Poets’ theater has a long and varied history in the United States. The Cambridge Poets’ Theatre, founded in 1951 by the eccentric Bunny Lang, was the first to present works by Samuel Beckett, while the New York Poets’ Theatre, co-founded in 1951 by LeRoi Jones and Diane di Prima, among others, was honored with obscenity charges for presenting Jean Genet’s Un Chant d’Amour. Here in San Francisco, the official designation stretches from the Grand Piano, a mid-’70s coffeehouse, to Small Press Traffic, a literary arts center that began as a wee Mission storefront. But the impulse has fueled everyone from Ginsberg to Acker. Unfettered by sets, props, or staging, the “scripts” presented stand in raw relief, a conduit of thought between author and audience, and the annual Poets Theater Festival offers a glimpse of things to come. Innovative scribblers are encouraged to step out of isolation and let their words bounce around the room, but they are only given 10 minutes to leave an impression. Even if a piece sucks all the air from the room, the conversation it inspires is guaranteed to be interesting.
Fri., Jan. 18, 7:30 p.m.; Sat., Jan. 19, 7:30 p.m., 2013