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Spirited songs at Spoken Word

Susanna Huang '27

Apr 12, 2024

Surrounded by the darkness, a singular, round beam of light focusing on a performer draws the audience in, creating an intimate setting. The scene brings the audience and performer into a single space. The warm orange lights reflect from the wooden floor, establishing a warm and comfortable ambiance. The audience engages in soft chatter, which slowly dies down as the performer gets into position. 

As the school year moves toward its end, the final Spoken Word performance offered one “last chance” for community artists to showcase their talents. This was also the last chance for the two experienced emcees, Bob Hollis and Kevin Hang, to host the Spoken Word evening at Mercersburg. Unfortunately, due to weather conditions, the event was forced indoors to the Hale Black Box Theater. This shuffled some plans; however, presenting in the black box brought an unexpected immersive experience to both the performers and the audience, adding novelty and innovation which brought the community together. 

Throughout its history, Spoken Word has offered a stage for “a variety of performers,” observed former faculty member Jack Hawbaker, providing opportunities for a wide assortment of performances. Moreover, Spoken Word has always been a timely event that “lets people that aren’t already in singing groups, or instrumental groups, or even just people that can’t really put their work out there to have an outlet to perform,” said Pema Namdol ‘27. The event showcases the hidden artists within the community and celebrates their hard work. Some high points included Jerry Jin ‘26 and Namdol’s rendition of “From the Start” by Laufey, Hang’s reading of a personally written piece, a guitar and vocal performance by Ethan Stiffler ‘25, and an exciting finale, with Addie Heldman ‘25 performing an original song followed by an unexpected promposal.

Unlike the concerts featuring instrumental groups, Spoken Word has “no rehearsal and no need to polish Spoken Word; there just needs to be people coming out with a willingness to share their talents, truth, and voice. It’s really unique,” said Michele Poacelli, head of the English department and Writing Center Director. Many performances were constructed-last minute. “My friend and I, we last-minute decided [that] we wanted to sing a song, and we did it probably in two days,” commented Pema Namdol ‘27. The unrehearsed, unpolished aspects of the performances open up opportunities for the audience to interact with and cheer for their friends before and after each piece, unlike the other more formal concerts by performance groups. The event serves as a model for freshmen, who can witness the performances during the fall term and step up on stage during the winter and spring terms. 

Spoken Word is not only a performance stage for community artists but also a community engagement platform for building relationships. As Anne Sehon ‘25, the emcee-in-training, observed, “I first did Spoken Word my freshman year fall term, and I literally found my best friends through Spoken Word; it is important to me.”

The event not only brings the community closer together but also fosters a supportive environment around campus. As it wraps up the final weeks of school, this term’s Spoken Word left cherished memories for all in attendance.

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