Topical films, shows, concerts and comedy events are free to the public on Thursday nights in July and August at the Neptune Theatre in the University District.

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When Martin Sepulveda was organizing the inaugural Nights at the Neptune series, he knew its continued existence wasn’t a given.

But now, five years later, the annual program of free events from Seattle Theatre Group has just kicked off with an anniversary party, and the six evenings that lie ahead represent a milestone in its mission to highlight art from local voices about social-justice issues.

“It’s a people’s theater joint,” said program manager Sepulveda. “This year, I’ve really noticed that the platform’s being used for what it was intended for — to bring the community together around the issues that are important to it. Whatever is on the collective conscious kind of bubbles up.”


‘Nights at the Neptune: A People’s Theatre Joint’

Thursdays through Aug. 10, at the Neptune Theatre, 1303 N.E. 45th St., Seattle; free (

On the community’s mind this year: Indigenous peoples’ rights, Seattle’s history as an epicenter of protest and a pushback against harmful stigmas affixed to the transgender community. Those issues and more will take center stage in film, theater, poetry, music and comedy events Thursday nights in July and August at the Neptune Theatre in the University District.

Sepulveda sees the series as a way to both show off homegrown talent and counteract some of the cultural erasure that’s happening in a rapidly evolving city.

“Seattle is a progressive place, but it’s not as progressive as people think, especially given rampant gentrification and no rent control,” Sepulveda said, stopping himself from reciting a list that could’ve continued. “There are a lot of things about this city that are really hostile to Seattleites, especially people of color. This is a way for us to kind of respond to that, and create space.”

Here’s this year’s lineup:

‘Promised Land,’ July 6

A feature-length documentary from filmmakers Vasant and Sarah Salcedo, “Promised Land” chronicles the struggles of the Chinook Indian Nation and Duwamish Tribe to receive federal recognition of treaty rights.

“The movie really asks the question, ‘If it can’t happen in the Pacific Northwest where we’re named after Chief Sealth, where’s it going to happen?’” Sepulveda said.

The film will be preceded by songs and drumming, and will be followed by a Q&A with the filmmakers and Chinook and Duwamish members.

The Future of Film is Feminist Festival, July 13

Production education center Reel Grrls joins with Northwest Film Forum and the National Film Festival for Talented Youth (NFFTY) to present an evening of shorts made by more than a dozen young, female-identified filmmakers.

All three organizations are nonprofits with executive directors who are women, and the partnership exemplifies the collaborative and activist spirit of Nights at the Neptune, Sepulveda said.

“The silver lining in this world we’re living in right now is that you’ve woken up a whole other generation of activists and leaders,” Sepulveda said. “This is looking at what they’re thinking and the lens they’re looking through. Watch out.”

One Laugh at a Time, July 20

A night of stand-up comedy that’s geared toward recovering alcoholics and people living a sober lifestyle, One Laugh at a Time will feature sets from Nigel Larson, Daniel Carroll and Andy Gold.

“This is touching on a part of social justice that isn’t really thought about — especially in entertainment, because it’s so fueled by alcohol,” Sepulveda said.

International Girl Gang Expo, July 27

The Neptune will be transformed into a bazaar for the International Girl Gang Expo, spearheaded by Women.Weed.Wifi, a collective that promotes feminism and cannabis culture.

DJ sets from Seattle’s Toya B and J-Na$ty and music from Portland’s Blossom and Brazil’s Lay are some of what’s in store at a night that will showcase both artist and artisan.

#BlackTransMagick: A Journey Towards Liberation, Aug. 3

Poetry and music come together in this collaboration between black trans artists, which in part responds to violence perpetuated against the community. Performers include Seattle-based J Mase III, Ebo Barton and Scarlett D’Giacomo, and Chicago artist Kokumo.

“This is one of the most marginalized groups in existence, ever,” Sepulveda said. “This is a good place for people who want to know more about [the community].”

‘Don’t Call it a Riot!,’ Aug. 10

Seattle playwright Amontaine Aurore’s new work “Don’t Call it a Riot!” will close out the series with a staged reading. The play traverses the city’s history of protest, from events in Seattle’s Black Panther Party in 1968 to the WTO demonstrations in 1999.

The reading will be followed by a post-show discussion, with a panel that includes former Seattle chief of police Norm Stamper, who’s now become an advocate of police demilitarization.