A Story for the Stacks
In 2011, the Outreach department at Urban Stages Theater needed a performance about poetry that could tour to library branches throughout New York City. As lovers of poetry ourselves, we (Liz and Rachel) were excited to create something that would invite young people to take part in the enjoyment of poetry and written language. Too often, poetry is put on a pedestal as something someone else is allowed to do. We hoped to help young poets see that writing poetry can be fun, interesting and meaningful! So, we struck out into the city’s libraries with a bag of simple props, puppets and costumes and immediately found (to our relief) that young audience members were delighted by Wendy Windstorm and Grumpy Harry.
After the show, the young people couldn’t wait to write and share their own poems. Once a group of adolescent boys in the Bronx wrote a poem together about “bro love” and their friendship for each other. Another time we met a young person on the subway months after the performance and she enjoyed telling us all about what she remembered of simile and alliteration. It wasn’t uncommon for groups to chant “Po-e-try, Po-e-try,Po-e-try,” after the show or beg Wendy and Harry to stay. It was clear the show was doing something special and we wanted to keep doing it.
(Liz as Harry advises some aspiring poets).
Making Waves on a Stage!
After touring regularly to over 80 public library branches, we decided to give Blown Away By Poetry a real stage. The New York International Fringe Festival accepted our application. Urban Stages helped us craft a set and some professionally made costume pieces. The show met with happy reviews at the Fringe and continued to delight audiences was we took it to more and more theater venues.
“ I had such a good time, I found myself speaking in couplets for the rest of the day.” - Josephine Cashman, Nytheatre.com
“[My daughter and I] just adored the show. So engaging and educational without being boring or condescending…” - Raven Snook, Editor, Mommy Poppins NYC
"This was the best field trip ever, I have never seen my students so excited about poetry!" - Third grade teacher at PS123 in Brooklyn
(Walking set pieces to and from the theater for performances at the Fringe)
Wendy Windstorm Tours the Town
In 2013, Blown Away By Poetry performed at Brooklyn Academy of Music’s (BAM) Fishman Space for the BAMfamily Launch Party.
For the following two year, the show continued to perform throughout NYC and beyond including: The Bushwick Starr, Poets House, The Little Red Schoolhouse, Chapin School, The New York Public Library, The Brooklyn Public Library, and Columbia-Greene Community College.
Eventually, Liz and Rachel had to pack up their poetic puppets in order to focus on the creation of a new show, Layer the Walls.
Blown Back to Poetry
After a few years away from Harry and Wendy, we found ourselves missing these characters and their contagious love of poetry. We want to continue celebrating and letting loose the poetry in young people and wondered how our old friends would do with even larger audiences and bigger stages.
We’ve returned to the script to make big changes and have expanded our creative team to include new designers as well as a composer and a lyricist! We are thrilled to send Wendy and Harry out across the country to celebrate the poet in all the young people they encounter.