¿Ser, o no ser? When Seattle theater director and arts educator Ana María Campoy brought Shakespeare’s Hamlet to the Seattle Center Theatre stage in the spring of 2020, the first phrase of the famous soliloquy sounded a little different than usual. “We know that speech so well. So what does it matter if you hear To be or not to be or ¿Ser, o no ser?” Campoy says. “My audience is my community. That’s who I want the story to be for.”
Campoy, who is Mexican American, has been working to bring more bilingual plays to the local stage — and the theater world is noticing. Coming fresh off a busy season adapting Romeo y Julieta for the stage (for Seattle Shakespeare, where she is an Associate Artist) and directing a bilingual adaptation of Twelfth Night (for New Mexico Shakespeare) and the play Sonata Escondida at Western Washington University, Campoy has a stacked fall lineup. She’s working on bilingual adaptations of plays for Seattle Children’s Theatre and Seattle Shakespeare, and directing the season opener for Seattle’s Book-It Repertory Theater, In the Time of Butterflies (Sep. 21 - Oct. 16).
An adaptation of Julia Alvarez’s historical fiction book of the same name, Butterflies follows the three Mirabal sisters, who were murdered for their plot to overthrow the Dominican Republic’s Trujillo dictatorship in 1960. “I was offered to do the play, and a couple of weeks later, the decision about Roe [v. Wade] was handed down. Suddenly, this play about the power of rage of women … felt very, very, very relevant,” Campoy says. Plus, she notes: She’s the oldest of three sisters. Recalling her California childhood, she says, “I’ve always been surrounded by feminine power.”
An internship brought her to Seattle Rep, where she worked as a teaching artist for nearly a decade. It’s something she still does today with Arts Impact’s Voices from the Field Program, mentoring public schoolteachers who work with high-migrant populations on how to bring art into the classroom.
Campoy is also an organizer with WashMasks Mutual Aid, a local organization providing PPE and other support to migrant and seasonal farmworkers in Washington. To Campoy, these are not side gigs, but essential work that informs her theater work and vice versa — it’s all part of the same work rooted in culture and community.
Farmworkers and artists have more in common than people think, Campoy notes. “People who take our product [often] do not understand that there are 10,000 hours of mastery behind that,” she says. “There is passed-on wisdom and deep skill that it takes to do what we do — and it is not always acknowledged.”
Growing up in Skyway, Luther Hughes loved looking out the window, seeing how the sky changed color, how the car’s speed warped the world. This habit is still serving him today: “What makes me as a poet is my love of observation,” Hughes says. “It gives me real joy to just watch things happen.”
It can be the smallest thing, like a leaf falling from a tree or his boyfriend making the bed. Or, say, A Shiver in the Leaves, the name of his debut poetry collection, publishing Sept. 27. (Hughes will be reading at Elliott Bay Books on Sept. 21. Keep an eye out for the book launch party at Open Books on Sept. 27.)
“Whoever reads this book: Pair it with a nice glass of red wine,” Hughes says. But, he adds: “You might need more than wine while reading it.”
While Hughes describes it as a “fall book” (because of its themes, publication date and dark cover), A Shiver in the Leaves is not your typical curl-up-on-the-couch nature poetry book about the leaves changing color, but rather an attempt at finding a place away from violent anti-Blackness even as it continues to show up in the city and natural environment (“crows sorrowed the sky,” Luther notes at one point). The collection’s eponymous poem revolves around a hanged man, who, Luther says, is likely Black — like him. So he ends the poem by asking:
Who is to say what death is or is not?
He has his limbs, a sky overlooking …
I know he is dead, nothing will change
but still I whisper in his ear,
Breathe. I want you to breathe.
While not a Seattle household name yet, Hughes — whose poems have appeared in the Paris Review, the Rumpus and the American Poetry Review — is a bit of a celebrity in the national poetry scene. He’s amassed a sizable online following with his engaging Twitter threads, in which he highlights poems by Black, Latinx and queer and trans writers or poems around certain subjects like nature, mental health or love during “Lue’s Poetry Hour,” now a monthly newsletter.
Hughes also founded Shade Literary Arts, a literary organization for queer writers of color that publishes a biannual journal, and co-hosts the podcast The Poet Salon with Seattle poets of note Gabrielle Bates and Dujie Tahat. “I just like to love on poets,” Luther says.
And while Hughes himself was recently featured on the pop-culture website Shondaland.com and had a new poem published on Poets.org (the website of the Academy of American Poets), he’s not yet thinking about his next thing. “I’m currently trying not to work on anything. Read books, read poems, digest the life happening around me,” he says. “I think I’m just observing right now.”
Since painting the “M” in the Black Lives Matter street mural — a white base layer with flowing droplets of mauve, orange and blues — during the 2020 protests on Seattle’s Capitol Hill, artist Moses Sun hasn’t had much time for rest. From creating murals for Facebook, Starbucks, Columbia City Theater and Wing Luke Museum to curating exhibits at the Museum of Museums and Seattle Art Fair alternative XO Seattle, “the past two years have just been one commission after the next after the next,” he says. “It’s been a series of momentum and [being] willing to go along with it.”
During a late August phone interview, Sun was wrapping up his morning routine — coffee, errands, a visit to Discovery Park — by browsing the vintage shelves of a camera store. “I’m a camera addict,” he said, half-joking. The North Carolina-born Seattleite (who moved to Seattle 15 years ago) has had solo shows at Seattle art space Wa Na Wari and in a few L.A. galleries. On this day, he was working in his Seward Park art studio to finish painting a new series of work for his upcoming solo show at Seattle gallery J. Rinehart, called 21 Chambers: A New Beginning (Sept. 1 - 28).
The new paintings burst with the trademark flow and lyrical semi-abstraction of Sun’s murals: multi-colored drips and sea coral shapes expand into the corners. Echoes of Black figures appear below the fireworks of organic matter, fusing Afrofuturism with the spontaneity and improvisation of jazz and hip-hop. They might look and feel exuberant, but “each image peels away painful memories,” the press release reads.
Those painful memories refer to his stay at a psychiatric hospital a few years ago. “Those 21 days I was there, I was not only involuntarily committed, but I was also an involuntary witness to the state of psychiatric care in the state of Washington and country,” Sun says on the phone. “And it was quite shocking.”
Since then, he’s made series after series of 21 intuitive, free-flowing paintings, each brimming with hope about the power of creativity. To make them, he merges digital and analog techniques (combining digitally created drawings with film images, then printing and painting over with watercolor paint, sometimes adding collage).
Sun says the latest paintings don’t directly deal with what happened to him four years ago. Nor do they refer to the two years of self-imposed solitude that followed, his re-emergence in June 2020 at the urging of Takiyah Ward (organizer of the Black Lives Matter mural), or the two years of commissions hence. “That new beginning is about right now,” Sun says.
Coming up this fall for Sun: an Amazon artist in residency, painting a parklet during Wa Na Wari’s Walk the Block festival (Sept. 17) and an installation for the Africatown Plaza building in the Central District, an ode to people of the African diaspora. With each commission, Sun’s artwork seems to get more three-dimensional, more enveloping — with more opportunities to absorb the viewer. As Sun puts it: “I am at the very beginning of my next chapter.”
Breathe, Come Together, Embrace. This is a list of simple acts that were among the most dangerous (and desired) things to do during the past two years. It’s also the name of a brand-new piece of music getting its world premiere this fall at the Seattle Symphony, during the Opening Night Concert (Sept. 17; performed again Nov. 5).
“I envisioned it as a post-pandemic optimistic piece of music,” says Angelique Poteat, the piece’s composer and the Symphony’s current Artist in Residence. Breathe, Come Together, Embrace will be the first composition of the evening, followed by music by Chopin, Ravel and Saint-Saëns. Poteat describes hers as an energetic piece that expands like a chest inhaling deeply and flutters with woodwinds, chiming bells and faster rhythms. “It’s very lively,” she says.
The piece is just one of two Poteat world premieres this fall. The local composer and clarinetist — whose music has been recorded and performed all over the world — has also written a clarinet and string quartet piece called Six Seasons, premiering this September during the Symphony’s Octave 9 Visions of Seasons (Sept. 30).
Instead of the customary four seasons (and Vivaldi’s), Poteat breaks up the year differently to mirror how people in the Pacific Northwest experience it. While the music starts off with the “thankfulness” of fall and moves through the “crisp joyfulness” of snow, she breaks up the spring and summer — a decision Seattleites accustomed to our “false spring” will understand. “We have two parts of summer here: the earlier part, where we’re all excited to be in the sunshine and hike and take everything in,” she says. “And then there’s the latter half of the summer where we’re all waiting to be enveloped in smoke, because that’s so much a part of our ecosystem here. At least it has been the last few years.”
Poteat, who spends her free time kayaking, hiking and biking (and says the region’s natural environment is a musical inspiration) speaks from experience: She grew up in Snohomish and on Whidbey Island and has lived in Seattle for about a decade.
Poteat was just 8 years old when she started composing. “I got a keyboard for Christmas one year. I didn’t like the music that came with it and just started writing my own,” she says. At 16, she enrolled in the Symphony’s Young Composers Workshop, a weeks-long teaching course that offers students the opportunity to have their score performed at Benaroya Hall.
Now Poteat is going into her third year as the director of that very program. “It feels like coming full circle,” she says. “This program is probably the main inspiration for me becoming a professional composer. I’m absolutely thrilled to be able to take on the leading role and hopefully inspire the next generation of musical ideas and creative talents.”
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