ARTBARN Intern featured in Newspaper

This week, ARTBARN’s very own intern extraordinaire, Mckenna Johnson, is being featured in a Tacoma Weekly article about the ways in which she balances being a student, athlete, and and artist. Check it out!


When she’s not putting in swings in the batting cage, Mckenna Johnson can be found working near a different stage. The Puget Sound softball junior recently made her directorial debut on campus during Homecoming and Family Weekend. The script, written by Puget Sound senior Allie Lawrence, fascinated Johnson from the start: The relationship between personified Pepsi and Coke cans.

“There’s definitely some cheesy humor,” Johnson said about the play she directed. “But it’s cool to show that best friends can have opposite personalities.” The 10-minute play was part of a series of plays during the festive weekend, and it might just be the first of a handful for Johnson.

“I didn’t have much of an opportunity to participate (in the arts),” Johnson recalled of her high school years. “I was just a fan.” But her appreciation turned into active participation when she came to Puget Sound.

This past summer, Johnson held an internship with Artbarn – “an innovative theater company in residence at University of Puget Sound.”  Johnson was part of a team that worked on a fictional story about a group of women that – in time of conflict and war – preserved the legacies of women.

During her three-week internship with Artbarn, Johnson spent up to 12 hours per day researching, writing, and helping with set design. She also participated in workshops with directors from all over the country.

“Mckenna has a number of different talents outside of the softball diamond,” said Puget Sound softball head coach Kellyn Tate. “Her teammates have enjoyed supporting her ability to take her gift of comic relief and apply it on the stage. McKenna helps minimize the most stressful situations by keeping her teammates loose and relaxed. Her personality is definitely fitting for the first play she directed.”



RESEARCH: Gertrude Stein & Alice B. Toklas.
REALIZATION: Characters Dee & Izzy, and their falling sequence in the 2017 workshop showing.

Gertrude Stein, an art collector, publisher, writer, and journalist, is often associated with “the lost generation”, a group of expatriate writers living abroad between the wars. In addition to pushing boundaries in her writing (applying abstraction and Cubism to prose), she was also known for pushing boundaries with her peers. In fact, she was considered a formidable contemporary of Earnest Hemingway’s, who both respected and despised Stein for her confrontational style. While her writing was groundbreaking, ARTBARN was most drawn to her personal relationship with Alice B. Toklas.

Stein, who was working on research for her own writing, asked her friend Annette to share the letters she had been exchanging with her friend, Alice B. Toklas. That is how Stein first learned of this American-born member of the Parisian Avant-garde: through letters intended for another. Stein finally met Toklas in person when she arrived in Paris at which time Stein began openly courting her. From that moment onward, Toklas became Stein’s assistant and long-term companion/lover/partner. Interestingly enough, Stein’s autobiography is called, “The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas,” which was written about Stein from Toklas’ point of view.  Together, they hosted a dazzling array of the famous, the ambitious, the wealthy, and the curious at their Paris homes for Salons and lively debates (including with Hemingway himself). While their apartment was later deemed the “first museum of modern art” by the New York Times, what interested us most was the unique and seemingly unbalanced relationship between Stein and Toklas.

The relationship  between the characters Izzy and Dee in ARTBARN’s 2017 workshop showing mirrored that of Toklas and Stein. Izzy would become Dee’s assistant in maintaining their place of refuge, quickly becoming an invaluable part of the process, but rarely given leadership.  Simultaneously they found a deep romance, kept hidden from the rest of the girls. Their nuanced relationship was a central part of the story. For the 2017 workshop showing ARTBARN incorporated a movement sequence called “falling,” which was developed in response to Stein and Toklas’ history. The choreography featured Izzy and Dee swaying back and forth, using each others’ bodies and weight to “fall.” Their sequence was mirrored by two ensemble members completing the same action.




RESEARCH: Caterina Sforza.
A central gesture in Artie’s training sequence in the 2017 workshop showing.

Caterina Sforza (1463-1509) was a brutal Italian warrior who bore 8 children and travelled on horseback across the Tiber while she was 7 months pregnant. When approached by an army of men attempting to kill her children she threatened them by lifting her skirt, bearing her vagina, and exclaiming, “Go ahead take my children, do what you will. I have what’s here to make more!”

Caterina’s blunt force towards any man’s attempt to overpower her easily made it’s way into the 2017 workshop showing. One of the central gestures in Artie’s training sequence was inspired by Caterina’s threat towards the army of men, when she lifts her skirt and lets out a warrior’s scream as she prepares to face the outside world.



RESEARCH: Marsha P. Johnson.
REALIZATION: Artie’s training sequence in the 2017 workshop showing.

Marsha P. Johnson is responsible for the first brick that was thrown at the Stonewall Inn on June 28, 1969, launching the Stonewall riots into action. Robert Heide remembers that he “just saw her [Marsha] in the middle of the whole thing, screaming and yelling and throwing rocks and almost like Molly Pitcher in the Revolution or something.” The Stonewall Riots had become the spark that ignited transgender rights and activism and Marsha P. Johnson was at the front of that, leading transgender visibility. It has been said that “Marsha’s political strategy was to model victory. And by doing that, she really gave power for people to believe that there would be some sort of a victory in those initial days of the movement. Everybody followed her, and I think she would find a way to get us to follow her today.”

Marsha’s unforgiving fight, tenacity, and resilience found their way into ARTBARN’s 2017 workshop showing through Artie’s training sequence. Before entering the dangerous world beyond the walls of their refuge, Artie would train her body and mind. As she moved through a sequence focused on physical strength and opening her heart, the audience heard text inspired by Marsha’s life flowing out of speakers in the space. Artie trained herself in order to lead a band of women through a world that sought to deny their existence – just as Marsha modeled for us.


RESEARCH: The cultural significance of rock cairns in storytelling and preservation.
REALIZATION: The central circle of story stones used to represent the stories of women who have come before us in the 2017 workshop showing.

The history of rock cairns is rich, holding significance in Scottish and Portuguese cultures in honoring, sharing, and preserving legacies. While some might be most familiar with seeing these stacks of stones along hiking trails marking a path, they also are used in burial monuments and shrines of local spirits.

In Scotland, it is traditional to carry a stone up from the bottom of a hill to place on a cairn at its top. In such a fashion, cairns would grow ever larger. An old Scottish Gaelic blessing is Cuiridh mi clach air do chàrn, “I’ll put a stone on your stone.” In Highland folklore it is believed that the men in the Highland Clans would place a stone in a pile before going to battle. Those who survived the battle returned and removed a stone from the pile and the remaining stones were used to build a cairn honoring the dead.

In Portugal, a cairn is called a moledro. Legend states that moledros are enchanted soldiers. If one takes a stone from the pile, places it under their pillow at night, by morning there will be a soldier, only briefly, until the soldier evaporates back into that same stone back on top of the pile. There are cairns called Fiéis de Deus, which are used to mark where someone has been buried, or where someone died.

In the 2017 workshop showing, ARTBARN developed a world in which women gathered together to archive stories of women who had come before them, as an act of compassionate resistance. Like in the Scottish and Portuguese traditions, rocks were used in this production to represent someone they had lost. Each day, the women would take a stone into their hands, tell and retell the woman’s story that was represented by the stone until it was memorized. This act of learning a legacy by heart was the training they needed to re-enter a world that would choose to forget them.


ARTBARN Signature

We’ve been in the thick of our residency at the University of Puget Sound for the past ten days, but we wanted to take a moment to invite you to join us for a work-in-progress showing of the material we’ve been developing with our superb team of ARTBARN interns and affiliate artists including Zoe Levine Sporer, Alyza DelPan-Monley, Sara Keats, and Lacy Katherine Campbell.

Friday June 23 + Saturday, June 24  |  7pm
Warner Gym  |  University of Puget Sound

A work-in-progress showing of a new, site-specific, immersive piece about women – how we come together in crisis and perhaps how before that crisis we have the luxury or arrogance to be apart. In the near future, war has left us in a rogue state where lawlessness reigns. Systems of morality are absent and people have ceased to be outraged. The casualty is a history that had always been vulnerable – the legacies of women. But there is a resistance, a compassionate resistance comprised of a band of women who have created a refuge to care for each other and an archive to preserve the stories of the women who came before them. Stories as well-known as Eleanor Roosevelt and Marsha P. Johnson, and those whose stories may have gone unheard like Ching Shih, Caterina Sforza, and Frances Thompson. They learn by heart and tell these stories again and again – each woman in her own way – as a tribute, as a calling to protect our collective memory, as a resistance to a world that would forget them.


This workshop showing is the first iteration of a multi-year project that will be further developed into a full production at Fort Worden, a military base commissioned in 1902, perched over the water near Port Townsend. We took the opportunity to explore the site with our full residency team this year and here are some of our favorite shots!
Inspired by the backdrop of this traditionally masculine space, a story of women is an act of reclamation.


If you are able to join us this weekend, no need to purchase a ticket – just meet us at Warner Gym. Here are directions to campus and a map to locate the gym. We hope to see you soon!

Intern Spotlight: Courtney Seyl

courtney pic.jpg

We’re thrilled to have Courtney Seyl as an intern this summer. As a young director, dramaturg, and writer, we think this piece and process will be a great fit for Courtney’s keen eye for research, quirky point of view as a writer, and unabashed love for relationship-based scene work as a director. She brought a nuanced approach to the complex relationship dynamics in The Pillowman for her thesis and we look forward to seeing what she does with the characters in this year’s ARTBARN piece!

Three questions with Courtney:

What’s the best performance you’ve seen lately?
Lately I haven’t seen any performances outside of school, so I would have to say the best performance I saw lately was during Senior Theatre Festival. Everyone worked so hard and put in so much time, love, and passion into every role. Watching my friends acting and directing and designing was amazing and I can’t wait to see what we all do next.

What have you recently fallen in love with?
I have recently fallen in love with listening to the music I used to listen to in middle school. I recently found some playlists on my Google Play music thing and started listening to Panic! at the Disco and Fall Out Boy and those types of bands again. Its been really nostalgic and cathartic remembering all the music I thought I wouldn’t like anymore but still do.

I have also fallen in love with trying new things. I have been trying to get more outside of my comfort zone lately because I have felt sort of stuck in the same place, so I have been trying new things. Whether it be trying new makeup looks, buying clothes I wouldn’t normally think to buy, or even just trying new foods or restaurants. It’s been a little nerve-wracking at points, but it has also helped me to get out of my room more often.

What do you hope to gain from working with ARTBARN?
I hope to work with a lot of great people and have fun creating something new and original. I’m excited to see what we are able to create together and to get to experience working on site-specific theatre for the first time. I want to gain more confidence in my ability to work with theatre-makers outside of the University and gain more experience working in non-traditional theatre settings.

Courtney is an aspiring writer, director, and dramaturg. Most recently, she directed The Pillowman by Martin McDonagh for her senior thesis. She was also the dramaturg for Mr. Burns: A Post-Electric Play by Anne Washburn; other work at Puget Sound includes directing short scene from This is Our Youth by Kenneth Lonergan; assistant stage managing RENT  by Jonathan Larson and Shakespeare’s Macbeth; and stage managing Gnit by Will Eno. She has also participated a variety of student theatre projects including directing, producing, and writing for the Town Crier Speaks Festival and directing and producing all three years of Plays Against Humanity. She is a member of the Ubiquitous They sketch comedy group, and studied theatre abroad in London in the fall of 2015.

Intern Spotlight: Molly Gregory


We’re excited to have Molly Gregory joining our intern team this summer after working with Melissa D. Brown and Deb O in Jess K Smith’s site-specific dramaturgy class last fall. Molly and her group of collaborators transformed Collins Memorial Library into a journey through a lifetime that was both funny and heartbreaking. As a recent graduate of the University of Puget Sound, Molly made a home for herself in comedy writing and performance, though her thesis and acting classes would clearly point to the fact that her skills are not limited to comedic work. In her senior year she immersed herself more in design and learned that she really enjoyed it. We can’t wait to see what she generates with us this summer!

Three questions with Molly:

What’s the best performance you’ve seen lately?
The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams 2017 revival on Broadway right now is my favorite performance I’ve seen recently because it really explored the themes behind the play in new and interesting ways. It was an extraordinarily beautiful portrayal of a classic play. I experienced true catharsis during the performance and was blown away by the images conjured on the stage at the Belasco Theatre. I cried for probably 3 hours not stop.

What have you recently fallen in love with?
I’ve recently fallen in love with scene design and model making. My scene design course has awakened a passion of mine. I never realized how much I liked being able to create interesting ways to use space and how much fun it was to make scale models of full sized sets. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to design a set for a real show, but I still loved the experience of getting to pretend that I was designing for a real show during my class.

What do you hope to gain from working with ARTBARN?
I hope to gain more experience with creating immersive theatre and generating new material. I really enjoyed the dramaturgy course on site-specific theatre that I took and I’m looking forward to gaining more experience with creating instillations like we did during that course. She is also excited to learn more about her passions and abilities as an artist.

MOLLY GREGORY is a recent graduate from the University of Puget Sound. She majored in theatre and minored in Spanish. She has been a theatre maker for almost ten years, and her passion for theatre has evolved over the years from being a desperate need for extracurricular activities during her awkward teen years to a life long love of creative collaboration and spectacle. Her passion lies mostly in comedy, and she spent her four years of undergrad performing as a member of the Ubiquitous They Improv and Sketch Comedy group. She also spent the past two summers studying long form improv at iO Chicago and Second City Chicago, as well as sketch writing at Second City Chicago. While comedy is a major interest of Molly’s, she enjoys and has experience with costume and sound design, directing, stage-managing, and play writing. For her thesis, Molly acted in a dramatic role as Danielle from Steve Yockey’s Afterlife: A Ghost Story and found joy in dramatic acting as well. Molly enjoys many sides of theatre and is excited to learn more about herself as a collaborator and theatre maker during her ARTBARN internship.

Intern Spotlight: McKenna Johnson

mckenna johnson

The entire ARTBARN team is deeply indebted to McKenna, who seemed to always land the less-than-glamorous task of delicately weaving a curtain of paper clips for the 2016 production of We Remain PreparedIt was certainly an undertaking shared by all interns last year, but McKenna seemed to always be working tirelessly at the job. Beyond her tremendous work ethic, McKenna is unspecifiedalso an imaginative artist who blew her professor (Jess K Smith) away with her theoretical concept for a site-specific production of Marisol set throughout an abandoned automotive factory in Detroit. We knew then that we had to get McKenna on an ARTBARN project. We’re thrilled to have her back for a second season and excited to collaborate in a way that brings even more of her exciting ideas into the room!

Three questions with McKenna:

What’s the best performance you’ve seen lately?
I saw Tribes by Nina Raine at ACT in Seattle. I had read the script for class last year, and seen the actor portraying Billy in Deaf West’s Spring Awakening several years back, and the entire production was stunning. I love the concept of making theatre as accessible as possible, and both an interpreting team and captioning devices were available to do so.
What have you recently fallen in love with?
I’ve recently fallen in love with my school as a community. This past year I’ve been able to become more involved on campus and step outside my social circle of freshman year, and it’s been really great to feel so much more connected to my school and the people in it!
*Fun Fact: McKenna has been loving her school so much that she made a video tour with accompanying rap to show you all about her favorite spots! Check it out HERE
What do you hope to gain from working with ARTBARN?
I hope to gain experience working with people who are passionate and knowledgeable about their art. The majority of my theatre experiences have admittedly been from the position of an enthusiastic audience member, and I’m excited about the opportunity to be involved in the work that goes into being on the other end!
McKenna is currently a sophomore at the University of Puget Sound, working towards a Psychology major and a Theatre Arts minor. While much of her time is spent representing UPS on the softball field, she also participates in Curtain Call, the musical theatre club on campus. She is excited to be back working with ARTBARN after interning last summer on their production of We Remain Prepared!

Intern Spotlight: Erin Ganley


We’re thrilled to have Erin Ganley on our team once more! Erin first worked with ARTBARN as an intern and audience docent on We Remain Prepared in 2016 and then was immediately enrolled in Jess K Smith’s site-specific dramaturgy class at the University of Puget Sound last fall during which she worked with both Deb O and Melissa D. Brown. In that class she put her skills to work in the development of an original site-specific performance piece staged throughout a maze of locker rooms in Warner Gym, where we’ll be in residence this summer. We are elated Erin hasn’t gotten sick of us yet and that we get to spend June alongside such a bright, collaborative, and imaginative young artist.

Three Questions with Erin:

What’s the best performance you’ve seen lately?

The best performance I’ve seen recently was Dangerous Liaisons by Christopher Hampton at ACT. The set was incredible and I was blown away by the performances from all the actors. I’m always in love with the things I get to see at ACT.

What have you recently fallen in love with?

I have recently fallen in love with Podcasts. I guess it isn’t really recently that I’ve fallen in love with them, I’ve been listening to them for about a year now. So I would have to say I’ve recently fallen deeper in love with them. I think I’m becoming addicted to them. I’m constantly listening to Podcasts no matter what I’m doing or where I am, my favorite ones can’t keep up with how fast I’m listening to them!

What do you hope to gain from working with ARTBARN?

I’ve worked with ARTBARN before and it was an incredible experience for me, but I felt like I placed myself in a position of observation rather than collaboration. This time around, I’m hoping to learn how to be a better collaborator and artist both by observing and being able to collaborate with my fellow interns and the ARTBARN team. Having this real world experience is invaluable, and I’m excited to see where this summer’s piece will take us.

Erin Ganley is delighted to work with ARTBARN for the second year in a row. She is a rising senior at the University of Puget Sound, studying both Theatre Arts and Spanish. During her time at Puget Sound she has performed in Looking for Normal, Recent Tragic Events, and most recently Mr. Burns, a Post-electric play. She was fortunate enough to work with Jess Smith and the ARTBARN team during the Projects in Dramaturgy class in Fall 2016. She has had the privilege to try her hand at scenic design, directing, and being the president of the Bare Bones Theatre Collective, the student theatre group on campus. Erin is heavily involved in Green Dot at UPS, a program dedicated to ending power based violence and sexual assault through bystander awareness training. She is looking forward to another summer with the wonderful ARTBARN team.