Ripples and Reflections

By Dahveed Bullis

As we prepare for our second season, Dahveed reflects on our biggest lessons for SPL’s first season.

Picture it: It’s October in Spokane 2021. You just finished your first trust fall with your arts community. The first workshop in SPL’s inaugural season that, when pitched to community leaders and potential collaborators, had most saying, “That sounds really interesting! I can’t wait to see it.” You’re brave, but not immune to feeling like nobody will actually care about what you’ve done. But tonight is different. Tonight is just a couple hairs over capacity in the beautiful Washington Cracker Building. Tonight 100% of the audience stayed for the audience feedback for the playwright. Tonight everyone cried together over Tristen Canfield’s incredible art.

I can picture it. I lived it. And as Scott and I stood in the parking lot when everyone had gone home (closer to midnight than most Thursday nights would allow), we couldn’t stop grinning. We hugged, we laughed, and we arrived. Before we parted ways, we said something that became a theme for us all season.

“We can’t spike the football yet. We still have a season to go.”

We talked longer than you’d think that night about what worked, what didn’t and how we wanted to improve from one workshop to the next. After all, continued improvement is better than delayed perfection.

And so, we did 5 more workshops. Each with an incredible amount of support, love and focus. So much to celebrate. I’ve learned so much. When the season ended, it was time to spike the football. And spike it we did… and by that I mean, we stood in the parking lot and talked about how we wanted to improve next year to be even bigger.

To be an artist is to never be satisfied, truly.

As we’ve geared for season two, I’ve really been thinking a lot about what I learned in this process and wanted to share with you, dear readers, a few big takeaways.

Change Lives Through Story

Scott and I set out on a mission and it was to utilize the unflinching power of Story to shape change. This is our lighthouse in stormy seas. From our first workshop to our last, one of the most common things I heard from audience members was, “I really needed to see this right now.” With a fixated lens on purpose and mission we changed lives by being a vessel for the stories to be seen. Not even remotely alone and with all due to the Playwrights themselves for creating in the first place. Folks said to me all year, “You had a major part in this, don’t forget that.” I’m starting to allow myself to believe that. So, I suppose in a very real way, my life is being changed by stories.

And that’s awesome.

Organizations can be many things, but above all, just be life-giving.

A major focus for us going into next season has been keeping our standard of quality as high as possible. The biggest component came in the form of an intern who told us, “Working with SPL is life-giving.” Our workshops are so fast and there’s just no time for anything but the work. I compare it to being a photographer who specializes in capturing lightning in mid-strike. You follow the weather patterns, find the perfect position, and forgo any hesitation when your finger strikes the button to capture an image of natural beauty. There’s something to all the moving parts coordinated in synchronicity that delivers an experience that can only be described as life-giving. I never want to lose that. Ever.

“After all, continued improvement is better than delayed perfection.”

— Dahveed Bullis

“Are you making a play or a documentary?”

I had the chance to be a playwright this season and it was amazing! Taking a play I had been writing for six years and putting it through the process of SPL was both invigorating and the most difficult thing I’ve done yet. I had a moment where my director, Allison, and I were discussing a moment in my play that simply had to change. I was being obstinate. The idea of a robbery in my play was unbelievable for Allison and this conversation had been going awhile. I finally said, “You have to believe it because this moment comes from real life! My store was robbed when I was managing a fast food restaurant!” And Allison, in her infinite wisdom, calmly responded, “Are you making a play or a documentary?” And kaboom! It clicked. I had been through four workshops, countless meetings with Playwrights, sat at writers tables and when it was my turn, I abandoned everything I learned and fought against convention. If you should ever find yourself reading Minimum Wage, I dare you to find the robbery in its pages. A simple lesson, but a hard one. I was fighting the story my play was actually telling, and that was a hard lesson to learn.

Take a risk

In September 2021, I made a major leap and left a government job. All the benefits and stability someone could ask for and a bright future to boot. SPL was ready to begin and I decided to make art my full-time life. What a wild year it was. I managed to pay every bill with art. Every bill. I mentioned a trust fall earlier, I was kind of referring to this moment. The Spokane art community laid its arms out and said, “you can take this leap, Dahveed.” I prayed about it, talked to my family, went against all advice of people I worked with and freaking did it. I owe a lot to this community for building me up and offering avenues that paid me to keep going.  I recently took a job that is perfect for me. And I mean perfect.

Anyways, what am I saying? I’m saying take the risk. People will try to dissuade you, but they don’t know what you need to do for you, you do. If you are serious and you bet on yourself, you will always win. Remember this, if your dream is something that makes you say, “This isn’t possible for me,” and you see other people doing it and succeeding.. then why not you? You say you’re good enough and just need the opportunity.  Prove you wrong by proving you right. Make your own opportunities and who knows, you might just make something life-giving.

So, that’s my stream of thoughts over the season. We have another one coming up with The Navigator, by Henry McNulty and Sarah Dahmen, on November 10th and it’s our most ambitious yet. I cannot wait.

Our playwrights (past, current and future)- Thank you. Thank you for sharing your art with us. Thank you for being brave. Thank you for letting us serve you. Thank you for telling your truths and fighting for it. Thank you for inspiring me. Thank you for teaching me. Just.. Thank you.

Scott- I have never been so supported by someone I don’t share blood with in the way you have supported me. I’m alive when I’m with you. Our boys spent time together this Summer and became best friends instantly. There’s so much to cherish with us. Let’s never stop creating together.

SPL Leadership Team (Chris, Karen, Scott, Erin, Jaron, Emily and Jaz)- SPL never would have been what it is without you. Your commitment to the vision has been the most incredible thing I’ve ever seen. We literally crafted miracles. Your grace, ingenuity, sacrifices and willingness to communicate through the hard stuff is next level. I’ve learned so much from each of you. I love you and I’m so grateful to know you.

Our audiences, partners and collaborators- Thank you for giving us your love and support. You’ve told the playwrights that their words have meaning and a future in Spokane.

Strap in, this season will blow you away.

Thank you for reading these words and may we change your life through story this season.

With love,


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