Improv for poets and writers

David Pérez hosts a workshop at SOMOS for poets and writers preparing to read work aloud, through improvisation. Courtesy Lenny Foster

David Pérez has been speaking in public for decades. He’s had a lifetime of it at progressive political meetings and rallies. He’s been acting for 20 years, in roles he describes as “ranging from Othello to Santa Claus,” recently lighting up the stage as Robert in Taos Onstage’s production of David Auburn’s “Proof.” As an author, he’s been performing his work for a dozen years. What does he see as the common factor?

Preparation. “What has been especially important to learn is how to be prepared when you speak before an audience. Preparation is everything.”

This Saturday (March 7), from 2-5 p.m., the Society of the Muse of the Southwest, at 108 Civic Plaza Drive, will present Pérez in a workshop for preparing to read work aloud, through improvisation, theater games and vocal/body exercises.

“Improvisation is a valuable creative tool for poets and writers to explore meaning,” said Pérez. “Intent, characters, pacing, details and everything else that goes into not just developing the written word, but the spoken word also. Writers of every genre should be skilled in both, especially in finding hidden truths in our stories, be it poetry, fiction, memoir or personal essays or whatever. I’ve been doing this workshop a lot, and each time fresh discoveries are made — and we all laugh a lot. There’s a power in being able to play, and a joy, too.”

In this interactive workshop, writers of all genres will experience how these exercises can make words come alive in exciting and unexpected ways. “It will help us uncover meaning and intent, get in touch with a character’s emotions and motivations, develop strong points of view and choose details that are specific and important,” Pérez said.

“What can happen, for instance, if we read our memoir aloud as if talking to a therapist, our novel while jogging on a treadmill? What might an unexpected whisper or pause bring to our story or poem? The possibilities are endless when our body, voice and imagination are fully engaged.”

The workshop will also discuss the elements of a good public reading, from preparation to performance. “As all writers know, a strong and entertaining reading is vital to getting your work out there. Indeed, it can make all the difference in the world: the strength of voice, the precision of diction, the control of pacing and breathing, the inhabiting of persona and place and dialogue.”

The workshop will also cover relaxation techniques. “We all get nervous before speaking in public. It’s perfectly normal, and should be embraced. That said, finding ways to focus and relax into the breath and reading your work with vigor and confidence is very important. You want your writing to work on the stage as well as on the page.”

Pérez is known and loved in Taos as a writer, editor, actor, radio host and performance teacher. He heads Verdad Creative, which offers a full range of writing, editing and performing services. He also serves on the board of directors of the Mandala Center, a spiritual retreat in northeastern New Mexico.

Pérez was born and raised in the South Bronx in New York City, of Puerto Rican heritage. He is married to poet Veronica Golos, and has two adult children, Belinda and Jase. His workshops have drawn authors, actors, visual artists, natural healers, docents, schoolteachers, social workers and physicians.

He is the author of two memoirs, “Wow!” (11B Press, 2011) and “Wow! 2” (Nighthawk Press, 2016), both of which chronicle his coming-of-age in the Mill Brook projects in the South Bronx. He calls these books “memoiritos.” The first one is a novellalike tale that follows him as he navigates a tough neighborhood and an even tougher Catholic school. The second picks up the narrative in high school, where he is a top student and athlete. But as the tumultuous 1970s set in, he is pulled by partying and getting high — until a “brush with the law and pigeons” in his South Bronx neighborhood forces him to rethink his priorities.

Latinostories.com has cited Pérez as “one of the top 10 Latino authors to watch and read.” His editing clients include both established and emerging writers and poets.

Said SOMOS’ Executive Director Jan Smith, “David’s workshops are always informative, engaging and fun. They should be required for everyone who wants to shine in front of a microphone — whether through public speaking, reading your writing/poetry out loud or being an emcee for events.”

Added Pérez, “Bring a short, two-minute piece to read. All genres and levels welcome.”

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