Settle in for a Night with ‘The Aunties: Women of the Salish Sea, Episode 2’ at the Washington Center for the Performing Arts

On Thursday, May 16, 2024, learn local history, tales and legends with the Aunties—Women of the Salish Sea at the Washington Center for the Performing Arts. Photo courtesy: Washington Center for the Performing Arts

Learning at the feet of our elders is a magical experience. Whether mastering Grandma’s chocolate chip cookies under her watchful eye, changing the oil with dad or listening to family stories during holiday get-togethers, this is one of the most important parts of growing up. Stories on a regional level allow us to fall in love all over again with the spaces we call home. On Thursday, May 16, 2024, “The Aunties: Women of the Salish Sea” returns to the Washington Center for the Performing Arts. Join us in honoring these wise women.

Each show is unique to the area and this event’s storytellers include Sara Marie Ortiz an Acoma Pueblo now living in the Pacific Northwest. Photo courtesy: Washington Center for the Performing Arts

Embracing Puget Sound History and Culture with ‘The Aunties: Women of the Salish Sea’

The Salish Sea extends from Olympia all the way to Campbell River, British Columbia to the north and Neah Bay to the west. It has 4,600 miles of coastline, 419 islands and a population of more than 8 million residents. To honor the long history of this land and its people, “The Aunties: Women of the Salish Sea” is a show created around storytelling from the Puyallup and Cowlitz Nations and Acoma Pueblo.

Show director Kendra Potter of Indigenous Performance Productions says that each event features local storytellers to keep it unique and fresh. “In Olympia,” says Potter, “storytelling is honored as a living art form that continuously shapes identity, facilitates healing and builds solidarity across and within communities. We gather to honor the contributions and enduring legacy of our aunties, whose stories inspire new narratives and guide new generations of leaders. In Olympia, we come together in community to reflect on our collective history to nurture hope for a brighter future.”

Indigenous Performance Productions and the Washington Center have partnered with several performances in the past, even hosting a sold-out show in the Black Box for The Aunties18 months ago. Events rehearsed and prepared at the Center, performed for the first time ever, and are then launched onto various nationwide tours.

Washington Center executive director Jill Barnes is excited for this unique event. “I am thrilled to for the return of our collaboration with Indigenous Performance Productions for Episode 2 of ‘The Aunties: Women of the Salish Sea.’ Last season’s sold-out shows in the Black Box left audiences craving more, and this year, we’re taking it to the mainstage with a fresh cast of Aunties, ready to share new stories, poems, and performances. Through this multi-media spectacle, patrons have the opportunity to immerse themselves in the rich traditions and profound connections of the Salish Sea’s women. We encourage everyone to come with their ears, minds and hearts wide open, ready to be captivated by the talent and messages of these extraordinary performers.”

Show director Kendra Potter of Indigenous Performance Productions appreciates their partnership with the Washington Center. IPP shows often rehearse at the Center before taking off on regional and national tours. Photo courtesy: Washington Center for the Performing Arts

At the Washington Center, History Comes to Life Through Stories, Folktales and Fables

Potter says that after their earlier Olympia show, the reviews were really enthusiastic, with some being tender and soft. “People are so excited to hear the stories and to celebrate the value of community and the role of aunties in our lives,” she continues. “One of my favorite bits of feedback was after seeing the Bellingham stories, a man felt compelled to take his kids to spend the next day with his own aunty. It had an immediate impact in that case. He was inspired to make a connection and ask her for stories about her own life.”

Each performance is new and unique to that distinct area. To date, locally-based Aunties have visited Olympia, Bellingham, Sante Fe and St. Paul. May’s Olympia event showcases Danica Miller from the Puyallup Nation, Rhonda Grantham from the Cowlitz Nation and Sara Marie Ortiz, an Acoma Pueblo who now lives in the Pacific Northwest.

Live performances are a labor of love that often require more than two dozen people working behind the scenes to bring them to life. They are “full of heart, education and entertainment,” promises Potter. “Most of us will learn a little while we are there, even though that’s not the main focus.” In addition to being a live event, she explains, shows are also part of a large documentary film project to record the tales for future generations. “We are greatly appreciative of the Washington Center for the Performing Arts for their partnership for bringing these stories to the community,” says Potter, “and are so excited to work together to have a rewarding night!”

The Salish Sea runs from Olympia to Campbell River, British Columbia and encompasses 4,600 miles of coastline and 8 million residents. Learn about its past to appreciate the future at downtown’s Washington Center. Photo credit: Kathryn Millhorn

Get Your Tickets for a Night with the Aunties Today

The Washington Center performance takes place at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 16. Buy tickets online or visit the Box Office from noon until 5:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday or two hours before any ticketed event. Email boxoffice@washingtoncenter.org or call 360.753.8586 with questions.

Then call your mom, grandma, aunties or chosen wise women in your family. Arrange a time to sit, visit and – most of all – listen to their stories, advice and lived experience. You just might learn more than you expected.

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