by Natalie Turner
A community theater and a high school came together to give young performers a chance to flex their poetic muscles.
BG OnStage hosted its first Open Mic event, featuring performers from Bowling Green High School’s Purple Poets Society.
This story originally appeared on Natalie Turner’s website. Listen to the radio version below here.
Christian Butterfield said he started writing poetry after discovering slam poets online.
“I didn’t like poetry for the longest time,” he said. “I think it’s because when we talk about poetry in school, it’s all about the rhyming stuff. I watched a bunch of slam poetry and I was like ‘woah!’ They’re just talking. It’s like prose but better.”
Butterfield performed several pieces, including an original work about Renaissance painter Sandro Botticelli.
BG OnStage Music Director Maddie Hughes said the community theater’s first Open Mic event came together easily because student interest was high.
“There was already such a strong foundation, a crowd, and an audience for this kind of stuff,” Hughes said. “It was not terribly difficult to get the ball rolling on this.”
Hughes said she thinks the young performers fit in the theater well.
“We are any and all things art. This is a theater space, and there are aspects of drama incorporated in poetry.”
Performer Abigail Adams-Smith said she considers herself a writer first, but she will be using her performance skills when she reads at this year’s Poetry Out Loud competition.
Adams-Smith said she tries to perform as often as possible.
“I just try to get as much into character as possible. It doesn’t matter what I’m feeling anymore. It matters how I’m feeling in character right then.”
Emma Christian, another poet who performed at the Gaslight Theater, said her own poetry was “too edgy” for a BETA Convention.
“I’m fine. I’m emotionally okay,” she said. “But my poetry got reported for being too edgy. I was like okay. That’s something I should probably figure out. So then I went to the Purple Poets Society at my school.”
Christian said she loves performing, but she’s afraid of the “starving artist” stereotype.
“I’m kind of left in this position where I’m like—this is something that I love and that I’m passionate about, but I also want to have a family and buy a house.”
Like Christian Butterfield, Anna Cherry started writing poetry after listening to a slam poem.
“I knew that slam poetry was a thing, but I didn’t think that people could get that passionate about it,” she said.
Cherry said she can’t imagine a future where she isn’t writing.
“I still shake when I perform, and that’s never going to change,” she said. “The confidence comes from the message that I put into the pieces.”
At the end of the night, student Elizabeth Richey won a $300 scholarship drawing. She said she was nervous about performing.
“I almost didn’t get out the car whenever I got here,” Richey said. “I was like ‘I don’t want to do this,’ and I stepped back into the car. Then my mom told me I could do this, and I walked out.”
Richey said the emotional piece she performed at the event was the first original poem she had ever written.
“Writing it was very therapeutic. It just kind of got my feelings out of there, from them being built up so much.”
Maddie Hughes said she thinks Bowling Green can expect more poetry events from BG OnStage in the future.
“I think we got a really good start here, and it’s something the Bowling Green community would really like to see more of.”