals, by Noam Chomsky. The Buddha in the Attic, by Julie Otsuka. Long Walk to Freedom, by Nelson Mandela. 

“This is the sort of place I grew up in,” Lindo says. He grew up in the Bay Area to a Nicaraguan father and a Salvadoran mother. His dad would take him to a restaurant where there would frequently be discussions of art and politics, books and the news of the day. 

“I wanted to bring that here,” he says. “I hated books, I didn’t really start reading until after college. It was when I started listening to my elders that I started reading. They told me that books are where the secrets lie.”

The Rights of Indians and Tribes, by Stephen Pevar. Radical Dharma, by Jasmine Syedullah, Lama Rod Owens and Rev. angel Kyodo Williams. Roots, by Alex Haley.

The books on the shelves are mostly his own. It’s an interesting collection. Behind the counter he has piles of The Black Panther newspapers. The official newspaper of the Black Panther Party began in 1967, founded by Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale. He believes he may have the greatest collection of them in the world. Approximately 400 editions of the paper were created. He’s got 380 of them. He’s angling to get the whole set. “I tried to show them off to Bobby Seale. He said, ‘Cool, cool.’” 

A collection of postcards at Estilita’s
A collection of postcards at Estilita’s

The library is named after his daughter, Estelita, and opened in March 2018. The library operates through membership. From $30 to $50 or so, you can have access to the books (about 1,200 are in circulation now and he’s always looking for suitable donations) and have the books for a two-week stretch. Currently, Estelita has 336 members. “It’s amazing,” Lindo says of the growth. And more, the non-profit is already growing. He’s received a grant from the city to open a second location. It’ll be in the Central District. Plans are still being formulated.

The Quran. How to Rap, by Paul Edwards. The Macho Paradox, by Jackson Katz.

More than a place for knowledge to decentralize, it’s a place for the community to gather—play chess, have conversations with strangers, debate. Eager to bring people off the street, Lindo is also wanting to partner with like-minded community organizations. He wants to offer classes, book talks, lectures. “My wife asks me why I spend so much time here,” Lindo says. “It’s because I love it. I can spend hours here—jazz playing on the speakers, people coming in to talk, all these books.”

The Negro Revolution in America, by Louis Harris and William Brink. Native Son, by Richard Wright. Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America, by Ibram X. Kendi.

Teenagers sit in the corner of the shop, peruse the titles and chitchat. It’s raining outside and they didn’t want to go home quite yet. Two old women come in, warmly chatting. Two thirty-somethings come in soon after. They ask Lindo about that night’s poetry open mic. “It’s been cancelled,” Lindo says, reluctantly. But then, “That doesn’t mean you can’t have it anyway,” Lindo tells them. 

The old women sit at a table with the thirty-somethings. They don’t know each other. They introduce themselves. They start talking. They get to know each other.

“That,” Lindo says, smiling. “That right there is what this is all about.”

Ryan Henry Ward on Murals in Seattle

Encore recently sat down with the urban artist, Ryan Henry Ward, to discuss the role of children in today’s society, Amazon hackers and where he’d love to paint a mural next.

Even if you don’t know who Ryan Henry Ward is, you’ve seen his work around town. Maybe it’s that weird Sasquatch painting on a building in Fremont. Maybe it’s an elephant on a Value Village wall. Maybe it’s googly-eyed fish, a walrus, a gnome along Interbay. Marking his work “Henry,” his murals have been popping up all over the city for years. 

What sparked your interest in art as a kid? What artists did you look up to? Who do you look up to now?

I grew up in rural Montana and had very little influence besides Sunday comics, Saturday morning cartoons and children’s books. I really was influenced by illustrators. Quentin Blake was my favorite. I was in love with how it felt like his drawings took no time at all to make. I always pushed myself to draw cartoons fast because of him. I liked Shel Silverstein and then Jim Unger, Gary Larson and Ralph Steadman as I got older. Presently, I’m being influenced by Hieronymus Bosch and Alex Kuno. I’ve also had a thread of influence as an adult from Diego Rivera, Keith Haring and, as cliché as it sounds, Picasso and Dali.

Your murals are often full of odd delight and charmed whimsy. Do you picture yourself that way? If not, how would you categorize yourself?

I find myself to be a pretty lighthearted laid-back guy. I tend to have a lot of funny thoughts going through my head most of the time. But I am a full person; I have a definite shadow side and embrace it. It seems to come out in my private work more. I do have a basic philosophy as a public artist and that is to acknowledge that children are part of the public. I think a lot of public artists overlook their responsibility towards the children whose eyes are wide open and seeing everything. I’m no Mr. Rogers but I admire him, and Jim Henson too, and find as an adult that I should take into account the development of the generations that will be responsible for taking care of my soon-to-be geriatric a**.

What do you think is different about a kid appreciating your art over an adult?

It feels like I found an interesting voice that somehow finds people of all ages to speak to. Five-year-olds, teenagers and adults of all ages enjoying the work in the same show is interesting to watch. I think all ages know when something works; when it has intuitive balance and flow. When you look at something and for an unknown reason want to keep looking. I think that experience happens and transcends the age barrier. I’ve seen it happen with my black-and-white work, my bright color work and my imagery that has nothing to do with fun characters. I think I open the door and allow a big audience in, but I think they see something and can’t easily explain why it works for so many. That’s the fun for me. I get to be the scientist behind the concoctions, so to speak, and watch my experimental process take hold in the hearts and minds of people from all walks of life.

What’s your favorite piece that can be seen in Seattle right now? What murals do you miss that are no longer there? 

I always say my favorite piece of art is the one I’m about to paint. But of the stuff that exists, I’m most proud of the work I’ve done for Flatstick Pub and the ongoing relationship I’ve developed with those guys. The installation on the corner of Mercer and Westlake is really worth experiencing. I had been dreaming of full room interactive installations for a while and I was finally able to do it. I’ve lost a handful of murals, mostly due to the tearing down of old buildings and putting up new ones in their place. It’s hard to see your babies go but it’s also the nature of the game. It’s sad when I lose one because I know how attached the community gets to them and how they become a part of their lives. When someone gets a hold of me and asks for permission to replace or cover it with something new, I feel a responsibility to historic preservation of the work and basically tell them no. Of all of them, I wish my first one was still here. That was on the Triangle Lounge in Fremont.

You came close to being able to paint the top of the Space Needle in a competition. What happened there?

Oh, the Space Needle saga. Q13 hired a computer forensics scientist and found an Amazon employee hacked into the voting program and swayed the process. It was weird because I had to remain neutral although I was upset because so many people put so much time and effort into voting for that. In the end they found it was hijacked. I felt horrible for my fans that put the time in and also felt bad for the other artist that was chosen that had to deal with the whole thing on her end. Basically, I don’t enter competitions anymore and have no interest in being involved in games that involve artist’s careers or lives.

If you could paint a mural on anything in Seattle, what would it be?

It would be the Seattle Aquarium. I love that place and that wall is a beauty.

Heidi Durham on the Nonprofit Art with Heart

For 20 years, Art with Heart has been an innovator helping kids build resilience, self-regulation and social-emotional skills to heal from Adverse Childhood Experiences. They use art-based, age appropriate, therapeutic activity books to help abused and traumatized kids heal. They have served 190,000 children so far and are on a mission to provide resources to at least 10 percent of the 35 million kids facing trauma in America in the next 10 years.

How did you get involved with Art with Heart?

After over a decade at Starbucks, a year in Ethiopia and two years working at a local brand strategy and design firm, I met our founder who was ready to pass the torch after 20 years. I was so impressed with what she had built. Motivated by the reality that 35 million kids are struggling with various adversities and inspired by the power of art to help kids heal by accessing the part of the brain where trauma is stored, I jumped at the chance to join. 

What sorts of kids participate? What types of traumas/adversities have they faced? 

Heidi Durham, Art With Heart CEO
Heidi Durham, Art With Heart CEO

Kids who take part in Art with Heart curriculum are often trying to cope with an Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE). These kids are not alone. A staggering 35 million American children are struggling with one or more ACEs; 28 percent are dealing with physical abuse, 27 percent with substance abuse, 20 percent with sexual abuse, 13 percent with domestic violence and 11 percent with emotional abuse. After exposure to ACEs, kids have twice the risk of heart disease, three times the risk of depression and a greater risk of chronic disease, mental illness, violence and being victimized by violence. The National Child Traumatic Stress Network estimates that one in four kids has experienced a serious trauma by age 16—that’s eight children in a school class of 32. Eight kids who can’t pay attention, sit still long enough to read, or concentrate on the math problem on the chalkboard because their central nervous systems have been hijacked by traumatic stress. If they’re not helped, those eight kids can’t make up for lost time. They’re likely to be shuffled on to the next grade, labeled “disruptive” and isolated socially while struggling to cope with overwhelming emotions. Knowing so many children are struggling to cope with ACEs with no resources and not enough adults trained in trauma-sensitive interventions is what drives us. Their teachers, parents, family doctor and other caregivers are often at a loss for how to help. They may not understand the effects of trauma on a young, developing brain or have the skills to reach these kids. They may be too strapped for time and money to give kids what they truly need: trauma-sensitive, guided, therapeutic activities that help them safely express their challenging emotions and build resiliency skills for a healthier, happier future. 

What are some of the most powerful experiences you’ve had while interacting with the kids? 

Art with Heart is successful if kids finish an art project and feel like art is a coping strategy for them when faced with difficulty. There are so many stories of how art is a powerful tool to help kids through trauma. An 11-year-old said of the program, “Art helped me to get my feelings out on paper. Doing these actives let me know that there is someone out there in the world that has the same feelings as me.” A 16-year-old said, “Over the course of my life, I’ve experienced many negative emotions, there were some good ones as well. I have trouble expressing my emotions in a non-harmful way, so these art projects are a good way to express these emotions.”

Art With Heart painting activity

Why art? How does art reach a child when other things don’t?

Talking about trauma is difficult, in large part because it’s stored in the visual, nonverbal part of our brains. This is how creative expression has a unique role in healing—making art connects the head, heart and hands like no other method that exists. 

How can someone help?

Make a gift online. Come to an event. Volunteer.

You can learn more about Art with Heart’s curriculum, programs and how to get involved by visiting artwithheart.org.

Music Meets Literature with The Bushwick Book Club

Ever been inspired to write a song based on Moby Dick or Ready Player One; The Outsiders or Delta of Venus? The Bushwick Book Club is a group of musicians who create original compositions inspired by books they read. These compositions are then presented to a live audience and their fellow songwriters. 

Encore Stages recently sat down with Geoff Larson, Bushwick’s executive director, to discuss playing bass, Commander Toad and how music can help illuminate literature.

What’s your background?

I’m the executive director of Bushwick Northwest, the parent organization to The Bushwick Book Club Seattle and STYLE: Songwriting Through Youth Literature Education. I graduated from Western Washington University with a degree in Classical Performance on the upright bass while studying Jazz and Composition. I’ve spent 20 years working as a professional musician in a variety of styles, having the opportunity to tour the world. I now focus on my executive director role at Bushwick and producing events, education programs and recorded music in the Seattle area.

Geoff Larson
Geoff Larson

What is Bushwick Book Club and how did you get involved in it? 

Our goal is to ignite passion for literature and support musicians in their creative endeavors. More than anything, Bushwick is a community for artists to gather and share their compositions while supporting those around them.

I moved to NYC in 2009 with my jazz quartet, Das Vibenbass. While living in the city I ended up performing with a variety of groups and seeing some amazing performances, including The Bushwick Book Club right there in Bushwick, Brooklyn. It was one of the most electric songwriting showcases I had ever seen. When I made the move back to Seattle, I knew I would need to start up a Bushwick chapter. I gathered a crew and we performed our first event in 2010.

How can music help illuminate literature? How can literature help illuminate music?

Music is something that can bring out emotions in an unexpected way. The way a performer choses to represent their inspiration certainly challenges each listener with their own experience with the same text. Each reader has a unique take on a single passage and will represent their experience accordingly. And then a listener will even have a different inspiration from the music. It’s a beautiful cycle of ideas and creation. Attaching a story to music can help bring a listener on a journey. This is something I always love to do with my instrumental music. I love hearing what journey a listener created while listening to my music. It’s actually a game I like to play inside the classroom with our education program, STYLE.

What books growing up touched you? What books have you gravitated towards as an adult?

In my youth, I loved adventure and exploration. These have been found in the simplicity of Beverly Cleary or in Commander Toad, although I could not deny the beautiful poetry of Shel Silverstein or Dr. Seuss. I have fond memories of my parents reading me those stories. As I grew into high school age, I found Kurt Vonnegut, still one of my favorite writers, and John Steinbeck. As an adult, I’ve counted heavily on those around me to guide me towards what they love. Science fiction is something I love beyond all. The creativity and thought towards the future cannot be matched with these incredible writers. I have to note that Mary Doria Russell’s The Sparrow has become one of my top reads. It feels so real to me.

How does one become involved in Bushwick? Are you seeking out singers?

Bushwick is always looking for more musicians to perform in our programs. All you need to do is share one song inspired by the written word with us, and provide us with your online presence. We love meeting new performers and bringing more artists together to foster support and collaboration.

We also love volunteers! It’s a wonderful way to help our organization charge forward and get the chance to support local artists and see our performances. You can volunteer by contacting us through our web page.

Favorite Bushwick memories?

Bushwick has too many to count—from our multiple performances at Benaroya Hall and McCaw Hall, to performing with a full orchestra at Town Hall Seattle. My favorite moment is picking up a guitar and performing that first song back in 2010. It was my first performance on guitar and vocals and my goal was to make sure everyone was comfortable to bring their own songs to this audience.

What are you looking forward to most next season?

I am ecstatic that we will have a place to call home next season. Thank you to the Hugo House for providing us with a location for most of our events. Our partnerships are a big deal to us. This also includes Town Hall Seattle, Seattle Arts & Lectures, The Vera Project, Jack Straw Cultural Center and Seattle7Writers.

As for our events, I’m looking forward to our Parable of the Talents event on April 20, 2019 at Town Hall Seattle. Working with our curator, KEXP’s Riz Rollins, is a fantastic experience, and I cannot wait for this second performance (we did Parable of the Sower last season). Octavia Butler is one of the best science fiction writers I’ve read, and the musicians found so much to create.

If you could perform in front of any author, living or dead, who would you pick? What sort of tune would you play?

This answer could change on any given day, but I’ll pick one for today. I’m going with Mary Doria Russell. I know that the song I would write would be inspired by The Sparrow and would be performed with my upright bass with my dropped D. There would be a solid drone with that low note and throughout the rest of the bass giving sense of urgency and waiting (I know it’s weird). I think I might focus on the loneliness our characters might feel while on a long journey through… Ok I won’t give anything away. Read the book!

How can someone help Bushwick?

Come to a show. Bring your friends! You won’t be disappointed, and you’ll be supporting local musicians.

Seattle Modern Orchestra’s Jérémy Jolley

Seattle Modern Orchestra (SMO) is the only large ensemble in the Pacific Northwest solely dedicated to the performance of contemporary classical music. The professional new music ensemble, conducted by Julia Tai, has 18 musicians performing in many different configurations, adding to Seattle’s artistic landscape and cultural dialogue.

Jérémy Jolley, SMO’s co-artistic director (along with Tai), is eager for SMO’s distinct voice to be heard. He recently sat down with Encore to discuss the meaning of modern music, the challenges in performing it and Echoes of Tinder.

Tell me a bit about yourself.

I was born in Lyon, France and grew up in the French Alps. I moved to Seattle in 1997, pursued composition studies and received my Bachelor of Arts and Master of Music degrees in Composition from the University of Washington. I’m the co-artistic director of SMO, also the artistic collaborations manager at the Seattle Symphony.

What is Seattle Modern Orchestra? How is it different than other orchestras in the area?

Seattle Modern Orchestra focuses on music that relates to the present or recent past. It is a modern orchestra that explores what music can be.

Seattle Modern Orchestra

How did you get involved with SMO? Why was it important to you?

In June 2010, Julia Tai organized a concert featuring Steve Reich’s Tehillim under the name Seattle Modern Orchestra. In August of that year, after returning from a new music festival in Germany, I was looking forward to creating a way to consistently present contemporary music in Seattle. Julia and I had met during our studies at the University of Washington, where she had conducted one of my works, so I contacted to see if I could join her effort with SMO and we launched SMO’s first season in 2010–2011. Seattle area audiences must have access to all of the different types of music being created today. Experiencing different types of thought and expression is key to living in today’s society.

People have a perception of what classical music is. What does SMO do to change those perceptions?

Today’s performing groups, including SMO, are taking a critical look at whose music has been performed and whose has not. SMO’s mission to perform the music of today gives us the chance to challenge all these preconceived notions associated with “classical” music. We are always experimenting with the concert format and asking our audience for their input. Overall, there is an attitude of welcoming people to a concert as if they were being welcomed into our homes.

Who are some of your favorite modern composers?

Ah! There are too many to list here, but if you insist; some composers that I return to regularly and recommend exploring are Giacinto Scelsi, Luigi Nono and G’rard Grisey. Their unbound love for sound and its expressive potential is very compelling to me.

What are some of your favorite SMO memories?

All of my favorite memories of SMO are a variation on the same experience, that is, at a concert, while listening to the works being played; or after the performance, looking at the facial expressions of the audience. The faces of wonder, excitement, bewilderment. I typically sit on the side of the auditorium, and to see the humble and thankful looks that audiences and performers give one another is magical.

What are you looking forward to in the coming season?

This season is very exciting for me because I’ve only heard one of the pieces of our season performed live! I’m looking forward to discovering them deeply as we prepare them for our three concerts. This coming season we will get to play with Yigit Kolat and his Echoes of Tinder for ensemble and electronics. We will also have a concert celebrating flutist/composer/conductor Robert Aitken. Aitken is from Toronto, Canada and will play with and conduct the ensemble music by Toru Takemitsu, Brian Cherney, Iannis Xenakis and his own. Our last concert of the season will feature the American composer and vocalist Erin Gee who will perform a few of her Mouthpieces with the ensemble. These are works in which she explores the nature of vocal sounds and their relation to instrumental sounds. It is a uniquely beautiful experience.

Trina Gadsden on Youth in Focus

Trina Gadsden talks with us about Youth in Focus, a 24-year-old youth development photography program whose mission is to empower young people to experience their world in new ways and to make positive changes in their lives through photography.

What is Youth in Focus?

We put cameras in the hands of adolescents and place them in a challenging environment surrounded by high-quality, talented teachers and nurturing adult mentors, creating a strong community of support. Through photography our students find their voice, identity, creativity, and gain new confidence in their worth and abilities.

We are the people who teach kids how to develop negatives into positives. Nobody has as much fun creating a safe community of trust and support for youth through photography, as we do. Our impact is empowering youth to find their voice and gain self-confidence as they learn life skills and discover who they are, and what matters to them.

Are you a photographer yourself? What got you into the art form?

Back in the day my father bought me a second-hand film camera before I headed off to college. Since that time, I see the world in light and shadows. Photography has always been a magical medium for me to explore human emotions and nature’s gifts.

How did you get involved with Youth in Focus?

While in graduate school, I was fascinated with the nonprofit and partnered with them any opportunity I could, to see how the organization could play on a larger scale and serve more youth through the gift of photography. When the former Executive Director decided to leave, the Founder, Walter Bodle, left me a voicemail and said, “You need to apply.” At the time, I was running a nonprofit doing work in Uganda, but I knew I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to help empower youth in our community through a camera lens.

Who are some of your favorite photographers? Why?

Our Youth in Focus students who create profound work and continue to vulnerably reveal their inner struggles through a camera lens. We often rush through our busy lives without truly noticing or appreciating all the unique things that surround us. Our students continue to remind me of the beauty in the small things.

In the professional realm, Joyce Tenneson’s portraits have always been hauntingly beautiful and unworldly to me. And Alan Ross, who was Ansel Adams’ assistant for years, chases light and captures emotions in nature, like no other.

What are some specific events or activities throughout the year that the kids participate in?

We offer quarterly Core Classes for youth ages 13–19 in digital and black and white photography. Throughout the year we partner with schools, community centers, libraries and other organizations within the community through our Partner Programs, and we work with populations ranging from elementary school children to 92-year-olds through our Seniors in Focus program!

Two girls focus their cameras.
Two girls focus their cameras.

What are some of your favorite memories of Youth in Focus?

One of my favorite memories at Youth in Focus has nothing to do with photography and more about the connection with the youth. A few years ago, there was a student named Tony, who was personally struggling because he had been moved around so many times while in foster care. He would come early to class and would sit in my office and we would talk about his day, sometimes he would ask for advice on how to get along with his foster parents better as he didn’t want to get moved again, but most of the time I just listened and let him know I saw him and appreciated him. About a year into our program, after changing schools and his foster care home again, he ran in my office and said he was getting adopted by one of his teachers in his school! We were both so excited, we started crying and jumping around my office! His new “Dad” showed up to his End of Quarter Show and Tony was grinning from ear to ear as he shared his final image and spoke to the crowd about his work and experience in our program.

What do you hope for the organization in both the near and distant future?

My goal has always been to be a sustainable organization that can serve more kids through quality programs. Long term, we have been working with Mahlum Architects to help design “Youth in Focus in a Box” so we can expand to other communities in the state and nationwide.

How can one support Youth in Focus?

Individual donations go such a long way in our nonprofit and help cover scholarships, film and cameras, just to name a few things! Corporate sponsorship of our classes is extremely helpful, along with simply spreading the word and sharing the work we do with more people to gain support!

Anthea Carns, a Bard and Some Nerds Walk into a Bar

Anthea Carns, a Bard, and Some Nerds Walk into a Bar

Anthea Carns is a busy woman. After pursuing a degree in dramaturgy at Carnegie Mellon University, she splits her time here in Seattle between stage managing, acting with HERON Ensemble, dramaturgy, playwriting, and Bard in a Bar, which is basically Shakespeare karaoke.

She recently sat down with us to talk nerds, obscure dirty Elizabethan-era jokes, and Shakespeare plays set in near-future rainforests.

What is Bard in a Bar?

Bard in a Bar is basically Shakespeare karaoke. I pull together a “highlights reel” of scenes from a chosen play and then get volunteer readers from the audience. They get a couple of minutes to talk together, go through my big bag of silly props and costumes, and then they read the scene. I explain all the stuff that happens in between each scene so it’s kind of a half Drunk History stand-up routine, half karaoke bar, half Rocky Horror Picture Show. It’s a lot of halves, but it’s really rooted in my feeling that Shakespeare should be fun and accessible. It’s a bit like a Shakespeare in the Park model, but with more booze—and audience participation—and heckling.

How did you get involved in the project?

There’s a great organization called Nerd Nite that hosts regular talks from folks about the things they’re nerdy about. I think I heard them describe it once as “That thing that when you start talking about it, your friends’ eyes start to glaze over? We want that.” I presented a talk with them about how to recognize dirty jokes in Shakespeare—which is actually not that hard, but there are some obscure Elizabethan English jokes that it helps to have context for—and the owner of the bar and I decided to see if we could make it into a recurring event of some kind. That was in December 2014. It’s gone through a lot of development since then, including a venue change to Solo Bar, a partnership with the Seattle Public Library, and a lot of refinement of the format.

Why does Shakespeare continue to resonate century to century?

I was just reading some great history about this! Back in the 1700s the French, the Germans and the English were all having spirited critical slap fights about whether Shakespeare had real artistic merit because he completely ignored the Aristotelian unities in favor of, you know, telling compelling stories. There is an argument that Shakespeare’s ability to incite empathy outweighed any formal flaws he had. So, there are a few elements: I think the great plots still excite us; I think his sheer prolific-ness means that there’s something for everyone; and I think Shakespeare had a real genius for creating complex, ambiguous, human characters. We keep coming back to him because we haven’t completely figured his characters out, just like we haven’t completely figured out our own human experiences.

Why do some interpretations of Shakespeare succeed while others fail? This is to say, why does one Hamlet that takes place in a 1980s shopping mall work when another, set in a near-future rainforest, doesn’t?

I’m so glad you asked me this. I’ve seen so many “high concept” Shakespeare productions where the concept just didn’t add anything. It’s just a fun aesthetic. Which is fine, but that’s as far as it goes! It forces you to ask, though, “Why are you doing this in a near-future rainforest?” What does that rainforest mean, semiotically and culturally, and how does that meaning intersect with the play’s meaning? If it’s just because you want Puck to do a bunch of lemur-based animal work, I would push you to think more deeply about what the forest means in the play and to us now. On the flip side, if you’re doing Merchant in a 1980s shopping mall to riff on commercialism and “greed is good” culture, sign me the hell up. I think you’ve got something with legs.

What has/does Shakespeare mean to you? As a person—as a writer?

Every couple of years I have a new idea for a Shakespeare adaptation I want to write. My first real foray into playwriting was an exploration of Hamlet called Bad Hamlet that I co-wrote with my dear friend Lillian DeRitter. And I have this whole Tempest thing I want to do. Like I said’I think I keep coming back to Shakespeare because I find facets of myself there. And those facets change every few years, so there’s always something new to mine; some new aspect of the human experience to try and dig into, personally and artistically. I think as an artist, having good material to start from makes it that much easier to produce good material yourself.

When is the next Bard in a Bar?

Tuesday, March 13, 8PM, at Solo Bar! And you can keep up with future events by liking the Bard in a Bar page on Facebook.

How can one get involved in Bard in a Bar in the future? Are there volunteer opportunities?

Everybody is welcome and indeed encouraged to come and read! Trust me, you do not have to know anything about Shakespeare to participate. It’s a pretty streamlined process, but if people have resources like printing, props, photography skills, or performance spaces, I’d love to hear from them at bardinabar@gmail.com.

Shaya Lyon and the Live Music Project

Shaya Lyon and the Live Music Project

We sent Encore Stages contributing writer Jonathan Shipley to meet Shaya Lyon, founder and executive director of the Live Music Project. The Live Music Project (LMP) is an organization that connects people with live classical music, strengthening communities, celebrating listener agency, and amplifying local resources. They talked about LMP’s successes, classical music today, and what’s coming up in the Seattle classical music scene.

What is Live Music Project?

At the core of our work is a comprehensive performance calendar that has been described by one concert-goer as “the overture to the concert experience.” Since we launched it in Seattle in 2014, the calendar has included more than 1,300 ensembles, series, presenters, and individual performers. Later this year we will expand our calendar platform to support communities nationwide.

What else are you excited about in regards to LMP?

I’m excited about our Spontaneous Free Tickets program. SFT offers a limited number of free concert tickets to its subscribers: students, families, and the elderly, for whom ticket prices are often cost-prohibitive; traditional classical audiences cautiously curious about hearing newer ensembles or compositions; and others who leverage the program to explore events in unfamiliar neighborhoods or venues. The tickets are donated by classical music organizations.

How did you get involved in LMP?

I love this question. It takes me back to falling in love with the Brahms double concerto. A few years ago, I came across a video of David Oistrakh and Mstislav Rostropovich performing the Brahms double. I was enthralled. As I scoured the internet for the next performance of the Brahms double in New York City, where I was living at the time, it turned out to be more difficult that I’d expected to find concert listings based on that particular piece of music. I moved to Seattle. With knowledge of the vast array of orchestral ensembles that are so special to this region, and some time in the technology industry, it struck me that tech might be able to bridge the information discovery gap for concert-goers.

What is the state of classical music these days?

I think the experience of classical music is shifting. The industry once thrived on subscriptions and is now having a more spontaneous approach. It might be difficult for you to imagine, this evening, what will make you feel alive on a given Friday night next April—but you probably have an idea right now what would make you feel alive and complete today. If the trend is toward scanning a list of upcoming concerts and deciding on a whim which concert space will make us feel what we need to feel right now, I see LMP’s comprehensive listings as one way to fill that role.

Are you a classical musician?

When I was nine, a piano appeared in our house. My babysitter taught me the first bars of Moonlight Sonata by ear, and I’d play it over and over again in the dark of night. I loved that.

Who are your favorite composers?

That’s a trick question, right?

What are you excited about on the Seattle calendar in the next few months?

So much! The Seattle Symphony and Everett Philharmonic are both performing Elgar’s Enigma Varations. Early Music Guild is premiering a work for electric theorbo—sort of a cross between a lute and an electric guitar. Thalia Symphony Orchestra will bring us Vaughan Williams.

What are some ways locals can listen to contemporary classical music?

How to narrow it down—Seattle is teeming with new music. The Seattle Modern Orchestra is solely devoted to the music of the 20th and 21st centuries. The Wayward Music Series at the Good Shepherd Center presents works by living composers frequently. Seattle Symphony’s [untitled] series is rich with contemporary works. KING FM’s Second Inversion is dedicated to contemporary classical music.

How can someone help LMP?

We’d love your help. Whether it’s submitting your organization’s events to our calendar, hosting an event-a-thon, writing code for our new nationwide calendar platform, making a donation, or partnering as a sponsor, community participation makes the world go ’round. Your readers can learn more at livemusicproject.org.

Midweek News: Ludovic Morlot, SIFF and ‘Muriel’s Wedding’

News from Seattle’s performing arts community and beyond for the (mid-) week of June 14, 2017:

Congratulations, Ludovic Morlot. Soon, he’s going to be conducting for the Berlin Philharmonic for the first time. 

Talking about the Seattle Symphony. City Arts calls recent concert “moving”

The 5th Avenue Theatre is showcasing a world premiere of Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion. Learn more about it from Seattle Magazine and the Seattle Times

The 5th Avenue honored high school productions with their annual awards show. Learn about the winners at Broadway World.

And yet more congratulations. This time to the winners from this year’s Seattle International Film Festival. 

Still more congratulations! This, to the Space Needle, who is going to go under major renovations

What’s this? More congratulations? To retiring Pacific Northwest Ballet dancer, Carrie Imler.

The Seattle Art Fair is returning this August. Learn more from Seattle Channel.

How do we shelter local artists from skyrocketing rents? Some thoughts from the city, via the Seattle Times.

It’s summer movie time in Seattle. What are you going to see? 

Do you like the movie Muriel’s Wedding? A musical is coming.

Midweek News: 5th Avenue Theatre, Ballet and Pavarotti Movies

News from Seattle’s performing arts community and beyond for the (mid-) week of June 7, 2017:

The 5th Avenue Theatre is presenting the world premiere of Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion. Learn more about the show at City Arts.

Did you see the Seattle Symphony performance of a not-often-seen Ravel opera? The show will not be soon forgotten. It was a shimmering thing.

Talking about the symphony, here’s an interview with Seattle Symphony’s guest conductor, Thomas Dausgaard

The Pacific Northwest Ballet’s latest production is exquisite and bittersweet

SIFF is celebrating Anjelica Huston. Learn more from the Seattle Times.

In a bit of bad news for Seattle cinephiles, Seven Gables and the Guild 45th are closing

Welcome to Braggsville is being showcased at Book-It Repertory Theatre. Learn more about the production from Seattle magazine.

Have you gone out to Village Theatre to see Dreamgirls yet? It’s a dream

Congratulations to Annex Theatre. They’re celebrating their 30th anniversary.

Town Hall Seattle is getting a big makeover. Seattle magazine has the story.

The Drama Desk Awards were recently given out. Come From Away was a big winner. It was at Seattle Rep before making its way to Broadway. 

Ron Howard is making a biopic about the opera legend Luciano Pavarotti