Well, a busy evening is starting to wind down, I’ve just left the Vertigo Theatre where Jian Ghomeshi was interviewed in the Thursday Night Showcase, and I’m getting ready to head back in to see Word of Mouth, an event celebrating poetry, sound, and the spoken word.
But let’s back up a little bit. Earlier in the day I attended The Price of Oil at The Auburn. Arno Kopecky and Andrew Nikiforuk discussed, along with WordFest Alumnus Chris Turner, the social cost of oil, and the consequences of our society being ‘addicted to oil.’
This wasn’t exactly a show for everybody, as it certainly had an agenda, but fortunately for me I tend to agree with most of the agenda, as did most of the crowd. It’s always interesting to hear people tell you exactly what you want to hear! That being said, these people are leading writers in their field, and it interesting to hear their opinions of the present and the future as it concerns how we power our country.
Now back to tonight, where the chaos that surrounds Jian Ghomeshi descended upon the Vertigo Theatre. While every guest of WordFest can and should be considered an A-lister, some names are obviously a little bigger than others, and some might attract a little more attention than others. Jian Ghomeshi is one of those names and boy does he bring a lot of attention with him. I have no doubt there was more buzz about this event than any we’ll see all week.
There are pros and cons to this, but at the end of the day, I think having somebody like Jian attend, can only help introduce more Calgarians to WordFest who otherwise might not have known about it or attending.
But bringing such attention also creates a few logistical problems, most notably that I can’t get a ticket. Yes, I do have a fancy pass, but at times when there are more tickets sold than seats available (which didn’t happen here, but it was awfully close), I am forced to pull a few strings and talk my way backstage. Fortunately I’m kind of a big deal, and this is no problem whatsoever. After a couple of winks and a quick exchange of pleasantries, I am travelling through the catacombs of the Vertigo, the faint rumble of a passing train heard through the walls, and before I know it, I’m sitting behind the curtain as Michael Bernard Fitzgerald starts off the show with a couple of tunes.
In the dark that is backstage, I’m approached by a shadowy figure that turns out to be the evening’s host, Ken Lima-Coelho. He introduces himself, tells me to tweet away (or as much as the limited reception will allow me), and to enjoy the evening! I debated mentioning that I’d enjoy it a lot more if there were a couple of snacks and a bottle of Merlot, but decided against it. I don’t need to burn every bridge the moment I cross it.
When Jian took to the stage, the crowd expectantly erupted, and I immediately realized that this wasn’t the typical WordFest crowd. This crowd was as much about a celebrity sighting as it was about a literary journey. This is exactly how I imagine a reading would be with J.K. Rowling. It also meant there would be a lively crowd.
The bulk of the evening featured Ken and Jian discussing growing up in the early 80’s and two separate readings of the best-selling memoir, 1982. Well, perhaps memoir isn’t the right word. As the author pointed out, his book isn’t a typical memoir, chronicling one’s birth, their life, and their death; instead it examines a specific moment in time.
Following the discussion and readings, was perhaps the part of the evening that most were looking forward to: questions from the audience. Not being able to see from my position behind the curtain, I imagined the Vertigo looking like the scene I saw earlier today to Book Rapport; fifty or more hands reaching skyward trying to get Ken’s attention. Then came the first ‘question.’ Now, I will need to confirm this, but what I heard is a woman saying she doesn’t have a question per se, but that she painted a picture for Jian, that she’d like to give him.
Why can’t I see what’s going on!? Never have I seen somebody bring a gift for the presenter. Never! From what I can gather, the painting is of this woman and Jian, but I can’t be sure. Ken asks him if he often receives marriage proposals when on tour, which Jian responds without answering, that a painting isn’t a marriage proposal. I need to find out more about this, and confirm that what I am imagining is what actually happened.
When the event did come to close, it was as if there was a fire or something, as the theatre cleared out in about thirty seconds. How can it take 300 people twenty minutes to enter a room, but thirty seconds to exit it? Before I could gather my jacket and briefcase and head over to the curtain to take a peek, the theatre was empty. Not mostly empty with a few lingering guests, but completely empty. I suppose they were all rushing to get in line for the book signing, which seemed to be a little longer than normal. Usually a line up for a signing lasts about twenty minutes, but I see this one is still going strong almost an hour later.
Now it’s back into the theatre for the night’s final performance, Word of Mouth…