“What’s stopping you? Create the art you want to see.”
I’ll never forget sitting in a hot, stuffy, Pennsylvania university room in the heat of summer, staring at Andy Paris (originator of The Laramie Project and Tectonic Theater Project Company Member) as he said those words to me. I’ll never forget looking around the room and locking eyes with Megan Jackson, Emily Harvey, and T’ai Hartley. I’ll never forget realizing that this show, this creative baby that had been gestating inside my imagination was suddenly possible. Scratch that, more than possible: this creative baby was suddenly something I needed to do.
During Tectonic Theater Project’s Moment Work Intensive in 2010, I was given permission. We were given permission. That year, in winter of 2010/2011, T’ai Hartley, Emily Harvey, Megan Jackson and myself decided to produce this hunch. After a year plus of mining our creative depths, in summer of 2012 the hunch became “Blood/Sailing,” Blood Ensemble’s flagship show featuring local metal band Smooth Sailing. The show was a success with a 75% sell out rate–an almost unheard of experience for a new, no name fringe company in Seattle.
Out of that success, myself, Emily Harvey, and Megan Jackson decided that BE was worth creating. We brought on company members: Samantha Cooper, Carrie Cates, Timmy Keener, Zack Hewell, Adria LaMorticella. We brought on associate artists: Jake Vice, Christina Berger, Gabrielle Schutz. We produced a show in a basement based on Edgar Allen Poe: Nevermore. A show about childhood: 30 Hours: Don’t Grow Up, It’s a Trap! A show about a slavic fairy tale: A Saga of Baba Yaga. An epic, cinematic feat of a show centered around a Barn in Marysville: Barn Show. And lastly, a show based on the works of Samuel Beckett’s Endgame for the Sam Beckett Festival: NDGM.
I wouldn’t trade the last 5 years with Blood Ensemble for anything in the entire world.
But it is time to say goodbye, to close our doors, and send everyone home.
This recounting of our past brings me a heavy heart and a boatload of wonderful memories. Most of all, it brings me pride. I’ve never been more proud of the art this ensemble of wonderful people created. I’m sad to close the door on the legacy that this resume could have resulted in. But it’s the right thing to do, we’re ready.
The last two years of production have been hard. As those of you who produce art know, it’s exhausting, rewarding, tiring, sometimes thankless, and responsible work to do. Sometimes companies can push through the exhaustion, the late nights, the last minute call in sick days at work because you absolutely HAVE to meet with the fire chief whose threatening to shut you down because he thinks your company name is frightening, the grant writing, the fundraising, the networking, the setting up of a box office, the rehearsals where something just won’t seem to get itself together and you have to be at work in 4 hours after no sleep.
Sometimes that can be too much for a company. I think it became too much for Blood Ensemble because we were creating art from a deeply vulnerable place. I think it became too much for us because we were born out of passion. We were not built to withstand growth. We were not built with the help of someone who understands organizational structure. We were not built with a business plan designed to get us enough capital to pay our artists in a certain amount of time.
And an unfortunate fact about our current society is that art is not supported the way it should be. We are not encouraged by our governments to produce art. We are not taught how to start a business if we take too many art classes in college. We are not taught the art of grant writing for free. Our arts programs are getting cut from schools and big name theaters a closing doors due to funding issues. We are the underdogs of our society.
But we are in the secret circle of knowing, together, that what we do is important, invaluable, and underappreciated. We fight the good fight, regardless of our environment. Regardless of how we were built, or how we were born.
Blood Ensemble was born across a table from a great artist, in a blank university conference room, on a hot, sultry, 90 degree Pennsylvania night. We were born out of fervent and vicious lust for changing the face of art.
And we fucking did it.
We made it to adulthood. And we wouldn’t have been able to do that without the wonderful community that is theater in Seattle.
Seattle is HUNGRY for this kind of work. We see it cropping up today with Seattle Immersive Theater, Horse in Motion, Mirum Mirum, Cafe Nordo, Smoke Farm, and Satori Group. These groups of people are pushing forward a dream that we hope Blood Ensemble helped move a bit further down the line. It’s due to the hunger in Seattle audiences and artists for this kind of work that we were able to be any measure of a success.
And we thank you for a really incredible, energizing, heartwarming and unforgettable run.
Thank you to all the actors, designers, parents, friends, builders, and barn owners for the countless unpaid hours. For the free snacks you brought in. For not caring that we could only offer you 2 comps because there were only 40 seats per night. For showing up with homework after a grueling 14 hour work day. For being so unbelievably and wonderfully talented. For coming to our shows on opening night every time (Brett Love). For talking about our shows to your friends. For encouraging people to come. For lamenting when you couldn’t get a ticket.
Thank you, from the bottom of our hearts.
But we ask one more thing of all of you. We ask that you keep going. Keep showing up to shows. Keep auditioning for those projects that tug at your intuition. Keep offering your art to people you believe in.
Because what’s stopping you? Create the art you want to see.
Dayo Anderson, Blood Ensemble Artistic Director & Co-Founder