Interpretive poetry performance kinetic

by | Nov 28, 2014 | A&E

Phil Witmer

Graduating Humber performance and production students put their skills to test in a series of interpretive poetry performances on Nov. 22 at Humber Studio Theatre at Lakeshore campus.

The hour-long Poetry Project, described by mentor and dramaturgist Richard Lee as “an evolving performance”, took the form of an anthology of pieces adapting contemporary Canadian poems that were published as part of the Association of Book Publishers of British Columbia’s “Poetry in Transit” series.

“We picked poems that were modern, and that had a strong theme of movement,” said Diana Belshaw, head of acting at Humber Lakeshore.

Movement and change came into play for the project, as Saturday’s performance was the last in a series of public test runs for the piece that began on Nov. 20. Lee introduced the event to the audience shortly before it started with, “what you’re going to be watching here are essentially rehearsals.”

Poetry Project itself was abstract and arty, but kinetic as well.

The performers’ wide array of talents and largely non-verbal interpretations of the selected poems allowed the audience to come to their own conclusions.

Students Katelin Richards and Richard Mojica opened with their version of George Amabile’s Horizon, with the two playing childlike characters navigating the darkened stage with flashlights. The conformity saga of Still Life and the Greek myth-inspired dreamscape of This Heavy Craft followed, bringing the dark and occasionally harrowing narratives to play.

Interconnecting the unrelated vignettes was an impressionistic version of a TTC subway line, connecting Poetry Project to the original source material of the poems and creating an overarching theme of connection in a state of flux.

Belshaw said the purpose of this project was to create a new vocabulary of creativity. It’s about new ways of telling a story, he said.

The highlight story of the night was George Elliott Clarke’s Translated from the Spanish. The poem was transformed into a surrealist play about a passing-glance-turned-crush-turned-seabound-Homeric-epic. There was humour to the melodrama, but the passionate performances by the actors, involving movement and song, sold the entire affair.

After the claustrophobia of Dionne Brand’s I Have Been Losing Roads and strong concluding applause from the full house, each group took turns asking the audience questions on how their work could be improved for the next performance.

The questions focused on feelings provoked by the pieces and the clarity of the symbolism used.

The performers accepted the answers they received while Mojica noted that even though this was the last public performance of Poetry Project, “the work still continues.”