Poetry and improv may seem like strange bedfellows, but for local artist and educator Theresa Davis, poetry has a place everywhere. A couple of years ago, she even produced an event called Poems and Pasties, combining spoken word and burlesque for a titillating evening at 7 Stages. Now, she’s collaborating with the comedic geniuses at Dad’s Garage for another installation of Madmen and Poets, which will take place on April 13 at 8 p.m.
For this unconventional theater experience, audiences will witness a small group of slam poets perform their work, and then an improv actor will take their cues to improvise a scene based on their words or feelings.
Davis, who curates the poetry aspect of the show, says that her primary goal as an artist is to “find collaboration everywhere.”
For Madmen and Poets, there is no barrier between the spectators and performers, which leads to a profound consciousness. Actors are encouraged to push the boundaries of their storytelling and stretch their talents.
Artistic director of Dad’s Garage, Kevin Gillese, says that “when poets share their work, the content is powerful and intimate. The flavor of improv that follows shares the same texture of the poetry. It’s still comedy, but it becomes more than just laughs. It goes deeper.”
Some of the topics that come up in this performance are not traditional improv cues. Family, social issues, politics and other hot-button topics have all come up in past performances, but instead of being the antithesis of the lightness that comedy provides, it is a welcome heaviness, like a weighted blanket making the audience feel safer. Even if the audience is uncomfortable, they are in it together, sharing the same moment.
“Collaboration is what is going to save us as a people,” Davis says. “As artists, the greatest service that we can provide is to challenge people’s perspectives and show how impactful it is to hear different viewpoints. Sharing stories connects people, and poetry is the portal to initiate dialogue.”
Madmen and Poets are one-off events that happen intermittently on the Dad’s Garage calendar, and the show is a fan favorite. This event is a perfect opportunity for first-timers to get their feet wet in the improv world, and for seasoned fans of comedy to witness a fresh take on the genre.
“It’s wonderful to see the faces that you saw at Madmen and Poets show up in other performance spaces,” Davis says. “People start out as comedy fans at Dad’s Garage, and they become slam poetry fans after the show. We’re creating new poetry fans every time we get on stage.”
The Dad’s Garage website boasts that the company serves as a “gateway drug to the arts” and that it is dedicated to “building a new generation of arts consumers,” and it’s easy to see why. This unique format makes for a genuinely bespoke show that you can’t find anywhere else.