Ragged Wing Ensemble was an award-winning ensemble theater company that created original, interdisciplinary performances, plays and art events for nearly two decades in the SF Bay Area. A pillar of the Bay Area experimental theatre scene, Ragged Wing touched the lives of hundreds of participating artists and thousands of audience members.
Ragged Wing Ensemble’s mission was to rouse the human spirit through artistic action. We practiced the art of fierce play, hatching the myths of our time. Our process was fluid, changing depending on the needs of the project. Rigor, humor and artistic exuberance characterized our work together as we committed to self-care, the care of our group and the care of our communities. We operated on the belief that the practice of true ensemble (collaborative art-making) is a radical act, having positive social repercussions beyond the rehearsal room.
Ragged Wing was founded in 2004 by Amy Sass, Keith Davis & Anna Shneiderman. There were many collaborators and leaders who helped craft the organization during its founding years. After a successful first show, the group began producing one or two shows per year, focusing on stories that emerged from folktales, myths and everyday occurrences to become theater, visual art, music, dance and film. Between 2009 and 2013, Ragged Wing created immersive, outdoor events in local parks, developed its unique process of creating original, full length plays led by Artistic Director Amy Sass, established its core company of artists, and launched an education program. In 2014, Ragged Wing opened The Flight Deck, a shared black box theater in downtown Oakland, and continued to produce original shows and educational programs there until 2020.
Throughout its history, Ragged Wing pushed the boundaries of what art and theater could be. We melded artistic disciplines, invited audiences to join us in the magic of creation, and experimented with collaborative processes both in the rehearsal room and in the board room. As the organization grew, we strove to pay artists a fair wage, distribute our leadership structure, and operationalize our values around health, equity and access. We put our humanity at the center.
ORIGINAL THEATER & ART EVENTS
Ragged Wing created original, full length plays, original one-act festivals, immersive performance events, and multi-media gallery shows that explored ancient questions in a contemporary world. Large-scale visual design, original music, and adventurous physicality were the markers of a Ragged Wing show. Both site-specific and site-flexible, our work was found in theaters, in galleries, under bridges, online, and in the woods.
Though we began initially as a physical theater company, our ensemble bloomed and grew and in 2014 we created the Visual Arts Core, a specific wing of our Core Company devoted to exploring themes through visual art, installation and gallery shows. The artists also created immersive experiences in partnership with our performance events. A powerful dialogue emerged as visual and performing artists riffed off themes, expanding each other’s skill and evolving each other’s work over time.
A fast-paced, energetic, joy-based creative practice yielding powerful results.
Explosive, inspiring, daring, immersive, full-bodied…
Move, write, draw, sing, build, dance, speak and… PLAY
After years of developing our unique kinetic style of creative practice and collaborative agility, we birthed a dynamic multidisciplinary adult education program called FIERCE PLAY. Deemed “A pedagogical miracle”, our Fierce Play programs offered artists an holistic experience honing and integrating creative skills, exploring such topics as Story, Body, Environment, & Entrepreneurship through a tactile, site-specific, multi-sensory methodology.
THE FLIGHT DECK
From 2014-2020, The Flight Deck was a home for multidisciplinary artists to present work, share resources and practice radical acts of imagination in the heart of downtown Oakland. Created and managed by Ragged Wing Ensemble, The Flight Deck presented over 200 events by hundreds of artists to thousands of audiences every year. As Oakland’s only shared Black Box theater, The Flight Deck served up a unique mix of arts and culture events, and the community around it was rich and vibrant.
A permanent Flight Deck Legacy wall has been installed at 1540 Broadway, now PianoFight Oakland, to commemorate Ragged Wing’s run (2014-2020) creating and running Oakland’s only shared black box theater. Artists Marlene Tobias & David Cramer worked with transparent photos and mirrors to create a joyful yet haunting tribute to The Flight Deck. Check it out next time you’re there for a show!
“Ragged Wing specializes in original, ensemble-created work with wildly inventive but precise physicality. It takes on unwieldy, abstract ideas and makes them dramatic through created or reinvented myth.”
- Lily Janiak, HowlRound
"Ragged Wing is one of those local independent companies always worth seeing."
- Ken Bullock, Berkeley Daily Planet
Selected media links:
KQED: “Flight Deck, Oakland’s Only Black Box Theater, to Close in March” 11/19/2019
The Mercury News: “Time literally melts away in Ragged Wing’s stage fantasy in Oakland” 4/9/2019
Theatre Bay Area Insider: “Ragged Wing Debuts A Fierce New Training Program” 10/17/2018
Flight Deck’s “Overnight” Explores Impact of High-Rise in Oakland, SF Chronicle 4/3/17
THANK YOU FOR THE JOURNEY
The Ragged Wing community said goodbye to the body of the organization on June 5, 2021. It was a moment of true community, with song, story, food and fire.
In true Ragged Wing fashion we honored the shadow and the light, watching the sky deepen into darkness. To echo Amy Sass and her final song/story offering - a mythic passage through death - all present witnessed the body of Ragged Wing Ensemble dissolve and her spirit spread out into everyone who was present, and many who were not. It is now in the trees and dirt of Codornices Park, the steel and concrete of downtown Oakland, and though the body of Ragged Wing is gone, her wings live on in you.
Thank you to all of the artists, staff, board, students, donors, partners and friends who made Ragged Wing Ensemble the magic that it was. The alchemy among the hundreds of humans that made up this community was something special.