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Heading Into 24th Season, Literary Nonprofit WordSpace Has Stronger Presence Than Ever

Poet, rapper, screenwriter and actor Saul Williams will kick off WordSpace's 24th season at the Kessler Theater on Oct. 19.EXPAND
Poet, rapper, screenwriter and actor Saul Williams will kick off WordSpace's 24th season at the Kessler Theater on Oct. 19.
Das Bett

Literary nonprofit WordSpace is set to open its 24th season this fall with poet, rapper, screenwriter and actor Saul Williams. He will headline the Dallas Poetry Slam at the Kessler Theater on Oct. 19.

“It’s going to be a major event,” board  President Charles Dee Mitchell says. “One thing we’re doing is reinvesting our energy in bringing in people.”

WordSpace experienced an uptick after Mitchell, who's been with the group for 10 years, and the board brought sex columnist and advocate Dan Savage to the Kessler Theater in 2011. The organization had previously hosted small poetry readings, but Savage's sold-out appearance introduced WordSpace to a wider audience.

Later shows featuring headliners such as comedian and Roseanne star Sandra Bernhard, avant-garde artist Laurie Anderson and filth prophet John Waters helped to ingratiate WordSpace with cultural centers and venues like The Wild Detectives. Attendance has continue to bloom, Mitchell says.

“When I started out, we had 12 or so people who would show, and we’ve seen that grow to 40 to 50 at smaller shows while, meanwhile, headliners will sell out 300 to 400,” Mitchell says. “Things are definitely growing.”

This season's events include Natalie Diaz reading selections from her award-winning book of poetry, My Brother Was an Aztec, at the Latino Cultural Center on Nov. 15; self-proclaimed “angry filmmaker” Kelley Baker leading a film seminar at The Wild Detectives on Oct. 23; and "African Diaspora: New Dialogues" with songwriter Lonnie Holley.

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Holley’s performance, which will be improvised on keyboard, reflects WordSpace's commitment to experimentation. “It’s very different than we’ve done in the past, but it’s in the tradition of including songwriting as a literary performance," Mitchell says.

WordSpace encourages readers and writers to attend shows, mingle with the performers and perform themselves.“With all of the attention focused on Dallas as a city for the visual or musical arts, we want the same focus on our literary arts,” Mitchell says.

For more information on WordSpace, visit wordspacedallas.com.

Saul Williams, 8 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 19, Kessler Theater, 1230 W. Davis St.,  $35 and up, prekindle.com

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