Instant poetry. A medieval children's play. Fashionista Shakespeare.
If you can imagine it (or even if you can’t), it’s probably happening during Arts Crush, a monthlong regional party of more than 250 arts events organized by Theatre Puget Sound.
Mostly free, the events are happening in places ranging from theaters to malls, offering community participation, attracting new audiences – and promising a lot of fun, too.
“The goal is to cultivate community, and find new ways that people can enter into the arts,” said Sam Read, deputy director of Theatre Puget Sound, a nonprofit theater advocacy group based in Seattle.
TPS had been organizing Live Theater Week for years, and Read said the mostly free, mass-theater event had been successful in reaching new theater-goers, as well as a younger and more diverse audience.
“The larger arts community saw what we were doing and asked how they could be in it,” Read said.
So TPS decided to extend it into a whole month of arts activities spanning theater, music, dance, and visual and literary arts. Arts Crush, which runs through October, reaches from Olympia through Tacoma to Seattle, and is focused on free, unusual events that involve the audience in some way.
One of those is a medieval mummer’s play organized by the Puget Sound Revels in Tacoma. A traditional form of storytelling with a minimal script and folk songs, this mummer’s play will be acted by children after a week of rehearsals with Revels performer Debbie Birkey. It’s like a free drama camp, teaching kids acting and singing, and creating a mini-performance on Oct. 24 at First United Methodist Church in Tacoma’s North End.
“Arts Crush was trying to make the arts accessible in different ways to different people,” Revels director Mary Lynn said. “I liked that idea ... and part of our mission now is to offer things for children. It seemed like a nice fit, a fun thing to do, and good way to participate.”
Enrollment for the play is still open.
Other Arts Crush offerings in the South Sound include a series of art talks, criticism and demonstrations at the Proctor Arts Gallery, a performance of “Titus Andronicus” as a fashion show by Tacoma’s Shakespeare in the Parking Lot, a Harriet Tubman reenactment at the Knutzen Theatre in Federal Way, a photographic workshop for children in Olympia and an instant-poetry booth by Olympia poet Elizabeth Shea, who’ll write you a custom poem in five minutes for $5. In Seattle there are many events, including kick-off parties for each of the focus weeks: visual art (Oct. 3-9), music (Oct. 10-17), literary arts (Oct. 18-23), dance (Oct. 24-31). The Oct. 3 art kickoff at the Seattle Center includes a free night of theater and free tickets for many later Seattle events. There’s even a regional arts-based geocaching hunt.
Free Seattle tickets aside, it’s easy to see Arts Crush as just another name for a lot of free events that would be happening anyway, such as ArtWalk in Tacoma and Arts Walk in Olympia, poetry open mikes and workshops, gallery artist receptions and the like. Some events, however, are out of the ordinary – which is why companies like the Revels chose to do what they’re doing.
“I wanted to do something we hadn’t done before,” said Lynn of the “Play Date with the Revels.”
Regardless of whether events are unique, Arts Crush is what people are wanting right now, said Read.
“In this technology-heavy age, people are looking for experiences that go deeper than just passively sitting and watching a show,” he said. “They want to engage, and the arts is the best way to do that.”
Rosemary Ponnekanti: 253-597-8568, firstname.lastname@example.org