Crowdfunding Campaign

Dear Friends, Family, Colleagues, Co-Conspirators, Comrades, 


I hope this message finds you well. I am writing you today because we, Open Flame Theatre, are at the moment where we need your help, specifically in the form of financial support. 


For 2-3 years we have been working on our next performance, (sequel to The Wastelands) called The Garden. Part two of our “Rewilding Cycle”, The Garden is a queer, experimental opera about the roots of systemic oppression in all its forms, focusing specifically on transphobia. This performance is being concieved, composed, created and directed by our all- transgender and gender non-conforming ensemble. The Garden follows a queer witch, Hayden, who journeys into the underworld to barter with the Devil to save the soul of a friend after her tragic death, caused by a transphobic hate crime. In a journey packed with song, encounters with acrobatic demons, and death defying trials Hayden discovers that the Devil is nothing like what they have been lead to believe…


 All the pieces are in place to make this performance a reality. We have a rehearsal space, we have set and lighting designers (also queer artists) who are already deep in the process of the visual design of the show, and we have secured a venue for the premiere, the historic and gorgeous Southern Theater in Minneapolis.


Your support is vital, especially for us, especially right now. At the time of this writing, the Supreme Court is deciding if it is legal to fire transgender and gender non-conforming people just for being trans and GNC. Open Flame is one of a very few number of theatre organizations that employs almost exclusively trans and GNC people. All of us in the ensemble have struggled with employment because we transgress gender norms. In 2019, the stakes are high for us as a transgender and GNC ensemble. We are making this performance because it is vital to our survival. We need more stories told by trans artists and we need them now. These are dangerous times to be transgender; there have already been so many murders of transgender people this year that the WHO has decared trans murders “an epidemic”. The truth of our reality is harrowing, and in order to confront the violence in the outside world, we must confront the violence we perpetuate against ourselves internally. Just as Hayden does, creating this show requires going deep within ourselves to understand, bear witness to, and harness our own power so that we may survive and even thrive in the horrors and dangers of our day to day reality. 


Please help us make this performance a reality, and be able to pay ourselves for the labor it takes to create it. 


One cannot escape from The Garden by running from or denying one’s fears. The only way to conquer our fears is to face them. The only way out of hell is through it.




Walken Schweigert

Founder & Artistic Director

Open Flame Theatre


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: 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: