Jekeva Phillips is a force of nature. She’s a writer who also performs improv, and a couple years ago she created her own magazine, Word Lit Zine, from thin air. For her next trick, she’s devised her own three-day literary festival, Bibliophilia, which combines her love of theater and literature into a cross-disciplinary storytelling celebration.
Bibliophilia’s five events take place August 4–6 at the Pocket Theater in Greenwood. The idea is to bring a sense of drama and performance to literature. “I’ve been to a lot of readings,” Phillips explains, “and there are folks who are wonderful writers but not great readers. It’s not that the author doesn’t have talent, but they’re not a reader by nature.” With her improv and circus training, Phillips decided she was uniquely qualified to bring “the page to the stage” in new and interesting ways.
The festival opens and closes with a new kind of event, Chapter One. An author reads the first chapter of their book, and then an improv troupe re-enacts the story from memory. Aside from the usual thrill of watching someone work up a performance from scratch, the audience will be keyed in to catch the differences between the text and the impromptu mini-play. Thursday night’s Chapter One reader is Raven Oak, who’ll read from her sci-fi novella Class-M, about a space tourist who bumbles into a military thriller. Saturday night brings G. G. Silverman, author of Vegan Teenage Zombie Huntress. The performance’s format is a clever conceit that plays with our natural human impulse to nitpick the differences between a book and its adaptation. “I think there’s a lot of joy in that,” Phillips says, and the possibility for surprise if the actors go “off-book.”
Friday night’s programming opens with That Moment, featuring an array of Word Lit Zine authors who will read poems. Improv performers will then speculate on and enact their idea of the moment of inspiration for the poem. The actors might imagine that a sad poem springs from the night a poet realized they were getting divorced, for example, and incorporate pieces of the poem into the argument. Phillips calls it “an examination of how art imitates life, which imitates art.” The second Friday-night show is titled Through (rose) Colored Glasses, in which women of color explore their heritage and lineage through poetry. This event features the highest-profile Seattle-area readers, including Sasha LaPointe, Yolanda Suarez, Laura Da’, and Natasha Marin, who reads as Tashi Ko.
And in case you need a little bit of sexy to drag you out to a literary festival, Saturday night’s program opens with Naked Girls Reading, which is, well, exactly what it sounds like: naked women—in this case, Jesse Belle-Jones and Sailor St. Claire—sitting onstage reading stories to the audience. Phillips hopes with this event to bring improv audiences out to their first literary event, and vice versa. She calls Bibliophilia “a festival for a lot of different people. Whether you’re a storytelling artist, a poet, or a performer, you’re going to find this exciting because it’s a new kind of performance.”
Pocket Theater, 8312 Greenwood Ave. N., thepocket.org. $10 adv./$14 DOS single day, $25 three-day pass. All ages. Start times vary, Thurs., Aug. 4–Sat., Aug. 6. Paul Constant is the co-founder of The Seattle Review of Books. Read daily books coverage like this at seattlereviewofbooks.com.