Lester Mayers is swiftly becoming an iconic poet and strong voice for our generation, and he proved that with his poetry concert “100 Poems for 100 Voices (Live in the Moment)” at the Denizen Theatre on Friday, May 10.
The audience packed the intimate theatre space with not a seat to spare, settling in for a vigorously healing, ethereal experience.
“I think this show, in a lot of ways, is a physical one-hour therapy session, or a kiki session with your friends,” said Mayers. “A living and breathing diary and a reminder that healing is possible…if you want it.”
Mayers debuted his poetry book “100 Poems for 100 Voices” on Feb. 8 of this year, and ever since then it’s garnered a lot of attention and praise. This praise lead to the creation of the poetry concert.
“Colleen Smith introduced me to Ben Williamson at the Denizen and Ben and I began talking about the show,” Mayers said. “Their generosity of donating the space made my dream into a reality.”
Mayers created an atmosphere unlike any other poetry reading. The performance relied on feeling, excitement, and vulnerability. Dawned in a gorgeously regal costume, Mayers commanded the stage and kept every eye on him.
The energy of the room was palpable and uniting, and Mayers made the entire room come together as one. At certain points, he was capable of making the audience breathe all together, like a meditation. At other times, he made the room erupt with laughter or tears.
Not only did Mayers perform his poetry, but he was accompanied by a band, made up of Brandon Bera, Afro Jones, Pierce Allen, and Gabe Marquez, and vocalists Eryka Ree Joseph, Mariel Stein and Stefanie Workman.
“The rehearsal process was freeing. We didn’t know what we were doing, and we’ve never been to a poetry concert. We just wanted to create a space where our souls could fly and fly free,” Mayers said.
The band spent 9 months jamming together to find their perfect style musically and see what best complimented the poems.
“My band is brilliant. They were more than willing to go to those vulnerable places and we weren’t afraid to get lost,” Mayers said. “In fact, it was necessary we got lost so we could find our own way to healing—in order for us to create a healing space for the audience.”
To create such a unique show, Mayers honed in on his influences, such as Jill Scott, Missy Elliot and Phyllis Hyman. While keeping these musicians in mind, he reached out to his sound, lighting and management team to take the show from a jam session to an overall “Live in the Moment” experience.
“I wanted to wrap my poetry around those influences musically and usher in a new way of thinking, feeling and experiencing,” Mayers said. “The singers were extremely important to me because they added in the emotional punctuation needed for this show. “
With Mayers’ commanding stage presence and compelling poeticism, the audience was completely captivated. He involved the audience deeply, allowing them to feel free to laugh, clap, snap, yell or respond however they desired. He had them singing along, dancing in their chairs and inspired to “love themselves….just a little bit more than the day before,” which was a poignant phrase he had the audience repeating with him towards the end of the show.
Mayers encouraged healing and love in a thoughtful and powerful way, and received a standing ovation by the end of the live performance.
“I hope that the audience got what they needed. I hope it helped set them on the beginning to a possibly long road to necessary healing and if not that, just maybe an hour to forget about their own problems,” Mayers said. “To love themselves just a little bit more than the day before, while holding themselves accountable for doing so.”
Mayers will be doing two spot shows over the next year in New York. Starting In August of 2021, he will be going on a 2-month poetry tour from Colorado, New York, Philadelphia, Mississippi, Memphis and Washington.