November 2, 2012

Poets' group thrown for a loop

The words are out on the street.

Catcher in the Rhyme, the U of C’s slam poetry RSO, is struggling to find a home. The group was founded last year by second-year Shaan Heng-Devan. It hosted weekly open-mic events at Southside Hub of Production (SHoP), but with uncertainty surrounding SHoP’s future, Catcher in the Rhyme faces similar uncertainty in establishing a permanent home for its members.

Given mixed messages about SHoP’s continued location at Fenn House on South Woodlawn Avenue, Heng-Devan secured Harper Café for Catcher in the Rhyme’s first show on October 10.

But Harper turned out to be only a temporary solution. The building manager decided against letting the group return after patrons in Harper Reading Room placed noise complaints.

Now Heng-Devan is scrambling to find a new venue.

“It came without really any warning. We had been planning our next show, and then we were left kind of high and dry with no notice and then [were] going into panic mode,” he said.

Heng-Devan hopes to find a permanent on-campus venue for Catcher in the Rhyme to host its weekly open-mic shows. But many venues on campus do not maintain a regular schedule because of high student demand for space in buildings such as the Logan Center for the Arts and the Reynolds Club. Heng-Devan has considered locations that are far off campus or venues that require a fee, although he speculated that those options would likely deter audiences.

Size is also a concern. The show at Harper Café attracted an audience of over 60 people, which he said “was both a blessing and a curse.”

“Now that we know we can get large audiences, we need to find venues that could support large audiences,” he said.

As options begin to run out, Heng-Devan has considered switching to bi-weekly shows or charging an admission fee.

In the meantime, Catcher in the Rhyme has shifted its focus to “getting to know people and getting stuff written,” Heng-Devan said. In place of its shows, it is holding writing workshops, working on integrating new first-years into the organization, and making general plans for the year.

But Heng-Devan is eager for things to return to normal.

“I’m still not sure whether this time is good or bad for us. It’s nice to have some time to plan and organize things instead of having to start up right away like we otherwise would have, but, on the other hand, I’m constantly afraid of losing momentum.”