Artistic Expression: This pandemic is hitting artists where it hurts

Performance cancellations, while necessary, are having a very real impact on the income of local artists. On this page, we’ll compile a list of resources and fun stuff to help artists connect, support each other and express themselves. To add to this list, email news@motifri.com

Find a list of free resources, opportunities and financial relief opportunities for artists here: covid19freelanceartistresource.wordpress.com/?fbclid=IwAR2FhLt924rScJt2Hl4vMylXNFEDWyamcDhBmPjsWsYIJZ7mbHreC87j370

Rad Cat Crimson Al-Khemia insists that “the quarantine can’t stop the scene” and encourages artists to keep expressing themselves by posting videos of their performances with #TheRadRemedy.

Head Trick Theatre will help you take part in #TheRadRemedy. Email your idea of a theater performance or scene you’d like to perform and record to headtricktheatre@gmail.com.

Spoken word artist Christopher Johnson also suggests artists post videos of their performances with #SocialDistance.

2018 Theater Award Winners

Motif-188This year saw a number of records broken at the Motif Theater Awards. The number of voters was the most yet, with 4,565 readers weighing in on their favorite performers and performances. The event filled McVinney, the 728-seat auditorium in downtown PVD, with a spirit of cheering camaraderie that carried through the entire night. You can see the list of winners below, but one of the themes was that everyone who came out was a winner – theaters were cheering one another, and companies were offering passes to other companies. Almost every theater company in the region was represented, and the afterparty at Hotel Providence was awash in theatrical energy and networking between companies.

Performances represented some of the best work from local theaters, and included boffo showstoppers from a full cast of Newsies by the Academy Players, a show-defining original song, “Everything that Matters,” from Empire Revue’s Benny’s the Musical, stirring solos from Trinity Rep’s Ragtime and Stadium Theatre’s Hunchback of Notre Dame, medleys from Granite’s Jesus Christ Superstar and Theatre by the Sea’s Chicago, a piratical mashup from Penzance by the Wilbury Group and an ever-optimistic rendition of “Tomorrow” from Community Players’ Annie. Every single number managed to stir or inspire the crowd of fellow thespians.

Guided by showrunner Terry Shea and veteran MCs Kevin Broccoli and Reba Mitchell, presenters included Karen Kessler, Samantha Gaus, Beth and David Jepson, Paula Faber, Vince Petronio, Rita Murray Maron, Leonard Schwartz, Kira Hawkridge, Ted Clement, Jonathan Pitts-Wiley, Joanne Fayan, Angelique Dina, a beat-boxing Rudy Rudacious, a heartfelt Tony Annicone, Cheryl and Charles Cavalconte, and Tom Gleadow and Fred Sullivan.

Spoken word winner Christopher Johnson rededicated his award to Vatic Kuumba, and Lynn Collinson, recipient of the Unsung Hero award, gave a rousing speech about community and teamwork, also announcing her new project that will focus on roles for mature women.

The afterparty jammed out to the tunes of Westminster Yacht Club and included a few more personal award presentations. Culinary treats from Julians restaurant and brews from Narragansett Brewers rounded out the night.

2018 Lighting Design – College
Jessica Winward – Eurydice, URI
2018 Set Design – College
Katryne Hecht – Beauty and the Beast, RIC
2018 Sound Design – College
Anna Drummond, Eurydice, Brown Trinity MFA
2018 Costume Design – College
Marcia Zammarelli – Beauty and the Beast, RIC
2018 Male Performance – College
Brooks Shatraw – Bert, Mary Poppins, URI
2018 Female Performance – College
Emily Turtle – Mary Poppins, URI
2018 Choreography – College
Nicole Chagnon – Mary Poppins, URI
2018 Direction – College
Bill Wilson – Beauty and the Beast, RIC
2018 Production of the Year – College
Mary Poppins, URI

2018 Lighting Design – Community
Megan Ruggiero & Doug Greene – American Strippers,
Attleboro Community Theatre
2018 Set Design – Community
Danny Rodrigues – You Can’t Take It with You, Portsmouth Community Theater
2018 Sound Design – Community
Terry Shea – Isn’t It Romantic, Barker
2018 Costume Design – Community
Johnny Cagno – Sweeney Todd, RISE
2018 Supporting Male – Community
John Brennan – Mr. DePinna, You Can’t Take It with You, Portsmouth Community Theater
2018 Supporting Female – Community
Katrina Rossi – Susan, The Crazy Time,
Newport Playhouse
2018 Male Lead – Community
Brian Mulvey – The Grandfather, You Can’t Take It with You, The Community Players
2018 Female Lead – Community
Vivienne Carrette – Athena, American Strippers, Attleboro Community Theatre
2018 Direction – Community
Cindy Killavey – Love, Loss and What I Wore, Portsmouth Community Theater
2018 New Work – Community
Murder at the Coal Mines by Gloria Schmidt – Portsmouth Community Theater
2018 Production of the Year – Community
You Can’t Take It with You, Community Players
2018 Lighting Design – Semi-Pro
Marc Tiberiis II – ESCAPE, OUT LOUD Theatre
2018 Set Design – Semi-Pro
Christopher J Simpson – Rosencrantz
& Guildenstern Are Dead, Contemporary
Theater Company
2018 Sound Design – Semi-Pro
Ryan Stevenson – The Healing, Epic Theatre
2018 Costume Design – Semi-Pro
Kira Hawkridge – King Lear, OUT LOUD Theatre
2018 Supporting Male – Semi-Pro
David Sackal – King Lear, OUT LOUD Theatre
2018 Supporting Female – Semi-Pro
Natasha Cole – King Lear, OUT LOUD Theatre
2018 Male Lead – Semi-Pro
Kevin Broccoli – Wolf Hall, Epic Theatre
2018 Female Lead – Semi-Pro
Valerie Westgate – Vanda, Venus in Fur,
Burbage Theater Company
2018 Direction – Semi-Pro
Kira Hawkridge – King Lear, OUT LOUD Theatre
2018 New Work (or significant adaptation) –
Semi Pro & Pro
Marshall by Kevin Broccoli – Epic Theatre
2018 Production of the Year – Semi-Pro
Wolf Hall, Epic Theatre

2018 Lighting Design – Professional
Amith Chandrashaker – Othello, Trinity Rep
2018 Set Design – Professional
Eugene Lee – Ragtime, Trinity Rep
2018 Sound Design – Professional
Mikhail Sulaiman –  Othello, Trinity Rep
2018 Costume Design – Professional
Kara Harmon – Ragtime, Trinity Rep
2018 Supporting Male – Professional
Jeff Church – As You Like It, Gamm
2018 Supporting Female – Professional
Phyllis Kaye – Death of a Salesman, Trinity Rep
2018 Male Lead – Professional
Tony Estrella – Vanya, Uncle Vanya, Gamm
2018 Female Lead – Professional
Lauren Weinberg – Belle, Beauty and the Beast,
Theatre By The Sea
2018 Direction – Professional
Tony Estrella and Rachel Walshe – As You Like It, Gamm
2018 Production of the Year – Professional
Ragtime, Trinity Rep

2018 Stage Manager Award
Max Ponticelli
2018 Improv / Audience Participation
Bring Your Own Improv
2018 Most Bombastic Fight Choreography
Normand Beauregard – As You Like It, Gamm
2018 Social Media Campaign
Benny’s the Musical, Empire Revue
2018 Favorite Spoken Word Artist
Christopher Johnson
2018 Favorite Concessions
Trinity Rep
2018 Favorite Fest
2018 Youth Production of the Year
The Lion King Jr., Academy Players of RI
Most Exciting Creative Collaboration of 2018
Murder at the Coal Mines – Portsmouth Community
Theater and Portsmouth Historical Society
2018 Favorite Variety Show / Cabaret
Theatre By the Sea Cabaret
2018 Favorite Ensemble
Pirates of Penzance, Wilbury
2018 Unsung Hero Award
Lynn Collinson
2018 Devised Theater Award
The Sea Pageant, Strange Attractor
2018 Nazo Award for
Boundary Defying Theater
Red Speedo, Epic Theatre

2018 Principal Male Dancer
Alex Lantz, Festival Ballet
2018 Principal Female Dancer
Kirsten Evans, Festival Ballet
2018 Production of the Year – Dance
Little Mermaid, Festival Ballet

2018 Supporting Male in a Musical
Alvaro Beltran – Bernardo, West Side Story,
Stadium Theater
2018 Supporting Female in a Musical
Chantal Arraial – Anita, West Side Story, Stadium
2018 Male Lead in a Musical
Jack Cappadona – Quasimodo, Hunchback
of Notre Dame, Stadium Theatre
2018 Female Lead in a Musical
Rachael Warren – Mother, Ragtime, Trinity Rep
2018 Choreography Award
Jennifer Webb – A Chorus Line, Stadium Theater
2018 Musical Production Number
“Out There” – Hunchback of Notre Dame,
Stadium Theatre
2018 Musical Direction
Mark Colozzi – Hunchback of Notre Dame,
Stadium Theatre
2018 Director of a Musical
Becca Donald – Hunchback of Notre Dame, Stadium
2018 Musical of the Year
Hunchback of Notre Dame, Stadium Theatre

Editors’ Picks
These special, fun awards were selected by our editors to
reflect some of their favorite work from the year:
2018 Dynamic Duo
Rachel Tondreault and Cam Torres – Senga
and Ever, Dancing Lessons, 2nd Story Theatre
2018 King of the Year
Alan Hawkridge – King Lear, King Lear, OUT LOUD Theatre
2018 Sensational Scene Stealer
Becky Gibel – Evelyn Nesbitt, Ragtime,
Trinity Rep
2018 Jury Selection
Nick Menna – Juror #3, 12 Angry Jurors, Barker
All Hail the Queen
Valerie Tarantino – The Player, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, Contemporary Theater Company
Musical Accompaniment
Julia Egan – The Troubadour, Isabella,
Counter Productions Theater Company
Comedic Gold
Ben Church – Feste, Twelfth Night,
Burbage Theater Company

Rhode Island’s Sweet Little Variety Show

“All the world is a Sweet Little Variety Show and all of our LBGTQ friendly humans merely feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, body positive players in a cabaret,” to paraphrase William Shakespeare.

Aurora in DownCity PVD demonstrates their commitment to diversity and acceptance as host venue for the Sweet Little Variety Show, one of the biggest hits in Aurora’s programming, held the 2nd Thursday of every month since 2009. General Manager Chrissy Wolpert was quoted in Motif last month saying, “It’s incredibly important to everyone at Aurora that people feel safe to be, hear, and feel at Aurora.”

Vatic Kuumba performs as a poet at the Sweet Little Variety Show at Aurora PVD.
Vatic Kuumba performs as a poet at the Sweet Little Variety Show at Aurora PVD. (Photo: Ian Silvia)

The Sweet Little Variety show offers enthralling music, poetry, stand-up comedy, swing dance, ventriloquists, band music, the Lil’ Rhody Lindy Hoppers, hula hoopers, magic tricks, the Moist Towelettes, burlesque, a mentalist, and even the Extraordinary Rendition Band have popped in to play. Sometimes the SLVS coincides with Aurora’s full schedule of Bourbon nights, karaoke, and DJ hosting.

Erin Olson, a comedian known at SLVS for Garden City Biddies with Steve Dionne and now pursuing her craft with iO and Second City in Chicago said, “SLVS has always been unique for me because it offers the opportunity to engage with a vibrant and diverse audience that has proven time and time again to be smart, enthusiastic, and incredibly receptive.”

The minds behind the Sweet Little Variety Show understand that the best performances are enhanced by the positive energy between stage and audience. Jen Stevens, one of the three producers since SLVS’s inception, agrees. “Nicole [Maynard], Meg [Sullivan], and I work together to curate a diverse show across multiple genres. We like to encourage artists to experiment, and we bring a mix of new and returning talent. We’ve developed a really friendly audience that’s open to just about anything. Every show is full of pleasant surprises.”

The fabulously functional blend of Aurora’s and SLVS’s philosophies relaxes audiences right away. The performers, often returning over the years, look forward to it. Singer-songwriter John Fuzek is a SLVS staple after eight years. “Sweet Little Variety Show is a lot of fun,” he said. “It is a loose show with a lot of heart … Meg and Nicole keep you entertained with all sorts of straight-up talented folks…”

One of the “loose” shows, the Lil’ Rhody Lindy Hoppers “Jive at Five,” was as loose as it gets. Providence Swings offers weekly beginner-friendly social dances called the Bread and Butter Jam. “We find that Sweet Little Variety Show is a wonderful example of a venue [Aurora] that values inclusivity, artists from all walks of life, and a place that fosters community and warmth, which is what we try to do with Providence Swings,” said Vivian Madrid.

It’s not just SLVS’s dedication to pay each performer that elicits loyalty, and the performers of SLVS benefit from watching and supporting each other at the shows. Often the performers bring their own audiences, further developing the collective vision of Aurora, Sweet Little Variety Show and the welcomed guests.

Wild Cat, the RHD-RI band, performs at the Sweet Little Variety Show at Aurora PVD. L-R: Brian Mustari on guitar, Amy Rostkowski on drums, and Nissah Armstrong on vocals. (Photo: Ian Silvia)
Wild Cat, the RHD-RI band, performs at the Sweet Little Variety Show at Aurora PVD. L-R: Brian Mustari on guitar, Amy Rostkowski on drums, and Nissah Armstrong on vocals. (Photo: Ian Silvia)

At the March 16 show, MC “Nicool” (Nicole Maynard) introduced the Resources for Human Development of RI (RHD-RI) band Wild Cat, which consists of Nissah Armstrong on vocals, Amy Rostkowski on drums, and Brian Mustari on guitar. Armstrong immediately took full control of the stage. “We are friends with some staff members at RHD who approached us about having Wild Cat, the RHD Band, perform,” Maynard said.

Armstrong and her band, according to Jen Stevens, “… totally stole the show at their first SLVS performance! We look forward to having them back one day.” Meg Sullivan, as one of the team of SLVS producers, added, “That was probably one of my favorite moments in SLVS history so far.” In addition, Wild Cat will perform at 8pm on April 8 at the Parlour in PVD for the A is for Awesome benefit for autism.

The Sweet Little Variety Show rocks Aurora, 276 Westminster St, PVD, every 2nd Thursday of the month. Guests planned for the April 13 show include musicians Jacob Haller (“He sings about kitties and robots. He’s amazing,” said Maynard) and Mark Milloff, Stuart Window doing stand-up, excerpts from Horror, burlesque with Bettysioux Taylor, Jasmine Packard performing poetry, and hula hooper Jessie Jewels. Cover $7 to pay the artists; 18-plus unless accompanied by an adult.

Jared Paul Celebrates His 19th Vegan Birthday At Ada Books on April 19

12801620_10154083747878308_435260400326385507_nProvidence activist, artist, poet and musician Jared Paul has never been a stranger to radical political thought. He also has been a huge advocate for the rights of all, including animals. On Tuesday, April 19, at Ada Books on Westminster Street in Providence, Paul will be putting on a celebration ringing in his 19th year of being meat and animal product free. Featuring a few other local poets, this promises to be a fun event in a setting where you usually don’t see art being performed live. With that being said, it’s only fitting that a poetry exhibition will be taking place in bookstore where language and prose is king.

The show is a fundraiser for Paul’s flight to Europe where he’ll be embarking on a 15-date tour of the continent starting in June. The expedition will be in support of his acclaimed hip-hop album Get My Ghost that was released via the independent label Black Box Tapes this past October. Listen to Paul’s poetry while indulging in vegan snacks. It’s a night to be educated about real issues and raise awareness of the struggles people face on a daily basis.

Jared Paul is a treasure to see live, so people who enjoy spoken word and genuine and unapologetic intelligence should make an effort to attend. Admission is a half of one hour’s wage of work. For example, if you make $9 an hour at your place of employment then the price of admission will be $4.50. Another option is to pay a suggested donation between $4 and $12; either way the money made at the door goes to Paul taking a trip across the Atlantic to show his craft to new audiences. It starts at 7pm, so you won’t be out too late on a weekday. Head on over to Ada Books on Tuesday and enjoy some poetic bliss in a perfect environment.

Event page for Jared Paul’s 19th Vegan Birthday/European Tour Fundraiser: facebook.com/events/1073698689354583; Jared Paul’s Website: http://www.jaredpaul.org/

Dinner for One — Poems, Reflections and Photography by David Paul 

In my experience, all too often someone will put their best efforts toward a book of poems only to fall short. Even with the best of intentions, they may pave their own road to hell, taking along everyone they anxiously try to force feed their verse to. Even beyond mimes, poetry may still be the hardest of art forms to excite an audience about. Try chasing your friends down the street waving your manuscript of poetry overhead calling out, “Hey! Want to read my book of poems?” and just watch your Rolodex evaporate.

Though spoken word, storytelling and readings have their niche, many attempts at a book of poems chill cold on shelves without glances or recital. Even the misuse of photographs to illustrate the esoteric thoughts and emotions may sink along with the dearest drowning verses within each page. So sad, yet so true.dfoF

But here’s some good news: Dinner for One, by David Paul.

If you love poetry, you will love this book. If you do not like poetry, you will love this book. Should you love photography, you should love this book. If you don’t get photography, you will get this book. Or I will hunt you down and place a vacuum cleaner attachment to one of your ear canals and slowly remove your sanity from your mind, as you may not be worthy of it.

Being breastfed on the early photo-files connection to Zen — the fleeting moment, the connection to verse in the form of image and vice-versa — my earliest love affairs with photography and photographers were related to their lust of the metaphor, their mauling of the traditional, their minimalist excitation — pure poetry, wrapped in the music of the mind, the soaring of the spirit, and the extended fingers of human vision latent in every photographic image leaping from each word of verse.

Excerpt from the title poem, “Dinner For One:”

… He sat down alone at a table in the dry desert

Placing a leather book beneath him

The wind opening the empty pages as he dipped his pen in fresh ink

Writing the title “Dinner for One”

It was his belief that his art was dinner, his love life dessert

Without dinner there would be no dessert

Crossing his legs like a yogi, hands pressed against his knees…

David Paul is a master songsmith gone mad with sensual, sexy, highly spiritual mountain climbing of the mind — his mind, your mind, the human mind, the mind of mankind — in the form of the poem.

One of the few real fears that I drag around with me concealed deep in the pit of my stomach is the notion that technology and all it’s hyper-speed/nano particle bewilderment will suck the metaphoric glue out of our language, bleed the heart of sensuality, and tear from the loins our true animal sexuality; ergo, no beast within equals no human without. But the mind-song, the psychological landscapes conjured in David Paul’s book, are a wonderful safe haven, an oasis. If only for a few moments balancing in this one dimension, from one possible multiverse existence, focused through this looking glass, we may be safe after all.

For me, the real joy of this folio collection of images and verse is that either can stand alone without leaning on the other. Well-endowed with skillful and arty-sensual renderings, imagery and imaging, the author has chiseled a series of images that are high quality, wonderful to behold, and as visually insightful as classical ballet. The very artistic photographs are exhibition-worthy and the poems — each and every one — are a feast for the soul. His poetry reads and moves with the inner feel of cosmic universal song, speaking to all, from all and for all. I encourage you to read this book and indulge in the banquet of life at its best … voila!


… The music was alive inside me…

Why pray for what I want?

Who said what I want is good for me?…

The Art of David Paul can be found at: www.behindtheart.me

Book Review: Jeff Danielian’s Seasonal Ramblings

seasonalIt took me a bit of time to find a connection with Jeff Danielian’s first book of poetry, Seasonal Ramblings. As I read through the first section, “Through Time & Space,” I felt like I just was reading words on a page. There were a few interesting lines here and there (“Language is about the crisis of the world,” “Awoke with my friend on the day of his birth.” “Notes echo throughout the land,”) and a couple stanzas had me nodding my head with approval, but I mostly felt that I was reading a run-on sentence on a never-ending loop. “Through Time & Space” seemed, at least to me, to be the very definition of a seasonal rambling, but I persisted.

“There Comes a Time,” the second section, seemed like more of the same. Slightly shorter than its predecessor, I read still awaiting my hook. But, there were improvements right from the start. “There comes a time in every man’s life when he finds a woman that enlightens his soul” is a great beginning, filling my head with the image of the enlightened soul and rhetorical questions to accompany the view. It took a little bit before my brain started trying to pull meaning from stanza to stanza. It seemed at first to be a love poem that could have gone a few ways (expressing love, the pursuit of love, trying to recapture the love), but it soon drifted from that, coming back every few stanzas or so, just to remind me of how it started.

“I Wonder Where” continues the extended path of the previous two, though I enjoyed this a little more than the previous entry. It made me want to sit outside and enjoy the beauty that surrounds us. Flowers, delicious descriptions of the sky (“Red has replaced green as orange to yellow”), the seasons, morning, nighttime, air, weather; the outside world is on full display. While still a long piece of work (27 pages), Danielian’s thoughts have been tightened up. He sticks to his central theme, painting beautiful images and thought-provoking lines. He ends with two (much) shorter poems, “Now I Lay Me Down” and “Disappearing World.” The former reminds me of Johnny Cash’s “I’ve Been Everywhere,” while the latter seems to have a don’t-blink-and-miss-your-life message to it.

By the time I started reading “Midnight Sky,” the final section, I was hooked, turning pages frantically, excited to read Danielian’s next words. This section comprises 47 short poems — it was the reading version of listening to Agoraphobic Nosebleed immediately after Sleep. I buzzed through these poems with excited enjoyment, relishing in the simple images that were painted. Everything got right to the point, and each spoke to me. “Denim” is an ode to a favorite pair of jeans, “The Furniture Maker’s Daughter” is what you would expect it to be, and “Easy” just rolls off the eyes with wonder. “Almost All the Leaves” is my absolute favorite, about nothing more than a tree and leaves in the fall. I couldn’t help but reread it over and over.

The simplicity of the forth section reminded me a great deal of William Carlos Williams. Both made ordinary, everyday things that are often overlooked and taken for granted, memorable. This is not a simple thing to do, and I commend Danielian for making it look easy.

Despite the slow start, I highly recommend Seasonal Ramblings, and the payoff reminded me why I enjoyed being an English major in college. Danielian takes chances to varying degrees of success, but he gives the reader at least a few poems that they will want to read over and over again.

The Next Crop of Poets

Don’t tell me that the current generation of young people has fried its collective brain with too much screen time. Don’t tell me either that teenagers spend their days playing video games, eating Cheetos and wasting time while draining their minds of good old-fashioned creativity. Well, tell me if you must, but be ready for me to prove you wrong.

A couple of weeks ago, my friend Connie and I went to a poetry slam for youth at AS220 to see if it might be a good field trip for the students at the high school where we both work. Turns out that there are a whole bunch of local young people who are cranking out some very well-written and brilliantly performed original poetry. Seems that little old Rhode Island is home to a thriving crop of growing young poets who are bursting into bloom.

I don’t know which performance I liked the most. There was a magnetic young man who wove the words holy, queer and church into a poem that was so intense I think I stopped blinking. I know I quit breathing. But then there was the soulful guy who told the audience that it was his first time performing at AS220 before blowing our minds with these two lines: Six feet below the glass ceiling / Brotha in a box. And that wasn’t even the end of his piece. I won’t forget the woman who bled every heart in the place dry with a poem about being used for sex or the other young lady who earned whistles and snaps with a poem about chronic illness.

These young people – ages 14 to 21 – are kicking literary ass. Their command of metaphor, slant rhyme and complicated meter impressed me, as did their style, diction and overall ability to give a riveting performance. I left feeling inspired. I hope I get to take my own students so that they can feel inspired, too.

* AS220 is located at 115 Empire St. in Providence and has a poetry slam for youth, open mic style, on the third Thursday of each month at 8pm. No censorship of language or content.

Fluxus Cock Fight

rosecockfight3It’s hard to describe just what’s going on when a Fluxus event takes place. We explored it in more depth with Shey Rivera, the organizer and instigator of this series of surreal experiences.

At the Cock Fight edition, for example, there was the meditative, “What am I doing here,” experience of watching a woman in a bird mask cannibalistically baste chicken parts. Lots of chicken parts. But there was also the part where the audience participated in a pool-noodle-light-sabre battle royale, offsetting the energy of the evening in the polar opposite direction. Other highlights included amusing short films starring tiny, stop motion mice, and a woman trapped inside an endless sweater (that’s the best I can do to describe this fascinating, faceless, garment-transformation dance).

Fluxus will be off for the summer, but who knows when it might be back, or in what form. Here’s a picture from the cock fight. Can you spot the chicken?cockfight1

Jared Paul: The Underground Voice of Providence

By Melanie Rainone

Jared Paul is a poetic and musical powerhouse that calls Providence home. As a nationally acclaimed spoken word poet and hip-hop artist, he draws his inspiration from social injustices and fuses his two art forms together to create something unique and powerful.

JaredPaul.Press.3Jared’s upbringing and early introduction to hip-hop took him on a journey that introduced him to poetry, community action, and national activism. He has become a radical and artistic voice of Providence, bringing the culture of poetry, working with the  youth and community at large with a little rabble rousing thrown in.

“Hip-hop is poetry. Hip-hop is the continuation of the oral tradition. It’s poetry put to music. The rhyme scheme, the meter, the metaphor, hip hop is the first music that was more about poetry than it was about music.”

Jared grew up in the Manville neighborhood of Lincoln. “I grew up below the poverty line in terms of the state’s eyes, but both of my parents loved me a tremendous amount and I had a really great childhood. We always had all of the things that we needed and most of the things that we wanted.”

Jared has fond memories of Manville, speaking of a strong community and many children his age with whom to play. “We had to see from a very young age the real time class divide.”

It was in this environment that Jared found music.“My friend Joey gave me Public Enemy at the bus stop in 7th grade and it changed everything for me,” he explained.

“They had all of these powerful songs about life, and about a lot of the same things we were going through or that our friends or family were going through. From that moment on it was our main music, and a main influence in our lives: it informed us, inspired us, picked us up when we were down, gave our anger validation.”

It is hard to tell the story of Jared without mentioning Sage Francis. Francis is a hip-hop artist and spoken word poet from Rhode Island whom Jared credits with his introduction to poetry and political action.

Jared and Sage met as students at URI, but Sage’s influence on Jared as an artist began long before the two ever became friends. The copy of Public Enemy that Jared got from his friend Joey at the busstop, the album that Jared says started it all, had been given to Joey by his older brother, who had gotten it from Sage Francis.

“He was my friend, but he was also kind of like a superhero: he was an amazing performer, his writing was better than anyone we knew, he was a black belt in karate, he had a kickass hip-hop show on [URI’s radio station, WRIU] 90.3FM, he had a full beard, and could easily beat up a grown man.”

It was Sage that brought Jared to his first poetry reading at URI. “All these teenagers relatively sober with informed opinions on politics, music, life.  Reading poems and songs about love, loss, struggle, the military, sex, poetry, culture. Everything. I didn’t know anything like that existed … I had the opposite of a nervous breakdown, I had a nervous awakening.”

JaredPaul.Press.2Jared became involved in the Providence slam poetry scene in 1998. It took him three years to make the team, but the year he did coincided with the National Poetry Slam being hosted in Providence. He was a part of Team Providence for the next seven years. During that time, Providence made it to the semi-finals at Nationals five times, and Jared made it to finals stage at the Individual World Poetry Slam in 2006 and again in 2007.

But Jared sensed that an outlet for adults was not enough. In 2002, Jared made a proposal to the Providence Slam staff to start a youth poetry slam. “I knew that youth of Prov were hungry for it, and the movement was growing around the country,” said Jared. He coached and directed the Providence Youth Slam until 2009, during which time they made it to the finals stage three times and were featured on HBO’s series Brave New Voices. “Team Providence became one of the most respected youth slam teams and communities in the country and folks gave us a lot of love,” Jared said. “Coaching and working with the youth, was easily one of the best experiences of my life.”

Jared’s work with Rhode Island youth extended beyond poetry. “I wanted to work somewhere in the overall movement for social justice,” he said.  A friend of his was a group home counselor and referred Jared to a non-profit. “They recruited me for a specialized program working with teen sex offenders and sex crime survivors,” he said. “It was the hardest, most eye opening, educational, enraging, and spiritually damaging work I’ve ever done.” He worked there for four years until he began touring full time.

CTRstrip3For anyone familiar with Jared’s work, it is fueled by passion about social injustice. He does work as an environmental, animal, and human rights activist, causes that are the main subject matter for his poetry and music. His poem entitled “Conspiracy to Riot: 2008 RNC Arrest Story Pt. 1” tells the story of Jared’s arrest for felony riot at the Republican National Convention in 2008. This was not the first time Jared found himself in trouble with the law, after being part of the mass arrest that happened during the 2004 RNC. This past January, it was announced that New York City agreed to pay nearly $18 million for the arrest, detention, and fingerprinting of hundreds, making it the largest protest settlement in history.

After all of his national recognition and success, the question remains: why Providence? “For such a tiny city we have a crazy arts and music scene, and a super strong counter culture,” he said. “There are protests every week, there’s an organized radical labor contingent, one of the strongest, most tenured poetry communities in the country.” Jared currently lives in Providence as a part of the AS220 Artists in Residence program, describing AS220 as an internationally recognized beacon of hope.

“The time I set aside for direct action goes to picketing with hotel workers in my neighborhood at the Renaissance and the Hilton as they fight for fair wages and better working conditions.” He also volunteers with the Providence Poetry Slam and participates in protests and hearings organized by Occupy providence and the Olneyville Neighborhood Association.

Aside from his activism work here in Rhode Island, Jared is working on various upcoming poetry and music projects. “Right now I’m working on my book and a brand new album, so my focus is there,” he said. Jared’s first book (title to be determined) is due to be released in the spring of 2015. He describes it as a collection of poetry, autobiographical short stories, and personal essays about traveling, protesting, and social justice organizing.


Biking to my father’s house after dark, making good time.
Providence flies past and I’m already crossing into Pawtucket.
There’s hardly any traffic and the night air is soft and cool.
The speckled sky brightens the further I ride from downtown.
After pedaling non­stop for twenty minutes, Main Street
turns into Lonsdale Avenue and a glorious downhill begins.
Nearly a mile with the wind at my back and gravity on my side.
As I pick up momentum, cars, trees, and buildings blur together.
The bray of advancing motorcycle engines sparks up from behind.
Fifteen men on sportsbikes pull close, begin passing on the left.
Accelerators rev in a rush of piercing headlights and neon plastic.
My ears recoil as they roar by— I nod, waiting until the road is mine again.
The last rider to pass reaches out and gives my raised bottom
a playful pat. I look over in surprise, he winks.
Someday, you’ll be man enough for one of these, his eyes seems to say.
He hits the gas with a blaring whine of the engine, races to catch the others.
Their tail lights disappear around a corner and off into the distance.
The night is quiet once more but a heavy curtain of burnt exhaust remains.
I’m given to a moment of flatulence and the gas eases out behind me.
I whiff but there is nothing there to smell.
The sportsbikers have helmets and I have a helmet.
They have two wheels and I have two wheels
but my bicycle runs quietly on quinoa and kale,
and the exhaust is clean as a whistle. 

Local and National Poets Slam the Mic at AS220

By Despina Durand and Khrysta Ryan


Thursday June 19 the Providence Poetry Slam held an open mic night at AS220 including members from the youth team  as well as new poets stepping up to the mic for the first time. Although this was not an actual slam, the mic was open to not only poets but musicians as well. A traditional slam consists of an elimination competition of poets based on scores from the audience. Instead, this week, artists signed up ahead of the show, with poets getting 3-4 minutes, and musicians getting 8 minutes of stage time.

Judging by the audience’s cheers, the open mic was host to quite a few poetry slam regulars. The artists presented poetry, hip hop music, a hoedown, and pieces that bridged the gap between spoken word and song. The diversity of the night broke the boundaries of what preconceived notions many people may have about slams. With poets of all sizes, gender and race the audience was able to hear from the full gamut of today’s  American. Each poet brought their personal experience to life with relatable metaphors and analogies.


The show featured New York slam poet, Tonya Ingram, and Pennsylvania musician, Kevin Garrett. Ingram, who was born inCincinnati, grew up in the Bronx and attended NYU. She now resides in Los Angeles where she is working towards a Public Practice MFA at the Otis College of Art and Design. Her poetry focussed on her experiences ranging from being diagnosed with Lupus and growing in the Bronx. The range of subject matter is not meant to disturb the audience but to educate them. Ingram speaks from her heart creating a way to use her voice in speaking out about the issues at hand rather than sugar coating an experience.

The Providence Poetry Slam is built and expanded on a set of values which its participants hold very high. The host Laura Brown-Lavoie spoke of respect, safety, diversity, truth and the importance of support of one another.Though the room was filled with regulars, newcomers were welcomed with open arms.

The Providence Poetry Slam not only has a youth group but also holds a creative writing workshop every month. Poetry slams and open mic nights are held every 1st and 3rd thursday of each month, year around at AS220, Providence.


TOP: Vatic performs a poem, part spoken word, part song. (Photo by Despina Durand)
Botton: Tonya Ingram and Kevin Garrett perform. (Photo by Despina Durand)