Lance Newman has proved himself to be a mover and shaker, not only in Louisville’s slam poetry scene but also in the city’s larger cultural landscape.
In addition to his slam events at KMAC, Newman helped the Southern Fried Poetry Festival make Louisville its 2017 home and is responsible for the sidewalks poems we will soon be enjoying around downtown.
Newman’s next project is to bring together slam, standup comedy, music and DJing at a monthly event called SpreadLove Presents. The first one will be held Saturday, Feb. 24.
While there are a few other cabaret-style events in the city, this is notable for a few reasons, including its location. It’ll be held at Scene, the small-plates eatery and bar inside the Kentucky Center for the Arts.
Newman gave Insider the skinny on what audiences can expect, what makes this show unique and how he found a home for his show at the Kentucky Center.
“I have a long-standing relationship with Kentucky Center for the Arts. And Scene, ever since they made that change, I realized it’s not activated after 10 p.m.,” says Newman.
He couldn’t help but imagine an event for the space, and he approached the Kentucky Center with his idea. After getting them on board, finding the right kind of programing was the next step.
“The concept is a variety show, but more music and chill,” he explains. “There’s only three performers — a comedian, a local spotlight and a national feature. Giving three performances allows people to eat, drink, relax.”
The space also is ideal for late evening entertainment. SpreadLove Presents starts around 10 p.m., a time that coincides with increased foot traffic and visibility as shows let out at the center and other downtown venues.
Until now, audience members hyped after watching an evening of theater, dance or music would have to leave the Kentucky Center if they wanted additional entertainment. Not anymore.
For example, this weekend, the Kentucky Center is hosting the Urban Bush Women, an incredible dance company dedicated to exploring the legacy of the African diaspora and pushing back against inequality in the dance community. The show will be letting out just a few minutes before SpreadLove Presents start blowing up the Scene.
In addition to the foot traffic, Newman hopes to bring in his regular audience and serve poetry fans at a more accessible time.
“A lot of my shows are on weeknights, and I can’t tell you how many people have said, ‘Oh, I’d love to come to the show, but I can’t come during the week. Let me know when you have something on the weekend,’ ” says Newman.
His vision isn’t just about time, place and vibe. He’s also hoping to bring Louisville something else it has seldom seen — the poetry “feature.”
Many audience members only know slam poetry through the three-minute poems used to compete at actual slams. But experienced poets frequently offer longer performances, usually 30 minutes to an hour. These are “featured poets,” called “features” for short.
Louisville has a great slam presence but scant opportunities for features. Most that take place are a one-night-only affair, usually when a poet is passing through on a longer tour. And yes, slam poets tour.
With SpreadLove Presents, local, regional and national features will have a regular home here.
“There’s poets that want to come here, there’s people that want to perform, but we don’t have a regular stage for them to perform,” says Newman. “This is an opportunity for that.”
Newman is taking on feature duties this weekend. Regulars on the scene know he’s an engaging, challenging and entertaining performer. He’s much more excited about the performers he’ll be able to bring in the future, though, including Adam Henze in March.
Newman doesn’t beat around the bush about the best way to book quality performers.
“Pay their feature price,” says Newman, adding that the first month’s admission is going to help pay for more features in the future.
He also hopes that eventually features performing at SpreadLove Presents will be able to make their stop in Louisville last a little longer and spread their love of poetry around the community, working with other organizations like Young Poets of Louisville.
And in addition to poets, each SpreadLove will offer a spot for a comedian, a local musician and DJs.
On Saturday, comedian Austin Rich performs, music comes from Otis & the Jesse Lees, and DJ Bombshell sets the mood.
Catch the first SpreadLove Presents on Saturday, Feb. 23, at the Kentucky Center, 501 W. Main St. The doors open at 9 p.m., and the show runs till about 1 a.m. Tickets are $10. Seating is limited, so it might be a good idea to purchase them in advance.