SpeakFree recital blends music with impassioned spoken word

Students packed Dodd Living Room on Friday for an evening of spoken word poetry presented by SpeakFree. From start to finish, the talented members of SpeakFree delivered: They packed a solid punch with a range of performances that were at once inspiring, funny, devastating, moving, unexpected and beautiful.

Each speaker wielded a commanding stage presence, bringing to the eclectic mix of performances strong voices with unique and personal messages. Dodd Living Room itself was the perfect environment for these poets: It made for an endearingly intimate experience, with everybody in the audience packed closely together while the performers spoke and sang on the same floor the audience sat on. The performers’ energy seemed to seep into the audience as people cheered for them, snapped their fingers, called out and clapped at particularly impressive and touching turns of phrase.

SpeakFree’s last show of the year treated its audience to various musical talents as well. The poets were accompanied on stage by the student band Jewish Buffalo, whose jazzy background music lent an extra dynamic to the poets and enhanced both dramatic interpretations and funny ones. With drums, a piano and a violin, there was a tune to fit every moment of the event.

The first verses of the night were delivered by Kendra Sims ’12 in a sensuous ode to music, likening it to a sumptuous feast that makes our ears “salivate.” The perfect opening to the show, her praise for the art form served as a tribute to the art that her peers were about to showcase and share with us; indeed, her descriptions of what it feels like to listen to music seemed to nail how the audience responded to the members of SpeakFree. She was followed by a number of performers. Lillian Podlog ’15 delivered a quirky poem about an interesting relationship. Infused with his trademark rhythm, a love letter to New York from Eilin Pérez ’14 had the whole audience moving to its sensual rhythm. Chris Simmons ’13 delivered one of the most impassioned and penetrative poems of the night, and Sophia Rosenfeld ’15 gave a piercing exposé on identity and what it means to own it.

The other performers added depth and range to the event in both the subjects they addressed and the moods they evoked through their words. Linda Chu ’14 caught more than a few by surprise during her performance with her feisty and intense emotion, while Paul Ade ’15 delivered a poem that was both sensual and personal, hitting the audience with great punchlines. Jesse Sardell ’14 infused the event with a healthy dose of self-deprecating humor in his hilarious recollection of (sometimes painfully) awkward social interactions. Among the musical performers was Kyle Martin ’12, who crooned a song blazing with subtle intensity. In a performance featuring so many individual acts, it was be difficult to integrate each performance into a larger whole, but each section of Friday’s event blended together with perfect energy and fluidity without missing a single beat – literally and figuratively.

Soraya Membreno ’12, who organized the event and introduced her fellow members of SpeakFree, embodied the passion that she and the other performers put into their art. Describing the rise of the club throughout her four years as a member, she expressed the happiness she felt seeing SpeakFree perform in front of such a full audience. Though the senior members of the group are leaving, they will certainly leave behind an incredibly strong array of gifted students to continue delivering amazing performances next year, as well as an equally strong following of students eager to hear more.

In what was a genuinely interactive and personal experience, the members of the audience and the performers shared the space seamlessly. After each performance, the audience expressed its enthusiasm for the poets with loud cheers and claps. The energy in the room never died down: SpeakFree’s performance was an hour and a half of nonstop poetic beats and musical language.