Simone Hamilton on Bringing Public Works to Life

Rehearsing The Odyssey at Seattle Repertory Theatre. Photo by Kina Ackerman

Simone Hamilton
Simone Hamilton

Simone Hamilton is the Artistic Engagement Coordinator at Seattle Repertory Theatre. She identifies as a producer and curator of spaces, aiming to bring audiences closer to the art on stage. She’s a Washington native and calls both Seattle and Whidbey Island her home. Encore Stages contributor Danielle Mohlman spoke with her just before tech week for the Public Works production of The Odyssey. In addition to the core cast of professional actors, over 100 performers flooded the stage in this musical adaptation of Homer’s poem—performers from the King County Boys and Girls Club, the Ballard NW Senior Center, the Jubilee Women’s Center, and beyond.

Public Works was an incredible theatrical endeavor that involved the entire community—professional and amateur performers alike. How did Seattle Rep decide to get involved with this nationwide theatrical experiment?

Our initial inspiration for bringing Public Works to Seattle began when our Artistic Director, Braden Abraham, saw Lear deBessonet’s production of A Winter’s Tale at The Public Theatre in 2014. He said it was like seeing the whole city onstage. In 2014, Braden and Marya Sea Kaminski, our Associate Artistic Director, started imagining what an incredible experience it would be for our stage and our audience to produce our own Public Works. Marya hired me in 2016 and together we began building this dream into a reality. Public Works became a way for us to examine and evolve our processes institution-wide and truly collaborate with our community. That process has inspired us forward and motivated us to keep going.

What was the most exciting part of working on the Public Works production of The Odyssey?

It’s so hard to just name one! One thing that has presented itself throughout the entire life of this program—from workshops to the rehearsal process to the final production—is hard earned joy, collective imagination, and true equity. Together we are all learning and have become more than just an ensemble. We are a community that takes care of each other just as a family would. It’s exciting to see how these values permeate people’s lives as we all become more civically engaged with our communities, even outside the walls of the theatre.

If you could pick any play in the world to transform into a Public Works-style production, what would you choose and why?

If I had to choose from an existing play, I’d choose The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. The story is a childhood favorite and the themes within the story around collaborative leadership, acceptance, resistance, courage, and community really resonate with me. But realistically, I’d like for us to explore commissioning our own Public Works-style production that reflects the stories of the Pacific Northwest. I envision a story full of epic adventure, momentous bravery, and conscious reflection with characters that are reflective of us all—including those who came before us and those who are here with us today.

What are your hopes for the future of Public Works in Seattle?

I hope the future of Public Works Seattle includes sustainable growth and deepened engagement. I hope that as a theatre, Seattle Rep can continue to show up for our community in ways we haven’t before. In the future, I see the values of the program becoming contagious and continuing to reach beyond the confines of theatre and Seattle. Theatre is a powerful tool for change and we like to think of Public Works as a movement rather than a moment. We are actively making the change we wish to see in our community, our country, and our world by not only identifying, but actualizing our individual and collective truths under these magical and imaginary circumstances.
Are there any musicians, dancers, or theatre artists that you’re especially excited about this season? Who are you excited to see?

I’m really excited about the regional performers that make cameo appearances in The Odyssey and seeing more from all of them this year. We’ve been collaborating with dancers, musicians, vocalists, and visual artists from around the region who offer a wide range of artistic talents—from the high energy Seattle Seahawks Drumline to the incredibly dynamic dance troupe Purple Lemonade and the drop dead gorgeous drag queen Tipsy Rose Lee. The cameo groups are the créme filling of The Odyssey. This show wouldn’t be possible without them.

Do you have any plugs? How can folks find more about you and your work?

No plugs for myself, but check out Public Works Seattle and our community partners: Centerstone, the Jubilee Women’s Center, the Ballard NW Senior Center/Sound Generations, Path with Art, and the King County Boys and Girls Club.