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world stage - leimert park, los angeles.

home of the
World Stage Anansi Writer's Workshop

Inside the heart of Leimert Park Village are many gathering places, but one specific hub is the World Stage. Opening in 1992 the stage is a performance space that provides a safe environment for artistic expression of all kinds for the community it serves, the surrounding Black community. World Stage is historically rich boasting visits from jazz greats as well as well-known literary figures. Inside its doors is a small stage, 50 or more chairs, and walls covered with paintings and photographs. The images are faces of jazz musicans and poets, faces of John Coltrane, billy higgins, and Kamaau Da'aoud.

The Stages' space has multiple uses. Most notably are the jazz sessions, where performers such as jazz drummer Billy Higgins, founder of the World Stage, come to jam, provide a space for jazz lovers to come enjoy and for aspiring musicians to practice their skills. There are African drumming classes, a constantly revolving concert series and poetry classes. On Wednesday evenings from 7:30 to 10:30 the Stage holds a poetry workshop/open mike for up-and-coming poets.

The workshop provides time and safe space for poets to present their poetry and be critiqued by members of the same discourse community, and practice performance techniques.

 

The next hour is devoted to a featured artist who can be a band or a poet (which says much to me about the interpretation of poetry from a non-traditional perspective). The last hour is dedicated to open mike, where any person can come to the stage and express.

 

" . . . this space [is] for us to gather, to come and be honest with each other to tell our stories and to learn how to grow together. "

Michael Datcher, workshop MC and Artist-in-residence LACMA 1998

Michael Datcher is a central figure here at WS. His own evolution as a poet can be charted here with his close connection with renoun poets like Kamaau Da'ooud, and Peter J. Harris. In addition to being the MC on Wednesday nights poetry gathering, he is the Autumn 1998 artist-in residence for Los Angeles County Museum of Art and teaches a poetry class out of the Stage. His residency included the production of a seminar/performance series, "Renaissance(s) of Resistance: The Documentation of black Humanity as a Weapon against Oppression in Liemert park and Harlem". A free-lance writer for

The continued language of tradition and linguistic modes of expression and creativity are the focus when entering the World Stage. the language which structes the conversations here are concerned with comunication and articulation of self. The nauter of the workshop itself is extremly democratic and effective inthat the ruels are clearly delieneated. you present a work-in-progress, read and perform it tot he audience. After you finsih, there is a five to 15 minutes critique where the audiecne provides honest, positve and creative response. The artist is asked to take the critiqueand learn from it, not to get defensive and unerstand the nature of creative work depends of the existence of others. encourages positive critique... a gaze that is clearly afro-centric, bold and proud of the heritage of who the BC is.

this differs from the open mike in whcihc you present "one of your vest works". The idea of presetning a workinprogrss ... 'no bullshit rule" ... honesty . . . from both the audiecne and the poet.. encourages

The strcuture of these three differing components of the evening provide a place for members of the black communtiy to come and share ideas, pains, joy and love with eachother.

"aahhhh. . . the WS in the Crenshaw distrcit, I went there and it was like church, a church for artists. Everyone was grooving on eachothers words, like we were all being fed spiritual manna . . .

The WS as a specific literary space lends to the idea of oral communication/literature as a community building device. In the 20's the Harlem renaissance writers helped build and conceptualize and vocalize a movement that changed history. The comparisons between the two are not hard to connect. ". . . the irresistible impulse of blacks to create boldly expressive art of a high quality and humanity in the face of poverty and racism." (929) Termed as an era of reconstruction, the historical Harlem R. is noted as a definitive moment in time that began to shape the notion of a concrete black community. Literature and language centered in black resistance

The World Stage is attempting to do the same with spaces that are built, shaped and maintained from an Afrocentric viewpoint.

The writers use language clearly resisting against and critiquing popular culture. Providing this space where black people can feel free to get up and talk about their oppressions, fears, angers without judgement, fear of termination, rejection etc, is vital to the dissemination of the negative self-concept African Americans have digested.

how does world stage think about themselves as a community?

how they have conceptualized this space and how it has grown into what it is today.

how people in the space understand the space.

-growth and nurturing, creation of a community that supports eachother is the concept Dj Watson, Professor of English and Black Studies at San Diego City College took with her to conceptualize and create her writerz workshop - Writerz Block, a successful venue in downtown san deigo.

(go to next page for interview with Dj Watson)

 


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