It’s no secret, we have a big crush on The Folding Chair reading series. The readings are teeming with talented artists and writers and the spirit driving this series is one near and dear to 61 Locals heart. TFC is a perfect example of how taking the time to meet your neighbor can unfold possibilities and resources to get your project off the ground. To kick off the second year of folding chairs we sat down with Prudence Peiffer and Oana Sanziana, the talented ladies who run the show, to get the story behind TFC.
What is the history of The Folding Chair?
We started the series in April of 2011. At the time we were both writers who were not writing as much as we would have liked, and who had a lot of anxiety about publishing. So we decided to dedicate 2011 to finding our way back to writing. We started recommending poems to each other, sharing our own poems, and going to readings all over town. We also talked a lot about giving a reading ourselves; it’s important to share work, to test its mettle on an audience.
One lucky day Prue walked past the recently-opened 61 Local, loved how welcoming it looked and its emphasis on the local, and—in what turned out to be a fortuitous impulse—inquired about the possibility of doing a reading with local writers there. We both immediately loved the space and really liked Dave and 61 Local’s focus on community. We organized a first reading in April, and it organically turned into a second reading in May, then June, and here we are.
What inspired the series?
There were some things we weren’t crazy about when attending other readings — often they go on too long, with diminishing returns. There is just so much that you can take in and fully savor before you’re too saturated and restless — and so, we decided after the first reading to keep each program at 3 guests, 15 minutes per guest. Another thing we’re not crazy about is extended introductions of guests by the organizers, so we invited our friend Rowland Stebbins to MC the first reading and introduce all the guests. He brought such a great energy that it only seemed natural for him to do every reading after that.
How have you built your community here of writers and artists?
It’s true that originally we were only focusing on writing, but then songwriting and visual art (that could be projected) also entered the program — and we love that! The great thing that happened was that the series became a combination of people we invite as well as people who approach us and say they’d like to read. Often readers recommend other readers. It’s a wonderful thing. We publicize the readings with Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and our little cards that we sprinkle into the hands of any potential guest that we meet. We worked with Dave and Kris to organize a truly fantastic one year anniversary that included the collaboration of other people in the local community, from screen printers to home brewers and moonshiners.
What criteria are you looking for when you curate the event each month?
The first readings we organized maybe set the tone for what then developed rather naturally: we sought writers we knew whose work we admired. Afterwards, people who wanted to read were able to get a sense of the atmosphere by attending a reading. We like to have work of a certain quality, and have had some quite celebrated guests, but there is no requirement that one must even be published. Ultimately, the process is a bit magical.
How did you scale this process for the Anniversary party? Was there something unique you were hoping to create?
For the Anniversary party we definitely wanted to have some guests who were on our Dream Team list (sometimes, it’s also about delighting ourselves by inviting people whose work we know and admire, and it’s a wonderful asset to have a series as a way of approaching people!) We hoped to create — and we think we succeeded! — a small and flavorful taste of what the whole series has been about and how it has evolved: local community, art, music, and the convivial community that all of it builds.
Do you have any specific directions for TFC that you would like to take shape in this coming year?
We’d like to buy more chairs!
**Readings are every first Tuesday at 7pm**
Come grab a drink and settle in for a night of stellar local talent!