A three-time Vancouver and 2011 national poetry slam champion, Johnny MacRae weaves together performance and writing. He has twice attended the Spoken Word residency at the Banff Centre. He was a three-time ensemble member at Victoria Spoken Word Festival, where he took workshops in an array of mediums (he was named 2013 Festival Poet of Honour). MacRae often collaborates with other artists and has toured widely, presenting collaborative and solo work at readings, as well as poetry, music and theatre festivals. He brings to bear a deep knowledge of orality. He has led over 250 workshops in schools around Canada.
I've never really been one for writing poetry, but after your presentation, I was itching to write my own. Grade 11 Student, Earl Marriott Secondary
Johnny has the talent to energize even students disenfranchised from the study of English into taking a second look at poetry and literature. Each time Johnny has come to our school has been a highly successful learning experience for our students (and teachers, too!). Sophie Hamel, Salmon Arm Secondary
Every blue moon or so, you meet an artist who approaches his craft with such earnestness and integrity that it shifts the stars in your universe. Johnny MacRae is one of those artists. His performances and poetry work to constantly stretch our perceptions of poetry into unknown realms. Mary Pinkoski, Former Poet Laureate of Edmonton
Poetry has to be about your deepest, darkest secrets, right? Well, if this workshop has an answer, it's a pretty firm NO! Love Your Weird is about finding your authentic voice. While exercises allow space for students to get into difficult narratives, the focus to create a space in which students feel safe taking creative risks with each other. A heady mix of improv games and ridiculous writing exercises create an environment in which even the shyest student will feel safe speaking up. And it'll be so much fun, they won't even realize they're learning poetic techniques!
In this workshop (or residency), poetry is a team sport! Goals include disrupting the belief that poetry or storytelling are solo activities, introducing techniques for creating group pieces and understanding possible uses of multi-voiced spoken word. The group splits into pairs or groups of three and works through a process that begins with individual free-writing and results in "group pieces," as they're called in slam. Participants learn different techniques for writing with a partner or partners, including ways of using multiple voices in performance to create different shades of emphasis and ways of bringing seemingly incompatible pieces of writing together.
The Acting Object builds off of a core practice in Johnny's writing - adopting an impersonal and/or non-human perspective to shed new light on a presumably known narrative. This approach can be used in any number of narratives: from finding vibrant life in the daily mundane (How does the shoe feel about the foot that wears it?) to discovering how objects can be vessels for stories (Rewriting an intergenerational history through the perspective of an heirloom) to exploring story as a way of learning new concepts (Explain a biological process by telling it as a story). The Acting Object offers the possibility of using literary arts to explore a vast array of subjects, while making writing more fun and engaging in general.