For the past few years, I’ve had the honour of working as the Lead Artist for the Poetry Performance Incubator at the Guild Complex. The Incubator brings poets together to create ensemble performance, merging my two great loves: poetry and theatre. Our last show, Tour Guides, was an off-center love letter to Chicago. It enjoyed three different productions (and rumour has it might be picked up for a 4th run by an independent producer. Details when they’re official!)
Now we’re gearing up to create a BRAND NEW SHOW called Unnatural Spaces, about urban toxicity and environmentalism in Chicago. I’m so excited about this piece, which will take up a much needed conversation about urban environmentalism, especially from the perspective of people in marginalized communities who are most affected by urban toxicity. If you know my work, you know already this won’t be a “preachy” piece – hell, with all the chemicals it takes to maintain my “natural red hair,” I’m almost as bad for the environment as any factory! My hope is that together, we’ll write a piece that is complicated, honest, and (of course) funny. Interested in participating? Here’s what you might want to know:
-Auditions are December 7th. To sign up, or to get official information about this from the Guild, please go here.
-You don’t need to be an accomplished performer to be a wonderful asset to the team! One, I really believe that most people have inherent theatrical skills. Can you tell a joke? A funny story? Juicy gossip? Flirt? Stare down an enemy? Then you’re already performing! Two, one of the goals of the Incubator is to help poets develop performance skills, so we do a lot of hands on vocal and physical work as part of the process.
-You do need to be team oriented – the Incubator is about working collaboratively, writing with and for each other. And it is about writing for a larger project, which means that not everything you write as part of the process will end up in the show. (But of course, whatever you write is yours to keep – and who can’t use a little extra push to generate work?)
-I am most interested in working with people who have something specific to say, and a unique way of saying it. This should be obvious, but lots of poets are lazy. We pick words because they rhyme, not because they’re the best fit for what we’re trying to say. We rely on cliches and pre-made metaphors instead of crafting our words carefully, looking for the most true thing we can say about our own lives and ideas. We construct the rhythm of our poems to sound like poems we’ve already heard, instead of really listening for the sound of our own experience. When I cast for the Incubator, I am looking for people who will tell our audiences something they don’t already know or – even better – make the everyday seem surprising. Does this sound like a lot of pressure? I hope not! The Incubator is a space for lots of different people with lots of different ideas about what makes a “good” poem. I’m just saying – bring YOURSELF to the audition, not some outside idea of what a poet should be.
-Finally, it takes a long time to make a show. We’re holding auditions in December 2011 for a show that doesn’t open until October 2012! This doesn’t mean we rehearse everyday (or even every week) for 10 months, but it is a longterm commitment. It’s also fun, challenging, and comes with a small stipend to sweeten the deal.