on March 28, 2015, the University of Bridgeport’s Student Government Association welcomed back famed TED talk speaker and spoken word poet Sarah Kay, and her performing partner and dear friend, Phil Kaye, for a magical night of mesmerizing and often hilarious storytelling.
Together, Sarah and Phil make up the duo behind Project Voice, a program which, as described on their web site:
“… uses spoken word poetry to entertain, educate, and inspire. Through award-winning performances and innovative workshops, Project VOICE is dedicated to promoting empowerment, improving literacy, and encouraging empathy and creative collaboration in classrooms and communities around the world. Project VOICE has a lasting impact; students come away from a Project VOICE visit with a higher motivation to create, a belief in their own voice, and a desire to share and listen to each other’s stories.”
While both have published books, have performed at TED conferences gaining immense Internet popularity, and have traveled the world independently to pursue their craft, their main goal is to continue empowering others – especially young people – to express themselves. “Spoken word is just one avenue of learning how to express ones’ voice,” they explained.
During the evening, Sarah and Phil performed poetry pieces separately and together, ranging from a hilarious, spot-on, and yet surprisingly emotional “The Geico Gecko” poem performed by Phil, to Sarah’s poignant and resonating poem, “The Type.”
Eventually, they addressed the coincidence of their similar last names in the poem “An Origin Story” explaining how they first met. “I was looking fly. First day of college orientation as a freshman plus, I’m the type of guy who’s always trying to make a good impression,” began Phil. “He looked like a tool. And it’s the first week of school, so I’ve got people to meet and things to try. I don’t have time to waste on this guy loitering backstage at a talent show,” continued Sarah.
The similarities don’t stop with their Kay/Kaye last names, as both have the unusual combination of a Japanese mother and a Jewish father, as well as younger siblings of the exact same age with each other’s names! They went on to explain that most confuse them as siblings, while others assume they are a couple, but in the end, they are just friends, referencing the rarity of the special breed of famous friendships to which they may now belong. “It didn’t start with us – it started with Lennon and McCartney, Bert and Ernie, Mario and Luigi, Thelma and Louise,” they batted back and forth, and together.
Phil and Sarah also held a poetry workshop before the performance for 20 University of Bridgeport students who were interested in exploring the dynamics behind writing spoken word. “The workshop demonstrated to me that the purpose of poetry is to elicit a sensory response that the audience identifies with,” said Steven Boitano ’16. “Abstract hoobidy-ha or whatever, is usually not poetry that is relative. I learned that using tangible analogies and metaphors that relate to everyday sensations and emotions are much more visceral than abstract words and sentences.”
Chelsea Robinson ’15, a senior at the Universty and President of UB’s SLAM (Sophisticated Love of the Artistic Mind) Club, added, “I was grateful to have this experience, Sarah and Phil were just amazing.”
Over 100 people were in attendance on this snowy Saturday evening, traveling in from as far away as Boston, Philadelphia, and New Jersey. The event was sponsored by the Student Government Association, with College of Arts and Sciences Senators Karlie Spader and Erik Morales helping to plan and coordinate.
Among those who traveled this evening were Sarah’s family who came in from New York City, anxious to see their daughter after a Project Voice five-week five city tour all over South East Asia with Phil. Sarah’s mom shared that she couldn’t believe how popular Sarah and Phil had become.
“They performed to a sold-out show of 1,000 students in the Phillippines,” said Mrs. Kay. “Who knew so many cared about spoken word poetry?”