First Night Excludes TACOMA Artists, While Claiming to Be a Celebration of the TACOMA Arts Community

For those of you who have been asking.

I will not be performing in the midnight fire spectacle at First Night this year.

Neither will any other Tacoma fire performer.

Why… you might ask, would a TACOMA festival allegedly celebrating the TACOMA arts community exclude Tacoma performers who support, volunteer for and give to the community 365 days a year?

The answer is the out of town production company, EnJoy productions headed by Martha Enson which was given control over the outdoor portion of the event four years ago.

When she took over, she had already hired her friends from Seattle to headline the midnight fire spectacle, we were foisted on her (much to her annoyance) because it had already been announced that I was performing at First Night during the Le Diner En Blanc fundraiser (a performance which I spent hours choreographing mixing music and practicing for and did for FREE to SUPPORT the TACOMA Arts community and First Night) she completely blew off our first meeting, was late to our second meeting and was generally irritated that she had to deal with me/us.

I had to fight tooth and nail for the local performers to be anything but a fleeting opening act for her out of town friends. We local Tacoma people scrambled to find someone to do the flaming numbers after she fired the person who’d been doing it forever at the last minute and took on other organizational duties on behalf of First Night to make certain it was a success (she was in way over her head and it showed)

The following year, it was brought to my attention by other TACOMA fire performers, that she was advertising on the Seattle Burners lists looking for fire performers. She had not contacted any Tacoma fire performers. I was busy with a new job, grad school and needed more than two weeks advance notice to take the night off work, and didn’t have time to fight with an out of town entity who had no ties to nor love for TACOMA and only wanted to hire her Seattle friends.

Until I got Martha’s email, asking me to perform in the parade, for NO PAY.

I responded with a very polite, “I’m surprised to hear from you, given that you are advertising in Seattle for fire performers and have completely ignored the Tacoma fire performers”

That polite response led to increasingly nasty responses from her, to the point that I finally had to tell her to stop emailing me and that I didn’t care to perform that year (no way did I want to deal with her)

I contacted board members from First Night who were more concerned that what I was saying would hurt the organization than with her exclusion and treatment of TACOMA artists.

I backed off, for love of an event and organization that I thought was about TACOMA and it’s amazing art community.

The board never addressed her nepotism and favoring of her personal friends from Seattle over TACOMA performers. Thankfully, this did allow a handful of TACOMA fire dancers to perform in order to shut us and our supporters within the community up.

Last year, an extremely talented team from Tacoma put together a scaled down version of an extremely popular event (which I will not name, because their egregious mistreatment by Martha and First Night is not my story to tell) which included the fire dancers in the Midnight Spectacle. I was honored to be hired, not by Martha, not by First Night but by members of our TACOMA arts community who love and dedicate themselves to this city and community.

I thought everything was fine, until Martha started hassling the organizers (backstage at the very last minute, which is extremely unprofessional and counter productive) after everything was set, blocked and rehearsed with the band.

Despite Martha’s unprofessional behavior, last year was an amazing experience, and I thought First Night once again supported the TACOMA art community,

How wrong I was…

This year, I emailed Martha asking if the same person/people were organizing the fire spectacle this year, because it was such a great experience last year.

I (and other TACOMA fire performers) were notified by Martha that our services would not be needed because she again hired her Seattle friends. She did make the extremely “benevolent” offer to let us perform in the parade and maybe around the fire pits for NO PAY.

We politely declined.

Two years ago, instead of even pretending they gave a rat’s butt about TACOMA artists and performers, we were flat out ignored by the First Night Board (except one or two that asked us to be quiet about it)

Last year, we had hope that maybe it was going to be about TACOMA, that maybe TACOMA artists and organizers would be included, recognized and respected.

Nope.

This year, we were completely excluded. Emails to First Night, including direct to the board president have been ignored.

As a few of us told our stories to friends, many of whom are also artists and performers, one common thing became clear. Well over 75% of any acts booked for First Night are Seattle performers (don’t get us wrong Seattle, we love you)

Story upon story upon story were told of TACOMA artists and performers who never got so much as a “thanks but no thanks” from First Night.

We hear you loud and clear First Night. You don’t care, you don’t value those who have given our blood, sweat, tears, time and money to TACOMA and to First Night.

First Night is about the “bottom line” and out of town producers hiring their out of town friends.

I for one, will not waste any more time, energy nor tears on an organization that has turned its back on Tacoma and those who create and nurture the community First Night falsely claims to celebrate.

If any of you are interested in also being ignored and disrespected you can make your feelings known:

on their Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/firstnighttacoma/

their Facebook event page https://www.facebook.com/events/176785356225313/

by emailing them from their web page https://www.firstnighttacoma.org/contact-us

by emailing the board president directly patrickm@firstnighttacoma.org

Oh, and if you are interested in some fiery, TACOMA fun for NYE, reach out to one of your LOCAL TACOMA fire people (you know who we are). We just may have something in the works…

 

 

 


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