The candle-lined stage at Snug Harbor was transformed into a venue for showcasing poetry, music and sensual, sexual energy on Tuesday, Feb. 25.
The event was created as part of a fundraiser to benefit the New Paltz Slam Poetry Team’s trip to the College Union Poetry Slam Invitational (CUPSI) from Saturday, March 1 through Thursday, March 15 in Boulder, CO.
After calling in favors of friends from “various disciplines,” including poets, musicians and burlesque performers, fourth-year English major and Slam Team Secretary Rachel Simons said it took three weeks to organize the event, which ultimately raised $230 from donations and a bake sale.
Simons, also the Meeting Coordinator of Alpha Psi Ecdysia, New Paltz’s burlesque troupe, performed as her burlesque alter ego Reyna Sinclair.
As a stage character, Simons said Sinclair has more sexual prowess than her creator and counterpart, adopting the allure of a 1920s showgirl but retaining much of Simons’ own “nerdy” nature.
Simons said her performance, a tribute to the Greek myth of Persephone and Hades, was thematically pretty typical for her.
She said she prefers to create more “literary or nerdy” routines, citing a past performance as O’Brien from George Orwell’s dystopian novel “1984” during which she threw rats at the audience after stripping.
During the fundraising event, Simons writhed on the floor as Persephone to the tune of The Black Keys’ “Tighten Up,” tasting the forbidden fruit of pomegranate seeds to a hooting crowd.
In addition to Simons’ act, the night consisted of two more “niche” tribute performances.
The first performance paid homage to Stephen King’s “The Shining,” and entailed the performer, with the burlesque persona Sweet Samantha Jane, writing “Redrum” along her stomach in red lipstick, while the other performance, by burlesque persona Dee Cupcakes, consisted of an anime routine from “Ouran High Host Club.”
When the ladies of Alpha Psi Ecdysia finished stripping the night of its burlesque portion, members of the Slam Team took the stage.
“Those of us on the team who were old enough to get in were able to practice our poems in front of a loving audience,” fourth-year English major and Slam Team President Christine Richin said.
Richin performed her solo poetry in front of the Snugs crowd, along with two group performances of pieces co-written by other Slam Team members.
“[Danie Santora] and I performed a group-piece that remains unnamed but explores the concept of honesty in a relationship between two people with trust issues,” Richin said.
Richin said she and Slam Team member Julie Zuckerman also performed an unnamed group piece that encompassed the notion of how people lose thier concept of self in the process of being the people they are expected to be.
Richin said her other pieces were “less constructed and refined,” including one titled “Harry Potter Orgy,” which was rittled with puns related to the children’s books series and yielded positive responses from audience members.
Although the Slam Team’s Snugs fundraiser has already ended, Richin said most of the poetry performed Tuesday night can be heard again on Thursday, Feb. 27, at the Slam Team’s weekly open mic event at Cafeteria where the fundraising efforts will continue.
Additionally, the fundraiser at Cafeteria will consist of a performance by the team’s coach, Slam Poet Jared Singer.
Richin, who has competed with the team for three years, will go head-to-head in verse for the final time at CUPSI this year.
In addition to the national event, the team is also preparing for New Paltz’s own poetry invitational, the Margaret Wade-Lewis Poetry Slam Invitational (WLPS) this upcoming weekend.
“Although it is fast approaching, I expect we will be bringing different poems to the stages in Colorado than the ones we have prepared for WLPS,” Richin said. “We are all so eager to write and share as much of ourselves as possible with this amazing community that the days of rigorous writing and performance practice are far from over.”