When I test a microphone I say “popcorn” and “Peter Pan” and “pumpernickel”. I might say “pumpernickel” few times because it has just such an excellent mouth-feel. I’m testing for the hazy, rainstick popping sound that rings fuzzy and obnoxious through the speakers whenever an overzealous human enunciates the letter “P”. The lips flair out. A gust of breath explodes into the mic head. And everyone in the audience knows for a split second how our lungs would sound if we were giants.
Clients don’t like this. So I test: gargle “peanut butter” three times into the mic for an empty theatre. Fiddle knobs on the mixer. Ok. Ready for your “p-p-presentation”.
Hide now again in the Booth. Wait. Doors open. Thickets of legs spread out to seats. High heels careful on steps. Here is the big speaker. Now spotlight. Hot-light. Their foreheads polished sparkling white. White teeth. Live mic. Tremble voice.
They exhale their nerves, and it sounds like thunder.
I say “pumpernickel” again to myself.
Over the course of the next week, snakes of orange extension cords and XLR cables will be coiled and un-coiled from elbows. Podiums of honey-hued particle board rolled out. Blue plastic chairs. Maybe nicer things, actually, at The Brown Hotel. Don’t know. And voices and breath up, up, up from the throat and into the miles of wire and plastic and metal. Amplified. Low end. Trim. Woofers and tweeters – “wolves and birds”. Words in the air now. Sound-waves filling up fishbowl auditoriums. Ears. Thum-drum-hum of little bones there chattering. Nerve-endings. To Brain. Now Mind. Finally: a writer’s writing reaches the Soul. Success.
Starting tomorrow, Saturday May 18th, Spalding University will kick off the spring series of its Festival of Contemporary Writing, bringing a myriad of writing from lips to ears throughout the week as some 40+ faculty, guests and graduates of Spalding’s MFA Creative Writing program present their work through next Saturday, May 25th.
With readings hosted at both the Brown Hotel  and Spalding’s Egan Leadership Center Lectorium, this spring’s Festival will feature everything from poets to playwrights and offer selections of screenwriting, creative non-fiction, children’s, drama, fiction and good-old-fashioned poetry. Tomorrow’s presenters will read from 11:15am to 12:30pm at the Brown Hotel’s Gallery on the 16th floor with talent from Larry Brenner, Rachel Harper, Roy Hoffman, Shane McCrae, Kirby Gann and Charlie Schulman. All events throughout the week are free, ticketless and open to the public. “Public.”
“Porcupine.” “Purple.” “Pumpernickel.” The mic is ready.
The Brown Hotel is located at 330 W Broadway. The Egan Leadership Center is located at 901 S Fourth Street. Find a full list of scheduled speakers and more information via Spalding’s MFA Program .
Image: Courtesy of Spalding University website www.spalding.edu