Erica Badgeley and Britta Peterson came up with the idea for SH*T GOLD together, but Badgeley alone decided upon the name. “It seemed fitting,” she explains, “like this is where you try out something that might totally fail, or be totally awesome.”
The pair teamed through the Velocity Dance Center in May 2014 to put on the first installment of their open-ended open mic—albeit one without an actual microphone—showcasing experimental or unfinished works in any performance medium as long as they fit into the mandated five-minute time slot. “We both wanted a venue that was low-pressure for people to experiment in front of other people, so you can use that performance as research,” Badgeley says. “That’s how I feel as an artist—I need an audience to create exciting things.”
The show became a recurring event almost instantly, and survived and thrived at Velocity even as both founders left Seattle later in 2014. SH*T GOLD was left to Velocity itself and a rotating group of facilitators, who in turn assign a new host to introduce guests and arrange the venue space as they see fit for each performance. “One night, the host brought tiny mailboxes so each performer could receive feedback specifically for them,” recalls Frances Wolfe, one of SH*T GOLD’s current facilitators.
Since Velocity is a dance center, roughly half the performances at each installment are in some way based in movement or dance, with the remainder ranging from music and spoken word to set-work and discussions or group experiments that often directly involve the crowd. “That feeling of community is a big draw for performers as well as for the audience,” says Wolfe. “I’ve seen artists develop work piece by piece, week after week, and being privy to that creative process is really special.”
For many artists, sharing unfinished work in such a public environment is an essential part of the creative process that’s not often acknowledged, let alone celebrated, at more formal events. Take, for example, Badgeley. “I need an audience to create exciting things,” she says, “and this is a valuable venue to try things out that I might be lazy about getting around to otherwise.” Now returned to Seattle from a two-and-a-half-year trip abroad, she’s again taking advantage of the show she co-founded to refine her latest dance performances, piece by piece, week after week.
Velocity Dance Center, 1621 12th Ave, velocitydancecenter.org. Free. 10 p.m. every first and third Monday. Sign up for a spot at firstname.lastname@example.org.