A Company of Passion

Who is Animal Fire?

“What’s past is prologue.” – The Tempest, Act II, Scene I


Animal Fire Theatre Group was started by a group of theater students fresh out of the University of Idaho’s theater program. Inspired by what they had learned, they set about producing their favorite Shakespeare plays (“How about Henry V?”) in whatever space they could find (“Look! An abandoned Sears building.”) with whatever budget they could pull together (“Say good-bye to our beer money, and hello duct tape sword holsters.”), and named themselves Animal after the “animals exercise” that inspired them during their U of I classes and Fire  for their passion and inspiration.

Peter Beard and Jay Minton in Macbeth

Peter Beard and Jay Minton in Macbeth

Since several members had ties to the Puget Sound area, when it came time to leave Idaho, Olympia’s healthy arts community was a choice location  for nurturing the fledgling company. AFT’s debut Olympia production of Macbeth directed by Austen Anderson took place in 2010 against the beautiful setting of Priest Point Park. It  was a great success; it was received warmly by audiences and attracted some of Olympia’s premiere theater artists to the company. Since then, many have come and gone but a core group of enthusiastic Shakespeare-maniacs remain to carry on the legacy.




Actors playing theater games in rehearsal for A Midsummer Night's Dream

Actors playing theater games in rehearsal for A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Thus began our legacy of outdoor Shakespeare. Austen continued to lead the company and direct the shows until 2012 when he and stage manager Lisa Brandon, were offered stellar opportunities in Florida working with Asolo Repertory Theater. Around the same time founding actors Jay Minton and Ian McNeely also took flight for better opportunities elsewhere. So, Animal Fire was left with none of its founders, but a rather large base of theater-thirsty fans and group of passionate artists dedicated to keeping that torch lit.









Brian Hatcher warms the crowd for a performance of Julius Caesar

In 2013, Brian Hatcher, Scott Douglas and Kate Arvin became leaders of the company keeping the goal of producing vibrant, relevant, high quality productions of classical texts in rough, raw, and modern ways to bring out the true heart of the story. As artists they endeavor to explore the breadth of human instinct and impulses in order to deeply explore self and character, and to do so they still use the animals exercise, as well as other non-traditional rehearsal methods, to heighten our physical and emotional awareness, within the safety of a supportive arts collective.




The 2013 production of Julius Caesar took place on the Capitol Campus and it’s success signified the resilience of the company as well as the worthiness of the mission. The production also secured the commitment of four new company members: Jamie Jenson, Morgan Picton, Kate Ayers and Em Donkin Jones. This magnificent team of seven, with their broad variety of skills and interests, is what now pushes the company forward. As AFT sails into the future, we salute our past warriors and future heroes, and look forward to seeing what more we make within this beautiful community.


2009 – Henry V – An abandoned retail complex in Idaho.

2010 – Macbeth – Priest Point Park, Olympia, WA

2011 – The Tempest – in conjunction with Evergreen Shakespeare – The Evergreen State College

2011 – A Midsummer Night’s Dream – Priest Point Park

2012 – Hamlet – Priest Point Park

2013 – Julius Caesar – directed by Jenny Greenlee –  The Water Garden on the East side of Olympia’s Capitol Campus

2013 – American Roulette – in conjunction with Theater Artists Olympia – The Capitol Playhouse

2014 –  The Two Gentlemen of Verona – Priest Point Park, Tumwater Farmer’s Market space, and the Griswold Building


More to come!