A Night of Spoken Word with The Prosers

Spoken Word with The Prosers

The Prosers return to Oglebay Institute’s Towngate Theatre stage this Saturday, January 25, for their first production of 2020.

Titled “Waves,” the evening will explore the various types of waves that intersect with our lives.

Finding a Theme

Audiences love The Prosers because of the loose and unpredictable approach the group takes to each of their productions.

“A couple months before each show, we meet at Towngate to spitball and brainstorm ideas,” director Samantha Pearl said. “Some shows haven’t even had a theme, while other shows have had a script that incorporated our poems into a more theatrical performance.”

One of The Prosers’ newest members suggested the theme for Saturday’s show.

“As soon as she said, ‘Waves,’ it struck a chord with me and the other people who were there,” Pearl said. “We realized it didn’t have to be about water only. It could be about an action or an object. We pick themes you can take in a broad sense and leave open to interpretation so it’s not too limiting.”

Everything is Original

Not only does the group collaborate on the theme for each show, they also write it from scratch.

“All of the poetry in our shows is written by the person performing it,” Pearl said. “I like to say, ‘This isn’t your grandma’s poetry.’ We’re not going to bore you to death. This isn’t like you’re reading classical poetry in a literature course. This is very real, very emotional, very heartfelt writing.”

It’s the performers’ personal investment that adds to the intimacy of each show, she said.

“The imagery some of our writers put into their pieces transports you into their lives, and you can find so many things to relate to. It’s honestly such an incredibly powerful experience.”

Pearl herself uses poetry as a therapeutic outlet. Currently an Interdisciplinary Studies major at West Liberty University, her goal is law school.

“This is a cathartic writing experience for me,” she said.

A Diverse Cast

The Prosers is not limited to college students or young adults, as one may assume. The cast is very diverse.

“We have a woman who is in her 70s, and one of our newer members is 15,” Pearl said. “We span all ages, and have many different perspectives, so in our poetry and in our shows, the audience can find something to relate to.”

Saturday’s production will feature Sandra Baker, Madysen Breedlove, Carolyn Burdine, Ben Casteel, Carly Hatfield, Charlie Henry, Jenn Jensen, Ryan Norman, Nativa O’Brien, and Pearl.

How The Prosers Began

Five years ago, Towngate Theatre held a night of poetry featuring a local poet, which was followed by an Open Mic where anyone in the audience could present their work.

“A woman by the name of Sara Finchum read a poem she wrote and said it was considered Slam Poetry,” Tim Thompson, Oglebay Institute director of performing arts, said. “The poem was fantastic and her reading of it blew my mind. It was about a personal experience during a rough time in her life and was full of passion and drama.”

Thompson approached Finchum and asked her to put together an entire show. Finchum agreed, and The Prosers was born. When Finchum moved out of town, Cameron High School English and Speech teacher Whitney Healy took over the group.

“Whitney added a theatrical element to the performances,” Thompson said. “When Whitney needed to bow out gracefully because of family obligations, Samantha, who was already a member of the company, took over. We decided to simplify our approach: chairs–sometimes on the current set for whatever play is going on, a mic, a blue wash, and a spotlight on the poet.”

Thompson said this approach emphasizes the poetry better, allowing each production to be a “Celebration of the Spoken Word.”

Partnering with the Community

The Prosers perform three times each year, with two performances featured at Towngate’s “First Friday” events. In January, the group has the stage to themselves, continuing the tradition of an Open Mic at the end. This Saturday will also include a special art exhibit reception.

“We had an art exhibit reception on January 3 that highlighted the work of West Liberty’s art therapy students, but many of the students couldn’t make it because school was not in session yet,” Thompson said. “I spoke with Dr. Susan Ridley, the professor, and we decided to have her students return at 7 p.m. before the Prosers’ performance so we can show their art again.”

Thompson said they hope to make this partnership with Dr. Ridley and the WLU art therapy program an annual event.

Always Open to New Members

Pearl said The Prosers is always looking for new members.

“Whoever’s interested in sharing their work and getting up on stage is more than welcome to join,” she said. “Go to our Facebook page or contact Towngate Theatre for more information.”

See this Show

Admission to Saturday’s production is only $5. The Art Therapy Exhibition begins at 7 p.m. with an Open Mic to follow The Prosers’ performance at 8 p.m. Reserve tickets online, call 304-242-7700 or purchase at the door.