I've recently come to a conclusion. A conclusion is different than an Epiphany. It's been several years since W4tB started as an open mic. I like a good open mic. It's a good place to practice new stuff, to fine tune your work, to tweek your performance abilities. All good stuff.
Part of me has always known it could be more. Performing poetry has been boxed and packaged in sort of a slam colored wrapping paper and placed on the gift table, or it goes a step too far and becomes performance art. Nobody wraps that, it's incognito enough on it's own.
I worry sometimes that the most important part gets lost. Sometimes we forget that poetry is about words colliding with emotions. Something can be artfully rendered and not have enough power to light a room. Other times the emotion just pours out and leads to phrases like empty soul or hole where my heart used to be. I've heard good slam and seen good performance art. I'm not knocking either. If that's where your mad skills lead you, more power to ya.
My mad skills crave something different, a fusion of poetry and theater. I'm not talking about anything pretentious. I'm talking about a thematic show with some lighting, some minimal props, and maybe some sound effects. I want stuff that adds to the poetry and enhances the performance. If it's a character piece, should the poet dress in costume? I dunno. Maybe, maybe not. The element of surprise is also theatrical. A voice that doesn't match the poet/performers physicality is a great way of grabbing an audience.
The W4tB collective has done 2 shows and many ensemble reads based on this premise. Are we crazy? I dunno. It seems to work.