Spoken Word snaps into first show of the year

Since 1999, OPRF’s Spoken Word program has been entertaining students with its performances, which blend powerful emotions, thought-provoking poems, and intricate raps and create a fun atmosphere. 

Peter Kahn and Christian Robinson, the OPRF Spoken Word teachers, held two Spoken Word performances Nov. 17. It was DJ-ed by DJ Ca$h Era and included special guests Ugochi Nwaogwugwu and Juan Miguel Capote (aka, Charmanik). 

To prepare, the students were given a theme for the performance. The theme for this performance was “Sorry, Not Sorry.” 

The 55 students performing were put into smaller groups with four to five members, each with one or two leaders. Each individual wrote a poem, and the group  combined the best parts from each, creating one group piece. They then developed choreography to highlight the most powerful parts of the piece. Students were required to memorize their poems for performance.

While other showcases have had solo performances, this showcase did not. Each group went through several different processes to prepare, such as writing prompts, workshops, team building activities, feedback from alumni, and many revisions.

In this performance, which Robinson referred to as “one of the best ones yet,” the theater was filled to the brim. The environment was welcoming, encouraging, and uplifting. When people were sitting down, DJ Ca$h Era was playing a wide array of pop, R&B, rap, and more while the students danced on the stage. 

Throughout the performance, the students sat around the open center-stage. Groups performed in this open space. Every group performed without hesitation, hiding any anxiety that might have been felt. Some groups chose to coordinate their outfits (i.e. orange, flannel, suits), while others just wore plain clothes. The poems told deep stories, with topics ranging from regret to frustration to memories. 

As an unspoken Spoken Word rule, audience members snapped when a line resonated with them. After each group performed, applause filled the room. Nwaogwugwu and Capote performed one of their own pieces and an additional one they wrote for the students.

Senior Alani Espinosa said Spoken Word is a powerful outlet and safe haven for students of all kinds. “I enjoy Spoken Word because I am given the tools to explore and grow as a writer,” she said. 

Kahn and Robinson say they find Spoken Word to be an important form of expression, as it amplifies student voices and allows students to tell their stories in an engaging way. 

Robinson said he wants “the audience to see the power of youth in our community. I want them to know that there are a handful of students who are willing to put themselves out there in a lot of ways that adults aren’t.” 

Similarly, Lauren Edwards, a junior and Spoken Word member, said she wants “the audience to know new people are powerful and important.” 

Edwards, Espinosa, Kahn, and Robinson all agreed Spoken Word is an outlet for students to find and make lifelong connections. 

Robinson said he hopes students will gain the confidence to vocalize their opinions after performing. “It’s something I think they can carry with them,” he said.