Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Is it ok to heckle at a Slam?

At the Tongues of Fire AGM this week the issue of heckling came up in discussion. Is it ok to heckle?

Now, Slam is about involving your community in your performance, so there should be some active dialogue going on. And Slam is about being accountable to your community, so if the audience doesn't like something, or likes something, they should voice it- literally.

And Slam is a competition. Someone brought up a great point, that in other slam scenes, it is the other competitors that heckle the performer as a way to throw them off their game, or get them to engage in the audience. In Vancouver you will often hear, "I've seen you naked!" (although it's probably not very shocking here in Victoria where so many poets have participated in Poetry in the Raw).

We want to encourage interactivity at our slams. The show can't happen without volunteer audience judges, and every audience member is an integral part of what makes a great Slam. And unlike most slam scenes in Canada, we don't have alcohol as 'social lubrication' so we need to build a culture that supports audience participation.

The best comment in the discussion was that negative heckling, "You suck" is unacceptable, but emotional response to the poem (cheering or booing) is not only acceptable but desirable.

So come out and cheer away, but be mindful of that your 'heckling' is supportive. Because, "We are all a ten!"

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