Conducted by Kristina Haynes, Managing Editor
1. Tell me about Basement Poetry. What’s your role?
Basement Poetry is a performance art company that was founded January 2015 by myself, Kristina Hayes, Brooke Whitmire, Torez Molsey and Alisha Andino. This ensemble is an interdisciplinary group of emerging and establish artists and poets that takes their poetry to new heights. With movement, dance, and song they develop devised works based on social and political issues. Since January 2015 they have produced 5 devised theatre productions. Their work has been produced at The Ice House, Lehigh University, Northampton Comminty College, and Touchstone Theatre. Their show HER will be their first production being self-produced at the Philly Fringe festival. For their next season they are hoping to expand into other literary art forms and produce original short stories and scripted plays. They hope to invite the community in creating art with them that is powerful, cleansing, and important. I have had the amazing opportunity to be the company’s Artistic Director since it was founded.
2. What do you see for its future? What does the next season look like?
I see Basement Poetry continuing their mission with working with local community centers, universities, schools, and activists to create art that speaks volume of social injustice, racial discrimination, and our issues that affect our community. I hope that we continue to heal our community through starting poetry workshops, devising theatre classes, and other programs that give the community a voice. Next season we will be premiering three shows. “Sick” in April 2017, “In the Blood” in March 2017, and the LBGTQA production “Queer.” We will also be finishing up our “Identity” tour at Northampton Community in Fall 2016.
3. You rely heavily on the community for ticket sales, participation, etc. What are your overall plans for community outreach?
The community we live in has blessed us with so many opportunities and support. We do all of our productions and workshops with our community in mind. I spend most of my time reading the local newspapers to find out what are the issues? What do people need to recover and heal from? Our shows are cleansing experiences not only for our audiences but for the emerging and professional artists we work with. We place a true investment in our art; it comes from the deepest and darkest places of our souls. We are raw, honest, and truly loving to our craft and our community.
4. Tell me about Basement Poetry’s most recent show. What made it so special? Are you performing the same show again? If so, when and where? How can one go about purchasing tickets?
Our recent show “HER: The Female Experience from Birth to Death” will be performed at the Philly Fringe festival. Tickets can be purchased at fringearts.com. What makes this production so special is the experience we not only have given our audience prior, but the performers apart of the production. There has been such deep exploring within all of us. We have cried, yelled, and laughed immensely through the rehearsal process. I also believe that production still reminds us all of the importance of the feminist movement and how far we have come but still how much work needs to be done from women everywhere.
5. What is the most important thing you’ve learned while being a co-founder of this group? What do you hope your audiences learn?
The most important things that I have learned through the process of being a co-founder is that theatre is expensive. I have worked so many jobs to keep the company moving and have put so much of my personal finances into the company. I have also learned that this community needs a place to heal and express. After every show we do there is always audience members that say thank you I needed to hear this or I needed to laugh, cry, or be more hopeful. Our community has so much love for this company and within this very short time we have created an everlasting connection with our community.
I hope our audiences listen more to their loved ones, total strangers, friends. The words we say are painting pictures and creating theatre but we are telling many people’s personal stories through these shows. We are not just speaking for ourselves but to every individual who needs representation and healing.
Chloe Cole-Wilson is co-founder/Artistic Director of a new Lehigh Valley based company, Basement Poetry. Since January 2015 she has produced 4 devised full-length theatre productions with Basement Poetry. Her work has been performed at Lehigh University, The Ice House, Northampton Community College, and Moravian College. She is currently working on expanding her company into other literacy art forms, from short plays to short stories. She wants to create a safe place for emerging artists and the community to explore and express their voices. “Everyone has power. The hardest part is releasing it. Don’t be afraid of that heart & soul you have.”