A Night Of Neo-Soul At Schuster Center
By Lara Donnelly
If summer is starting to feel old and stale as August wears on, try a blast of hip
performance art and lyric poetry with “August Rush,” the latest installment of “The Signature: A Poetic Medley Show,” the creative offspring of Lucy Owens, also known as Sierra Leone. “August Rush,” a neo-soul themed evening of music, poetry and performance, will be held Friday, August 20 in the Mathile Theatre of the Schuster Center. The Mathile Theatre is an intimate performance space that puts the performers and the audience nearly within touching distance. “We like that elbow-to-elbow feeling,” said Owens.
Owens has spearheaded numerous events like “August Rush” as a part of her Oral Funk Poetry organization, which began as a means to provide something she believed the community lacked. “The inspiration for ‘The Signature’ (came) from the void that was in the community for urban creative arts that were affordable and professionals who could provide art so that the community would be willing to spend their money on it, yet at the same time, an event that they could appreciate and relate to.”
“The Signature” was also born of a yearning for an artistic community. “Truly, it came from being a poet myself and not having anywhere to perform, not having the space to connect with other artists or a medium to draw in artists who were traveling to world.”
Owens has definitely succeeded in drawing artists. For “August Rush,” she has secured I Am Tasha Jones, one of Indiana’s 2008 Poet Laureate nominees, HBO def poet M’Reld and blues singer Evan “Baby Harp” Curtain. Andwele Gardner, better known as Dwele, will host the event. Dwele is a Detroit-based, Grammy-nominated neo-soul singer, songwriter and record producer.
When asked how she chose talent for “August Rush,” Owens replies, “I work with my musical director, with the CEO of my company, and with members of the community and the artists they want to see.”
She also promises a lot of variety. “You have to have a healthy balance. You can’t just feed people two hours of poetry or solo acts of musicians.” The artists mentioned above are not the only acts that will take the stage Friday night, but Owens remained mysterious about who else would appear, and when and why. “We do love the element of surprise,” she said. “It’s a medley. The audience is never really sure how the show is going to be scripted, who’s going to come out, when they’re going to come out. It’s an experience.”
“’The Signature’ is a perfect example of the kinds of things we want to support and grow,” said Kristen Wicker, special projects coordinator for the Downtown Dayton Partnership. “It’s world class in terms of what’s available to the community.” Wicker adds that a vibrant urban center is the key to the vitality of the region, and that arts and culture help immensely to bring people downtown, especially arts and culture that they can’t find anywhere else. “’The Signature’ is unique to the region. It’s unlike anything happening in downtown or even in the Dayton area.”
While “The Signature” may be key in urban redevelopment, Owens has another goal. “We try to provide people with an experience so they forget about their cell phones, their worries, their kids, their bills…”
Besides easing people’s minds and lifting their spirits, “August Rush” includes a charitable element. After the show, there will be a live listening party for Dwele’s new album, W.W.W. (W.ants W.orld W.omen). All of the profits from ticket sales to this after party will go toward the fall 2010 scholarship funds and organizational initiatives of Omega Psi Psi Fraternity, Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity and the The Delta Alpha Foundation.
Ultimately, whether it’s a charitable event, a way to rejuvenate the downtown area or an opportunity for people to cast away their worries, “The Signature” is truly about the art. Owens believes that Dayton is already full of creativity, and that artists just need support from the community to continue producing valuable work. “We all want the artists in Dayton to continue the legacy of art; creative arts, performance arts and visual arts.”
August Rush: The Signature: A Poetic Medley Show will be held Friday, August 20 from 9 to 11 p.m. in the Mathile Theatre of the Schuster Center, Second and Main Streets. Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 the day of the show and at the door. Tickets are available by calling Ticket Center Stage at (937) 228-3630 or visiting online at www.TicketCenterStage.com. For additional information, visit online at www.MySpace.com/thesignatureofpp
Reach DCP freelance writer Lara Donnelly at email@example.com