, , ,

Linda inpurple

My sweetie and I hosted a small get-together the other night. We try to have some kind of themed event several times a year and this one was called “Friday open un-mike night” to encourage low-key performance, storytelling, and what have you. We had a smaller group than usual but I was eager to try out what I hoped was a piece of visual poetry in this blue/purple combo.

 The skirt, which may not live long, was a redo of a 50’s strapless prom dress that no longer fit me on top. I decapitated top from bottom to make this skirt.

purple amidst green

I wish I had a picture of the hat because its a sweet little straw number with some clear sequins. I think I got it from my friend Anitra who occasionally blogs at http://www.coffee-pot-people.blogspot.com.

A bit more about this event though.  We have a talented group of friends. Some of whom like to perform and do so regularly, while others don’t get an opportunity very often to do so. We inaugurated a party a few years back called a Chautauqua, riffing on the idea of ideas of the Chautauqua movement from the late 19th and early 20th century.  This movement focused on “adult education and improvement” with lectures, entertainment and the like originally held at a camp in upstate NY and later spreading throughout the country even spawning traveling Chautauquas. Although we added a fancy dress twist because as far as I was concerned, I had far too many party dresses in my closet and far too few occasions to wear them and I harbored a hunch that many of my women friends, and some of my men friends, had this problem as well.

We scheduled this party in the winter months and it was and is a rousing success. We’ve had participants perform opera pieces, poetry readings of both original and established poets, memoirs and essays,  folk music, duos and trios, visual arts presented and speciality foods served –  basically whatever our friends come up with they are welcome to present or perform.

This iteration, the “un-miked night”, is part of our endeavor to keep the vining of participatory creativity threading through our lives and in some small way, keep it growing in our town.  Our culture has paradoxically moved away from encouraging individual arts participation (only artists or performers do that for money, on stage) where people used to routinely gather in homes to sing, dance and create together. The paradox is that we’ve elevated the amateur who aspires to be a professional through shows like American Idol — but only certain amateurs can do that…it’s not available to all of us.

And it should be.  And it can be. We can bring these shared experiences back into our living rooms and to each other.

(For more information on Chauatuaqua check http://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chautauqua or http://www.ciweb.org. Interesting article on singing together at http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2012/03/how-communal-singing-disappeared-from-american-life/255094/  ).