This weekend, when Sonoma County’s Fire Circle Theater presents its first ever “ReVerberation Festival of Community Voices,” at Spreckels Performing Arts Center in Rohnert Park, Petaluma’s Julie Yeager will be one of many to participate in what promises to be a vast, wildly diverse showcase of spoken word performances.
“I am going to do a poem I wrote called ‘Wrong or Right, Black or White,’ about all the people out in the world, and not judging who they are because of how they look,” says Yeager, a graduate of Petaluma High School. She’s published many of her poems in a series of books, such as 2016’s “This Will Be the Day.” “It’s a really good poem,” she says of “Wrong or Right.” “It’s about speaking out for what we believe in, telling people what we believe is right.”
“ReVerberation,” with the conspicuous emphasis on the word “verb,” is described by Fire Circle Theater as “A night of experience and truth,” and “a cross-community dialogue through art.” The event will be hosted by slam-poetry champion (and NPR award-winning poet) Jamie DeWolf. A filmmaker, writer, actor and sometime circus ringmaster, DeWolf is the creator of the popular monthly show “Tourettes Without Regrets” in Oakland, and is a regular performer on NPR’s “Snap Judgment” storytelling program.
In addition to DeWolf, the festival will feature appearances by slam-poet Dre (aka Duke the Bossman), performance artist Quenby Dolgushkin, comic-book artist Tom Beland (author of “True Story Swear to God”), drag performer “Titus Androgynous,” writer-comedian Wonder Dave, activist-performer Michal Victoria, cabaret musician Rob Reich, storyteller Rebel Rouser, and several others.
A major focus of the event is the performances of true stories, written through workshops conducted by FireCircle Theater, and performed by a host of local actors. Those stories will include first-person oral histories from Tubbs Fire survivors, gay military veterans from the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” era, and more. The festival will include several visual-and-written presentations in the lobby, an exhibition of paintings and sculptures, and a series of poetry performances.
Yeager will be delivering a number of her own poems, in addition to singing and dancing on the main stage, as part of the show’s grand opening, a performance of the song “This is Me,” presented by students of Alchemia, a Sonoma County arts program for adults with developmental disabilities. In addition to its facility in Santa Rosa, where Yeager routinely works on writing and acting projects, the nonprofit operates the Alchemia Studio and Gallery in downtown Petaluma.
“It’s going to be loads of fun,” says Rush Cosgrove, one of the founding members of Fire Circle Theater. “I think there are going to be moments that are really potent and rich, with plenty of powerful emotions on display. But the overall mood will be very festive and fun, and empowering and full of surprises.”
Cosgrove describes Fire Circle Theater as a community-based performing arts group with a focus on personal empowerment and community building.
“The ReVerberation festival is the perfect expression of our mission,” he says. “It’s an event where all of the artists are expressing their own personal experiences and points-of-view through various artistic media. It’s a very diverse group of perspectives, some of which you don’t often get to see all in one place on stage.”