Conundrum Stage’s “SpeakOut”

Sometimes the best things in life really are free, though I would have gladly paid admission to see some of the many deep and daring performances delivered Saturday night at “The SpeakOut,” a spoken word event presented by Conundrum Stages at 18 Rabbit Gallery in Ft. Lauderdale.  The creative mastermind behind this well-attended event, Executive Producer, Kevin Johnson put together an impressive and diverse (in age, gender, race & ethnicity) lineup of artists, many of whom have already begun to achieve national recognition.  For example, the poet known as Asia was featured on season 6 of Russell Simmons’ HBO Deaf Poetry, and his two pieces last night only reaffirmed his worthiness of acclaim.  Accompanied by a friend on guitar, this slim-figured fellow offered up two formidable pieces rife with self-deprecating humor and endearing humility about his (read Everyman’s) misguided desire for bigger biceps, buttocks, and, yep, penis,  his 2006 battle with cancer, and his spiritual discovery; his overall message was a compelling one–the potential for God and goodness lives in himself and others, not in the rituals and trappings of religion with a capital ‘R.’  Matthew “Write Now” Madonia, a member of Write Side Poets (a Florida non-profit for spoken word artists ages 13-24) and a featured artist in the HBO documentary “Brave New Voices,” presented by Russell Simmons, demonstrated his verbal voracity in a pointed piece about the student victims of Florida’s faulty education system (Florida public schools allegedly rank 50th in the nation).   Rebecca “Butterfly” Vaughns, a 13 year veteran of the South Florida poetry scene, has authored several poetry books and CDs and has become particularly noted for her freestyle poems, such as the chilling one she composed extemporaneously last night about the recent tragedy in Haiti.

The Chaos Theory, a spoken word ensemble, opened and closed the festivities with hard hitting performances about fame and notoriety, (im)mortality, and domestic violence.  Many of the lesser known artists at the event delivered equally meaningful and memorable performances.  Brian Poem elicited many laughs with his piece, “Turn the TV Off, So I Can Turn You on,” which cleverly drew on dozens of TV show titles to tell a story about making quality time for making whoopy in our boob tube-engrossed society.  The plucky Kristen McCorkell delivered three impassioned pieces on gang violence, masculinity, politics, and more. And Skye Whitcomb, Managing Director of The Alliance Theatre Lab, gave a good glimpse of his acting chops with a few boot stomping personal and political reflections.  All in all, the event was a success, and with it, Conundrum Stages has followed through, again, in fulfilling its mission to showcase and foster all forms of local talent.

*The Chaos Theory will be performing on Sat. Feb. 13th at Cinema Paradiso in downtown Fort Lauderdale.

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