Back in September, a handful of accomplished female dancers from across Africa performed for two nights to capacity crowds at the Moore Theatre. For all the impeccable movement on stage, what those crowds didn’t see were the extraordinary interactions the dancers had off stage: During their visit—the group was traveling the U.S. under the name Voices of Strength—the women spoke to students and faculty at the University of Washington and gave workshops at Tukwila’s Somali Services Center and Capitol Hill’s Velocity Dance Center.
STGtv was there to catch those moments on film.
Launched late last year, STGtv is the documentary component of Seattle Theatre Group, best known as the nonprofit arts organization that operates the Moore, Paramount and Neptune theatres. Lesser known is STG’s community programming and advocacy efforts. With STGtv, the organization illuminates its work behind the scenes in the Seattle arts world with a novel form of visual storytelling.
“Voices of Strength touched a lot of lives while they were here,” says Andrew Matson, a City Arts contributor who produced the five-minute-long mini-doc on the dance group. “From an organizational standpoint, STG wants people to know that. They’re a nonprofit that does community stuff and educational stuff that can sound vague if you don’t see it. Having seen some of it, I think it’s just as exciting as the musicals and concerts they host.”
STGtv isn’t meant to hype upcoming STG events, Matson says, but to foster a new type of video journalism that delves into interesting lives and untold stories.
“We certainly didn’t invent the idea,” says Antonio Hicks, public relations manager for STG. “Other organizations offer similar access. What’s unique is the diversity of programs from which we can draw that gives us the opportunity to reflect amazingly diverse interests.”
Along with their intimate look at Voices of Strength, Matson and directors Roger Habon, Jr. and Joseph Guanlao have made short films about STG’s ongoing seniors program Dance for Parkinson’s, interviewed Dan Savage about the “It Gets Better” lecture he gave at the Neptune and followed same-sex couples from their historic legal weddings to a massive public reception at the Paramount. Matson and Roderick Habon are currently working on a short film about Jerick Hoffer, the actor, singer and drag performer who appeared in January in STG’s and Balagan Theatre’s coproduction of Hedwig and the Angry Inch.
“I don’t know how to quantify the return on investment for STG,” Matson says. “We’ re not thinking about it that way. I think it has more to do with affecting lives. Making sure people see this art, know that it’s around. STG matters to people on a much different level than your ordinary concert venue.”