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The Stage: Local storytelling series ‘Was the Word’ begins its fourth season Sunday


Was the Word
Was the Word and Was the Word: AFTER DARK begin this Sunday at 7 p.m. at the Englert Theatre. — photo courtesy of Working Group Theatre

The Corridor is home to a surprising variety of theatrical experiences. Between professional and community theatres, large-scale musicals and intimate dramas, there is something of interest to even the most casual theatre-goer. This Sunday, Working Group theatre begins another season of performing experiences that are theatre at its most basic and elemental level—storytelling.

Was The Word is an evening that combines storytelling, poetry and music performed by local artists. Performances happen every one or two months, and each night is a unique show centered on a specific theme. This Sunday, the first performance of the season will center on the theme of “summer vacation.” In past years, Working Group Theatre Producing Director Martin Andrews usually contacted potential performers ahead of time. He explained, “We put it out there for people and see who resonates with that theme. ‘Oh yes, I have a story’ or ‘I have a poem to explore on that theme.’” All of the work performed has to be original. The creation of a spoken story that is personal, meaningful, and entertaining to a larger audience can be a complex process. Andrews said, “We tell our storytellers and poets that your worst enemy, your kindergarten teacher, and your lover might be sitting in the audience, and your story should reach out to them.

Another element that makes Was the Word a unique local experience is the emphasis on what Andrews calls a “social conscious ethic.” Audience members pay what they can at the door, and all money that night goes do a local nonprofit organization. This Sunday, the performance will benefit Table to Table, a local organization that takes food donations and distributes them to populations in the area that are dealing with food insecurity.

Now beginning its fourth season, Was the Word is growing in scope. Performances in the first season occurred at Riverside Theatre, but every season since has happened at the Englert. Their current space allows for a larger audience, as well as the opportunity for audience members to order beer and wine during the performance. While the performance typically lasts for one hour, the organizers this year are adding a new feature that will extend the experience and give audience members a chance to be more involved.

Immediately after each performance, the audience will be invited to the Clinton Street Social Club for Was the Word: AFTER DARK, an open mic night where audience members can perform their own original poems and monologues about that night’s theme. Some performers might even be invited to perform in future mainstage shows.

With all of these changes, as well as launching its own website and Facebook page, Andrews feels that Was the Word is on its way to becoming its own entity that will eventually be separate from that of Working Group Theatre. “While Working Group is still producing, Was the Word is growing up and getting its own legs,” said Andrews. No matter what changes occur in the future, the Corridor can expect a theatrical experience that will continue to find new ways to involve the community—on stage and off.

Was the Word and Was the Word: AFTER DARK begin this Sunday at 7 p.m. at the Englert Theatre. For more information, visit wastheword.org.