Last Saturday morning, a mixed group of students and performances poets met up for Own the Boards’s first ever performance poetry workshop. The meeting marks the start of what we hope to become a staple initiative.
In attendance were students from Knox County schools and LifeWords Reading Circles, all of whom took part in activities aimed at improving performance and recitation skills.
Jonathan “Courageous” Clark and Summer Awad, who led the workshop, both have extensive experience in theater and performance. Clark began participating in poetry slams and youth theater at an early age, and he’s since become a staple in the Knoxville slam scene, partnering with Lane Shuler to run Knoxville Poetry Slam and tour with I.N.K. Poetry. Awad is majoring in Literary Activism at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and her recent play Walls: A Play For Palestine was produced by the Clarence Brown Lab Theater.
Our original concept for this workshop series was to provide recitation practice for Knox-area students who’d competed in this year’s Poetry Out Loud competition.
“Only a handful of area schools participate in the competition,” says OTB President Dr. Laura Keigan. “It’s really a school-by-school, teacher-by-teacher thing. Teachers are already so pressed for time that including anything extra can be difficult.”
That’s where OTB wants to help, explains Dr. Keigan: “We can pick up where teachers leave off. Offering performance workshops outside of school hours will hopefully ease some of the burden on those already participating and maybe even prompt others to give it a try.”
Complications in scheduling limited the number of students able to attend this year, but the sessions have been crucial in planning for the future. “Next year, we’re going to offer more workshops, and start earlier. We’re going to work on personally getting in contact with teachers and students even before the class competitions begin,” says Dr. Keigan.
Furthermore, because we had room, several LifeWords students attended Saturday’s workshop, giving it an intergenerational flair that is truly unique. None of the participants, regardless of age, had any theater or performance experience, so they all entered on equal footing.
Saturday’s workshop is one of a two-part series, the second of which will meet at Sherrill Hills on Saturday, February 27th, from 12-2pm. For additional information, please contact Dr. Laura Keigan.