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 and film 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. Their 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 will begin work on The Garden (part two of the triptych, inspired by Dante’s Inferno). The Garden is set to premiere at Philadelphia Community Farm in Spring 2020.
Schweigert was also recently awarded a commission from the Jerome Foundation via American Composer’s Forum for the composition of his second opera, The Garden, to be produced by Open Flame Theatre and Philadelphia Community Farm.
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.
- Introducing Open Flame April 11, 2018
October 5-7 at Philadelphia Community Farm, Osceola WI
The Wastelands is coming back to the Midwest! If you missed us in 2016 at Fruen Mills, and last year at our new home at PCF, never fear. One year later, we bring you The Wastelands once again, but this may be the last time we perform this show here ever! So do yourself a favor and come see The Wastelands at Philadelphia Community Farm on:
Friday, October 5th at 5:30pm | Saturday, October 6th at 5:30pm | Sunday, October 7th 5:30pm
Philadelphia Community Farm | 599 280th Street, Osceola, WI (~1hr from the Twin Cities)
The performance runs 75min with a reception to follow. All performances are FREE and open to the public (though we always pass the hat after the show).
- The performance is outdoors, and involves traveling about 1 mile. Please wear good walking shoes and, if desired, bring a folding chair you can carry.
- The performance includes minor use of pine smoke and propane fuel. In consideration of those with chemical sensitivities, we ask that you please come fragrance free.
- We proceed rain or shine. Please bring an umbrella for excess rain or sun.
- The performance is family friendly but contains dark themes and some physical violence.
- In addition, we also ask that you please refrain from smoking during the performance, and to not bring your pets.
The Wastelands is a traveling, surrealist folk opera inspired by Robert and Shana Parkeharrison’s The Architecht’s Brother and Dante Aligheri’s Purgatorio. Guided by a queer, skeletal Virgil, The Wastelands takes audiences on a journey through a netherworld of seven terraces, based on the seven stages of grief. The Wastelands explores how to survive in a world which no longer provides, and ultimately asks the question: how do we find hope in despair? Conceived, Composed and Directed by Walken Schweigert, Created by Open Flame Theatre.
The Wastelands was developed at Double Edge Theatre in Ashfield, MA and premiered in June 2016 and toured along the Great Lakes Basin — from Buffalo, NY to Minneapolis, MN — from June to October 2016.
Driving Directions to Philadelphia Community Farm from the Twin Cities:
Take 35W or 35E North past the merge to 97. Turn right at 97 heading east (with a short zig zag on 61) and continue until it ends at MN95. Turn left (North) on 95 to 243. Turn right on 243 (East) over bridge to Osceola. In Osceola, turn right (South) until Ridge Road on the right. Take a right at Ridge Road and continue until it T’s at the horse farm. Turn right and look for sign for Philadelphia Community Farm on the outside of the first curve. That’s our driveway.