Mayor’s Arts Awards: Theatrical Wonders

The City of Seattle has already provided Lucia Neare with a great gift: a place to give life to her dreams. Now the City’s Arts Commission will be giving the artistic director of Lucia Neare’s Theatrical Wonders something more: a Mayor’s Arts Award.

“I feel honored to live in a city that accepts and embraces dreams,” says Neare. “To receive the award is so validating. It is deeply moving.”

All this talk of dreams isn’t metaphorically. Theatrical Wonders started in 2006 as a way to give life to visions of fantastical worlds that are “incredibly beautiful and filled with love” that Neare says she has been experiencing her entire life. Enlisting the help of a handful of fellow artists — including Cathy Madden, Matt Goodrich, David Verkade and John Small — Neare began working to bring those visions to life. Utilizing her talents as a singer, designer, sculptor, performer, director, producer and teacher, Neare produced large-scale site-specific participatory performance pieces featuring ornate costumes and puppetry.

“The works unfurl across the landscape of the city, its waters and the calendar year,” the Seattle Arts Commission notes in its recognition of the artist. “[It draws] people of all ages into parks, beaches and urban thoroughfares.”

Theatrical Wonders began with a celebration of the night titled Lullaby Carriage, which featured a cast of 42 populating the towns of Duvall and Vashon with a choir of snorers and families of clocks and doves. A parade called Ooo La La followed in 2008, filling the streets of downtown Seattle with whimsy. For two years, the company brought a version of its initial show into the city, staging a series of Lullaby Moon productions that culminated with a celebration of the new moon at Gas Works Park in September of 2010. The company is currently working with the City of Redmond to create another series, Professor Pomme’s Pomp and Pastry Paradoxicals, which will culminate, Neare says, in a massive performance piece called Tea with the Raven Sisters that will sweep across Seattle. That production, like all of those put on by Theatrical Wonders, will be free to the public.

“It’s important to me that the work is free,” Neare says, “so that people can engage with it outside of their role as a consumer, so they can engage with it with a different frame of mind.”

Theatrical Wonders relies on grants and volunteer hours from professional theatre artists to create Neare’s fantastical worlds. The productions have also received consistent support from 4Culture and its Site Specific King County Performance Network, without which, Neare says, none of this would be possible.

Neare won’t confirm, but there is likely some magic at play as well.

“I really like to maintain the sort of Santa Claus reputation,” Neare says when asked about the process behind her fantastical work. “I don’t like to reveal how we do what we do.”

The Mayor’s Arts Awards will be held at Seattle Center at noon on Aug. 31.

Photo by Jennifer Richard.