A Letter from Artistic Director, Rachel Cook on W(UT) Now Apr 9, 2020

I enjoy spending time thinking about artists and their practice. Sometimes it takes me years before I am able to work on project with an artist, but I have made a folder about them and will begin follow them and their work from afar before I even reach out. All this time is spent thinking, watching, reading, learning, and being curious about how they see the world what it is that is driving them and how they are thinking about bringing an audience into their world.

April 9th would have been Markeith Wiley’s premiere of their new performance originally titled W(UT) or Working (Undecided Title). I have been looking forward to this performance for the past two years, since I arrived at On the Boards in January 2018. I was first introduced to Markeith’s work only through their name on a list of Seattle artists that, during the interview process for my current position as Artistic Director, I was asked to consider as I curated a season. Over the past two years I have come to know them as a person and as an artist, which I’m very thankful for. I look forward to continuing this journey with them as an artist and creative individual.

I don’t remember our exact first conversation, but I do remember it being clear that their work was much more expansive and conceptual than I had originally realized. Over the next few months, I got to know them a bit more through music and Dance Floor Feelings. The first year for me, adjusting to the Seattle rhythm was rough, and I remember a few times showing up at Dance Floor Feelings just wanting a place to escape and be inside of my head with the music. I am grateful for those fleeting dance moments as ephemeral rejuvenating experiences.

Markeith’s ideas for this performance began with thinking about how to create a work that the audience and performers would move through together—where the line between stage and audience was blurred, the dance party, artist happening, or collaborative event that you stumble into. Blurring fantasy and reality, Markeith has always thought of creating artistic work that expands our ideas of what a “dance” or “theater” performance can be. They are interested in using familiar forms, game shows, dance parties, fashion shows, or community gatherings as a way to bend reality into something else. The abstract language they utilize is intentional, it isn’t trying to obfuscate meaning, but rather, talking about issues they care about and to reveal aspects of the world that are not so simple.

I’ve truly enjoyed talking to Markeith about music, pop culture, Autumn KnightLigia Lewis, abstraction, Seattle, and how dance is taught in schools. After many conversations and thinking about various options and ideas in the past couple of weeks, Markeith has decided to share an episodic ‘happening’ with you all over Instagram Live this weekend. This happening will occur at the same times the performance would have, (almost) and will be different every evening. It will be nonlinear and be made up of various artistic forms—text, music, images. I’m still grieving the loss of not being able to share the full liveness of this happening with you all, and I’ll be feeling this loss for some time, until we are able to work with Markeith and his collaborators again.

For now, let’s enjoy these ephemeral moments as rejuvenating experiences and try to imagine what a celebration of artistic creativity can look like and feel like now in this present moment?

Rachel Cook
Artistic Director