The Excelano Project, founded in 2001, is Penn's first and premier spoken word group. The 15 student members speak on social justice and the world around us to evoke imagery, express their opinions or just state their observations. The group will present their show "Afterglow" at the Rainey Auditorium inside Penn Museum on March 31st at 6pm and April 1st at 8pm. Street talked to two of the members, Pallavi Wakharkar (C'17) and Blake London (C'18), about their experiences with the group and the goals of The Excelano Project.
On the inspirations behind this year's theme "Afterglow"
Pallavi: We come up with the titles of our show through different voting sequences. And we thought "Afterglow" was a cool title because it represents that remaining light at the end of the day, and how after the sunset there's still that glimmer in the air. We want to capture that feeling into a title and hopefully our poems will also capture that feeling.
On the challenges or struggles throughout the preparation process of this show
Pallavi: There's always a lot of scrambling, editing and memorizing. We want each of our poems to be as complete as it can be. And we realize that no poem can ever be truly complete, we just want to reach the full completeness. We really push each other to develop our language past the point of what's easy and more into the point of what's interesting, unique and novel in language.
Blake: Poetry is always a process, so sometimes it's kinda hard to define what's the end, what's performable and where do I want to edit more. We throw a lot of group workshops to look at our poetry and cut a lot of things that maybe don't convey the image concisely. That's most of the struggle. And our director and president put a lot into making sure that everything flows the way it should.
What keeps these poets performing with Excelano?
Pallavi: I've been with the group since my freshman year. I think what keeps me coming back is the sense of family. No matter what happens, even if we disagree on certain things, it's all because we care so much. And I think that the connection we formed in this group by writing together and listening to each other's deepest feelings is really strong, which is something that I haven't been able to find in any other group...We are all so invested in each other's poetry and each other...It's like a catharsis.
Blake: Besides the whole family aspect, which is so real, it's also a group of like-minded people that are trying to push themselves. And it's a way of bonding through that, which is incredibly important to me.
On what the audience might take away from "Afterglow"
Pallavi: I hope that when the audience hears every poem, they are able to recognize something of themselves in it or relate in some way. I think poetry is about that universal human voice and universal human experience, so the goal is always to write something that's aesthetically beautiful but also beautiful in terms of resonance to other people.
Blake: The resonance and also the lastingness of it...You know it's something cool when you hear a poem - you hear it and you think you heard it completely, but somehow there's something about it that's still in your mind later. That's something we want the audience to think about. Even it's not an instant reaction to the poem, but it's something that lingers.