Act One, Scene Change
William Shakespeare penned in his five-act comedy, “As You Like It,” that “All the world’s a stage,” but if you’re Red Eagle Soaring, the 33-year, Seattle-based Indigenous youth theatre company, you might find that those words come with a caveat. The world, instead, might seem like a rented stage: Red Eagle has throughout its existence performed sans a platform and proscenium of its own. In an area where folks are quick to point out that we exist on unceded land, giving back some of that land for Indigenous youth theater has not been priority.
But that is about to change.
After nearly 200 performances on borrowed stages, Red Eagle Soaring is set to move into its very own, 2,000-square foot space at King Street Station. The move is part of a project called Station Space and is the culmination of a partnership between Red Eagle Soaring and other local organizations for youth of color and the City of Seattle. It is a key project of the city’s Cultural Space Agency, a real estate development company that secures commercial cultural spaces to build community wealth and create opportunities of ownership among Black and Indigenous communities.
Red Eagle Soaring is a member of two United Way of King County racial equity groups, the Indigenous Communities Fund and the Racial Equity Coalition. For more about our racial equity work, click here.
Station Space will be a 10,000 square-foot creativity and empowerment hub for youth of color. The $3.5 million campaign officially launched last fall and is currently undergoing additional fundraising. It is slated to be completed this fall. In addition to Red Eagle Soaring, other Station Space organizations are:
- Totem Star, a music production company for young Seattle recording artists.
- The Rhapsody Project, an anti-racist music and heritage production organization.
- Whipsmart, a trade organization that focuses on diversity, equity, inclusivity and advocacy.
- Jackson Street Music Program, an organization that exposes arts and education resources to local urban youth.
Each of the organizations will have its own, 2,000-square foot dwelling in Station Space, which is a conversion of an unoccupied area of King Street Station’s second floor that has been dormant for decades. Red Eagle Soaring’s new digs will include a black box theatre space and a recording studio. Red Eagle Soaring will maintain offices at its current Pioneer Square location.
The company works with youth ages 10-19 but also has a group of alumni ages 20 and over, called YTT (Yesterday/Today/Tomorrow) Urban Native Performing Artists, that will make use of the space.
Said Red Eagle Soaring director Russell Brooks: “I’m really excited for what Station Space is going to offer us because we’re going to be able to expand our programming to after-school hours in a theater space of our own. We’ll also have a space that will be open on weekends and collaborative projects with our Station Space partners. It’s going to be the kind of space that our youth are going to have a variety of experiences [in], a launchpad into the arts but also a sustainable place that they can call home and come back to.”
A first-ever theatre space of its own is the end result of an eventful timeline of Red Eagle Soaring, which began in 1990 as a tribute to John Kauffman, an Indigenous actor, playwright and theater maker. The formation of the group to serve Indigenous youth was announced at Kauffman’s funeral. In addition to 180 productions, Red Eagle Soaring conducts after-school programs throughout King County and one-off performances or land acknowledgement presentations.
Before its current offices at the Delmar Building, Red Eagle Soaring was located in the SODO and Ballard neighborhoods as well as near the Seattle Convention Center and Daybreak Star.
“Red Eagle Soaring has always survived, found its way and adapted to many things,” said Brooks. “But one thing that has been great over the past few years has been some increased stability to our organization and growth. We were approached by the city about the space, and we thought it was a cool idea and a really cool space. Over the years, there has been a lot of discussion within Red Eagle Soaring about having a space of our own. It’s ironic that the Native theater, in the city of these massive theater institutions and a robust art scene, that we’ve always had to go into other people’s spaces and rent it out.”
It’s ironic that the Native theater, in the city of these massive theater institutions and a robust art scene, that we’ve always had to go into other people’s spaces and rent it out.Russell Brooks, executive director of Red Eagle Soaring
“This became more of a realization coupled with the fact that one of the biggest challenges of Red Eagle Soaring is transportation,” Brooks added. “Our youth are not centralized in one place; they are scattered throughout the county. We’ve even had youth come from Olympia, Tacoma and Bellingham to Seattle to take part in our program. Station Space is located in one of the most publicly accessible spaces in Seattle in terms of public transit.”
Currently, Red Eagle Soaring conducts performances at various local stages and Brooks said the company will continue to do so occasionally after moving into Station Space. This month Red Eagle Soaring will perform “Counting Worms,” a coming-of-age play crafted by teen playwright Sunny Rowe and produced by Indigenous actress/producer Eagle Smith, at two locations in June.
On June 17,” Counting Worms” will be performed at the Carnation Block Party at Tolt Commons on Saturday at 2:10 p.m. and at 7 p.m. at ACT Theatre. Then “Counting Worms” will return to ACT Theatre the following day for a 6 p.m. show. For more information about its upcoming performances, click here.