A Place for Words: Spoken word event planned for Mabel Tainter

Danielle Zinsli, photos by Timothy Mather

Kevin W. Tharp
Kevin W. Tharp

Prose, poetry, comedy, and short stories: These are all among the acts audience members will find at the Mabel Tainter Center for the Arts in Menomonie on Sunday, April 7. Those in search of music will be out of luck, this time, as speakers shine.

“We’re not limiting it, except to the spoken word,” said Kevin W. Tharp, director of The Artistically Spoken Word and associate professor of digital marketing technology at  UW-Stout. “We are not allowing music on the stage. There’s plenty of music.”

The event is the first of its kind at the Mabel Tainter. Tharp said he was motivated to organize something that would enable a wide variety of performers to experience standing on the historic stage.

What started as a brainstorming session for a potential poetry jam evolved into an inclusive spoken word feature that was later dubbed The Artistically Spoken Word.

“I don’t want it to be a competition. I want it to be just an opportunity for people to come and stand right here,” Tharp said from the center of the stage at the Mabel Tainter.

Tharp said a few performers will be scheduled beforehand via invitation and in-person or online auditions. However, much of the event will be conducted in a casual, open mic style.

“It’s still emerging exactly what this is going to look like,” he said. “We’re just trying to give people an opportunity to perform the spoken word in front of an audience in an absolutely amazing and gorgeous theater.”

He added that pieces do not have to be original nor do they need to be memorized or performed solo, but acts should adhere to a 10-minute time limit.

“It’s a long time to perform the spoken word. It’s a long time to listen,” Tharp said. “The idea is to have sort of a very casual environment.”

Props are allowed as well, but they are limited to items the performers can carry on and off the stage.

While the event is open to all, Tharp said parents should be warned there’s no guarantee the acts will be kid-friendly. “We can’t control what people are going to do,” Tharp said. “We don’t want to censor people.”

If all goes well, he is hoping this could become a regular event at the Mabel Tainter. “There’s been some real enthusiasm for this,” Tharp said. “Let’s make it happen.”

Those interested in performing in a reserved slot should contact Tharp by April 1. No rehearsals are required.

The Artistically Spoken Word will begin at 2pm Sunday, April 7. Admission is $5, and yes, the bar will be open. Find more information at www.facebook.com/ArtisticallySpokenWord