When you, Barbara Earl Thomas, won the Stranger Genius Award in art last Saturday night at the Moore Theatre, the audience went wild with applause. Crazy. They wouldn't stop. You had to soothe them. "Calm yourselves," you said, laughing—three times before you were heeded. But there was something that you wanted to say, something you wanted heard. "We are in a very critical point in our history as human beings," you began, "in a place where we are at the rip of the human heart." You landed hard on the "t" sound. "Our history, our place on this planet, the things that are each and every one of our responsibilities, are coming to bear right at this moment. And what I'd like to say to each and every one of you is if you can't be kind, at least be civil." You paused and looked around at the audience. You have lived in this community your entire life. You have felt its racism. You have felt its love. You have been kind, and you have been civil. Louder conversations about bigotry don't necessarily mean better ones, you have observed time and again on social networks. So what you wanted to say had to do with being right in front of people, or acting like you are even when you aren't. "When I see you and relate to you, please say hello. Please smile," you implored. "It doesn't cost you a damn thing. That is what is at stake. Each and every one of us has this responsibility. Everything we do matters. I will leave the stage now. And like I said: Behave."


Though the filmmaker and social activist Tracy Rector accepted the Genius Award for film on her own, it was hard not to feel that, as she gave a brief and emotionally measured acceptance speech, she was standing on a stage filled with the artists she works with and the people she makes films about—the young and old, urban and rural, living and not living Native Americans of the region. This is what happens when your art is devoted to the beautiful struggle of a social cause: you no longer stand as one but as the many. She began by saying that the other nominees in her category were "heroes of mine," before getting right to it: "I just want to acknowledge first thing that we are on indigenous land, the land of the Duwamish people"—a people that the federal government doesn't even recognize—"and of the Salish peoples."


The Shrill writer Lindy West, her hair freshly indigo, talked about cutting articles out of The Stranger as a kid, thinking, "What if that could be my job?" Tears burst out of her eyes. "Sorry!" She hadn't expected to start crying. "And then eventually it was my job, it was my first real job, and I learned to write there. I didn't expect to be so emotional." The audience roared. West worked at The Stranger from 2009 to 2011. "Anyway, it's like what if your first hero gave you an award for the thing they taught you to do?" She went on to thank her husband, the trumpet player in Industrial Revelation, which won a Stranger Genius Award in 2014, and her mom, who was in the audience and who went to Garfield High School, just like Lindy did.


We saw you, Erik Blood, winner of the Genius Award for music, unsuccessfully hold back tears of gratitude as you graciously accepted your prize. "I didn't think this was going to happen, but thank you," you said to an adoring crowd. You thanked your crucial collaborator Irene Barber, who came onstage, and then you said, "I'm sorry, I'm freaking out," wiping away tears. "I don't know if I'd still be doing this if it weren't for Irene. I want to hug her really hard, but she fell off her motorcycle." Barber's left arm was in a sling. "Don't do that! Don't fucking do that! Stupid." More tears and then laughter from the audience. Blood went on to thank his family—"They made this"—and then later took a subtle dig at Tacoma, but the crowd laughed it off. "I've always made music here in this place and I've always loved to help people make music here," Blood said, as he really became choked up. "And I'm going to continue to do that forever."


"Theater is a collaborative art, so I accept this recognition on behalf of everyone that I've collaborated with," said actor Emily Chisholm as she took the stage. "The playwrights, the directors, the designers, the other actors—we all work together and I don't work independently. So I'm sharing this with them." She looked down at the trophy she had under one arm, a magnum of Genius Juice, wine made by the Woodinville winery Sparkman Cellars. "I'm sharing this with them," she repeated, holding up the wine. Then she cradled it, rocking it back and forth. "My baby," she added, to laughs.


"Can I talk business?" former mayor Mike McGinn said, approaching two Stranger news reporters in the lobby of the Moore. He asked what they thought about the carbon-tax proposal on the November ballot, and they answered, and then all three debated, and the reporters who'd felt anxious, gulping whiskey and pretending to know about art they'd actually, embarrassingly, never heard of, suddenly felt right at home.


"You're being a maniac," said one woman after the third time she forced another woman to reread texts sent to a Genius Awards party crush. A third person concurred. "Two words," he said, giving a stern: "WORD. COUNT."


You told us you were feeling shitty because you just got your period and were studying for the LSATs, but to us you looked the opposite, absolutely stunning and confident in your Jessica Rabbit dress, smoking a joint outside the theater. recommended