Last Wednesday I had the extreme pleasure of attending and presenting at a Spoken Word event planned by one of my colleagues at the Office of Sustainability and hosted by the University of Calgary's television station NUTV (New University TeleVision). Pauline - the organizer - will tell you that any successful event requires a substantial lead time and we've been privy to snippets of the planning process for the past few months. That being said, the minutes and the hours leading up to the event were still nerve-wracking as people started to slowly fill into the tiny set; NUTV remarked that this was the most people that they've ever seen in their space! (It was the first time in my four years that I have ever been there.)
Echo! was presented as part of the Greenlite Arts Festival which showcases eco videos, film challenges and environmentally-themed poetry. For the spoken word portion, we simply asked performers to develop a piece that answered the question: "what would you say if you were the last artist standing?" Answers fell on all sides of the sustainability spectrum from laments about the way our earth is being treated to social commentaries on the higher education system and the value of an arts degree.
I was blown away by the quality of the performers. One of my favourite things about the spoken word/slam poetry community is that it is so diverse and the atmosphere always feels comforting and inviting. Every performer always feels like they are bearing a little piece of their soul - and sometimes they are - and you as an audience member have the opportunity to witness a snapshot of their life. As cheesy as this sounds, I honestly can't express the feeling any other way. People that you may never associate with writing or look like they are unaffiliated with anyone in the room are suddenly friends and talking on the same level about our issues. Though it wasn't intended to be a competition, a prize was awarded to the poet with the greatest stage presence, message, and audience reaction. The winning poet knocked it out of the park with a rap-style slam on society, university and the human experience, which included a witty take on "higher education" in which he expressed his degree would be more useful if he rolled it into a joint and smoked it. I gave a shaky performance of my two fairly literal interpretations of the theme - Ghost Pines and What is and What Was - but I still just enjoyed being there despite the nerves and am proud that I was in the company of the other amazing performers.
I'm excited to see if this becomes a tradition that continues every year as part of the Greenlite Arts Festival, but even if it isn't I am thrilled with how everything worked out. Event planning is never easy and Pauline did an amazing job of pulling this event together.
Check out a stream of the entire performance here: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/fullfrontallive