(PITTSFIELD, Mass.) – Singers Jay Farrar and Mia Dyson, authors Wesley Stace aka John Wesley Harding, Julie Klausner, and Jami Attenberg, and a half-dozen National Poetry Slam champs, including Buddy Wakefield, Rachel McKibbens and the Berkshires’ own Taylor Mali, will be featured at the 2011 Word X Word Festival, a week of live performances celebrating words written, spoken, and sung, taking place at 15 venues scattered throughout downtown Pittsfield from August 13 to 20.
This year’s festival features more than 60 performances of original song, poetry, theater, fiction, and storytelling, kicks off with a party on the roof of the historic Greystone Building, and wraps up a week later with a closing show at the historic Colonial Theatre featuring Australian rock singer-songwriter Mia Dyson, two-time Individual World Poetry Slam Champion and Righteous Babe Records recording artist Buddy Wakefield, and indie-folk-rock group Kingsley Flood. Son Volt front man and Uncle Tupelo founder Jay Farrar will appear in a rare solo performance in an undisclosed venue in downtown Pittsfield. Hometown heroes Sarah Lee Guthrie and Johnny Irion will play a special sneak preview show at Mission Bar + Tapas on August 12 at 8pm.
Every year WXW kicks off with its Gala Party on the rooftop of the Greystone Building. This year, Raleigh, N.C., band Jack the Radio brings its funky beats to this strictly limited ticketed event. The main portion of the festival begins Sunday, August 14, with a block party at Palace Park from 3 to 8 featuring music, spoken word, and local concessions. The official opening show is Sunday night at the Compuworks loft, featuring spoken word artists Taylor Mali and Iyeoka Okoawo and Williamstown string-rock quintet Darlingside.
Other notable performers for the 2011 festival include the bands Abbie Barrett and the Last Date, and the Two Man Gentleman Band, as well as spoken word superstars Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz (three-time national poetry Slam Champion and author of Hot Teen Slut) and Rachel McKibbens (the 2009 Women of the World poetry slam champion, eight-time National Poetry Slam team member, three-time NPS finalist, and a 2007 New York Foundation for the Arts poetry fellow and Pushcart nominee).
The fiction and storytelling lineup features bestselling novelist Wesley Stace (a.k.a. singer/songwriter John Wesley Harding), Julie Klausner (one of Salon.com’s “10 Funniest Women Writers on the Internet” and author of I Don’t Care About Your Band), and critically acclaimed writer Jami Attenberg, author of The Melting Season and The Kept Man.
Word X Word has carved out a reputation for showcasing emerging artists – The Low Anthem in 2009, Langhorne Slim in 2010 – on the verge of national recognition, and for shining a spotlight on performance genres that had never before had a home among the bounty of cultural offerings in the Berkshires. The spoken word performers at WXW are consistently given high marks for originality and impact, and have greatly enhanced the reputation of WXW as a festival breaking new ground with its emphasis on the transformative power of live performance.
Theater is given a much larger presence in this year’s festival. Highlights include the Barrington Stage world premiere staged reading of Mark St. Germain newest play, Mrs. Lincoln’s Séance. New Stage Performing Arts is presenting several new and local works in their Burbank Extension in the Beacon Cinema Building. WAM Theater is bringing their Instant Theater to Word X Word this year, with a rehearsal and performance at the palace park tent venue. Word X Word is also proud to bring to stage Paul Shoulberg’s one-man play Sick F**ck, which will be performed at the Micro Theater.
Well over half of each year’s festival is comprised of local artists: songwriters, poets, writers, actors, musicians, etc. This year, students will have a chance to perform on the WXW stage with the debut of the Student Performance Contest. High school-aged students may submit video of themselves performing originals works – whether spoken word, monologue, poetry, one-person play, song, or fiction – and the winner will perform at the festival’s closing show at the Colonial Theatre on August 20. Interested students should visit the WXW website for details.
With the exception of the Rooftop Gala and the opening and closing shows, the entire festival is free. All Access/VIP passes which include admission to the Rooftop and Opening and Closing shows are available, and information can be found at the WXW website.
Handmade souvenir passports will be available for purchase to document attendee travels throughout the festival. T-shirts will also be available at venues during the festival.
Venues for this year’s festival include the Berkshire Museum, Barrington Stage’s Main Stage, The Colonial Theatre, the Lichtenstein Center for the Arts, New Stage Performing Arts Center, as well as Mission Bar, Shawn’s Barbershop, the Lantern, the Emporium, and the Micro Theatre.