Hip-hop open mic

Don't be scared. This is the advice OSF associate producer Claudia Alick has for anyone interested in performing at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival's Hip-Hop Poetry Open Mic event on March 7. Alick knows the Rogue Valley is full of talented people who want to strut their stuff on stage, and OSF's open mic is an ideal place to do it.

"We wanted something the whole community could be involved in. The open mic format lets us play in ways we wouldn't otherwise," she said.

Alick also emphasized the acts are not limited to hip-hop performance.

"The featured artist is a hip-hop performer, but folks can do anything," she said.

The event, to be held at the Black Swan Theatre, will feature Matthue Roth, a Hasidic Jewish slam poet and young adult author.

"Matthue is brilliant," Alick said. "He is so open about his faith and his poetry is beautiful and hilarious."

Roth is a literary triple threat. In addition to poetry, he has authored screenplays and four well-received young adult novels. His first novel, "Never Mind the Goldbergs," was named one of the Best Books for the Teen Age by the New York Public Library. His most recent novel is "Loser," about a teenage Russian emigrant finding his place in an American high school. Roth is also a contributor to G-dcast's "Animated Torah," an online teaching tool that offers quirky cartoons of classic Jewish texts.

"Last year, OSF did a lot of outreach to the Jewish community. We want to continue those conversations, and Matthue's honesty and humor will be a part of that as well," Alick said.

Over the past couple of years, OSF has varied performance styles with Green Show events, open mics and festival plays. Alick said the variety has been aimed at involving a broader cross-section of the community and exposing audiences to something fresh and unexpected. She pointed out that previous open mics have been very successful and have even given a few OSF company members a chance to showcase hidden talents. For example, Alick said no one knew that actor Khatt Taylor was also a poet.

"After her open mic performance, we realized she would be great as the queen in last season's 'Hamlet,' " Alick said.

This open mic is the first of a four-part series this season designed to be a space for both newbies and veterans to share their writing, music or theatrical skills. OSF will also host Monday open mics April 4, May 2 and Oct. 10. Featured performers will include Khatt Taylor and Angela Karitoes. Each of the four events will also have some kind of community outreach connected with it. In this case, Roth will teach a free one-hour poetry workshop on March 7 at the Black Swan from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. Participants should bring paper and a pen, and can reserve a space in the workshop by writing to greenshow@osfashland.org.

The hip-hop event described by Alick sounds like good fun. This will not be of those hard-core poetry slams where performers risk being booed or having food tossed at them. This is a community event that brings the talents of a talented town together, where people can stand up (or sit down or dance around) and show off their creative gifts in a warm and appreciative environment. I'd encourage shy poets and performers to get out there and give it a go. Of course, a show is no fun without an audience, so even if you don't plan to perform, don't miss this chance to cheer on the brave folks who do.

The Black Swan Theatre is on the corner of Main and Pioneer streets. The open mic performance is from 7 to 9 p.m. Admission is free. For more information call 541-482-2111, ext. 295.

Angela Decker is a freelance writer in Ashland and can be reached at decker4@gmail.com.

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