Poets on a Pedestal | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Poets on a Pedestal

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Telling stories to the beat of a drum is an age-old bonding rite that's existed in many cultures. With the improvisational new-music works titled "Five Drum Percussion Piece With Poetry" and "Composition for Five Performance Poets, Five Percussion Players and Conductor," veteran local poet Effie Mihopoulos has created Cagean homages to the ritual with the help of some Poets on a Pedestal--an ad hoc name for a core collective of 12 poets. In the "Five Drum" piece, each poet either holds an African drum or sits in front of one and recites in turn to the accompaniment of percussive sounds. Not only does the 15-minute piece play with the volume and cadence of the spoken words, but the poets' motions are choreographed a la Busby Berkeley. In the much longer "Composition" poems are recited while percussionists beat on instruments ranging from bells to sticks, creating a present-day variation on African storytelling. As the maestro Mihopoulos coordinates this structured improvisation by pacing around the poets and anointing one whose poetry might be appropriate for the moment. In similar improvs at Cafe Voltaire, these Poets on a Pedestal were a lot of fun with their mix of poetry slam and percussion roundelay. The comrades-in-poetic-license include Michael Brownstein, Dan Cleary (a singer and drummer from Ireland), Dan Pearson (a film critic known for his bawdy humor), Cathleen Schandelmeier (whose delivery is often wildly dramatic), Larry Winfield (also a jazz musician), and Frank Varela. Saturday, 2 PM, Logan Square Branch, Chicago Public Library, 3255 W. Altgeld; 744-5295.

TED SHEN

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Rhonda Ferren.

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