Crock Pot Bananas, Trance-Writing, and Folk Music: How the Theater of Words and Music Celebrated Their Last Event

On September 12, Shari Caplan and Casey Roland held their final Theater of Words and Music event at the Salem Atheneum. It was a sentimental moment as everyone shared memories of their experiences with the company.

Starting the event was the Cape Ann Improv, who warmed up the program with a game of tennis, hitting imaginary tennis balls while volleying names of presidents, Halloween-related words, classic novels and more, all the while trying not to repeat things but think of something before they’re out of the game.

They played other games that involved Scottland and eating haggis (or not getting any haggis), and returning a celebrity, a concept, and a crock pot full of slices of bananas to the Complaint Department.

Janaka Stucky performing his poetry

In between each of the performers, there was an open mic session. The first included J. D. Scrimgeour, a local poet who dedicated the first poem he shared to Joey Gould, who had been helping out with the Theater of Words and Music as their “permanent poet,” so to speak.

Ben Courchesne shared some real life poems, including one on Arab Spring and a memory of driving with his dad. The last poem was a sestina which, for a poetry form that involves repeating words, came out very well.

Following another open mic, Janaka Stucky was introduced as a two-time National Haiku champion and he was voted “Boston’s Best Poet” in 2010 in the Boston Phoenix. That sounded pretty impressive, but I was unaware of how inspiring he would be to me until he started performing his poetry.

“I write from a trance state,” he told us, describing his ritual involving lighting incense, having the lights out, downing a shot of his favorite liquor, and using writing prompts and collected fragments of statements to write his poems. I think that was more inspiring than the poems themselves. because having a writing ritual helps a writer become more individualized. Whether it’s going to your favorite cafe, blasting your favorite song, or writing hanging upside down from monkey bars (I don’t actually know anyone who does any of these things – they’re just examples), everyone should have a way they write that’s unique to them, and it’ll surely reflect in their work as it clearly did here with Stucky’s poetry.

In the last open mic, Shari and Casey themselves read some of their poems and expressed their mixed emotions, plus tipped us off on some of the projects they’ll be working on in the future.

As the Sparrow
As the Sparrow

What better way to end the night than with some great music from As the Sparrow? They’re a folk-influenced rock-swing band who usually has up to seven members playing at a time, but this night, an important landmark in the history of Salem art, they had eight members, making the occasion all the more special!

I look forward to seeing what the unique team of Shari and Casay will work on in the future!


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