It's a family affair. Therese Keslin-FitzMaurice, the poet, a high school English teacher at Six Rivers Charter High School, is married to drummer Tommy FitzMaurice, who teaches kindergarten at Jacoby Creek Charter School. Leif Johnson, the bass player who teaches history at McKinleyville High, is the boyfriend of Vanessa Pike-Vrtiak -- who has jammed at National Poetry Slam Competitions. Vanessa met Therese when she was student teaching in the high school. Vanessa Blount, a hoop dancer, is a student of Melanie Quillen, the dancer/choreographer, who teaches math and performance arts at Six Rivers, along with Therese. I'm sure if you tried hard enough you could find a two or three degrees connection for Tim Lane, the keyboard player, lighting designer Zoe Troxell-Whitman and Travis Lockwood, another poet. But more important, these young artists are hot.
As a public school teacher and a mother myself, let me say, if these are the type of folk who are teaching our kids, I am all for it. What a creative, intelligent bunch I encountered at a rehearsal of A Reason to Listen Poetry Collective's latest project, Resuscitating the Sequence of Sacrifice, a compilation of work by Keslin-FitzMaurice and Pike-Vrtiak on the themes of healing and sacrifice. The project is a choreo-poem showcasing choreography by hoop master Quillen and live music accompaniment by FitzMaurice (drummer for the Bump Foundation), Lane (keyboardist from Likwifi) and Johnson (bassist of Accident Lab's Johnson Brothers), with newcomers Blount, Lockwood and Troxell-Whitman.
The rehearsal left me wondering, where do schoolteachers find the time to make such tightly-woven performance art? Especially Tommy and Therese, who have a toddler and a baby on the way. It is a gorgeous sight to behold, this beautiful fully pregnant mom/teacher/poet chanting out subtly rhythmic rifts about the inevitable dying of the sun with a musical trio behind her and the evocative dancing of Quillen, conjuring North Beach and jazz/poetry connections of the Beat Era.
The time question is ultimately silly. The only answer is these artists are driven, and not only are they driven, but they are driven together. They somehow found each other on a cusp that is carrying their collaboration to inventive and lyrical places. Their piece is like a painting, a tableau of movement, color and sound, the different elements fitting together inside a frame of its own making, a solid work that is new and now and of Humboldt County. For a fan of the spoken word and, the rare bird up here, a modern dance lover, this concert is a rare occurrence. Pike-Vrtiak and Keslin-FitzMaurice have earned a bit of reputation hosting the packed Second Thursdays Accident Lab poetry open mic, so be forewarned: Their shows may sell out.
Resuscitating the Sequence debuts Friday March 4 at 8 p.m. and repeats Saturday March 5 at 7 p.m. at Redwood Raks Dance Studio, 824 L St., Arcata. Tickets are $10 at the door. Advance reservations or more information are available by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 498-3564.