Crowdfunding Campaign

We made it!

Your support, both financial and in the form of all the kind messages left on our Facebook wall and our GoFundMe campaign page have touched me deeply. Asking for help, asking for people to believe in you, can be an incredibly difficult and vulnerable act, and I can’t tell you how heartened and affirmed I feel writing these words in this moment. 

Performance itself is also a vulnerable, intimate act. Choosing to share our personal journeys through these characters in this surreal world is an act of courage, which my fellow performers in Open Flame remind and inspire me to step up and show up for in every rehearsal. 

Rehearsal footage from The Garden shot by Ben Wolf.

Days before beginning this campaign, the Detroit-based, witch pop band Crune, made up of Walken Schweigert and Matthew Ryan Surline aka Ely with special guest Dave Sanders created a Very Special Ritual. VSR was an experimental and partial preview of The Garden, an exploration and public experiment of our research material. VSR was, for me, a truly transformational and incredible evening.

Footage from A Very Special Ritual, filmed by Na Frenette.

I want to thank Na Frenette for filming, Soundhouse for hosting this event, Matthew Ryan Surline for conceiving of the idea of the VSR, and Richard Newman (Co-Director of The Garden) for advising me in my performance process. I couldn’t be more excited to take The Garden to Detroit, my home away from home after it premieres at the Southern Theatre in Minneapolis on June 11th.

I will leave this here except to say once again how grateful I am for your support of our work, our process, and our stories. The work does not end here, and in fact we are smack in the middle of it now. With your help, we have met our goal and can bring you a phenomenally unique story made with all the passion our queer hearts can channel. 

Most sincerely,

Walken Schweigert
Artistic Director
Open Flame Theatre

Catch Open Flame This Week!

Come for an evening of sonic delights, and further experiments in aliveness. Ethereal and profound trance music from La Curandera & the Ritual will open the evening, followed by music and poetry by Strong Buffalo+Ben Weaver and friends. Last will be Open Flame Theatre, who will be sharing an acoustic version of music from our next opera, The Garden. Doors @ 8pm, music starts @ 8:30pm. ALL AGES! $5 cover.

About Open Flame

Who We Are

Open Flame Theatre creates original, multi-disciplinary performances rooted in the queer/Trans experience. Through exploring the surreal and fantastic, we seek to liberate the imagination which we recognize as a vital part of the larger struggle for justice and freedom.


Open Flame Theatre began as the Unseen Ghost Brigade, a Minnesota-based traveling theatre troupe founded by Walken Schweigert in 2008. In 2010 the Unseen Ghost Brigade created a circus-influenced tragicomedy called Death on the Mississippi that they toured down the Mississippi River on a homemade raft. The mission was to provide free theatre to communities along the Mississippi and explore the historical impacts of industry along the River. In six months they made it from Minneapolis, MN to Caruthersville, MO. This same year, Schweigert and Katie Burgess created Gut Wrenched and Rising (GWaR), a surrealist and autobiographical performance about lived trans experiences. From these two performances (Death on the Mississippi and GWaR) was birthed the “Rewilding Cycle”—a fantastical operatic triptych about uprooting oppression and imagining liberated futures.

In 2012 Double Edge Theatre in Ashfield, MA—an internationally-renowned theatre ensemble, founded by Stacy Klein—offered Schweigert a mentorship in the development of The Wastelands, a traveling folk opera inspired by Dante’s Purgatorio and first performance of the “Rewilding Cycle”. In 2013 Schweigert founded Children of the Wild to create The Wastelands using the process and training practices developed by the Double Edge Ensemble, inspired by the work of Rena Mirecka and others from Eastern Europe and South America. Children of the Wild was the first-ever company-in-residence at Double Edge Theatre’s Farm Center from 2012-2016. It was there during those four years that The Wastelands was developed with Katie Burgess and other artists under Schweigert’s artistic direction, as part of his and Katie’s mentorship by Stacy Klein and Carlos Uriona.

The Wastelands premiered in the spring of 2016 and then toured for six months across the Great Lakes region, shared for free in public everywhere it went. As part of this journey The Wastelands was performed in Holyoke, MA; Buffalo, NY; Cleveland, OH; Lorain, OH; Mackinaw City, MI; Detroit, MI; Duluth, MN; and Minneapolis, MN, in collaboration Great Lakes Commons and a wide-range of social and environmental justice organizations.

In 2017 Children of the Wild was renamed Open Flame Theatre and returned to the midwest. Open Flame Theatre is now in residence indefinitely at Philadelphia Community Farm in Osceola, WI, and in November 2017 began work on The Garden (part two of the triptych, inspired by Dante’s Inferno) for which Schweigert was also recently awarded a commission from the Jerome Foundation via the American Composer’s Forum to create.

The Rewilding Cycle

The Wastelands is an original experimental folk opera exploring ecological grief and first in Open Flame’s “Rewilding Cycle.” Guided by a queer, skeletal guide, the audience travels through a post-industrial landscape, a tragicomic journey through the seven stages of grief. The Wastelands toured from June-October, 2016, in mostly urban areas along the Great Lakes basin. Open Flame Theatre (fka Children of the Wild) performed The Wastelands along industrial shorelines, in sacrifice zones, and in at-risk environments to bring audiences to places directly impacted by industrial expansion.

The Garden (part two) is an experimental opera about the roots of systemic oppression in all its forms. Western civilization attempts to control nature in order to utilize it. The Garden investigates white-supremacist/colonizer culture’s desire to beautify/manage/control nature (including people) and reveals the horror that ensues when it does.

The premise of the operatic triptych “The Rewilding Cycle”, is that our efforts to control the natural world is what destroys it, and us. Part One, The Wastelands, asks the question: how do you find hope when faced with the despair of social oppression and environmental devastation? Part two, The Garden asks the question: With hope in hand, what is it that we must confront in order to liberate our world and our hearts? Part three, The Wild, will explore what is possible with liberated, diversified, autonomous, and self-willed inner and outer landscapes.




Upcoming Performances

The Garden: Open Flame Theatre is now proud to announce that The Garden will be part of the Southern Theater’s Season, June 11th-14th 2020! This will be the world premiere, with performances to follow at Philadelphia Community Farm in Osceola, WI, and we are hatching plans to tour to Detroit, MI, New Orleans, LA, St. Louis, MO, and New York, NY as well. Stay tuned with us and/or the Southern for more info as this exciting collaboration develops.

La Curandera & the Ritual, Strong Buffalo+Ben Weaver, Open Flame Theatre @ Moon Palace Books: December 13th, 2019 — Come for an evening of sonic delights, and further experiments in aliveness. Ethereal and profound trance music from La Curandera & the Ritual will open the evening, followed by music and poetry by Strong Buffalo+Ben Weaver and friends. Last will be Open Flame Theatre, who will be sharing an acoustic version of music from our next opera, The Garden. Doors @ 8pm, music starts @ 8:30pm. ALL AGES! $5 cover. For more information please visit: