Animal Fire Theatre 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 in whatever space they could find with whatever budget they could pull together. They 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
Several members had ties to the Puget Sound area, so when it came time to leave Idaho, Olympia’s thriving 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. Thus began our legacy of outdoor Shakespeare.
Austen continued to lead the company and direct the shows through 2012 when he and the other founding actors Jay Minton and Ian McNeely left the Olympia area to folloqw other opportunities. 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. In 2018, AFT was finally incorporated as a nonprofit and secured its own 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status. The company is now run by a six-member board of directors, and remains an entirely volunteer organization.