On Thursday I took part in a Dramaslam arranged by Labbet at Svenska Teatern in Helsinki, as part of the city wide Night of the Arts. Like it sounds, dramaslam is a riff on poetry slam, but there’s no competitive element to it. Basically it involves the playwright reading from their own unperformed play (sometimes even unfinished play) until the gong sounds and then they stop. The idea is to read everything on the page, stage directions, characters names and lines. The MC gives the audience a short introduction to the story and a bit of context (where in the play the writer is reading from, what’s happened just before, who the main characters are, etc) based on the particular play. I’ve taken part in slams where you’ve had 5 minutes to read and ones where you’ve had 10 minutes to read. The point is that you have to read the whole time. If you get through the pages you’ve prepared before the time is up you go back and start again from the beginning. When the gong sounds you stop, even if you’re in the middle of a sentence.
|Me and the gong mid-slam. Photo: Harriet Eriksson|
Since I’m not an actor I always feel self-conscious reading my own lines for other people. What I’ve come to realise over the years is that “performing” the parts when you’re reading at a Dramaslam doesn’t necessarily make it a better experience for the people listening. That insight has taken the pressure of “acting out the parts” off me and has given me something very concrete to focus on (which helps with the nerves): Just speak the words slowly and clearly. The audience will do the rest.