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John Sobol, Program Director for Action Poetry '94, had worked in the performing arts in a wide variety of capacities. His career prior to 1994 had included being a Canadian poet, performer, musician, composer and music critic. Sobol recorded several albums, including "Blue History", by the John Sobol Poetry Band. Sobol ran a loft space in Montreal called "The Crossroads", which presented video and film screenings, dance performances, live music, art exhibitions and poetry readings.
In late 1992, John Sobol met with Vice President and Director Carol Phillips to discuss the potential for a program called Action Poetry ‘94. With his background in music and poetry, he recognized that there was an isolation of sorts between all forms of oral traditions. Therefore, he wanted to bring together multiple disciplines in one forum as a cross-cultural exchange of the many traditions of spoken word performance. This would occur in the form of a three-week workshop for the performers, which would culminate in a filmed presentation of their works.
Once the program was approved, John Sobol began scouting in Canada and the United States for artists he would like to include in the workshop. The participants would be from various performance backgrounds, including: poets, rappers, dub poets, monologists, performance artists, street entertainers, storytellers of various persuasions, and stand-up comedians from all backgrounds and cultures. Performers included: Lillian Allen, Uma Rao, Erik Belgum, Aaron Williamson, Sean “Spaz” Zitello, Deanna Ferguson, Judy Radul, Jeannette Armstrong, Jill Batson, Terrence Crane, Diane Wolkstein, Desaz Tempo and Richie D., Bob Holman, Wendy Berner, Tim Lander, Paul Dutton, Adeena Karasick, Gunargie, Greg Young-Ing, Mary Dalton, Tom Henihan, Kedrick James, Clifton Joseph, Tracie Morris, John Giorno, Alex Ferguson, Jayne Cortez, Meryn Cadell, Pine Trio,Shawna Dempsey, Tuong, Djewel (Don) Davidson, Darryl Keyes, Isobeau Miller, Lori Weidenhammer, Peter McPhee, Sheri D. Wilson, Stephen Humphreys, Murdoch Burnett, Ahdri Mandiela, John Sobol, and Flex Plan Nine (Harold Carr, Marilyn Lerner, Peter Valsamis and Tim Posgate).
The artists not only worked on their craft at the Banff Centre, but also participated in the Nat Christie Poetry Day and subsequent Nat Christie Poetry Jam. John Sobol organized these events that would see the artists visit various high schools in Calgary to work with students in performance workshops. Schools included: St. Francis High School, Forest Lawn High School, Bishop Carroll High School, Ernest Manning High School, Queen Elizabeth High School, and the Plains Indians Cultural Survival School. Chosen students would then perform their works on stage, along with the Action Poets, at the Nat Christie Poetry Jam at the Uptown Stage and Screen in Calgary.
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The Paul D. Fleck Library and Archives at The Banff Centre