Celebrating the Unpopular Arts

Do. Or Do Not. There Is No Try.

Haven’t been around that much lately. I admit it.

Part of it’s just been tedious real-life things. I won’t go into those because they’re, well, tedious. Also, it’s not really our stuff but other people’s. Friends we’ve been helping out. So those are not really my stories to tell.

But another one of the recent demands on our time that have been taking me away from regular columns is something I’m delighted to share. It’s August, so here in Seattle it is time for another Hello Earth theatrical production in the park.

Julie and I started volunteering for this effort a couple of years ago and it continues to be HUGE fun for us. For seven years the company adapted classic Star Trek episodes for live theatre. This is an excerpt from “Day of the Dove,” which was Julie’s and my first year volunteering.

Last year, though, Hello Earth’s co-founders Joy DeLyria and Kris Hambrick changed it up and put on Wars Outdoors: A New Hope In The Park. (Joy says, “After seven years we felt a little rebellion was in order.”)

So naturally, this year it’s The Empire Strikes Back in the Park.

People, when I tell them about this, are baffled at how anyone can adapt such an effects-heavy space war film into an outdoor theatrical play. Hell, I was baffled when I first heard about it. But the Hello Earth company are beyond ingenious when it comes to using the space available in the park and figuring out costuming and props…. and the thing I can’t emphasize enough is that the audience is totally with them. These are stories we love and they are essentially modern folk tales at this point. The show becomes a celebration of everything we liked about these stories in the first place. My favorite example of this from both last year and this year is when the characters of Threepio (Abby Pierce) and Artoo (Jamie Sumire Costantino) first appear on stage.

Jamie does the entire thing on roller skates, and she has a little novelty whistle to approximate Artoo’s sound effects. The first time Artoo replies to Threepio with the trademark beep-boop-beep, the roar of delight from the audience is huge; YES, we are HERE for this, we are SO WITH YOU. After that it’s on rails.

Nowhere is this more apparent than when the kids in the audience mob the cast after each performance.

Julie and I aren’t in the show, but we help with ushering (everyone involved, from Joy and the actors on down, are volunteers; the entire effort is supported by donations from the audience.)

So the weekend time that I usually reserve for writing is taken up with the play through the end of August, but I thought I could at least show you the pictures.

Here’s Julie talking with assistant director Sarah (“S.G.”) Grant. You can see we already have a packed house and it’s forty-five minutes till showtime.

This is Joy introducing the show and coaching the audience on how we’re all going to read the pre-credits crawl together. “It is a dark time for the Rebellion…”

We use all of the space, the show often comes up and out into the audience. Here’s Leia (Natalie Schmidt) and Han (Nathan Ureta) having A Moment. “Scruffy nerf herder!”

Luke (Kris Hambrick) runs into a little trouble on patrol.


Imperial Walkers attack!

Darth Vader (Shaina Ward Siegel) decides it’s time for a staff shakeup.

Another angle on the battle with the Walkers.

Diverting to Dagobah.

The Millennium Falcon hiding out from the Imperial cruiser.

Luke meets Jedi master Yoda (Kaysy Ostrom.)

Luke, the ghost of Obi-Wan (Merri Ann Osborne), and Yoda.

Han and Leia, having another Moment.

Chewbacca (Ian Stone), Leia, and Han meeting Lando (Jordan Richards.) I should add that the first time Ian makes the throaty Chewbacca noise, it is almost as big an applause moment as Jamie’s Artoo.

Looks like Lando wasn’t being entirely honest…

“I am altering the deal. Pray I don’t alter it any further.”


Luke’s final confrontation with Vader. Or is it?

“I AM YOUR FATHER!” …oops. Spoiler, I guess.

Curtain call.

I hope this gives you a little bit of a sense of how much FUN everyone is having– audience, cast, and crew. We’re back again tonight and tomorrow, and the two weekends after that. Blanche Lavizzo Park, just off 22nd and Yesler in downtown Seattle, five P.M. Come see us if you’re in town.

Back… well, maybe not next week, but soon, I hope, with something cool.


  1. humanbelly

    SO MUCH to love about this–! But I believe the whimsy of the costumes and the set-dressing/props is particularly wonderful. And I daresay a lot more work than one might imagine in many cases. It looks like no amplification for the voices? Man, that’s a demanding task for the performers in an outdoor venue–! Good on ’em for taking that challenge on. How long was the performance? And any idea on how much rehearsal went into it?


    1. They all work like fiends. It’s staggering. Jamie and Kris, especially, constantly blow us away with the sheer physicality of what they are doing. And yeah, nobody’s miked, there’s really no electronics involved at all. It’s all the actors. Most of them have some theater experience in the local scene, and Kris in particular has been working all over the place. Everyone’s good but when it comes to the vocals, Natalie as Leia, and Shaina as Vader, are amazing at projecting dialogue without sounding like they’re shouting. Ian’s whole role is entirely Wookiee noises, and he has to really go big; I don’t know how he does it for the length of the play, which is about two hours, because it sounds like he’s tearing his throat out.

      That’s really what makes it work, is that it’s pretty much ALL on the actors and the story. The effects and costumes are super low-fi. Everything is scrounged, handmade, or from Goodwill. That’s one of the things we fell in love with about Hello Earth; it’s got that punk-rock, zine culture vibe to it.

      Julie and I are really only what show folk call “front of house” staff, so I have only a vague idea of the rehearsal times. It’s all in and around everyone’s day job, so it’s only evenings and weekends. But we were at the prop-building party June 1st, helping put together the Dagobah swamp costumes, and by then everyone had been cast and I know they were at least doing table reads. These rehearsal photos, here and here, were posted to the Instagram account on June fourth, so I’d guess at least ten weeks from casting to the premiere.

  2. Edo Bosnar

    Jeff’s question is one that I find myself asking (sometimes int the comments) whenever you do a post about one of these Hello Earth productions.
    And I have to say, even more than last year when you wrote about the staging of Star Wars, I am so totally tickled by the actress playing R2D2 wearing roller skates and using a whistle. That’s so friggin’ brilliant.

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