Covid Update

I hope this email finds you well and in good health. A lot has changed in the world since you last heard from Open Flame. A lot has changed for us as well. First let me say that our deepest condolences go to those who have lost loved ones during this time. We feel the loss and pain of our friends close by and those all over the world.  Our thoughts are with you.

The premiere of The Garden has been postponed to June 24-27th, 2021. It will still be at the Southern Theater in Minneapolis, and we are so grateful to them for being willing to adjust our contract and we honor their commitment to our company.

Two months ago, we were preparing for our June 2020 premiere of The Garden at the Southern Theater in Minneapolis. We were deep in work with our designer Elisa Sugar in St. Louis to finish designs for the set and costumes; I was traveling to Detroit for a week once a month (at least!) to work with Ely,  my musical collaborator, and  Richard Newman,  co-director of The Garden and Co-Artistic Director of The Hinterlands. As a performing ensemble, Arlo, Katie, Erica, Sea, myself as well as our Technical Director Clive North and Cellist Oliver Schmit were rehearsing several times a week refining this performance. 

A lot has changed since then. 

One of the things that makes Open Flame unique (and also puts us squarely in the lineage of our parent theater, Double Edge Theatre) is our focus on the actor. Our ensemble is made and defined by the group of individuals that is in it, and the personal, professional, spiritual, political, and artistic development of the actor is the foundation that our work is based upon. The company exists in large part to serve those of us who hold the container to make the work possible.

Therefore, much of our work together is making time and holding space for the individual to work alone. This individual work takes many forms: research of many kinds, walks in the woods, finding new inspiration and developing our characters for The Garden

We are also finding creative solutions to being quarantined that are not only keeping us safe but also furthering the work. Some of us have continued using the studio in St. Paul where our rig is currently housed, one at a time and following sanitizing protocols. Not being able to rehearse all together in the same room has been a major struggle. But within that struggle, we have been finding new and surprising ways of relating to one another, inspired by some of our research, for example, Tadeusz Kantor’s The Dead Class. This small object creation has been made possible in no small part thanks to our visiting associate in prop and mask design, Zoe Batson. 

What does the future hold?

Katie, Erica, Sea, Arlo and myself are meeting each Sunday to check in, stay connected, and share our individual work explorations from the week. We also watch a filmed live performance together online once a week, pulling from The Global Performance Series blog curated by our friend and colleague at Double Edge, Travis Coe. (Which we highly recommend!) 

I have been diving deep into the script/libretto for the performance, and rigorously reinvestigating our dramaturgy with Richard. This has been an immensely fulfilling process as we are creating a narrative story with more detail than has ever been in an Open Flame performance before. 

When it is safe to do so we will begin rehearsing in person again, until then we will continue our individual and shared online processes together.

I want to thank all of you who support our work. Our passion for The Garden continues, and we are grateful for the spaciousness to reflect on the work, and reaffirm why we are being called to tell the story of this performance. Our thanks also to everyone who donated to us during our crowdfunding campaign for The Garden, we will be utterly delighted to share it with you when it is safe to do so for us all. 

That being said, the work is continuing in this time as we are also taking space to breathe. As we prepare for another year of deepening our investigations and ourselves, you can still support our work, and also want to shout out to another organization who are supporting trans folx during this time: 
 https://www.mntransgenderhealth.org/
The Minnesota Transgender Health Coalition is committed to improving health care access and the quality of health care received by trans and gender non-conforming people through education, resources, and advocacy.

And let us leave off with a few words which I hope will bring comfort and inspiration during these dark times:

i am always holy,
and wholly alive
every minute,
of every day
until my death
and even then
my rotting corpse
and decaying flesh
will be divine

-W. Schweigert, May 2020


 In love & solidarity and mud & blood,

Walken Schweigert
Artistic Director
Open Flame Theatre

Thank You! And What’s Next…

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

Thank you.

Photo by Connie Chang

I’m speechless. This outpouring of support means more than I could ever say. 

Thank you for believing in us. 

Thank you for trusting us. 

Thank you for walking this road into hell with us, where few dare to tread. 

Though some of us must. We will go the distance, and see you on the other side. What lies beyond I cannot say, but we will share our stories, together. And we will grow, and inspire one another to make the journey again and again. 

But we are not there yet.
We have a few steps along the way. 

Would you like to be thanked via a handwritten letter? Send your snail mail address to thewastelandsproject@gmail.com and I will send you a personalized card (plus another treat!).

Would you like Open Flame Theatre in your classroom, community group, or living room, to talk about our process, share our research, or share some of the totally unique music from our performance? Please contact me at thewastelandsproject@gmail.com about these and other ways of connecting with us. 

Photo by Erica Fladeland

This work truly is not possible without your support. From all of us at Open Flame, from the depths of our hearts, I want to extend my sincerest gratitude. 

The future is not set out before us, and as dire as things may seem sometimes, many of us have not given up hope and continue to struggle bravely on, as we are and you are. This is about all of us together, about liberation from the tyranny of capitalism and homogeneity. 

So then let us continue onward. They cannot silence all of us. 

In mud and blood,

Walken Schweigert
Artistic Director
Open Flame Theatre

Out With A Bang!

Dear Friends, Colleagues, Family, Co-Conspirators,

Thanks to your generous support, we find ourselves, at this final day in our crowdfunding campaign only $990 away from our $9,000 goal. I’m writing you today to help us go out with a bang!

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 filmed 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.

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. If you have been waiting to donate or share about the work we are doing, wait no longer! Today is the last day! With your help, we can meet our goal and 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

Fundraiser

We need your support now more than ever.

Give to The Garden

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 declared 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.

Sincerely,

Walken Schweigert

Founder & Artistic Director

Open Flame Theatre

Fall 2019 Newsletter

Dear Family, Friends, Collaborators, Co-Conspirators,

I hope this email finds you all well. It has been awhile since you last heard from us (we like to stay on the shy end of mass communications) but the past year has been so full of developments for us that we simply cannot stay silent any longer. 

Premiere: The Garden

 We have been so very hard at work on the second part of our Rewilding Triptych, The Garden, in both the artistic development of the performance as well as the nuts and bolts of producing our first ever INDOOR PERFORMANCE as a company. So without further ado, 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.

Photo by Matthew Ryan Surline

Music Update: Crune

As many of you may know, I have been collaborating with Matthew Ryan Surline (Ely) for the past 3-4 years. This collaboration has taken the form of the occult-inspired, witch pop band Crune, a project conceived of and founded by Ely in 2014. From fall 2017-Summer 2018, Ely had an artist residency at Philadelphia Community Farm where we deepened and developed the world of Crune, which culminated in May 2019 with the release of our album, Witch Pop. You can buy a CD copy or download the album on Spotify, I-Tunes, and other streaming services. Ely and I are excited about continuing our collaboration into The Garden, which we will be working on side by side with our next full length album, Necromantic.

Photo by Brian Sheehan

Upcoming Performance: Leonora’s World

We are beyond excited to announce that we will be partnering with Double Edge Theatre in Ashfield, MA, in their outdoor spectacle. Leonora’s World is a Living Art Spectacle that invites the audience to journey through the mysterious, magical, whimsical paintings of Leonora Carrington. Leonora’s paintings are brought to life in the fields, gardens, stream, and pond of Double Edge’s Farm Center. Saturated in the colors of Fall, a golden field becomes a winding labyrinth, a Wheel of Fortune spins the waters of the stream, and luminous characters wander through hidden interiors in the landscape. The performance includes an indoor vision of Carrington’s boundless painting The House Opposite in song and setting, and then travels into a moonlit discovery of dimensions moving from ancient terrain to the arctic.
The performances will take place at Double Edge Theatre in Ashfield, MA, October 10th-13th. Tickets and additional information can be found at https://doubleedgetheatre.org/leonoras-world

Photo by David Weiland

Upcoming Performance: Powderhorn Porchfest

We are excited to announce yet another opporitunity to see us — this time locally in the Twin Cities! Open Flame Musicians will be performing at the Powderhorn Porchfest Saturday, September 21st. We will be sharing an acoustic set from the Garden on Porch 4 (3201 17th Ave S., Minneapolis, MN) at 8:15PM.  Join us, and be on the lookout for further musical events in the Twin Cities coming soon!
More information can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/events/698296990602095/

Photo by Connie Chang

Finally, I am humbled to say that I, Walken Schweigert, have been chosen to be one of 60 inaugural recipients of the Jerome Foundation’s Jerome Hill Artist Fellowships.
You can find more info here: 
https://www.jeromefdn.org/jerome-hill-artist-fellowships-announced

“What is the relationship between ritual and performance? Between song and story? How do we celebrate together? How do we grieve together? How can we harness the power of story and song to liberate our imaginations and expand our creative potential? What new traditions/rituals/rites of passage can we make for and with each other that affirm and express who we truly are? This is what I hope to explore in my fellowship. I hope at the end of it I will have made an honest contribution to a transforming cultural fabric.”