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The interdisciplinary queer feminist performance group Sister Spit held workshops at Brown and the Rhode Island School of Design last Thursday and Friday, followed by a presentation of their poetry, fiction, film and tour anecdotes in List Art Center Friday night.

About 110 people — including Brown and RISD students, Providence residents and even Sister Spit fans all the way from Syracuse University and Vassar College — attended the final show, according to Queer Alliance Head Chair Aida Manduley '11, one of the event's primary organizers. Members of Word!, Brown's spoken word poetry group, opened the show.

Sister Spit member Kirya Traber, who also teaches poetry for an organization called Youth Speaks, read three spoken-word poems, including "La Ultima Palabra," a striking poem about the relationship between social class and hair type.

"With every performance I ever do, it's a cathartic experience, but I also hope that the audience has an experience that can be healing or transformative," Traber said, adding that she tries to represent queer women of color.

Traber also spoke to a class at RISD about working with youth in the arts.
Author Rhiannon Argo also performed Friday, reading from her novel "The Creamsickle" about queer skater culture. While she read, photos by group member Sara Seinberg of "queers with creamsickles," as emcee and Sister Spit curator Michelle Tea put it, flashed on the screen.

Argo said she hopes to show aspiring writers, especially young women, "that their stories are important and that they can write."

"When I was younger I didn't have that many writer role models," she added.

"There's not one voice that's ‘the queer voice.' It's a lot of different styles," said Beth Lisick, author of "Helping Me Help Myself: One Skeptic, Ten Self-Help Gurus, and a Year on the Brink of the Comfort Zone."

As one of the show's last acts, Lisick read an excerpt from her book in which, on a quest to better understand the self-help phenomenon, she goes to a talk featuring author-psychic Sylvia Browne, who grew up in Lisick's town.

"I don't think it should be the only way, but I think it's interesting to have an event that is curated by women or by queer people to show what is going on in their communities or in their artistic circles," Lisick said.

Sister Spit visited Providence as part of a coast-to-coast tour beginning in San Francisco and stopping in other major cities. The group performed at some peculiar venues, including a Salt Lake City realty office full of Spongebob Squarepants paraphernalia, Tea said.

Other Sister Spit members who visited included spoken word poet Ida Acton, graphic novelist and former "L-Word" writer Ariel Schrag, transsexual performance artist Ben McCoy and filmmakers Peter Pizzi and Sarah Adams.

Sister Spit's workshops, each attended by about five to 10 students, addressed a variety of topics, including resisting assimilation, creating exhibitions with multiple art forms and writing personal narratives, graphic novels and book proposals.

"They were small, cozy workshops," Manduley said, adding that the intimate setting allowed for "an equilibrium of interaction." Still, she said, "at each of the workshops I saw people I had never seen before."

Katie Lamb '10, who was also involved in bringing the group to campus, said she hoped Sister Spit would "have a chance to do networking and talk to people about a wide variety of different topics."

Manduley said her main goal in bringing Sister Spit to College Hill was not only to entertain students and members of the wider community but also to inspire them to challenge their beliefs.

After the workshop on resisting assimilation, Manduley said, students came up to her with comments like "this made me question myself" and "some of the things that I thought were just turned upside down."

"It's really great to see that you've brought in new people and that more people are appreciating what you're doing," she said.


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