Not Just a Show, but an Experience

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I experienced a slam poetry event tonight in Oakland, but the word "show" or "performance" doesn't accurately describe it. Rather, I was overtaken by the punch of the entire experience. Not just the people on stage, but the audience and their interaction and the vibrant energy of the room.

The performances themselves were incredible. I saw a wide range of talent, from rappers and beatboxers to poets and a stand-up comedian. The acts were rather raw, which (I was warned in advance) is too intense for some people. But, after growing up as I have in the American Jewish summer camp system, I'm accustomed to such honest exposition (just kidding), and I really enjoyed the show. Not kidding.

But the thing that struck me most about the evening was the audience's total commitment to participation. An embodiment of the "go with the yes" that we talk about in Camp Tawonga's training. Between each act, the host invited up members of the audience for various gross challenges, and everyone was clamoring to participate. Mid-way through the first act, the host even invited audience members up on stage to perform their own poems. Some were better than others, but the important thing was the participation. It totally magified the energy of the event, and changed it from a performance into an actual experiential evening.

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