The house was packed Wednesday night at The Range at Lotta Studio as locals and travelers converged on the co-working space for the 33rd edition of Pecha Kucha New Haven, titled “Summer Lovin’.”
The space had been transformed with an immense amount of seating, and I was struck instantly upon arrival by the festive atmosphere and the many connections made and renewed throughout the studio.
This August will mark nine years since the first New Haven Pecha Kucha night, where Greta Hotopp charged Kieran Coleman to present his passion. Hotopp has since stepped away, placing the reins in the hands of Joanne and Matt Wilcox.
The audience filled in quickly and early, and it was standing room only as stragglers filtered in through the first presentation. Matt Wilcox explained how Pecha Kucha works: “You all show up, and then several people will show up and regale you with words of wisdom.”
Each speaker, 10 in all, got six and a half minutes to speak. “Twenty slides, twenty seconds per slide. Once the speaker starts talking ... slides just go automatically. There’s no going back.”
There certainly wasn’t. Regardless of topic, each of the presenters took a leap forward as they stepped up to the microphone. Some were bashful and earnest at the start, some composed by conviction. But they all came away after their six and a half minutes with a change in their way.
The first speaker was Angela Pullo, a young entrepreneur who runs Mew Haven, Connecticut’s first Cat Cafe. She shared her journey from being someone who keeps a job for her whole career to someone who starts her own business.
Pullo was followed by Amie Ziner, who talked about her family and their creative practices in navigating grief and changes.
Third we heard from Lauren Wilson, a fine artist who made the jump from working and painting to painting faces for work after the imposed rustication of Hurricane Irene provoked her and her kids to make new fun with makeup.
Robert Lae Wild, the fourth presenter, took the time to educate the audience about his Romani family. He was purposeful and direct as he covered his essential family’s history and the larger history of persecution that the Roma have faced throughout history. Included in his presentation were beautiful pictures of his family’s funeral traditions and the homemade coffin his uncle fashioned for Robert’s grandfather.
Following Wild, a pensive man named Kevin Fox delivered a speech on the Appalachian trail and what walking long ways can do to you, reinforced by a series of slides that were each photographs of the same pair of feet after another long day of hiking. Fox closed out the first half before an intermission where audiences were encouraged to order drinks from The Range cafe staff or to get food provided by Reggae Vybz food truck.
In the second half of the show, trumpeter Tim Kane talked about “Tim Kane-ing” his way into bands. Mike Pavano shared stories of abused and rehabilitated animals; Justin Farmer, who sits on the Town of Hamden’s legislative council, discussing his lived immigrant experience. Nina Lesiga told the story of participating in New York City’s no-pants subway ride.
And Alice Forrester, who “admit[ted] shamefully [her] ignorance,” shared her disenchantment at having rebelled against the ‘50s culture of her parents only to see a 21st century version of Archie Bunker for President. She said at the end of her speech, “I commit to wake up to fight naivete and, alas, we were never done with that. Let us hope that we are all coming undone.”
This was Kane’s first time giving a Pecha Kucha presentation. Tim Kane-ing, he explained afterward, “means jumping in and spreading as much joy as I can.” He said that to change from intermission entertainment to a presentation “felt very freeing because I felt like I had carte blanche, and that’s kind of what Pecha Kucha means to everybody. You can bring up whatever you want to bring up. You want to talk about something uncomfortable like Alice did tonight? You want to talk about something fun like taking your pants off on the subway? I considered talking about the extensive burns I got in a grease fire last fall. That’s a subject for another day.”
He expressed his admiration for Lauren Wilson’s story. “Talking about doing that, I hope, will inspire people to take their talent and say, ‘I want to do this for you.’”
“I’m always interested in building community,” Joanne Wilcox said after the event. “The beer break and conversations that happen after that, where people are asking questions of each other that wouldn’t have met or known each other’s story otherwise — I find that to be part of the magic.”
The next Pecha Kucha in New Haven happens Oct. 17, done in conjunction with City Wide Open Studios. The theme of that evening is well-being, Pecha Kucha is looking for speakers for that night. Click here for more information.