WordXWord storytellers: Sculpting with sentences


Photo Gallery | WordXWord storytelling final performances

PITTSFIELD -- The trials, tribulations and joys of life, love and art were on full display as the WordXWord Festival brought flesh-and-blood art to Berkshire Museum on Friday.

Performers took on topics diverse as the drudgery of work, interpretations of family and world history, science and technology, the Vietnam War and cloning -- animals and seeds.

"Is fresh fruit fresh from the tree, or fresh from the processing factory? How is it possible for seedless fruit to exist?" said Jive Poetic, a performer from Brooklyn, N.Y. "Fruit, definition, the seed-bearing part of a plant. Plant, definition, an organism that reproduces through the production of seeds that are fed by the fruits of the plant."

Poetic elicited huge cheers from the audience as he barreled through four poems to conclude the festival's "Story Slam" finals, where local performers plunged into epics on risks, money and lessons learned.

One of the stories, told by finals winner Curtis Asch, concerned a lock box opened after his father's death. It turned out the box contained some interesting items, including a marriage record and picture of an unknown woman.

"I may very well have half siblings who are 20 to 30 years older than me roaming around Eastern Europe as we speak," Asch said. "I started to get really freaked out thinking my dad started the Cold War and this other franchise of humans."

Also contained within, "a hand-scrawled note in my father's writing that said, ‘Don't worry about it.' "

"To this day, I cannot figure out if that note was to me, to my mother, or to himself," Asch said.

Other performers included Stan Spencer, Seth Brown and Jennifer Holey. Members of the audience judged on a point scale, drawing a quip from host Robbie Q. Telfer.

"Isn't scoring art dumb?" Telfer said. The story competition was, "an excuse to get together" and share things.

A second performance on the evening was the "Encyclopedia Show," where a random encyclopedia entry served as the theme.

Fans of Appalachia culture and history had something to smile about as the region took those honors.

The performers reflected on bluegrass music, the Mason-Dixon Line, President Andrew Jackson's Indian Removal Act of 1830, the Appalachian Trail and ramps -- a spring vegetable in the onion family riffed on by Telfer.

The evening wrapped up the sixth day of the city's signature art festival, founded by Jim Benson in 2009 and sustained by donations, local sponsors and visiting and local artists.

Events took place in Dottie's Coffee Lounge, the Whitney Center for the Arts, Lichtenstein Center for the Arts and the museum.

The festival concludes today at the Berkshire Museum, where the "Poetry Slam" finals are set to occur at 6 p.m.

Later, at 8 p.m., the "Festival Finale" will feature performances by Brooklyn, N.Y., slam poet Omar Holmon, Thomas Fucaloro, Telfer, Poetic and local artists.

To reach Phil Demers:
or (413) 281-2859.
On Twitter: @BE_PhilD


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