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D. Blair, other talents shine at Bent's 2007 Mentor Showcase
D. Blair, other talents shine at Bent's 2007 Mentor Showcase
by Liz Meyer - SGN A&E Writer

Take "Dead Poets Society," ditch wimpy Robin Williams and his WASP-y students, and replace them with the unbreakable Tara Hardy and her ragtag group of tough-as-nails gender outlaws, and you might get a taste of Bent's 2007 Mentor Showcase.

With my apologies to Bent for the dated, and well, lame, comparison between its brilliant talent show and the syrupy 1989 film, I couldn't help but think of the classic film as last weekend's performers at the Showcase blew me away. Almost without exception, the seventeen performers, plus guest of honor/poet/musician/all-around-great-guy D. Blair, all showed such a mastery of the wonders of words that I was left thinking not, "Carpe diem," but rather, "Carpe GODDAMN!" And had there been desks in Seattle University's Pigott Auditorium to jump up on and plead my allegiance to these performers' furious volley of words and ideas, I most certainly would've leapt.

For the uninitiated, attending literary events can be unbelievably intimidating. Writing, or talking about writing, ain't for us plain and simple folk; writing is a high-minded affair reserved for snobs or beatniks who begin every sentence with references to obscure authors.

But to watch the performers at this, the sixth annual Showcase, the elitism of the literary world seemed light years away. The packed house hooted, hollered, and "Oh Snap!"-ed with reckless abandon at the pieces. This is not to say that the performers' topics were elementary, or that the audience wasn't witnessing "real" poetry or performances. In fact, it was just the opposite. If poetry tackles the emotions and challenges of a society, then the audience was treated to a remarkable sense of realism, a true hallmark of good writing.

From Davey Wilkes' poignant piece on how he wears his scars from top surgery with pride (or at least wishes he could), to Toby Lanford's testimonial to Prince and the part he played in his first orgasm, the performers and their works covered a wide range of topics and experiences. Other pieces included Bent's founder, the incredibly talented Hardy, exploring and re-envisioning her relationship with her mother, and Zan Scommodau, a.k.a. the Rad Dyke Plumber, confirming, in case it was ever in doubt, that she will not be fucked with.

Besides seeing the Rad Dyke Plumber dropping rhymes, or listening to Erin Kilpatrick's filthy, but very funny, "Relationship Resume: A Discourse on Dating Disasters" while sitting next to my roommate's parents (whom I'd just met that evening), my biggest surprise of the night was reserved for the man of the occasion, Blair.

In keeping with their tradition of securing marquis names for the event (last year's guest was Dorothy Allison of "Bastard Out of Carolina" fame), Bent brought Blair for the 2007 Showcase. He performed both Friday and Saturday night, and a lucky few got to be a part of a writing workshop he facilitated on Sunday for Bent. Blair, a National Poetry Slam Champion, has shared bills with such big names as Stevie Wonder, Academy Award winner Michael Moore, Mike Doughty, Bitch and Animal of Righteous Babe Records, The Butchies, Wilco, Cat Power and more.

I got a sense of Blair's talent simply from this impressive list of credentials. However, it took seeing him perform, though, to truly appreciate his awesome skill. He did several pieces from his current tour, "Burying the Evidence." Here's a taste: "And as I grew, they called me 'that,' and worse./Some white children wanted to cut me to see if my blood was black./They did./I was./I am." A charismatic chameleon, Blair slid seamlessly from such disparate identities as goofy Journey sampler to outraged activist. No matter where he was at or who he was channeling, he was a real pleasure to watch

Perhaps even more impressive than Blair's performance, though, is this: Bent seems to be churning out performers who can hold their own on stage with him. Blair even joked about wanting to steal material from some of the people who'd read before him. It speaks volumes about the type of programming Bent has when it can prepare virtual newbies to the stage to shine just as brightly as a megastar like Blair. One of the performers, Deamond Arrindel, told me Friday night after his performance that it was his first time reading his work before a large audience. "Could've fooled me," I thought.

In her piece, Elaina Ellis, the last performer before Blair took the stage, perhaps captured the sort of parity the evening inspired- that feeling that anyone could write and write well, and that Queers in particular have a myriad of amazing experiences that need to be recorded and shared. "There's a Tranny on the bhima/talking trans-formation, teaches us/the prayer to say when our eyes/are surprised by the shape of another:/'Blessed are You who makes strange creatures'/We are all a little strange here, tonight."

Indeed, we were all a little strange that night. And if Hardy is a headier, ballsier Williams in the "Dead Poets" metaphor, we all certainly owed her some reverent refrains of, "O Captain, My Captain," for bringing us the Showcase.
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photos by Joey - SGN photographer

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