The Poetry Room
On September 10th, I had the pleasure of attending the Robin Theatre’s Open Mic event, Rewrite. Located just south of downtown Lansing, REO town stands as a district booming with art and culture. From the quaint diners, to the colorful wall murals, to the theatre itself, this town seems to welcome artists of all kinds.
The show was set to begin at 7:45, but the doors opened at 7 for sign-ups. As a first-come, first-serve theatre, musicians and poets alike were lined up at the door when I arrived. By the time I had walked through the front door, their twenty-five slot show was completely full. I took a seat toward the back of the theatre, and listened as the community of artists circled around one another.
Removed from Michigan State’s campus, the audience varied from any other literary event I had previously attended. Surrounded by people of all ages, genders, and races, I was one of the youngest in the crowd, yet I didn’t feel out of place. Veterans of the theatre welcomed newcomers with open arms and hearts, and I felt at peace. None of us looked the same, yet we had all found ourselves brought together by our love of art and the authenticity of self-expression.
Rewriting influenced many of the performances, and as I listened to the precedented backstories and transformations, I thought about the process of my own writing, and how much of it is rewriting. An evolution of mind, body, and soul, I watched as artists of all kind shared their lives with me.
Acclaimed poet and MSU alum Will Langford kicked off the event, sharing with us two poems. He spoke about race, gender, and relationships, but what was most impressive about his work was his performance. His commanding voice mesmerized the audience, forcing them to confront the racial injustices at hand. Langford taught me that the performance of art is an artform in itself, and I was awed by his dimensional talent.
Note: Langford will be returning to campus this spring to instruct ENG 200, Creative Writing Community—I’d recommended taking his class even if it’s not required.
Following Langford was a plethora of artists, ranging from slam poets to violin players. The sheer diversity of age was unlike anything I had witnessed on a college campus. Each of them unique in style and form, the performers covers topics such as race, love, religion, culture, and identity. Many of the returning artists were actually once members of the MSU Slam Poetry Club, demonstrating to me once again how connection and community can form at Michigan State.
From professionals, to amateurs, this theatre gives space for all ranges of experience, and applauds each just the same. An environment of support and shared love, the Robin Theatre proved to be a beautiful center for self-expression.