On a quiet Thursday night in downtown Mesa at the Volstead Public House, a rather diverse group of folks gathers for an evening of storytelling and poetry reading. Mostly amateurs and first time presenters, the vibe is friendly, relaxed and very supportive. Almost immediately I am greeted by excited and smiling faces, “Are you gonna perform tonight?”.
This is a place where adults of all ages and backgrounds express themselves through the spoken word and in some instances, the words are sung. This is a place to connect with students, parents and seniors that all have an interest to read or listen to others, share their story. This is a community where anyone can become an artist and everyone is encouraged.
The theme tonight is envy, but truly almost any topic is fair game. The only real rules are the strict five-minute time limit and no yelling or cussing anyone out. Some are fighting stage fright. Others are publicly expressing their pain and anguish. While others are laughing at their own life choices. Regardless of the emotion the speaker portrays, all the artists are vulnerable. It is the responsibility of the audience to express their enjoyment or coax the speaker forward with the soft sounds of finger snaps. This subtle expression of reassurance fills the room when the speaker begins to get emotional. The audience is encouraged to finger snap when the artist says something that resonates with the listener. I know what it’s like to be bullied, or struggle with college algebra or fight the odds of survival. The audience is telling the speaker, “I know how you feel, I’ve been there, I support you”.
If you haven’t been to a poetry reading, attend WordPlay Café: Seven Deadly Sins. Open mic nights are scheduled each month through March; each month focusing a unique “sin”. My attendance at the last event, gave me the confidence to consider writing my own story to share. Performers sign up the evening of the performance and the audience can enjoy a craft brew or coffee drink in a laid-back atmosphere. Hosted at the Volstead Public House, WordPlay Café is presented by Mesa Arts Center and facilitated by Creative Catalysts. For more information including a schedule and list of sins, visit the website https://mesaartscenter.com/wordplaycafe.
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